The Japanese word “okonomiyaki” literally translates to “what you like, cooked.” And on the plate at NYC’s Hawaiian restaurant and bar, Lani Kai, it translates into a savory mass of spam- and cabbage-studded pancake. The dish resides on Lani Kai’s dinner menu, but Chef Sawako “Sawa” Okochi’s okonomiyaki would make the ultimate New Year’s Day brunch food (read: hangover cure), with that perfect combination of salt, crunch, and fat. Not to mention it’s an umami bomb courtesy of bonito flakes, dashi, Worcestershire sauce, soy, and seaweed.
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In Japan, okonomiyaki has a number of regional variances—Osaka, Kansai, Tokyo, and Hiroshima all have their own versions. Okochi grew up with Hiroshima-style: “it's layered with cabbage and thinly sliced pork; it’s flipped, an egg is added, and it’s flipped again,” she says. But at tikki-themed Lani Kai, the dish gets a makeover and porky nod to Hawaii with house-made spam—a “meat” Hawaiians embrace with gusto. Islanders eat more of the tinned meat per capita than anywhere else in the world, chowing down on spam in sushi form (spam musubi), at McDonald’s and Burger King for breakfast, and mixed into any number of diner favorites.
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Okochi makes her “spam” terrine over the span of three days, adding sugar and brandy to ham and pork shoulder for sweetness, pate spice blend for complexity, and tinted cure mix for that irreplaceable pink hue. Ultimately it’s a matter of “grinding ham with our own spices, putting it in a can, and aging it for 20 years,” says a Lani Kai server, who enjoys toying with and ultimately converting spam-weary guests. And while Okochi’s version may not have quite the shelf life of the original, it will last several weeks in the refrigerator. So make it now, and have it on standby for your inevitable New Year’s Day brunch rush.
1. In a sauté pan, sweat shallots and garlic. Deglaze with brandy and cool.
2. Combine sugar, salt, pepper, tinted cure mix, and pate spice blend; sprinkle mixture over diced pork shoulder and ham.
3. In a meat grinder, grind the pork and ham through a large dye.
4. Combine half of the ground mixture with the shallot-garlic mixture and grind though a small dye.
5. Whisk together heavy cream, eggs, potato starch, and brandy.
6. In stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, slowly incorporate the cream mixture into the ground meat.
7. Put the mixture in a terrine mold, cover with plastic wrap, and put a weighted terrine mold on top of the meat. Press overnight.
8. Preheat oven to 325ºF. Cook the terrine in bain-marie for 2 hours, until the center reaches 147ºF. Put the weighted terrine mold back on the cooked spam, and press overnight.