Luncheon meat. We have a love-hate relationship with this one. Yes, it’s not known to be the most healthy of things to eat, but like instant noodles and boxed Mac & Cheese, you do crave it once in a while and it can taste so good (may our hearts forgive us).
Marc, especially, loves luncheon meat. He makes this at least once a month, so much so that he basically cooks on automatic. It took ages of begging for him to finally write the recipe down. We call it the Luncheon Fusion as we take this humble canned processed meat and give it the Indian spice treatment. While spam isn’t traditional Indian fare, we find that this dish goes so, so well with rice and sambar dhal (Indian lentil stew) or even rasam, which is a deliciously tangy South Indian soup.
- 1 can pork luncheon meat (roughly 400g/ 14oz), cubed
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 1 medium - large tomato, quartered
- 2 red/green chilies, sliced or kept whole
- 2 star anise seeds
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp cumin powder
- 4 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp soft brown sugar
- 1 tsp salt or to taste
- Pepper to taste
- Chopped cilantro for garnish
- Dry roast the cinnamon stick, cumin seeds and star anise on medium heat, till fragrant.
- Once you can smell the roasting spices, add oil, reduce the heat and throw in the onion, chili and garlic.
- Saute the vegetables until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Bring on the star! Add the luncheon meat, and tomatoes. Mix everything together and allow to cook for another 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle on the cumin and chili powders, sugar and stir to combine.
- Taste and add salt and pepper accordingly [Keep in mind when seasoning that luncheon meat already has a fair amount of salt].
- The dish is done once the sugar has melted and all the spices are well incorporated and cooked through. Add the cilantro just before serving.
We’ve tried many different brands of luncheon meat and find that ‘Ma Ling’ simple holds up the best in both taste and texture. It isn’t too salty, and the processed meat itself holds its shape nicely, even when sliced or cubed, so you don’t end up with a crumbly mess at the end. Be wary at the stores though, as we’ve found several different brands with the same orange and blue packaging.