Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Spam Musubi Faceoff - IZ IT FreshGrill vs. Musubi Kings

IZ IT (top) and Musubi Kings (bottom)
It was a few years ago that I first tried Spam, and since then I have been hooked. For a while I even stocked my pantry with cans of it and searched out limited edition flavors until I finally accepted that gorging myself on this canned meat product probably wasn't the best idea. So for now it's a once-in-a-while treat, but one of my most favorite ways of eating Spam is when it comes in the form of Spam Musubi.  Last Friday I was in luck at Off the Grid because not only did I find it at IZ IT FreshGrill but also at a vendor called Musubi Kings, which specializes solely in, you guessed it, Musubi! Which one came out on top?


I am convinced that if you take anything, bury it in white rice and then wrap it in seaweed it's going to taste great. There is something about the salty, fishy nori and the creamy rice that just makes my taste buds sing! It's the taste of the salty ocean that I am particularly fond of, and it's this umami that makes me run to Onigilly or my nearest sushi joint on a regular basis.  It's a flavor combination that really pleases me, so whenever I see musubi on a menu I always have an itch to try it.

IZ IT
I have had the musubi from IZ IT a few times before, but tonight I was able to do an actual side-by-side comparison between the two vendors. Let's see how they stacked up against one another:

Size and Presentation - IZ IT serves their Spam musubi, which they call a Spammer, whole for one giant log of musubi, while Musubi Kings halves theirs and serves it up as two pieces. It appears that the musubi from IZ IT is slightly bigger, but Musubi Kings' is more aesthetically pleasing with the smaller pieces being easier to hold in your hand. Granted, the musubi is the specialty at Musubi Kings whereas it's not at IZ IT, but I felt there was more value placed on presentation at Musubi King.

Spam Thickness - For both musubis the thickness of the Spam was equal, measuring in at about a half-inch thick slice.

Rice - Both vendors had sticky, soft, well-cooked rice, but Musubi Kings added a bit more to their roll. I actually preferred, however, the amount of rice in IZ IT's Spammer because it didn't overpower the flavor of the Spam. Once I got to the end of my MK musubi I had to discard some of the rice because there was just too much.
Musibi Kings Pork Belly  (left) and Spam (right)

Flavor - This is probably the biggest distinction between the two. While both had the overall flavor of a soy sauce and sugar marinade, IZ IT's musubi was much more on the salty side while Musubi Kings swayed more toward the sweet side. They were at different ends on the spectrum, but that made them each unique!

Overall Taste - Had I eaten both musubis at different times I would probably say they were quite similar. After all, traditional Spam Musubi is comprised of only a few key ingredients. But after sampling both of them together I could see how they were very different, and a lot of this is attributed to the cooking of the Spam. The Musubi Kings Spam was lightly cooked, so it retained most of the original color and "right out of the can" Spam taste. IZ IT, on the other hand, had a much heavier marinade, so I could really taste the smoky charred caramelized sugar. The Spam was enveloped in a dark brown crispy shell that really stood out against the rice and nori. The flavor of the Spammer was stronger and much more pronounced, also due in part to the extra sesame seeds.

I enjoyed them both immensely and liked how Musubi Kings tried to stay true to the Spam's original flavor. After all, that is the main focus of the dish. However, I would give a slight edge to IZ IT based on both the preparation of the Spam and the rice-to-Spam proportion. You really can't beat that smoky taste; it lingers well after the last bite is eaten. The crispy, blackened exterior of the spam really made it something special and kept me thinking about it long after my meal was finished.

IZ IT
Musubi Kings

IZ IT FreshGrill Rating: 4/5
Musubi Kings: 3.5/5 (ratings guide)

IZ IT FreshGrill (@IZITfreshgrill) $4.00 per musubi
Musubi Kings (@Musubikings) $4.00 per musubi


Does reading this make you want to try this vendor? Tell them that you saw them at I Left My Cart in San Francisco and support San Francisco street cuisine!

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