By Marvin Nitta
Special to Frolic Hawaii
Whenever I’ve ordered kalua pig and cabbage, the ratio of the two ingredients is usually uneven, leaning more towards the cabbage.
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But that’s not the case with 7-Eleven’s Kalua Pork and Cabbage Musubi. The core in the roll is almost all pork with a few small cabbage pieces. Surrounding that is a mantle of white rice and that’s covered with a sheet of nori. The pork-to-cabbage ratio might justify the $2.69 price tag, which is over a dollar more than the convenience store’s regular Spam musubi. But it’s also a dime more expensive than 7-Eleven’s 30 percent heftier mochiko and garlic chicken musubis.
After opening its wrapper, which also acts as a sleeve so I didn’t need to touch the musubi itself, a pleasant smoky aroma wafts up, creating a nice first impression. But when I get to know the musubi better, that first impression doesn’t last.
The kalua pork is well shredded and every bite is clean, meaning chunks aren't pulled out from the rest of the musubi with each bite.
While the pork is easy to eat, its flavor isn’t showcased enough. It has a subtle smokiness from the liquid smoke and a passable porkiness, but it lacks what I feel helps make kalua pork the wonderful dish it is — saltiness. Maybe that’s a personal preference, but a little Hawaiian salt never hurt anyone.
Its lack of saltiness is surprising because if you look at the nutrition facts, the musubi has 1,420 milligrams of sodium. If the pork isn’t salty, where’s all that sodium coming from? As for the cabbage, the small amount does provide moments of crunch. I’m glad there isn’t much because any extra vegetable might dilute whatever flavor there is.
7-Eleven’s Kalua Pork and Cabbage Musubi is a unique and wonderful idea, but I wish the kalua pork’s flavor popped more and it was priced better. Because of these issues, I can’t say it’s a must-have.