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Thread: Why is Spam a luxury food in South Korea?

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    Default Why is Spam a luxury food in South Korea?

    Why is Spam a luxury food in South Korea?
    By Lucy Williamson BBC News, Seoul
    19 September 2013 Last updated at 01:22 GMT

    Asia is celebrating the annual lunar thanksgiving holiday this week. In South Korea, where it's known as Chuseok, the holiday is celebrated by visiting family, paying respects to ancestors... and the giving and receiving of packaged cans of Spam.

    The pre-cooked tins of pork meat are the stuff of jokes, lunch boxes, wartime memories and, here in South Korea, a low-key, national love affair.

    Spam has become a staple of South Korean life, and the country is now the biggest consumer of it outside the US.

    Since Spam was first launched in the US before World War II, more than seven billion of these chunky little cans have rolled off production lines - like the ones at Spam's South Korean factory in Chuncheong Province.

    Here you can find Classic Spam, Mild Spam, Bacon Spam, Garlic Spamů. "If you've got Spam" the slogan on the can proclaims, "you've got it all!"

    So, not for South Korean cans, a dusty shelf at the back of the supermarket.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24140705


    Spam's status as the lifeblood of the nation in its primitive years a generation ago is legendary in Korean history. People who did not begin their childhood from an elite lifestyle have not forgotten how they grew up as kids craving spam to warm their bellies. Often, for an embattled family of starving farmers, spam was the greatest holiday blessing that one could ask for.

    More specifically, spam is the key ingredient of the Korean cuisine 'Budae Jjigae', or Army Stew. Early in the stew's history, food scavengers used to smuggle leftover ham and sausages from USFK bases and cooked them with traditional Korean recipe like kimchi, soybean paste and noodles. Later on, Koreans began buying spams from American PX vendors whenever they could afford them to cook proper Budae Jjigae. Due to the cuisine's enormous popularity, Korean food manufacturers were able to build a spam empire in the country that is impossible to find in any other market.

    Even though the country has grown into a modern economy in today's generation, it did not diminish the popularity of the Budae Jjigae. Korean families chose to embrace the national symbol of their harsh past rather than shun it. Spam side dishes are served to give thanks to parents, the very food that was the staple of their childhood. Not only does Budae Jjigae promise to be a sumptuous meal for the annual family gathering, it's a great appetizer for the gathering of friends and colleagues in the drinking party after a hard day's work. You should try this exotic variant of army hot chow if you happen to stay here for a while.

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    Senior Member Spacepope's Avatar
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    OK, were can I get Garlic Spam over here? I usually only eat spam while doing field work and I've hiked and sweated my butt off, but that actually sounds pretty tasty.

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    Not Goat Roping Shermbodius's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spacepope View Post
    OK, were can I get Garlic Spam over here? I usually only eat spam while doing field work and I've hiked and sweated my butt off, but that actually sounds pretty tasty.
    Wal-Mart carries that in my neck of the woods.

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    If they like eating Spam, more power to 'em. Somebody's gotta eat it...

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    Pretty sure Hawaii eats more spam per capita than S Korea. And no spam is not a 'luxury' item in S Korea. It USED to be decades ago. Now it's more like egg or jam. It happens to be an ingredient of a dish.

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    Can I ? ok


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    Bite my shiny metal ass! beNder's Avatar
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    Back in the day my roommate would pan fry it and put in on toast with mustard. For me, I keep cans on hand for an emergency. I consume only if camping or hiking. If you want bad, try treet.

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    Senior Member tommyd's Avatar
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    I Remember that ham patty in MRE's back in the day, or whatever it was? I always sort of acquainted it with Spam. Closest I ever got to the stuff really...

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    Sheep dog standing before wolves The Dane's Avatar
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    Vikings love spam..Uhmmm

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    Senior Member Impartial Bias's Avatar
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    Spam is awesome if done correctly. Loco Moco, anyone?

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    Bite my shiny metal ass! beNder's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Impartial Bias View Post
    Spam is awesome if done correctly. Loco Moco, anyone?
    I always used a hamburger patty. I'll give that a shot. but, gravy on spam?

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    Senior Member Spacepope's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by beNder View Post
    I always used a hamburger patty. I'll give that a shot. but, gravy on spam?
    That's just in case there's not enough salt in your diet so you can de-ice your driveway with your pee.

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    Senior Member Impartial Bias's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by beNder View Post
    I always used a hamburger patty. I'll give that a shot. but, gravy on spam?
    Tons of gravy. You either go all out with Loco Moco, or not at all. Spacepope is correct, it's liable to be extremely unhealthy, but you're not doing life right if you don't try it. Everything in moderation.

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    Senior Member Roaming East's Avatar
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    i remember eating the shiat out of SPAM back when i was growing up on Anderson and Hickam afb's...

    and yes, i DO like it and eat it whenever the mood hits me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by new2node View Post
    Pretty sure Hawaii eats more spam per capita than S Korea. And no spam is not a 'luxury' item in S Korea. It USED to be decades ago. Now it's more like egg or jam. It happens to be an ingredient of a dish.
    Actually, it's not that spam solely lost its luxurious status but that many things that were considered a luxury back then have become pretty ordinary now, in those decades that Koreans steadily attained higher income. If you want something more technical, Korean per capita income went threefold between now and 15 years ago.

    As I've said, spam owes much of its domestic fame to Korean 'brand foods' that uses it as a key ingredient. Without spam you are missing out a lot on Korean cuisines. Not only in volume, but there is a huge variety of spams being sold and still a globally high volume of spams are sold in the Korean market, peaking in thanksgiving seasons, just after its country of origin (btw, what's the per capita consumption of spam in the whole NA market? If you want to discuss it to technical details of course). I explained the historical source of spam's popularity - US military presence. It survived the trials of time and of an 'emerging' society where true brand items like Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonalds hadn't (in terms of relative profit).

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