Sunday, July 10, 2016

Jamie's Training Food: Spam Musubi

Training food Hawai'ian style
I am shocked--SHOCKED--that I did not mention that I survived Ironman training almost exclusively on S'mores Pop Tarts. I have scoured my old blog posts, and I can find no mention of the fact that I brought two boxes to Spain (wasn't sure I could find them over there) and ate a box and a half on the Ironman bike course. In case you're unfamiliar with the packaging, that adds up to twelve Pop Tarts over 112 miles. I've come a long way from my all-natural, all-raw diet of a few years ago; I figure life is too short to eat like a rabbit.

Philosophy aside, the Pop Tarts worked great. They pack a lot of sugar for their size. They're compact. You can fit six packages in your jersey pockets, if you need to. That's about 2400 calories! I usually put two in the right pocket and two in the left pocket, then re-stocked at special needs (or a 7-eleven on a training ride). The s'mores were my favorite flavor, followed by frosted blueberry. The s'mores flavor dry out your mouth more, FYI. Just in case you want to try.

I completely burned myself out on Pop Tarts, though. I've experimented with several whole foods this season, using Potent Portables as a starting point and branching out from there. I've found a few things that I've liked, but most of them don't work for racing. I use drink mix (Skratch Labs) and gels (currently GU, but I'm still experimenting) almost exclusively when I'm racing; everything else is too hard to eat in close quarters at speed and intensity. I want to try Medjool dates soon, on the recommendation of a few prominent vegan cyclists.

All of which is to say that I use spam musubi in training, pre-race, and post-race. It would probably work fine for triathlons, though, assuming your tummy can handle spam during a race. Be sure to try training with it before you race with it; anything else would be stupid! Don't be stupid!

This is something my Hawai'ian friends made all the time. It's a staple at convenience stores and picnics. Super delicious, compact, with lots of carbs and salt; it might pack too much fat for some of you, though. Try it out and see what you think! I can almost guarantee that nobody else will have these at your next ride or race.

Spam Musubi

  • Rice cooker
  • Rice paddle or spatula
  • Musubi press (seems silly, but they're not expensive, so get one anyway)

  • White rice (Jasmine, Calrose, sushi rice, something fairly sticky)
  • Nori (cut the strips in half, so they're about the same width as your musubi press)
  • Spam (cut into slices about 1/2 inch thick)
  • Furikake (I bought mine on Amazon, but you'll find it at most Asian groceries)
  • Soy sauce 
  • Sugar
  • Cook rice in the rice cooker. It needs to be done before you start frying Spam.
  • Mix some sugar into some soy sauce. It'll take some experimentation to find the ratio that you like. Mine is different every time. The idea is to make a light syrup that will caramelize the sides of the spam. Another option is to season both sides of the Spam with Li Hing powder (a little-known ingredient that is worth having around for sprinkling on sliced apple, pear, jicama, pineapple . . .)
  • Spritz some cooking spray into a pan (or use a non-stick pan). Put the burner on medium-high. Lay out your strips of Spam so they aren't touching in the pan. Cook until the bottoms start to brown, then pour in your soy sauce/sugar mixture. Let the Spam cook until the bottom has caramelized, then flip. Let the Spam cook until that side is also caramelized. Take the Spam out of the pan and keep it on a plate so it doesn't burn. By the way, the sugar/soy sauce mixture will burn in the pan around the Spam. Don't freak out about it. Just turn on your range hood fan or open a window.
  • Lay a strip of nori down longways and put the musubi press on top of it. Spoon in a generous portion of rice. Use the handle to press the first layer of rice. Press it hard! You don't want your musubi crumbling apart in your hands! Sprinkle furikake over the rice. Lay in a slice of spam. More furikake, more rice. Press the whole thing together as hard as you can, then slide the press up and off the block of food. Wrap the nori around, overlapping the edges on the top. The nori will have steamed from the heat of the rice enough that it will stick to itself and seal naturally. You have now made your first spam musubi!
  • I wrap mine in plastic wrap and keep them in the fridge until I'm ready to use them. Then I cut them into quarters if I'm going to eat them on a training ride or halves if they're for pre- or post-race and wrap them in non-stick aluminum foil. 

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