In the Philippines, we call it ulam (“main dish” in English). Corned beef can be eaten alone, but Filipinos prefer to eat rice with it. They add rice to almost every meal if the dish doesn’t already have it as an ingredient anyway.
Perhaps it was the way it looked, the way it smelled or the way it tasted, but I’ll never know why I didn’t like it in the first place. The earliest experience I can remember is trying to eat a Reuben sandwich and spitting it out after one bite.
Perhaps it was the way it was made, but I’m still not sure. I always saw it in deli-style slices. It kind of looked like a reddened version of bacon, if you can picture that.
Shortly after I married my wife in 1985, she bought some corned beef in a can at a local grocery store. I’d never seen it in a can, but then I had avoided it after my first experience with it. I think it was the Hormel brand.
She fried it with two eggs (mixed with the corned beef before cooking), crushed garlic and onions until it was brown, mixed it with rice on a plate, and then served it to me like I was going to dig into it without a second thought. After I explained that I didn’t like it and why, she convinced me to try it anyway.
I tried it and I liked it. It was delicious, unlike what I’d tasted before. Today, I like corned beef and rice but I still don’t like corned beef hash (with potatoes).
I used to buy at least 10 cans per month of corned beef at the Royal Subic store at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone every month. A third of an isle had nothing but various brands of corned beef, the most being the Libby’s brand, which was also the most expensive. It was about the same price, however, as it was in the United States at that time.
I made the mistake of buying a local brand, “Argentina” I think. That stuff was nasty! I believe both the Hormel and Libby’s brands are produced in Brazil. My younger son tried a couple of other brands while I was out of the country and he told me they were as nasty as the “Argentina” brand.
You don’t have to add anything to the canned corned beef to make it taste better. It tastes great as it is, but not right out of the can, although it’s pre-cooked. It should be cooked again in some way - it seems to taste better that way.
I’ve seen some other people, who also eat it with rice, slice it up like they would with Hormel’s SPAM product, fry it and eat it. I’m never seen a sliced corned beef sandwich, but it would have to be better than any Reuben sandwich I’d ever try.
Many processed meats contain preservatives. Corned beef is packaged with sodium nitrate, which can cause carcinogens to form. I rarely eat it from a can anymore, so I’m not too worried about it.
Originally published in August of 2013. Updated for readability and corrections.