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TULIP vs. TREET vs. SPAM Musubi Showdown!


Front to back: SPAM, TULIP and TREET Musubi

Back in 2003, a new kid, umm, make that can in town entered Hawaii’s ever-popular luncheon meat market by the name of Tulip Luncheon Hash “with Real Bacon”. With Hawaii statistically being the nation’s largest consumer of Hormel’s SPAM, the distributor of Tulip thought their product, which is imported from Denmark, would be a formidable contender to grab some of that market share.

Soon after its debut, the Honolulu Star Bulletin held and published a TULIP vs. SPAM blind taste test, with results having SPAM maintain its dominance by their judges, both by familiarity of its flavor, and more importantly its brand name. Still, Tulip did prove its worth and stood up to SPAM on almost all aspects, even winning over one of the judges. What Star Bulletin DIDN’T do in that likely fun and tasty (hey, I like that word!) showdown was to pit the two against each other in their truest form… as SPAM MUSUBI!

Funny enough, as long as TULIP has been on our store shelves, this is the first time I’ve tried it, hence why this entry was thought up. Also, I don’t eat luncheon meat that often, but when I do, 95% of the time it’s a musubi.

Another peculiarity is the name: SPAM Musubi. What about “TULIP Musubi”? Or “TREET Musubi”. Does that sound right? Me thinks not. No matter what it’s made out of, it just HAS to be called a SPAM Musubi! What do you think?

So my friends, the saga continues here in 2007, where here I present the first (as far as I could currently NOT find in GOOGLE) comparison of not just SPAM vs. TULIP, but also vs. TREET “SPAM MUSUBI” showdown!

TULIP was on sale at Times Supermarket for $1.99 per can. Regular shelf price was $2.79. I don’t know how much the SPAM or TREET costs, as I already had them in my pantry. TREET is usually the cheapest. I was a bit surprised to find that Foodland no longer stocks TULIP. Neither did our local Safeway.

Looking at the 3 contenders’ unique rectangular-shaped cans from top view…

…you see how TULIP (left) and TREET (middle) share identical tins, which I’m guessing are supplied by the same packaging manufacturer. The unique SPAM can (right) is just a tad wider, but SHORTER than the other two. This may have one think the SPAM has more (or less, depending how you slice it!) than the other two, but in fact they’re all the same in net weight at 12 oz. each.

Like all good food packaging goes, a handy recipe (or two) are provided on the back of the cans…

Must say, in all its 56 grams of fatty glory, that TREET Reuben Sandwich sounds pretty darned good!

Here we reveal how these logs of processed porkies appear out of their colorful tin skin…

The first thing I noticed was TULIP’s absence of any slimy gelatinous “mystery goo” in the can, and was rather dry. TREET had the most “mystery goo”, followed by SPAM which had some, but not as much as the TREET. Just when you thought the mystery was only in the meat. LOL!

Cutting it up. The most common thickness to slice this “local style” is about 1/4″ thick, straight and even across the log. In fact, due to SPAM Musubi being so popular in the islands, there’s even a SPAM Musubi slicer out there, which is made of multiple wires strewn across a lever arm that slices the entire brick in even slices in one fell swoop. Cool. Or you can do the “Waianae Cut” and just cut the whole brick in half. There you go.. two MASSIVE slices of SPAM. lol!

While (like hot dogs) claiming to be “fully cooked” out of the package, to fully enjoy it, luncheon meat should be pan-fried to a golden brown finish in a little bit of cooking oil…


TULIP at front center, SPAM at top left and TREET at top right

Looking at the slices before they’re browned, you can see variations in color and marbling, with treet being noticeably darker. The SPAM is distinguishable from the other two by its wider profile. So with that, if you were to cut all three in equal 1/4″ thick slices, you will indeed get a tad bit more SPAM. lol

Here’s the three fully browned and cooked…


SPAM bottom left, TULIP bottom right and TREET top center

To make this fair, along with the key “musubi” comparo’, I had to try each slice cooked plain like this as well, which I’ll share the results of later.

Now that they’re all fried up, it’s time to make some Musubi!…

Here we have all the essential ingredients: Nori (dried seaweed), Shoyu, Mirin, sugar (in the brown bowl) and an acrylic SPAM Musubi maker molding kit. Behind that package of Nori is a bottle of Rice Vinegar, which I ALWAYS add just a little to the pot of cooked rice to prevent it from molding and prolong its counter life.

Begin by cooking 3-5 cups of white medium-grain rice (I used Hinode, the island favorite!). Make sure you add the proper amount of water, as it’s critical that the rice has enough moisture to hold together when pressed in the musubi maker. Too dry and it will fall apart.


5 cups of cooked Hinode rice

When it’s finished cooking, let the rice fully steam and cool a little, then sprinkle just a little rice vinegar (about 1 to 2 tablespoons) in the pot and “fluff” the rice to combine the vinegar evenly. Now make all your musubi rice molds by pressing in the acrylic musubi maker, one by one, until you have enough to accommodate however many slices of SPAM/TULIP/TREET you’ve cooked.

Prepare the Teri’ glaze. Some folks make their SPAM musubi without the simplified teriyaki glaze, but most vendors in stores make them with it, which really punches out the flavor . I prefer it with it as well.

Simplified Teriyaki glaze for SPAM Musubi:

1/4 cup Shoyu
1/4 cup Mirin
1/4 cup Sugar

Add all ingredients in pan on low heat and stir to combine until sugar melts and reduce until it becomes a slightly thickened glaze.

Give the cooked SPAM/TULIP/TREET slices a quick soak on both sides in the pan of Teri’ glaze…

Looks ono already! Take them out evenly coated, slightly “wet” and transer directly onto your formed musubi rice…


SPAM front center, TREET top left and TULIP top right

Notice how the teri’ glaze soaks into the top layer of the bed of rice… this my friends is “oishii-ville”. LOL!

Finish them by cutting (approx.) 2″ wide strips of nori and wrap. Use a little water on your fingers to help the Nori to bind.

Pau. Itadakimasu!…

Here’s the Tasty Island taster’s results!

Comparison in plain, cooked form:

FLAVOR PROFILES
3 musubi being most to 1 being least (obviously)

Most salty flavor:
SPAM –
TREET –
TULIP –

Most “Porkiest”:
SPAM –
TULIP –
TREET –

Most “Mystery Meat” like:
TREET –
TULIP –
SPAM –

TEXTURE PROFILES

Most moist:
TREET –
SPAM –
TULIP –

Most fibrous and/or chewy:
TULIP –
SPAM –
TREET –

OVERALL PERSONAL FAVORITE (plain)
(and this isn’t a compound result of the scores above)
SPAM –
TULIP –
TREET –

Comparison incorporated as a MUSUBI:
3 musubi being most to 1 being least (obviously)

Compliments (enhances)…
the rice:
TULIP –
SPAM –
TREET –

the nori:
SPAM –
TULIP –
TREET –

the teriyaki sauce:
TREET –
TULIP –
SPAM –

OVERALL PERSONAL FAVORITE (as Musubi)
(once again, this isn’t a compound result of the scores above)
SPAM –
TULIP –
TREET –

Comments
Times Supermarket didn’t have any regular TULIP in stock on my visit, so I had to go with this 25% LESS SODIUM version here. I’m guessing that probably gave it an unfair disadvantage, but still, at least I got an idea of what the stuff is all about. I’ll certainly get a can of the regular TULIP next time and add it to this comparo’ just to be fair and complete.

I must say that Tulip struck me as very DRY, which as you can see in the scores was given a 1, but in reality it was more like -1 in comparison to the others. It certainly was a contender for 1st place in MUSUBI form, but absolutely behind SPAM in and on its own. Some have said the bacon flavor was pronounced, but I didn’t really have that impression; probably again a result of this being the lower-sodium version. It WAS the most “ham” like. Which can be a good thing, depending how you’re using it in the dish.

TREET was the most “Hot Dog” like in both flavor and texture. It just had that “what is this stuff?” thing going on. I gave it 1st place in the “compliments teriyaki sauce” category, as this one really NEEDED that other element of flavor to make it work, and it DID help it in the Musubi. I actually really liked that TREET Musubi!

As you see, SPAM won both the PLAIN and MUSUBI categories. I may be biased towards SPAM (as probably many of us are) because I grew up with that stuff. Still, I believe even someone who’s never tried any of the above would, 9-out-of-10, choose SPAM over the other 2 if given this same taste comparison.

Don’t get me wrong. Each one is has their own individual qualities (aside of any drawbacks), and worth the price, if they’re on sale (I’d never buy any of this stuff at regular price). I actually enjoyed each one in their own way, even enjoying TREET now more as an adult, where which as a kid, didn’t care for at all.

If most locals were given the three musubi varieties here in a blind taste test, I’m willing to bet most would know which brand is which, as they’re all certainly unique in their own way. And I do like all of them for their individual characteristics.

Still, brick-for-brick, wrapped-in-nori-with rice, eggs-with-luncheon-meat-for-breakfast (and perhaps until I get my hands on “regular” TULIP), SPAM is still king and STILL the one and only SPAM MUSUBI!

18 thoughts on “TULIP vs. TREET vs. SPAM Musubi Showdown!

  • December 8, 2007 at 3:18 am
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    Waaahhh, this was the best post I read all day! I love it! It also makes me rather homesick…hehe

    Reply
  • December 8, 2007 at 7:47 pm
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    Very cool,

    Not seen either of the competitors over here (Northern Cal). It’s not like home, but I think I’ll go to L&L today.

    Hey, how about Vienna Sausage Musubi?

    Reply
  • December 9, 2007 at 3:10 am
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    Once in awhile you’ll see Treet in NorCal (in fact, I think Ranch 99 carries it), but not Tulip. For what it’s worth, Tulip is the preferred brand in Okinawa, with eggs and rice, in yakisoba or goya champuru. I don’t see the traditional HI spam musubi over there, but I’m sure someone’s mother has chopped it up and stuffed it in onigiri!.

    Reply
  • December 9, 2007 at 3:42 am
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    I wonder if Treet has a higher sugar content than the other two brands, that might explain why it’s darker after frying. Not that I’ll be buying Treet anytime soon, I’m a diehard Spam fan!

    Reply
  • December 9, 2007 at 7:04 am
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    y’know, you could tell which was which even without the subtitles. The Treet was disgusting looking (and still the cheapest at 99 cents here) (c’mon ANYTHING under a dollar is just wrong…) and the Spam looked like…Spam. Jury’s still out on the Tulip, but like my mom and Holmes sardines, I don’t buy the product. I buy the can.

    Good post!!!

    Reply
  • December 9, 2007 at 7:40 pm
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    We all want to know which one is used in the musubi ratings?
    Anyhow, I am going to make Treet, I mean Spam, Eggs and Rice this morning.

    Da Man

    Reply
  • December 10, 2007 at 12:03 pm
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    Tulip is “preferred” in Okinawa because it’s CHEAPER than Spam. I’ve been told this by my workers. They would love to eat Spam all the time. But money is the thing.

    Reply
  • December 11, 2007 at 8:50 am
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    Heh heh what a great post to start the week! I’ll have to see if they carry Tulip brand here (heck they should, we’re not that far away!) so I can try it for myself.

    Reply
  • December 15, 2007 at 2:04 am
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    Check out my site. Posted the Tulip available here. Surprisingly it’s almost the SAME price as Spam!

    Reply
  • December 15, 2007 at 8:36 pm
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    Nate, that’s very cool. Interesting seeing the variation in Tulip’s label design.

    Speaking of prices, last week at Safeway (there’s a new HUGE one on Kapahulu avenue), SPAM was on sale for $1.47/can. Yasui desu yo!

    DAMAN, the Musubi in the rating system is from Dole Cannery, as stated on the “About” page.

    Molly, the TREET certainly had the highest sugar content, being that it’s a “Virginia Baked Ham” taste. It caramelizes – and can burn – quickly if not watched. This sweetness is also why it married well with the sweetened sugar glaze.

    Mahalo everyone for visiting and all the nice comments!

    Reply
  • December 20, 2007 at 2:34 pm
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    Glad to see you back — this post was definitely worth the wait! I’ve always seen the other brands but never considered trying them. Thanks for taking the mystery out of the meats! ; P

    Reply
  • February 27, 2008 at 12:48 am
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    And exhaustive and entertaining post!

    Reply
  • June 10, 2009 at 7:48 am
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    I live in Virginia and our preference is Treet all the way. You’ll notice on the can it says that it tastes like VA Ham. I’ve had Spam Musubi and Treet Musubi and for me it’s Treet hands down. I went to Highschool in Minnesota, not too far from the Spam Museum and I admit to having a bit of Spam-loyalty-angst. I feel like I should like the real Spam the best, but in fact the Treet just tickles my tastebuds more. Totally agree that Treet with Teriyaki is better than Spam with Teriyaki.

    I really enjoyed this post. No matter which way you slice it Luncheon Meat is a modern icon and I appreciate all the work this taste-test took to accomplish.

    Reply

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