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Tofu ‘Spam’ Musubi: Hawaiian Sushi [Vegan, Gluten-Free]

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Spam musubi, a Hawaiian type of sushi, was created during World War II by Japanese Americans living in the internment camps. It quickly became a favorite and is now a popular lunch and snack item and can be found all over the islands from restaurants to kiosks. In this instance, it is made by grilling or pan-frying slices of seasoned tofu, then placed on top of a ball of rice moulded into a Spam-shape and wrapped with a strip of nori seaweed. The tofu doesn’t taste exactly like Spam, but it provides that salty, smoky, sweet meat-like flavor and texture of Spam.

Tofu 'Spam' Musubi: Hawaiian Sushi [Vegan, Gluten-Free]




  • 14 ounces extra firm tofu
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon hickory liquid smoke
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons mirin
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 sheets nori
  • 2 2/3 cups hot, steamed Japanese short-grain rice (the rice used for sushi)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt


  1. Drain the tofu and pat it dry with a paper towel, then place it on a large plate lined with several layers of paper towel. Put several more layers of paper towel on top, then place a cutting board on top of that. Weight the cutting board down with something like several cans of food or a book and let the tofu press for at least 30 minutes (preferably several hours).
  2. While the tofu is being pressed, prepare the marinade for the tofu. Mix the vegetable broth, tamari, maple syrup, liquid smoke, tomato paste, mirin, fresh ginger, and garlic in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  3. Remove from the heat, let it cool slightly, then strain through a fine mesh sieve and discard the solids.
  4. Once the tofu has been pressed, cut it into four slabs. Place the musubi mould on top of one of the slabs and use a paring knife to trim the tofu around the outside of the mould. Repeat with the remaining three slabs. Put the slabs of tofu in a sealable container and pour the marinade over them to coat them, then seal the container. Let the tofu marinate in the refrigerator for several hours.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Carefully remove the slabs of tofu from the marinade and gently shake off any excess marinade.  Lay the tofu on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake the tofu in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, then gently turn the pieces over, brush the tops with more marinade, and bake for another 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  6. Cut the nori into four 2 1/4-inch wide strips (you will have leftover nori).
  7. To assemble the musubi, put one of the nori strips, the long edge nearest you, on top of a sheet of plastic wrap, with the rough side facing up. Place one of the pieces of baked tofu crosswise in the center of the nori.
  8. Place the mould on top of the tofu, matching up the edges.
  9. Put 2/3 cup of the hot steamed rice in a small bowl and toss with 1/8 teaspoon of the fine grain sea salt. Put the seasoned rice evenly inside of the rice. Place the tamper inside of the mould, on top of the rice, and gently press it down to pack the rice.  Keep the tamper in place and lightly press down as you pull the mould up and off the musubi, then remove the tamper.
  10. Wrap the nori around the top of the rice, then wrap the plastic wrap around the musubi and set it aside to cool and set.
  11. Repeat the process with the remaining nori, tofu, and rice.





Plant-based Japanese classics and fusion food. Rachael Hutchings, author of the blog La Fuji Mama, has eaten her way around the world, having lived in a variety of fun food locations, including Paris, Tokyo, Yokohama, Memphis, and Los Angeles. She features recipes that are a fusion of different tastes, influenced by the variety of places she has lived and visited, and the people she has met.



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