Spamarama founder David Arnsberger isn’t one of those people who grew up eating fried Spam, but Mark Pascual is.
The owner of Be More Pacific was raised in a Filipino family in Houston, where fried Spam served on steamed rice with ketchup was on heavy rotation. “My two brothers and I grew up on Spam and rice,” he says.
RELATED: How Spamarama became one of Austin’s weirdest events — and why it’s back
Spam has been part of Filipino cuisine and culture, almost all the way back to Spam’s 1937 debut. “America had a big influence on Filipino culture because a lot of military men were in the Philippines (during World War II), and they brought Spam with them,” he says. “You don’t have to refrigerate it. It’s salty and tasty. It’s right along the lines of what we already cook.”
As a teen in Sugarland and a homesick college student in Austin, he’d pop the meat out of the can and slice it as thinly as possible before frying it to a crisp in a pan with a little oil.
“Some people add a pinch of sugar to add a salty-sweet taste, and some people like it super crispy or to a black char,” he says. “But when you serve it on top of rice with ketchup, it’s the simplest thing.”
When Pascual was opening his restaurant, he knew he wanted to serve his traditional food that included Spam, but he wanted to try to make his own. That process involved “a ton of trial and error” to get the taste and texture right. He finally figured out how to make his own mixture of ground pork and spices taste as close as possible to the real thing. Now, customers can order the homemade Spam with other dishes or on its own.
Although not many Austin restaurants sell Spam, you can find Hawaii’s famed Spam musubi, a dish made with thick slices of Spam on rice wrapped in nori, at Hawai’i Nei, a food truck at 7800 S. First St.
Spamarama 2019 will take place from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday at Moontower Saloon, 10212 Manchaca Road. The event opens to the public at noon, but cookoff entrants need to arrive by 11 a.m. to register and get set up. The cookoff judging begins at 2 p.m. You can find a music lineup and more information at spamarama.net.