When I was dating Bobby during his NYU Dental School days, I remember him driving me down to meet his family in North Carolina. It was such an exciting time; blissfully in love and we could take on the world. I was excited to meet his mom who is from Okinawa, Japan and his three sisters.
I didn’t realize how close our cultures were. Mama Schaffer was cooking up a storm just like my Italian NY family. Bobby’s siblings are all very close and fortunately for me happily welcomed me with open arms. I remember the smell of Mama’s cooking very vividly. It had me salivating in anticipation for what was about to be served.
“Yaki-Soba is ready,” Mama said. It looked like a delicious noodle dish with lots of vegetables and meat. I was thrilled. It was beyond delicious. I remember looking up from my plate and asking what’s the meat because it is soooooooo good. They all looked at each other and someone said, “Oh that’s SPAM.” I started coughing. Not because it didn’t taste well, but because I knew it was meat in a can. All I remember is wow, this is delicious and I don’t care how it comes because I want more. That’s right! I happily joined in on enjoying Mama Schaffers Yoki-Soba with fried up SPAM.
For those of you that are wondering well what exactly is spam… it’s a brand of canned precooked meat. It gained popularity after it was used in WWII. Over 150 million pounds of Spam were purchased by the military before the war’s end. It was so prominent that Uncle Sam was nicknamed “Uncle Spam”.
According to its label, it contains only 6 ingredients: already-cooked pork (two different cuts: pork shoulder and ham), salt, water, potato starch (to keep the meat moist), sugar and sodium nitrite (a common preservative). Ok, maybe it’s not grass-fed and no I don’t eat it often, but I am being honest, it’s really good, especially fried up with soy sauce. It is most popular in Hawaii, who knew? For years, after enjoying Mama’s Yaki-Soba, Bobby and I would make a form of a Ramen soup with noodles from the Japanese market, an egg, cabbage and you guessed it, fried up Spam. Friends loved when we served our soup.
Luckily for us, Mama and his sister Kim and her family visit us every summer. Upon arriving in San Diego, Mama makes her trip to the Japanese market so she could stock up on all of her ingredients to cook up a storm and sure enough Yaki-Soba is one of the dishes we all ask for.
From Mama’s kitchen to yours, here is how she makes it.
- Asian Cabbage
- 5 packages of Yaki-Soba noodles
- 1 Large Onion
- Shredded Carrots
- Yoki- Soba Sauce (sold in asian markets and some grocery stores)
- 1 can of Spam
- Ajinomoto Soup Stock
- Cut up the spam and fry it up with oil and soy sauce (mama doesn’t add soy sauce, but we like to)
- chop up the asian cabbage
- chop up the onion
- and to save time buy shredded carrots
- combine all chopped ingredients in a bowl
- add to the cooked meat preferably in a wok
- add the noodles which are open and throw in, no need to cook
- add two teaspoons of the soup stock
- and add a generous amount of yakisoba sauce (mama doesn’t measure, just like me) taste it to for liking and serve
I love my mother in laws’s culture and how family oriented she is. I would eat Spam in any of her dishes as she is an excellent cook. I would love to hear from you, be honest have you ever had spam? Do tell…..