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Let’s Talk Food: Spam served at the Olympics thanks to Chef Chris Oh

  • Chef Chris Oh. (Courtesy photo)

  • Chef Chris Oh's Korean Kimbap with Spam Classic. (Courtesy photo)

  • Chef Chris Oh. (Courtesy photo)

In honor of the summer Olympics in Japan, Chef Chris Oh partnered with Spam to make sushi rolls with a new spin on the Korean kimbap.

You might have heard about Chris Oh if you have watched the Food Network’s “Great Food Truck Race Champions,” “Cutthroat Kitchen,” or “Kitchen Inferno.” Chris is also the Asian Supreme Chef West Coast Winner. His restaurant recognitions include best restaurant in the country by Thrillist; best new restaurant 2019 by Eater SF; top 25 food trucks by Forbes Magazine; top food trucks of Los Angeles by LAist; top LA restaurant by Zaga; voted top 10 fried chicken by LAist; voted best poutine by LAist, voted top 10 bites by 2013 LA Food &Wine; voted best kalbi Food GPS; best sausages Details Magazine; voted best nouveau street food 2012; voted top 5 food trucks in LA; voted 25 hottest restaurants in LA by Eater SF.

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I interviewed Chris and found him to be energetic and excited about food.

I asked him how he was managing his businesses with the current situation with the pandemic and he was very upbeat, saying that everyone is going through the same thing and it forces creativity and coming up with new ideas to stay alive. One example of his creativity is his Korean BBQ car that went viral, offering a cooking experience out of a Scion XB.

That love of cooking started when he and his younger brother came home from school, had both parents working in their real estate business, so older brother Chris looked in the pantry and refrigerator to create snacks for him and his brother. It was like “Iron Chef” in the Oh household as Chris created interesting creations with what he found. When he told his parents that he wanted to attend culinary school, they both said no as they wanted him to go into the real estate business. So obedient Chris went to college and opened a real estate company and a car wash business. He did this for 10 years. Then he sold his businesses and his home and worked in kitchens all over Los Angeles where he honed his creativity and developed his palette. With that and his knowledge of running a business, he built his ongoing empire of restaurants and food companies.

Currently Chris owns Um.Ma in San Francisco, Kamu in Las Vegas, is the founder of Seoul Sausage Company, and Kpop (wholesale sauces), is a clothing designer and a TV personality. His restaurant, Chingu Hawaii on Kapiolani Boulevard is currently closed and he is looking for a new location.

Chef Chris got excited when he talked about Spam as he considers it to be comfort food and said you could substitute Spam with any other protein in a dish and you would have a great meal!

With his Korean roots and being in Japan, Chris partnered with Spam and created a sushi roll for the 2021 Olympics.

Here is his recipe that was served to participants at the Tokyo Olympics.

Korean Kimbap with Spam Classic

Ingredients:

1/4 cup sliced red bell pepper

1/4 cup sliced green bell pepper

1/4 cup sliced eggplant

1/4 cup purple cabbage

1/4 cup sliced pickled yellow daikon

2 cups cooked white rice

1/2 of 1 (12 ounce) Spam Classic, cut cubes into 1/2-inch long cubes

2 tablespoons furikake

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon water

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

5 sheets nori sushi paper

5 tablespoons sesame oil

Salt and pepper

Lightly saute all vegetables individually in a pan or medium heat with a drizzle of sesame oil and salt and pepper. Once cooked, set aside to cool.

Once cooked, take each vegetable and place on nori sheet and roll into 1/2 inch cylinders.

In a medium high heat pan, lightly brown Spam cubes. Once brown, remove Spam and pour in soy sauce, water, rice wine vinegar and sugar into the same pan and cook until sauce gets slightly thickened. Once done, remove from heat and combine with cooked rice and furikake. Mix thoroughly.

After the rice mixture has cooled, place the rice on top of nori sheet and spread evenly across the whole sheet. Place cylinders of sauteed vegetables in the roll and top with rice.

Once placed carefully, roll rice over the cylinders and completely encase until you have one large roll. Once rolled, press down to secure all of the rolls.

Take a sharp knife and slice into bite sized pieces and enjoy!

Foodie Bites

Here are some Spam facts:

• 12.8 cans of SPAM are eaten every second.

• Limited edition Spam Pumpkin Spice sold out in 7 hours.

• Spam has just five ingredients: pork with ham, salt, water, potato starch and sodium nitrate.

• More than 500 restaurants across the U.S. have Spam on the menu.

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• There is a SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.