Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Kent Thompson's Creamy Korean-Style Musubi was a winner with tasters.

Musubi man

Kent Thompson's Korean-style
creation is our Memorial Day
musubi champion

The Spam musubi may be our most reliable local food. A sturdy brick of rice, a browned slab o' luncheon meat, all wrapped in nori to be portable and easy to eat. It has served us well for a generation.

But certainly, innovation is possible, even desirable. To that end -- and in anticipation of the picnic needs of Memorial Day, approaching on Monday -- we began a search for a modern-day musubi champion.

A handful of creative cooks rose up to meet the challenge. They suggested stew, curry, pizza and lau lau flavors, as well as ethnic themes from Thai satay to Puerto Rican pasteles. The most ambitious: sweetened black rice wrapped in white chocolate and served with a coconut cream sauce.

Mitsuko Yorkston's Lox Sushi Musubi

Keith Luke's Deconstructed Lau Lau Musubi

The rules were that the musubi had to be rectangular, include rice and have a wrapper of some sort, but details beyond that were left up to the imagination. The Top 3 were chosen based on creativity, taste appeal and a realistic expectation that average cooks could reproduce them (this ruled out the chocolate musubi, intriguing though the concept may have been).

The winner was a Spam-based musubi, but with Korean flavoring, a dose of kim chee and a twist that at first seemed suspicious, but really did work -- cream cheese mixed in with the rice. It came from Kent Thompson, a former cook for Sam Choy's restaurant, now a stay-at-home dad. "Kim chee and cream cheese is a good combination," Thompson says. He uses it as a dip and a won ton filling. This time, "I just used the rice as a medium to hold it together. ... I feel the creaminess of the cheese goes with the rice. I'm local. I like mayonnaise and rice."


Musubi champions

Our contest searching for modern ways to present the familiar musubi drew a wide variety of recipe ideas. Try one at your Memorial Day picnic.

Layers of kim chee and kalbi-flavored luncheon meat can be seen in Kent Thompson's musubis.

Korean flavors take prize

Kent Thompson won a $50 gift certificate to his family's favorite restaurant, Chili's, as his first-prize recipe.

Creamy Korean-Style Musubi

8 slices luncheon meat
3 cups cooked rice
1 8-ounce block cream cheese, softened
1 cup chopped kim chee, or to taste
4 sheets nori, cut in half
» Kent's Kalbi Sauce:
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 tablespoon minced garlic
Thai sweet chili sauce, to taste
Sesame oil, to taste

To make sauce: Combine ingredients and stir to dissolve sugar.

Fry luncheon meat over high heat until browned on both sides. Add kalbi sauce, a little at a time, and continue to cook luncheon meat until nicely caramelized on both sides. Remove from heat.

Stir cream cheese into rice and mix until incorporated. Stir in half the kim chee.

Press a generous scoop of rice mixture into musubi mold. Top with a layer of kim chee and a slice of luncheon meat. Press down, then remove from mold and wrap in nori. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Makes 8 musubi.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving (not including Thai sweet chili sauce or sesame oil to taste): 320 calories, 15 g total fat, 9 g saturated fat, 45 mg cholesterol, greater than 1,500 mg sodium, 35 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 11 g sugar, 10 g protein.

Nutritional analyses by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S.

The runners-up

A twist on the breakfast bagel

Mitsuko Yorkston took a concept popular in sushi bars and converted it to a musubi log. Think of it as a lox-and-cream-cheese bagel, without the bagel.

Yorkston is a science teacher who has taken some time off with a baby on the way. "Experimenting and discovering new ways of making things is on my agenda," she said.

Mitsuko Yorkston says smoked salmon musubi is her family's favorite.

Lox Sushi Musubi

3 cups cooked rice
8 thin slices smoked salmon
1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
1/4 medium Maui onion, thinly sliced
4 sheets nori, cut in half
Minced fresh chili peppers, to taste
» Sushi Su:
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt

To make Sushi Su: Combine ingredients. Stir to dissolve sugar.

Combine Sushi Su with rice. Toss to mix well. Press a generous scoop of rice into musubi mold. Remove from mold. Repeat to make 8 musubi blocks.

Top each block with a layer of cream cheese, then a slice of salmon and a slice of onion. Sprinkle with chili pepper. Wrap in nori.

Serve with soy sauce and wasabi for dipping. Makes 8 musubi.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 220 calories, 6 g total fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 960 mg sodium, 31 g carbohydrates, no fiber, 9 g sugar, 8 g protein.

Layers of lau lau, drizzled in poi

Keith Luke is a computer programmer for Bank of Hawaii who experiments on the side with some very complex cooking concepts: "I like doing odd things with food, taking it out of context."

For example, with this musubi, he first dismantles a lau lau, then reassembles the components into layers with rice and wraps it all in a wide Chinese look fun noodle. "This is an evolution of my lau lau lasagna," he says.

It should be noted that this musubi is slippery and not very portable. It is best eaten with a fork.

Keith Luke enjoys mixing unexpected ingredients, in this case Hawaiian lau lau and Chinese look fun.

M&Ing's Deconstructed Lau Lau Musubi

2 to 3 pre-cooked pork lau lau
3 cups cooked white rice
2 slabs look fun, uncut
» Spicy Poi Drizzle:
1 cup poi
Few teaspoons water
1/4 cup spicy macadamia nut oil (Pele's Fire brand preferred)

Unwrap lau lau and separate luau leaf, pork and butterfish into six portions.

Cut look fun into strips the width of musubi mold. Unroll look fun and place flat on work surface. Place musubi mold on top of look fun, Place layer of luau leaf into bottom of mold. Top with layer of rice, then pork, then butterfish, then another layer of rice and more luau leaf. Gently press layers in mold to compress. Then remove mold. Wrap look fun around musubi block. Repeat, making 6 musubi.

To make drizzle: Stir water into poi to make thin sauce. Whisk in macadamia nut oil. Drizzle over wrapped musubi.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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