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LOL: Holiday spice Spam OnoPop

No, really?!

Posted April 22, 2012 by Mari Taketa

I laughed out loud over a mouthful of food the other day, which hardly ever happens. In fact, the last time I had food this funny was exactly a year ago — and the thing in question then was a cousin of the exact same thing this time: a Spam-studded OnoPop.

I mean, who puts processed preserved meat in an ice pop?! How does a mind even get there? Last time I asked, before last year’s Spam Jam, OnoPops’ Josh Welch emailed back a thoughtful response about abandoning a Heston Blumenthal recipe involving liquid nitrogen and bacon-egg ice cream in favor of a simple sweet cream ice cream with candied Spam (it sold out by nightfall and is being reprised at this Saturday’s Spam Jam).

But you know the kicker? That candied Spam OnoPop was the result of Welch’s attempt to improve on an earlier Spam OnoPop — a saimin OnoPop, to be exact. That one involved real charsiu, real green onions, real fishcake and real smoky bonito dashi, making the presence of Spam almost incidental. Who wouldn’t laugh? Delighted, curious or disgusted, no one held back on their reaction to the saimin OnoPop (which, by the way, is not making a return appearance).

So this time Welch is telling me about a brown sugar-pineapple sorbet studded with Spam, pineapple and maraschino cherries and tinged with cinnamon and cloves.

Nothing about that lineup surprises me. The first time I met Welch, back when he was manning his own farmers’ market booth and I didn’t know who he was and he didn’t know I wrote about food, I’d never had an OnoPop and was curious to try.

What’s your favorite? I asked. Butter mochi, he said, because I’ve been trying out different recipes, and now I’ve gotten it so it tastes just like butter mochi.

His finger jabbed the air triumphantly when he said that. I’ve never understood butter mochi, which to me is neither here nor there, so I chose chocolate-apple banana instead. Kaboom! Dark Waialua Estate chocolate with that perfect sweet tang of local apple banana.

Since then I’ve tried a good many OnoPops, and while not all have been memorable, there have been more than a few kabooms. Kaboom! Kabocha Brown Betty, made buttery and pumpkiny through a process more complicated than I can remember. Kaboom! Kulolo, which tasted like coconutty taro and was chewy, the best frozen texture of all.

Kaboom! Caramel shoyu, elevated to elegance (who combines caramel and shoyu?) by a light, fluffy texture. And kaboom! Candied kumquat, yes, the lowly kumquat, bitter, sweet and tart, which I was told I got the last of for the entire year, making me feel like I’d scored a rare and treasured thing (I did; stay away from my freezer).

So now Welch is to my mind the Willy Wonka of frozen treats. I’d love to understand how his brain works one day, but in the meantime I asked what inspired him to create this latest holiday spice Spam OnoPop.

“You remember back in the ’70s, there was always that tray of spiced Spam and pineapple at holiday parties, and it was always a pupu?” he said.

Lord help me, I did. It took a second, because I’d buried the memory of clove-studded whole pink sugar-glazed Spams baking in the oven deeper than I’d buried all those Jell-O molds, just like the friends I’ve posed the question to since. Who would dredge it up and make it an inspiration?

And then I bit into the holiday spice Spam pop. Kaboom! Maraschino cherry halves in a deep, lightly sweet sorbet. Kaboom! Pineapple chunks. And kaboom!

“There’s the Spam! It’s the ’70s all over again!” I yelled. “I see the pupu platter, and it’s on the same table as the Jell-O mold!”

I’m still laughing. I’m still remembering the tastes of the ’70s, not exactly a high point on the local culinary timeline, but a good and happy time nonetheless. I feel like the joke’s on me. Kaboom!


  1. GrantOS808
    Posted April 22, 2012 at 9:16 am

    Kaboom! Ume Thai Basil

  2. nonstopmari
    Posted April 22, 2012 at 9:25 am

    @GrantOS808 Dayum yes. Kaboom!

  3. Melissa808
    Posted April 22, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    Can’t wait to try this 

  4. nonstopmari
    Posted April 22, 2012 at 3:28 pm

     @Melissa808 yup, a definite kaboom. stock up.

  5. konaish
    Posted April 22, 2012 at 7:20 pm

     @nonstopmari I still have the treasured last Kulolo OnoPop in my freezer, along with an assortment of others like my new fave Cracked Seed Lemon Peel.  And Josh is so nice to stock my neighborhood Foodland Farms freezer with my favorites upon request. I’m a big fan! 

  6. nonstopmari
    Posted April 22, 2012 at 8:11 pm

     @konaish ooh, cracked seed lemon peel … puckery?? i love tart.

  7. EurekaGal
    Posted April 23, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    So, is Kaboom! like BAM!?

  8. EurekaGal
    Posted April 23, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    And will you get a couple and put them in the freezer for me? :)

  9. nonstopmari
    Posted April 23, 2012 at 10:56 pm

     @EurekaGal KABAM!

  10. nonstopmari
    Posted April 23, 2012 at 10:57 pm

     @EurekaGal i’ll add them to ur kulolo, candied kumquat, madre chocolate w/ cocoa nibs etc.

  11. Melissa808
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 12:13 am

     @EurekaGal I know, I kept asking and never got a straight answer, either!

  12. Melissa808
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 12:14 am

     @konaish  @nonstopmari don’t keep the pops too long in the freezer! It doesn’t quite work to make them last forever. Believe me, I tried. :(

  13. nonstopmari
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 12:53 am

    @Melissa808 @konaish Uh-oh. How long can i hoard them?

  14. Melissa808
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 12:54 am

     @nonstopmari  @konaish I don’t remember how long, but not that long. Remember, these are made with fresh ingredients, and the packaging is just plastic, not space-age material. 

  15. EurekaGal
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 10:57 am

     @Melissa808  @nonstopmari  @konaish Uh oh. That means I gotta get back home sooner rather than later. Time to check Kayak again…

  16. EurekaGal
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 10:58 am

     @Melissa808 It’s good to have a signature sound, though, yeah? Hey, Melissa, what’s yours going to be? ;)

  17. EurekaGal
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 11:06 am

     @nonstopmari Kulolo? Let’s see…when are saver award seats available…

  18. konaish
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 6:52 pm

     @Melissa808  @nonstopmari 3 way split on the last Kulolo before the freezer gets to it?

  19. konaish
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 6:52 pm

     @nonstopmari Yes, nice & tart! Ooh and you should try the Pickled Green Mango! Very puckey, with pickled mango bits. Yum!

  20. Melissa808
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 7:03 pm

     @EurekaGal a grunt?

  21. Melissa808
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 7:03 pm

     @konaish  @nonstopmari no need! I only want kumquat.

  22. nonstopmari
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    w apologies to anyone getting these update notifications, @EurekaGal it looks like pressure is building on that last kumquat of the year i have in the freezer for u. @Melissa808  @konaish u go ahead, i still have kulolo. KABAM!

  23. EurekaGal
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 8:52 pm

     @Melissa808 Hmm…It’d need to be a stylish grunt though. Something with flair…

  24. EurekaGal
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 9:11 pm

     @nonstopmari  @Melissa808  @konaish O WAAAAHHHHH!!! That’s my signature sound. KAWHAM!

  25. Melissa808
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 10:57 pm

     @nonstopmari  @EurekaGal  @konaish I’m sincere and not being selfish about the kumquat…or any onopop……but seriously, they aren’t going to last in the freezer as long as you would like. 

About Mari Taketa

Mari Taketa is a dedicated eater who's as opinionated as she is hungry. She covered everything from neighborhood mom-and-pop places to ethnic eateries to fine dining restaurants on Honolulu's dining scene for Metromix Honolulu and The Honolulu Advertiser's TGIF. Before that, she ate her way through Vietnam, Scotland and Japan, where she lived, traveled or worked, after recovering from a journalism career that included stints as editor-in-chief of Hawaii Business magazine and reporter and editor at The Associated Press. Her goals are to always be hungry for more, and to always want to know what's around the next corner.

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