The first time I wrote about Musubi Cafe Iyasume, a local chain that opened in 2000 off a tiny hotel lobby in Waikiki, they were making 17 kinds of Spam musubi. That was two years ago. Last time I checked, they had expanded to seven locations from Kahala to Keeaumoku — with up to 23 kinds of Spam musubi.
My favorite is ume shiso avocado Spam musubi. Second favorite: shrimp tempura avocado Spam musubi. The bacon egg Spam is nice, a soft ribbon of salty bacon offsetting a slice of sweet dashimaki omelet. Double bacon egg Spam has two bacon ribbons, no nori. But the best part, besides walking in just as a fresh tray of warm musubi comes out, is that if they're out of your favorite or you think of a combo that's not there, ask and they'll make it for you on the spot.
In the beginning, behind a 6-foot counter in the Waikiki Sand Villa Hotel across from the Ala Wai Canal, Iyasume founder Toshiyuki Otake made original Spam and teriyaki Spam musubis. When locals and tourists started buying them, he tried more varieties. When those sold too, he kept going.
Kimchee Spam. Cheese Spam. Takuan Spam, with big, sweet-salty rounds of yellow pickle on top, tastes pretty much as you would expect. So does unagi egg avocado Spam, which is a very good thing.
See also: CIY: Sunny-side Spam musubi
Iyasume packs less rice under a full-size slab of cooked Spam so the Spam curves over the rice, the way Japanese make nigiri sushi. And it's good rice, always Tamaki Gold from California. At this point I should mention Iyasume's shops and counters are filled with a ton of other stuff besides Spam musubi, including traditional triangle musubis stuffed with salmon, tuna mayo, ume and about 20 other fillings.
See also: Da Spam power rankings
There's also karaage chicken, bento packs, rice bowls, curry, even a proprietary Spam musubi sauce under Iyasume's own label. There are three locations in Waikiki, two in Ala Moana Center, one by Keeaumoku Walmart and one in Kahala Mall. Locals and Japanese tourists buy original or teriyaki Spam musubi, Otake says. Korean tourists like spicy cod roe triangle musubis. And mainland tourists choose regular salmon triangle musubis.
That Spam musubi, though. Who knows? Maybe by now there's more than 23 kinds. I'm kind of hoping so.
Musubi Cafe Iyasume
Seven locations on Oahu