Did your jaw just drop? Mine certainly did when I came across this SPAM tocino at my local Fil-Am store. I knew the SPAM from our childhood is a far cry from the SPAM available these days — which comes in a variety of flavors, including garlic, jalapeño and even teriyaki. But tocino?!? That sweet and tender cured meat that’s a Philippine breakfast staple?
I’m Filipino. There was no way I was going to leave that store without that can of SPAM. Although, I have to admit the $6.69 price had me swallowing hard (compare it to the price at a Korean grocery below). But my curiosity was strong.
You actually cook it like you would real tocino: First, boil it in a little water, then when the liquid is reduced you add a little bit of oil to fry it. Of course, it doesn’t take as long to cook as real tocino. What does it taste like? Nothing like tocino, of course! Well, except maybe for the sweet part. It really just is sweetened SPAM.
The New York Times recently ran an essay, “What ‘White’ Food Meant to a First-Generation Kid.” The gastronomic irony that is SPAM was, of course, mentioned: “The United States military had brought Spam to Guam, South Korea, Japan and the Philippines — places with some of the highest Spam consumption rates in the world — during various wartime occupations. In the Philippines, there’s no shame to Spam. Yet my family had brought this American food back to America, and now we were being told it was inedible.”