"Rim of Fire" Paella

Anyone who has lived on the West Coast of the Americas, the eastern shores of Asia and Australia/New Zealand, Indonesia, and Guam will know the term “Rim of Fire” to describe the chain of volcanoes that bubble beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean’s edges. This subterranean activity sometimes finds its way to the surface in places like Kilauea on Hawaii Island, Ubinas in Peru, Mt. St. Helens on the U.S. West Coast, and Pinatubo in the Philippines. Other times its power is more felt than seen, except in its aftermath, as in the frequent earthquakes that trouble all areas of the Pacific.

This dish was designed to “shake up” the palate and imagination with a Pacific take on an Iberian classic, the lovely paella. In our version, carnaroli — an Italian rice variety used for risotto — is simmered with a saffron sofrito spiked with sake, then studded with Manila clams, Hawaiian-style Portuguese sausage,
Kauai shrimp, and edamame for Pacific flair. If we had had abalone from the Big Island, we would have put those in too! Red and yellow pepper strips add color and sweetness, and a squeeze of tangy calamansi at the end brings this dish firmly into the Pacific rim. This was made early last summer when we were still on Oahu and all these wonderful ingredients were still our “local.”

Now the challenge will be to make a new local version with foods from this corner of the world.

Serves 4 persons

1/2 of one Hawaiian Portuguese sausage
1 TBL+ 2 TBL + 1 TBL olive oil
1 Cornish game hen, cut into serving pieces
sea salt and ground black pepper
6-8 cups vegetable or chicken broth (amount will depend on type of rice used, carnaroli will need more liquid)
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup seeded, diced tomato (about 1 large tomato)
small handful fresh cilantro sprigs, washed, dried and minced
pinch of saffron, soaked in warm water
1/2 lb. carnaroli or arborio rice
1/2 cup (120 ml) Japanese sake or Okinawan awamori

1 lb. (455g) Manila clams, scrubbed and cleaned
1/2 lb. (225g) sweet Kauai shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 red bell pepper, seeds removed and cut into thin strips
1 cup (150g) shelled edamame (fresh green soy beans)

Calamansi limes, for garnish and seasoning

Cut sausage lengthwise, then crosswise in 1/2 inch pieces to form half-moons. Season game hen pieces well with sea salt and ground black pepper.

Pre-heat oven to 350F/180C.

Heat broth in saucepan to boiling, then reduce to simmer and keep at simmer near paella pan. Have a ladle ready nearby too.
Note: It’s important to add hot broth to the rice as you cook, so I usually have more liquid than I anticipate I might need. Adding cold or cool liquid to the rice will cool the rice and the pan and the liquid will not absorb properly into the rice grains.

Heat paella pan, or other shallow wide pan, over medium heat, add 1 TBL olive oil, and gently fry sausage pieces until browned and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes each side. Remove all pieces to paper towel and set aside.

In same pan (without washing), brown all pieces of the game hen, and remove to oiled oven-safe pan. Cover and put in pre-warmed oven.

Still using the same pan, add 2 TBL olive oil and onions. Cook until onion just start to turn transparent, about 4-5 minutes, then add garlic, cilantro and tomatoes. Cook until tomatoes start to turn a darker red color, another 3-4 minutes. Move ingredients to the sides of the pan, and add last TBL oil to the center, then rice. Stir to coat rice evenly in oil and sofrito (the onion-tomato mixture). Increase heat to medium high, and continue to stir and toast the rice for another 3-5 minutes, or until the rice begins to crackle and pop.

Just before the rice threatens to singe, pour the sake over the rice and stir through. You will hear a hiss of steam, which risotto guru Valentina Harris, author of “Risotto! Risotto!” calls il sospiro, the sigh. Allow the rice grains to fully absorb the wine, stirring constantly, before adding a ladle of hot broth. Continue stirring until the liquid is again absorbed, then add another ladle. This method of allowing one ladle of broth to be fully absorbed before the next is added, allows the rice grains to swell slowly and cook properly, and helps to avoid the dreaded “uncooked kernel” that can haunt rushed risotti.

Continue adding broth one ladle at a time, until rice grains start to look shiny and to stick together. Add the saffron and another ladle of broth, then turn heat down to medium, and add pepper strips and edamame to rice, and stir through. Add another ladle of broth if rice has absorbed most of the liquid, then add clams, cooked sausage and game hen pieces, another ladle of broth, and stir, then cover and allow to steam for 5 minutes. Add another one or two ladles of broth (depending on whether you prefer a dry or soupy texture), then shrimp, and cover again for another 5 minutes. Keep covered and remove from heat.

Serve in shallow bowls or plates, garnish with calamansi to keep with the Pacific theme. A New Zealand or Australian sauvignon blanc is the perfect wine for this meal. Enjoy!

More using Kauai’s unique sweet shrimp: Spicy Seafood Stew w/Kauai Shrimp & Hawaii Abalone and Creamy Ewa Sweet Corn Soup with Kauai Shrimp


Spicy Seafood Stew w/Kauai Shrimp & Hawaii Abalone

November 14, 2008
Another post that has been back-logged... The biggest stumbling block was finding time and the will to process and edit the photos to go with these last two posts.

A look back at our last few nights on Oahu and some of incredible local seafood: Shrimp from Kauai and Abalone from the Big Island.

In the midst of the rush to leave Oahu, there were so-o-o-o many things to do and so many decisions to be made: what to take, what to leave behind, how will the cats fly across country — with us or alone. One thing was a no-brainer: that we were going to do justice to the stock of Hawaii seafood, natural grass-fed beef, and produce we had in the pantry and freezer — we weren’t going to give them away or just cook them for the sake of finishing them off, we were going to savor and enjoy them... No matter what... Even if we had to eat 5 meals a day...

This is easier said than done because Life Happens — meals take time to plan and prepare and often the days were too short and after a day of packing, cleaning, and dealing with bureaucratic details, our energy level was pretty much ZERO. So it wasn’t until we had moved out of our rental house and into a vacation condo in Waikiki, shipped the car, and sent the cats safely on their way to Washington that we had the time and energy to return to meal-planning for some of the more prized treasures in the freezer — succulent, sweet shrimp from Kauai and plump and luxurious abalone from the Big Island.

I have only had fresh abalone once before, almost 20 years earlier — it was the large meaty California abalone that can be found in the cold deep waters north of San Francisco. Those dessert plate-sized shellfish had been harvested by a friend’s family, and then sliced thin and lightly pan-fried with garlic and wine. Sweet, tender but with a chew — absolutely divine. I was also familiar with the abalone-like shellfish that is sold canned in many Asian markets — much more chewy and salty, often cooked in an oyster sauce with mushrooms and other vegetables. The Hawaii-grown abalone were miniature and cute — the largest not much bigger than a half-dollar. They’re sold under wrap on styroform trays, and even when defrosted smelled of the ocean, and appeared to have lost no moisture while frozen. We removed them from the shell and added them to the seafood stew below. After their brief bath in the spicy broth, they came out tasty and tender, with a slight chew reminiscent of chopped littleneck clams.

Oahu has a shrimp farm or two on its North Shore, in and around Kahuku, and we were great fans of sweet Kahuku shrimp, both fresh and cooked from the many “shrimp trucks” that dot Kahuku, Haleiwa, and even downtown Waikiki. But earlier this summer Rowena’s post about the Taste of Hawaii featured large Kauai prawns as one of the entrees, and this sent us on a quest to find Kauai prawns on Oahu. Expecting to find Kauai prawns in the fresh seafood case, we were disappointed in our search until one day Don Quijote supermarket had a special on Kauai the frozen food aisle. Hmmmm... didn’t sound too promising... frozen shrimp — not prawns — in a 2 lb. bag. But we tried it. And loved it. Wow! To call these shrimp “sweet” is an understatement. They are morsels of sea-sweet succulence.

Our first hint that these shrimp were going to be different from other commercial frozen shrimp came when we first opened the bag to use the shrimp to garnish the Ewa sweet corn soup. Most frozen shrimp smell like nothing (if you’re lucky), or they smell fishy and should be thrown out. These shrimp from the Garden Isle smelled of the ocean — fresh, briny and clean. It was already a delight, and the shrimp weren’t even cooked yet! By the time we were safely ensconced in Waikiki, we still had over a pound of shrimp left, as well as the abalone, 2 grass-fed sirloin steaks from the North Shore, and one last bottle of Pommard hand-carried from Bourgogne. We were going to eat well for our last few days on Oahu...

The shrimp was divided into 2 meals. First, garlic-butter shrimp ala Gilroy was part of a meal of appetizers, or pupus, which also included prosciutto-parmesan bread sticks, methi-potato frittata, locally grown cherry tomatoes, extra-sharp Tillamook cheddar, pickled mango from Haleiwa, and purchased futomaki sushi. Washed down with ice-cold California sparkling wine and with the sunset from our 11th story perch, this was a lazy meal to sit back and reflect on all the things that had happened during our 3+ years in Hawaii. The next night the shrimp was part of a spicy seafood stew (recipe below) — paired with a sourdough loaf and our favorite Zinfandel from Folie a Deux winery, it was our last home-cooked meal on Oahu. The sweet shrimp, spicy Portuguese sausage and tender abalone married well together in the fennel and orange broth.

The Kauai shrimp, like their Kahuku cousins, have a very thin shell that is difficult to remove in one piece — in fact, in dishes like garlic shrimp and this stew, we just pinch off the legs and munch through the shell (similar to eating soft-shell crab), leaving only the taill! I think you can only do this with really thin-shelled shrimp — I wouldn’t try eating through the shell of a black tiger shrimp. Even if you don’t like the idea of munching through the shells, I recommend cooking the shrimp in their shells even though this makes for a messy meal — it keeps the shrimp from losing their distinct sea flavor and sweetness. Just keep a moist towel for each diner on hand.

For our last night in paradise, I hung up my apron and we took our cue from
Tasty Island’s Pomai and booked a seaside table at the Ocean House restaurant, Outrigger Hotel-Kalia, for a most memorable sunset dinner featuring pan-seared Kona Kampachi, another locally farmed fish only available in restaurants in Hawaii. It was a delicious meal, and the view of Diamond Head only a couple of miles away in one direction, and the red setting sun in the other made it unforgettable. (Follow the link to Tasty Island for the photos and write-up that made this a must-do for us before we left.) Thanks for the recommendation, Pomai, it made our bittersweet last evening on Oahu much more sweet than bitter...

Serves 2

We used locally grown shrimp and abalone, and Hawaiian Portuguese sausage in this version to highlight the flavors of the Islands we love — and now miss — so much. But we first discovered this recipe while living in Europe where we used the fish, seafoods and sausages we found there. Use whatever combination of seafoods and spicy sausage are local to you.

3/4 lb. Kauai shrimp, with shell on
(For hints on how to clean and de-vein shrimp with shell on, see
Garlic Shrimp post)
8-12 Big Island miniature abalone, cleaned and removed from their shells
Options: also add 1/2 lb. of flaky fish fillets, such as snapper, salmon, cod or halibut, cut into 2” pieces

4 TBL. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 leek, cleaned and sliced
1 TBL. fennel seed
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground allspicee, or 6 whole seeds
1 tsp. ground cumin
large pinch of saffron diluted in 1/4 cup hot water
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, diced, reserve juice
1 bottle dry white wine, reserve 1/2 cup
1 cup clam juice or fish broth
sea salt
1 tsp. chili/garlic paste (Sriracha)
1 blood orange or other orange, scrubbed well and sliced
2 TBL. thyme
2 sweet Italian sausages, or chouricos, sliced on the diagonal (we used half of one Hawaiian Portuguese sausage)
6 firm waxy potatoes, boiled and sliced (optional)
(We opted out of the potatoes this time.)

In a large Dutch oven, saute onions and leeks in oil over medium heat until onions are translucent, about 10-15 minutes. Add spices and turn heat up to medium-high. Fry together until spices are fragrant. Add saffron water and stir in.

Add tomatoes, stir well, and cook together for 15-20 minutes, or until tomatoes darken in color. Add wine, broth, salt, chili/garlic paste, orange slices, thyme, and reserved tomato juice. Cover reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes while you brown sausages.

In separate skillet, brown sausage pieces, and add to simmering sauce as you remove them from the pan. Deglaze pan with reserved 1/2 cup wine, and add deglazing liquid to sauce. Simmer another 15 minutes. (You can make the sauce up to this point and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Like many sauces, it improves with time. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes before finishing with the seafood or fish.)

Just before serving, re-heat sauce and add shrimp and abalone. Cover and let simmer another 5 minutes, or until shrimp is cooked through. Remove from heat immediately so abalone and shrimp don’t overcook.

If using potatoes, lay warm potatoes in serving dish, and cover with stew. Garnish with minced parsley or cilantro. Serve with lots of crusty bread to soak up the sauce.


What we will miss...

There is an expression here, “You lucky you live Hawaii” — and it’s true. And though we don’t get to live here permanently, we know we are lucky to have spent so much time in Hawaii. And as that time draw to a close, we’ve been thinking back on all the wonderful things we are already missing. Here are a few...

Flowers blooming 365 days a year, but we’ll especially miss the varieties of plumeria...

View of the Koolaus and Diamond Head across Pearl Harbor

View of the Waianaes when the morning sun highlights its ridges

The brilliant colors of the sunrise...

and sunsets...


Hiking through rainforests...

...and along the knife edge ridges of the mountains (this is for T, I don’t do heights)

Hanging with some of the natives — these are monk seals, but also the honu (sea turtles)

The incredible blue of the Pacific Ocean...

The oasis that is Foster Gardens in the middle hectic Honolulu

All the great fests, especially those at Kapiolani Park

Perfect shave ice with li ling powder on top and ice cream on the bottom at our local shop on Ewa

Two of our neighbors: Friendly chirping house geckos, and this bulbul who adopted us and whom T nicknamed “Bento”

All the lovely FRESH LOCAL PRODUCE....

... and fresh, locally caught fish; as well as local beef, pork, eggs, milk, noodles, tofu, kamaboko,

Everything talked about in the Hawaii Food Primer, but especially ramen, andagi, pickled li hing mango from Haleiwa, manapua, crack seed, poi, laulau, and Zippy’s chili

Some things we don’t have photos of:

- waking to the chatter of mynah birds, cardinals, bulbuls, half a dozen variety of finches, and doves at 5:30 in the morning

- watching the weekly procession of cattle egrets stalking a riding lawn mower (they eat the bugs the mower churns up) — the scene always reminds me of the fable of the “Pied Piper of Hamelin” with the mower in the lead, and wherever it drives, 12-20 large white egrets follow just behind!

- the view of Kaneohe Bay as you come out of the tunnel on H-3 with the na pali on your left and that sheer drop off below the freeway (you feel like you’re flying!)

- and the view of Waialua and Haleiwa as you come over the crest on the Kam Highway, just before the road drops and your stomach falls before the rest of you catches up

- the smell of barbecued meat in the 7 in the morning!

- driving to the North Shore on Kunia Road, between corn fields, pineapple plantations and other farmland

- being able to buy 20 lb. bags of rice at any grocery

- bringing breakfast to the lagoons at Ko’Olina to whale watch, spot turtles or seals, and spend a quiet morning

- walking to the beach from home...

From the song written by Queen Lili’uokalani, “Aloha ‘Oe” (translation in italics)
Aloha ʻoe, aloha ʻoe
Farewell to you, farewell to you
E ke onaona noho i ka lipo
The charming one who dwells in the shaded bowers
One fond embrace,
One fond embrace,
A hoʻi aʻe au
'Ere I depart
Until we meet again
Until we meet again


A Crabby Meal

You might expect this to be about a meal of crabs — Dungeness or Snow, perhaps. Instead you’re spying on this sand crab with me as he munches on his morning meal. He’s only about 4 inches long (or should I say, wide) and almost exactly the color of the surrounding sand. He sat just beyond my reach yesterday morning as I took our penultimate photo of the sunrise from this vantage point. When I realized he was eating, I turned my camera from the sunrise to him. He didn’t seem to mind, as long as I didn’t make any sudden movements. I dubbed him “Kani-san” (which is very un-original, it means Mr. Crab in Japanese).

He is eating a small pod from one of the many shade trees around this beach park. I didn’t even know crabs ate pods. Anyway, at first I assumed he was just carrying the pod somewhere until I noticed that he was making slicing motions with his claw along the length of the pod, not unlike a chef slicing fish...

Then he would feed himself with one claw then the other...

He even repositions the pod to reach deeper for the “good stuff” (I’m guessing...)

Then lowers the pod back to feed on the goodies, all the while keeping a wary eye on this rude intruder who is staring at him during his private time...

Mmmm.... more good stuff....

This time he repositions himself instead of his food...

Yeah, that’s the gooey middle...

After he slipped back into his hole, I couldn’t resist taking a closer look at what he was eating (hey, maybe he was on to something, you know?). Yep, it’s a pod... Do you think it might have any culinary value? Someone had to eat that first artichoke, right? (I did return it to Kani-san’s hole after taking this picture)

And this is the view he and I were enjoying — I with my coffee,
and Kani-san with his tree pod...


Calamansi Margarita

It’s another CLICK! event, and this time the theme is Citrus. The Jugalbandits are accepting entries until August 30th, so get out your cameras and join the citrus-scented fun...

It’s the King of Limes, in my book — Calamansi — also known as Kalamansi or Calamondin (Citrofortunella microcarpa).

It’s flavor: a cross between lime and maybe a Seville orange, and as distinct as Key Lime or Wild Lime Leaves. If you’ve never tried it, I’m sorry. Really. You don’t yet know what you’re missing. It looks like a small round lime, but with the thin peel of a tangerine. In markets it may range in size from a Pfennig (smaller than a penny) to a half-dollar, and in color from mottled greens to pure orange, though its pulp is always a dark orange. The more orange the rind, the sweeter the juice will be; but it’s never as sweet as its eponymously named cousins. We prefer the greener ones — after all, we want to take advantage of its lime-ier qualities.

Native to southeast Asia, calamansi trees can be found as popular ornamental trees far from their native lands. When we lived in Europe we had this potted tree to remind me of home, and from which we could pick fresh calamansi most of the year. They are a popular tree in the nurseries and garden shops (labelled “Calamondin”) in Europe, and they’re raised in Tuscany (talk about being a long way from home!). I often wondered if anyone else buying these trees in Germany actually used the fruit as well. The glorious fragrance of both the fruit and leaves is extremely addictive, so be warned — try it once and you’ll be hooked. I used to love to crush the leaves and place them in a bowl, especially in winter, for a hint of the coming spring.

Calamansi are ubiquitous in Philippine cuisine — and for me, arroz caldo, pancit bihon and bistek are just not the same without this distinctive flavor. Calamansi also makes the best limeade in the world — no, the universe! You can find a frozen limeade concentrate from the Philippines in some Asian markets — availability is spotty on Oahu, even at Pacific Supermarket, a dedicated Philippine supermart. Surprisingly, it was regularly available at the military commissary when we lived in Germany, so if you have access to an Air Force commissary (Army ones didn’t always carry it), look in that frozen juice shelf more carefully.

Marvin at
Burnt Lumpia is doing some interesting experiments of his own using calamansi, and his infused vodka inspired me to try my hand with my preferred poison (tequila, hold the worm) to make the ultimate limeade — a Calamansi Margarita. So after a long long long day of sorting, cleaning and packing, there’s nothing better than a cool margarita on the beach to help one de-stress... and be thankful.

Bee, I have one for you, too, if you’d care to join us... I’d offer Jai one as well, but I don’t want to be accused of bribing a judge!

(adapted from

2 oz. Cuervo 1800 Tequila
1 oz. fresh calamansi juice
splash Triple Sec
1 tsp. raw sugar
clear ice cubes
coarse salt and calamansi for garnish

Prep glass by rubbing rim with cut calamansi, then dipping edge in salt. Keep aside.

Go to beach. Set up your beach chair.

Shake all drink ingredients together. Fill glass with fresh ice. Pour cocktail into glass.

Enjoy with setting sun casting long shadows on Diamond Head in backdrop...

If you like these flavors, try
Tequila & Calamansi Marinated Flank Steak


Taro Crepe w/Fried Saba Bananas & Tsubushi-An

This angular squat banana is known as the saba banana (Musa paradisiaca) — a varietal that must be cooked before eating. I prefer it when it's still firm-ripe, as in this photo, if we're using it for grilling or pan-frying, but many people will say it should already have black spots and be much softer before cooking. I'm guessing there are many folks who have tasted saba bananas and maybe not realized it. It's often used in Filipino sweets — either rolled in sugar, wrapped as a lumpia and deep-fried (turon), or found with sweet potatoes and pillow-light mochi balls in the soupy, coconutty dessert ginataan. Honestly, I like them best pan-fried with a little butter, either with other sweet things like french toast or pancakes, or with savory foods like eggs, rice and sausage, or a stew. Whichever way it's eaten, I think of saba bananas as part of my Filipino heritage, though I'm sure many other Southeast Asian cuisines utilize them as well. A couple of weeks ago, I wanted to do something a little different for a lazy weekend breakfast. A check of pantry and fridge turned up sweetened drained yogurt that was on its way to becoming an Indian dessert (shrikand) but instead was hijacked for this recipe, some homemade sweet azukii bean filling (tsubushi-an), and some instant taro pancake mix that needed to be used. The result? Pan-Pacific melding at its sweet best: taro crepes filled with buttery pan-fried saba (the bananas, not the mackerel), pandan-flavored sweet beans, and a dollop of thick sweetened yogurt.

Since this came together more by chance than by design, we were surprised just how good the combination was! With or without the pandan essence, the nutty flavor of the beans and their firm bite were a great contrast to the soft, apple-citrus essence and caramelized flavor of the cooked banana. Japanese-style sweetened azuki bean paste comes in 2 styles: smooth (called
koshi an, short for anko) or coarsely mashed, with pieces of whole bean (called tsubushi an). I always prefer textures that have a bite to them (chunky vs. smooth peanut butter, or smashed vs whipped potatoes, etc.), and I think the nutty quality that comes through with the pieces of whole beans in the tsubushi are key here.

As for the crepe, taro/poi adds a pleasing chewiness and elasticity to the crepe, as well as its tell-tale violet hue, but not really a distinct flavor. It made for a very forgiving medium with which to practice my "pour-swish-flip" crepe-making technique. Normally I lose every third or fourth crepe to tears or rips as I try to flip them, but this time every single one was a winner. The yogurt was truly an after-thought — I was wishing we had creme fraiche or heavy whipping cream to top off the crepe, and used the drained plain yogurt, hastily sweetened, as a stand-in. I ended up loving the way the yogurt's tangy underbite contrasted with the different sweet flavors of the fruit and beans, and its heavier texture retained its creaminess when creme or cream would have long dissolved into sweet dairy puddles.

(makes 5-6 crepes total)
For the crepes:
1 cup Taro Brand taro pancake mix
2 cups cold water
oil for pan

Combine pancake mix and water. Stir well to eliminate all lumps. Batter should be a very thin pouring consistency, add more water as necessary.

Lightly oil a seasoned 10-inch skillet or crepe pan with an oiled paper towel. Heat well over medium heat. Pour 1/2 cup batter into pan and immediately swirl batter to cover bottom of pan in a thin film. Cook until batter is set and dry to the touch. Carefully flip over and cook for another 5 seconds. Remove to plate, and while warm, roll pancake (jelly-roll style) and allow to cool while rest of the batter is used up. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Rolling the crepes while warm will prevent splitting when they are filled later. Use within an hour of making.

For the bananas:
5 saba bananas, washed
unsalted butter

To peel, cut off the top and tail of the banana, then make a cut lengthwise through the peel. Remove peel. Slice lengthwise.

Pre-heat a small skillet or cast-iron pan over medium heat. When heated well, add a teaspoon or more of butter (depends on how decadent you are) to pan, then the sliced bananas, cut-side down. Cook for 6-7 minutes, or just until the banana caramelizes, then turn over for another 2-3 minutes or until the fruit takes on a translucent quality. Remove to plate to cool. Slice again lengthwise into quarters.

To Assemble:
1 cup of prepared tsubushi an (
recipe minus pandan essence on Recipezaar) or store-bought
1 drop [a little goes a long way] of pandan essence to 1 cup of prepared anko if you want to experiment with this version)
1/2 cup drained plain full-fat yogurt sweetened with 1 tsp. sugar, or creme fraiche

Unroll finished crepe. Fill with 1-2 TBL. anko. Place 3-4 banana slices on anko, then fold over one end of the crepe to hold in fillings. Finish by rolling crepe to close. Garnish with a dollop of yogurt or creme fraiche and mint, or a dusting of powdered sugar.

Serve with Portuguese sausage for a real multi-cultural breakfast feast.


No Bacon Butty? Try a Ham on Poi Muffin

Over at the Golden Arches, there are often featured items that cater to local tastes, like the occasional Taro or Haupia Pies in Hawaii. If I were the man with the curly red wig, this is what I would have on the breakfast menu over there. A breakfast sandwich with char-siu ham, furikake-dressed egg cooked medium-soft in a butter-kissed poi english muffin. No need cheese, it's too tasty already.

This is going out to Sandy in San Antonio, who asked in December what a Bacon Butty was (at first we thought it was "bacon buddy" — it was referenced on a British sitcom). I've had no luck finding any back bacon on Oahu, and regular or Canadian bacon really isn't the same. With Hawaii's historical ties to England, you'd think you could find more British products around here (bangers, yes; back bacon, no). I know my little creation bears absolutely no resemblance to a Bacon Butty, but hey, it hits the spot for grease and whimsy. Have you had better luck making a Bacon Butty? (Read a BBC report on the scientific method to the perfect bacon butty)

Power Up!

Our seven days Unplugged for National Turn-off Week was quite a revelation and a wake-up call. Lots happened after and immediately before we pulled the power cord. We learned we aren't moving as soon as we had thought we would, bid "A hui hou" to a part-time resident neighbor, celebrated our anniversary, had epiphanies about the need for redundant non-electric back-up systems, re-visited a favorite garden, attended a techfest, and received a blog award. Our efforts to stay off the grid were aided for nearly a full day by a blown transformer that kept our community guessing about when power would be restored (thankfully it was only out for 10 hours), but also gave us a chance to test out our new hand-crank radio for a few hours.

Revelations came by way of realizing how much information is actually stored on our computers — important phone numbers, for instance. I stopped updating my Rolodex after we moved here, so anyone who has moved in the last 3 years we were not able to contact. The blown transformer brought this point home again — what if we lost power in a natural disaster for weeks or months? So having a non-electric redundant back-up (i.e., my Rolodex!) is top of the priority list this week.

I also realized how cut off I felt not being able to follow-up on the Net with things I heard on the radio or read in the papers. And what was the weather going to be like today or this weekend? No morning news, no Google weather forecast. In fact, the biggest weather news here was kind of a shock because we saw it before we heard about it . . . The Return of the Vog! Volcanic ash and dust from Kilauea were carried by not-normal southeast winds all the way over to here, where a high cloud system evidently kept it "boxed in" over the islands. Although this vog was supposedly less of a health issue (less sulfuric acid) than previous vog episodes we've had recently, it was many times more disconcerting because for the first time since we've lived here . . . . all the mountain ranges disappeared, and we were left with the uneasy feeling of being spatially displaced. Around here, you tend to think in terms of your relation to the mountains, the ocean, Diamond Head, the coasts, etc. With all these landmarks shrouded in unending gray, you can feel sort of . . . well, lost and out of sorts. Below are photos taken from the beach a 1/2 mile from home — the top was the "view" of Diamond Head and Honolulu last Saturday, and below it, the normal view.
View of Diamond Head with VogView of Diamond Head

We also saw the last of our part-time neighbor, this golden plover, or Kolea. He spends his winters feasting in the large yard behind our house, which he defends against all others of his kind (he seems perfectly content with other bird species, but other Kolea are aves non gratae). Arriving around mid-August from his Alaska nesting grounds, he makes the 3000 mile journey each year non-stop! After basking in the Hawaiian sun all winter, he makes his way back to Alaska around now to find a mate and raise a brood, which he will leave behind in the fall and blithely make his way back to Hawaii. OK, he won't win any bird-parent of the year awards, but somehow the fledglings find their way to Hawaii on their own! I managed to snap this photo at some distance (he's notoriously camera-shy) 2 weeks ago when I noticed his breast plumage had completely transformed to solid black and knew he was getting ready for his big trip. We haven't seen him for over a week now so luckily he seems to have made it out before the disturbing vog rolled in. He'll be back in August. A hui hou?

Just before we pulled the plug last week, I made the rounds of some of my favorite blogs and learned that Nicisme at Cherrapeno had named ThreeTastes as one of the recipients of the "E for Excellent" award badge! It was quite an honor, especially coming from Nic whose blog is my cure for my virtual sweet-tooth. Not only does she create the most amazing desserts, but she has a great gift for making eye-candy, too. Lucky for me our keyboard has a silicone drool guard over it! In fact, I was on her site to get a recipe for her pineapple sorbet to try during our time-off (in all the excitement, I forgot to print the recipe so I'll be trying it in future). I've had a week to consider to whom I will in turn pass on this badge. I still have to type it all up and will post the list over the weekend. Mahalo nui loa, Nic! You definitely set a bar with your site, I'll try to maintain it here too!

Finally, what do lemons, twigs and chalk, needles and heat lamps, pears, courgettes, green tea, and shrimp paste have in common? They're some of the things that kept us occupied during the last week. Here's a visual quick peek of what's coming up. Stay tuned to this bat-channel, Folks!


Unplugged: Waimea Valley Audubon Center

Beginning Monday, April 21st, and running through Sunday April 27th, it’s National “Turn Off Week” in the U.S. and Canada. Sponsored by the Center for Screen-time Awareness, in conjunction with many education and health & fitness organizations, the event is meant to highlight our growing reliance on all things electronic. It began in the 1990s as a one-day event in which people were encouraged to turn off their TVs for 24-hours. But as our dependence on other electronic media has grown, so has the scope and duration of the event: now participants are encouraged to unplug from their blackberries, cell phones(!), iPhones, PCs, laptops, Wiis, xBoxes, etc. for one full week.

Can you do it? We’re going to give it a shot. We’re only allowing ourselves the radio since it’s largely a non-interactive medium, and camera because we don't have a non-digital camera. I was going to start a series about our experience with acupuncture this week, but we’ll pick up with that when we return.

Today we spent the afternoon at the Honolulu Academy of Art to visit their special collection, "The Dragon's Gift: The Sacred Arts of Bhutan," which is on view until May 23d. If you haven't seen this extraordinary collection, which is based on the Honolulu Academy's own expeditions to Bhutan over the last 5 years. The collection is composed largely of religious, namely Buddhist, artwork borrowed from active and working monasteries; it is supplemented with twice-weekly altar rituals performed by Bhutanese monks; videos taken by the Academy's staff of religious dances — some which have never been seen outside the country; and a truly innovative multi-media installation by Herbert Mingood, dance photographer for the Joffrey Ballet.

The exhibit is scheduled to tour five other museums, the next being the Rubin Museum in New York in September. If you have the opportunity to see this rare collection, I hope you will avail yourself of the gift. Read more about the exhibit on the Academy's website, or read the New York Times article by Susan Emmerling.

Bhutan is considered one of the most isolated countries in the world, and has the distinction of being the only country to have a Gross National Happiness index (how cool is that?). It seemed fitting to include mention of this exhibition here since there were no TVs in Bhutan before 1999!

We can't show you anything from the Bhutan collection, so to get National Turn Off Week to a proper start, we’ll leave you with another one our favorite ways to get Unplugged: Waimea Valley Audubon Center on Oahu's North Shore.

Waimea Valley's official greeter

A peahen plays coy with this ardent suitor

A more demure denizen of the gardens

The Valley has a collection rare and unusual hibiscuses . . .

The Falls has a swimhole and rest spot at the end of the
Waimea Falls, Oahu
A sausage tree, named for its pungent fruit
Sausage tree


Programming Note: Merrie Monarch Festival 2008

The world's premier hula event, The Merrie Monarch Festival, begins Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m., Hawaii Standard Time (no Daylight Savings here), and runs through Saturday night. Viewers worldwide can watch each evening's competition over streaming video broadcast by Hawaii's ABC local affiliate, KITV, at

Thursday evening is the Miss Aloha Hula competition: solo dancers chosen by their
halau, or dance school, perform hula in both traditional (kahiko) and modern (auana) styles

Friday and Saturday evenings, all competing halau, in separate men's and women's performances, dance each style. Beginning at 6 p.m., each evening's competition usually runs about 5-6 hours!

The Merrie Monarch Festival is not just a dance competition, but also focuses on keeping all the traditions associated with hula alive, including chanting, musicianship, lei-weaving, tapa-making, elder respect, etc. In the past, the affiliate broadcast has done a great job showcasing these aspects for its viewers. If you get a chance to drop in at any time during the broadcast, treat yourself to a taste of the Islands!

To learn more about the Festival, visit the
Merrie Monarch Festival site.

(When Laika (
left) and Haiku first arrived, they had ambitions of dancing hula)


Grilled Ehu in Banana Leaf

Grilled Ehu in Banana Leaf

Isn't it always the case that when you're looking really hard for something, you don't find it? When our friend Maia brought her parents, June & Rob, to visit Oahu last month, we wanted to barbecue a fish that would be new to them, something only available in a Pacific locale. We wanted a parrotfish large & colorful, with flaky white meat, it seemed the perfect combination of exotic but palatable. Parrotfish are available regularly in the markets and fishmongers, but we usually hesitate to buy one because they are rarely smaller than 4lbs., which is too large for just us two. But on this occasion we had my father and our guests, so it seemed the opportune time. Except that parrotfish suddenly disappeared from the market ice displays. Everywhere. Maybe it was the convergence of the Hawaii presidential primary and the American football Pro-Bowl game in the same week, but whatever the reason: no parrotfish.
Maia leads the post-prandial beach walk

So we ended up with the less exotic, but no less toothsome, Yellow-striped Red Snapper, or Ehu. Once stuffed with herbs and coconut, and grilled in fresh banana leaves, the Ehu were a swimming (sorry, couldn't resist) addition to our home-grown luau: grilled ehu, pork laulau, kalbi beef, huli-huli chicken, assorted poke, sesame watercress, green papaya salad, poi, and rice. And Ted's macadamia nut pie after a walk to the beach to see the sunset.

2 banana leaves, cleaned and oiled
2 Ehu (1-1.5 lb each), scaled and cleaned

sea salt
fresh ground pepper
4-5 cilantro roots
8-10 wild (sometimes called
kaffir) lime leaves
large sprig of cilantro
1 lime, sliced
1/2 cup grated coconut

! lime, quartered
Ehu stuffed for grilling

Rinse and pat fish dry. Place each fish on a banana leaf, then make 2 slashes on each side.
In a mortar, pound together cilantro roots, salt and pepper. Put a bit of the paste in all the slits.

Season the cavity of each fish, then fill with lime leaves and slices, cilantro and coconut. Roll banana leaf around fish. Oil outside of each packet, then place on pre-heated grill.
Grill about 8-12 minutes each side, depending on the size of your fish. Remove packets from heat, and leave wrapped until service. When unwrapped, squeeze fresh lime juice over whole fish.

The smoky, citrus flavors of this preparation go well with either poi or rice, and a lightly cooked salad such as
Sesame-dressed Watercress or Warabi.

Maia leads the buffet line
(Thanks for the visit, Maia! Come see us again soon.)


Mango Season 2008: The First Wave

The lead photo is entered in this month's CLICK event hosted by Bee & Jai at Jugalbandi, where the theme for April is Au Naturel.

Like the surf that gained Hawaii its fame, mango season rolls in wave sets spread throughout the year as different varieties and locales around the Islands blossom, fruit, and ripen. Although many trees here are still in full bud,we found these red beauties a couple of weeks ago, beckoning at us from a lone stand at the farmers' market in our town. Sometimes even the most gorgeous, perfumed mangos can be stringy on the inside, making them difficult to cut or present in any fashion. These, however, were perfect firm, fully-ripe flesh that cut cleanly and easily from the pit. This is a Hayden variety, and was an epitome of its specimen. Not only sweet, but redolent of mango juciness and flavor. I ate this first one as soon as the photo op was over. Hmmm, maybe T would be expecting some, too. Better not cut the second one until he was in the vicinity or it would be proverbial toast, too.

After living here for 3 short years, I'm only just beginning to develop the self-discipline to even consider doing anything with a mango except just eat it. Why cover up that succulent flavor with spices, or herbs, or anything!? In the last few months, beginning with the
Double Mango Bread that was conceived for my first foray in the world of blog events, I've experimented with fresh mangoes with meat dishes, oatmeal, salsas, etc., but to be honest, I'd rather enjoy the mango au naturel naked, if you will.

But last weekend I did venture to make a stuffed french toast with fresh mangoes. It was deemed a worthy use of this most noble fruit. I love egg-y french toast, or
pain perdu (if we're being picky about it). I prefer to leave the bread to soak overnight in a copious egg-mik sop, heavy with vanilla and a bit of cinnamon. But with the mangoes, I wanted something lighter, something less bread-pudding-ish, that would showcase the fruit itself.

The trick to this preparation is to leave the interior of the bread slices dry so the result is a creamy yet light toast that allows the fresh fruit to star. A crumb topping provides a contrasting crunch. We loved this lighter french toast
it tasted sinful without leaving us feeling weighed down afterwards. Make this with any seasonal fruit. I don't really like cinnamon with mango, so I didn't use it or any other flavoring except a kiss of vanilla. With other fruits, though, I would think of complementary flavor combinations: almond extract and nuts with peaches, cherries and other stone fruits; stronger vanilla or even banana with strawberries; cinnamon and cloves with apples or bananas; lemon with blueberries; etc.

This recipe is made with whole grain wheat bread because we are trying to eat more healthily (and that's what we had on hand that morning). (Made with whole wheat, this is something I would serve my dad on his gout-maintenance diet, so it will go into the
GDC.) No question you could substitute an egg bread, such as Hawaiian sweet or challah, for a truly decadent feast.

This recipe goes out to Mansi, the genial host at
Fun and Food for her "Balanced Breakfast" theme for the 20th ed. of Weekend Breakfast Blogging. Have a wonderful weekend!

(for 2 persons, double or triple recipe as needed)

Fruit from 1-3 fully ripe mango (if using a meaty Hayden, you may only need one if you can refrain from sneaking too many nibbles as you prepare the fruit; from the smaller Champagne (Ataulfo) or Pirie varieties, you may need as many as 3)

You can mash or dice the mango, especially if it shows any signs of being stringy. I left it in slices because this particular mango cut like butter anyway, and we like the texture of the fruit this way.

Pre-heat oven to 400F (200C). A countertop or large toaster oven is perfect for a 2-person serving.

2 large or 3 medium eggs
1/2 cup (120ml) almond milk (or soy or low-fat milk)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. raw sugar
4 slices of whole wheat bread

Beat together eggs, milk, vanilla and sugar. Dip each side of bread in this mixture, then leave bread to soak up remaining milk while you prepare the topping.

1 slice of bread
1/4 cup (40g) macadamia nuts, chopped
2 TBL. raw sugar

Process bread, nuts and sugar in small bowl of food processor or blender.

To assemble:
2 TBL. (30g) unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp. raw sugar, or to taste

Butter a small baking dish. Lay 2 slices of soaked bread on the bottom. Top with mango slices (dice, or puree). Sprinkle fruit with 1 tsp. of raw sugar. Top with second slice of bread. Liberally sprinkle bread-nut topping, then drizzle with melted butter.

Bake in pre-heated oven for 5 minutes, then turn oven down to 325F (for another 25 minutes). If top starts to brown to quickly, cover with foil to protect crust.

Serve while hot, with whipped cream or creme fraiche.

See also
Double Mango Bread (yeast bread)
Double Mango Wholewheat Quickbread


Sunrise Service at Puowaina ("Punchbowl")

Ecumenical Easter Sunrise Service at the National
Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Puowaina), Honolulu.

Sunrise view - 01
Sunrise view - 02
Sunrise view - 03
Sunrise view - 04
Celebrants representing 8 denominations across the island, and the ASL translator.
2008 Sunrise Serivce celebrants
The Royal Hawaiian Band
Roayal Hawaiian Band
Puowaina, like Diamond Head, is an extinct volcanic crater.
It lies in the heart of Honolulu.
Interior of Puowaina
View of Diamond Head from the center of Puowaina.
View of Diamond Head
Blessed and Happy Easter to All!


If you are what you eat . . .

Idako (baby octopus)
. . . better know what you're eating, yeah?!

One of the trickiest issues I've come across while researching the management of a gout-friendly kitchen is the lack of resources when it comes to the nutritional values of less common Asian vegetables and fruits, and prepared ethnic foods. While some, like konnyaku and kelp (kombu) have made in-roads into the US and other Western markets as health foods, many others remain on the fringe. One resource I've found is not related to gout in particular, but is enlightening nonetheless about the nutrition content of foods common in Hawaii.

The "
Hawai'i Foods: Nutrition with Aloha" website, sponsored by the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) at the University of Hawaii, provides a breakdown of the total calories, protein, carbohydrate, fat, cholesterol, and vitamin & mineral content of popular fruits, vegetables, and cooked foods in the Islands. One recipe that was featured earlier here on ThreeTastes, Chicken and Green Papaya Soup (Chicken Tinola), is one of the cooked dishes listed on the site: a 1-cup serving of Chicken Tinola has 97 calories, 7g of protein, 4g of carbohydrates, 1g of fiber, 6g of total fat (only 1g is saturated), 23mg cholesterol, as well as Vitamins A & C, niacin, folate, calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium and phosphorus; and 363mg sodium. Pretty healthy, all things considered, and the sodium content can be controlled by the amount of fish sauce (patis) you add while cooking.

Other dishes include ahi poke, kim chee, spam musubi, macaroni salad (included with almost every plate lunch in the Islands), char siu pork, chicken katsu, guinataan, pinakbet, mochi, laulau, kalua pork, poi, teriyaki beef, and chap chae. If you're familiar with these dishes, it's kind of fun
and sometimes scary to see the actual nutritional breakdown of these foods. (I have to seriously re-think how much poke we eat . . . too sad)

Also on the site are less common fruits and vegetables, such as apple banana, watercress, taro, string beans, Okinawan sweet potato, tamarind, soursop, mustard cabbage, mountain apple, papaya, marunggay leaves, lychee, jackfruit, guava, wing beans (listed as"goa bean"), bok choy, choi sum, and bittermelon.

Another great asset is the Recipe page which features more modern recipes using local ingredients: Watercress & Pork (saute), Pineapple Chicken, Apple Banana Bread, Daikon & Potato Soup, Chicken Noodle Choi Sum, and Okinawan Sweet Potato Hash, among many others. The nutrition breakdown for each recipe is also provided.
Go there, or click "Discover" on the main page. I'd like to sample some of these recipes for this site, so stay tuned.

Also on the site is a tool called "My Diet, or PacTrac (short for Pacific Tracker)" which is supposed to allow the user to gauge the nutrition content of their actual diet. It allows you to enter the foods you've eaten in the last 24 hours and receive back a report on how healthy that one-day diet was. The first problem I encountered was that when I entered "oatmeal" as the first item, I was given a list of 6 dry or instant oatmeal cereals to choose from, but no cooked oatmeals, so I could not proceed. It's a great idea, but it may need a little more work on that score. To see PacTrac for yourself, go there now, or click "Learn" on the "Hawai'i Foods" main page.

Finally, you can access and download (as PDF files) quite a few different UH publications that look at the history and nutrition of local foods, as well as guides on how to choose a more healthy diet among foods available locally (
Go there). One guide in particular seemed very practical and helpful: Hawaiian Food Choices for Healthful Living. This 39-page booklet breaks down the US government's recommended foods pyramid (Starch, Calcium/Milk, Fruit, Vegetable, Meat, and Fat), and includes local foods in each food group, including saloon crackers, arare (listed as mochi crunch), coconut, soba noodles, ramen, breadfruit, lotus root, pigeon peas, lychee, poha berries, ume, parrotfish (ulu), milkfish (bangus), skipjack tuna (aku), fish sauce, and Tabasco.

However, my favorite sections begin at page 28 (to page 33) of the booklet: these sections detail how some local favorites make up the total servings from each of the food groups the USDA recommends (2 servings of Calcium/Milk, 3 Vegetables, 4 Fruit, 8 Starch, 5 Meat, 4 Fat). For example, 1 cup of Portuguese Bean Soup (see photo) provides 1/2 of one Vegetable serving, and 2 Meat; 1/2 cup of Halo-Halo (Filipino mixed fruit and ice dessert) has 1/2 Fruit serving, 1 Starch, and 1 fat; and 1 cup of Bibimbap (Korean rice topped with vegetables and beef) has 1 Starch, 1-1/2 Vegetable, 1/2 Meat, 1/2 Fat. But ask yourself, do you really have only 1 cup of Portuguese Bean Soup or Bibimbap? Portion sizes in the Islands are very generous so calculate that in as well. I know my soup bowl probably holds about 2 cups of soup and don't forget about the cornbread you might have on the side, too!

The CTAHR at the University launched this site last year, and I've enjoyed using these tools and have learned a lot about the foods we eat here in Hawaii. I can't say we've banished anything from our table because of something we've learned on this site
— moderation is saner than total denial (especially when there are so many ono foods). But if knowledge is power, then the CTAHR has certainly empowered us to make intelligent choices about what we can enjoy in the Islands.

So "Mahalo nui loa" to all the researchers and staff at CTAHR who made this site possible!

For information on how to choose seafood and fish in Hawaii and around the world that are safe for both you and the environment,
read more here.


Kung Hee Fat Choy: Happy Lunar New Year

New Year's good luck charmGau: new year's cake

Tomorrow officially begins the new lunar year, 4706 The Year of the Rat. Here on Oahu the festivities began early in January, and culminated publicly over the weekend with three days of partying in Honolulu's Chinatown. We caught the tail-end of the parade and the beginning of the street party on Saturday. We must have have missed the firecrackers, or perhaps there was a rain delay because it was quite wet in town all weekend. Despite the weather, hundreds of brave folks lined Hotel Street to watch the parade and stroll along the fest tents on Nu'uanu Street to sample fresh-cooked meat skewers, noodles, jai (also called monk's food, a vegetarian rice meal filled with good luck symbolism), fried rice, plate lunches, dim sum, and the hot fried-food-of-the-night "jin doi," crispy, hollow sesame-covered rice balls with a smear of sweet bean paste inside (far right photo below). Dad was looking for a remembered treat from Manila that he called "tikoy" turned out to be Gau (photo above), the super sticky brown-sugar and rice-flour "cake" that is available all over Chinatown and much of Oahu this time of year. For such simple ingredients, it's quite an addictive treat.
Hotel Street after the paradeMaunakea Marketplace CourtyardVendors preparing fresh jin doi
We only caught the last 2 entries in the parade, including this gaily decorated, if slightly water-logged, lion and his stalwart handlers.
The last lion wneds his way down the damp parade routeLion pauses for a feeding during the parade
After the parade, the lions go their separate ways to visit shops and other businesses in the area. People vie to "feed" the lions since doing so will bring good luck for the coming year. Many folks try to entice their youngsters to bring their "food" to the lions, but with their energetic dancing, and flashing bright eyes, the lions could be a bit intimidating for the little ones, too. First-timers are often carried by their parents. After receiving their monetary meal, the lions often bow in front of the donor and sometimes wag their tails!
A lion approachesLion awaits its feedingLion bows its appreciation to its youngest benefactor
Dad made his offerings to one of the lions one for Nikko, one for Kenji, and one Masato. I couldn't catch them both still, one was always in motion (Dad moves fast for a senior citizen!).
Dad and the Red LionThe Lion gets a second

More about Honolulu's Chinatown:
Part I: Come see what you've been missing
Part II: Best buys


The Challenge: Special Diets and the Superbowl

UPDATE: Visit the new GDC Round-up for other gout-friendly recipes

Assorted Poke Platter

In the last week, both T and my dad — visiting Oahu and now scheduled for out-patient surgery tomorrow have had dietary restrictions imposed for health reasons. For T these include limiting ginger, dairy products, soy products (including miso and tofu), cruciferous vegetables (all our favorites: cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower), pine nuts, hot peppers, peanuts, and millet. For dad, no red meats (beef, pork, lamb, etc.), foods containing yeast (breads, alcohol), red kidney beans, shellfish, fatty fish (herring, sardines), grapefruit, fish sauce or anything containing anchovies, fried foods, and garlic; and limiting amounts of asparagus, mushrooms.

I began with what we CAN we use: chicken, firm and white-flesh fish (no skin), whole grain flat breads and quick breads, whole grain pastas and rice, onions, peas, green beans, potatoes, carrots, hard and summer squashes, almost all fruits, seaweeds, tree nuts, sweet peppers, artichokes, eggplant, tomatoes, corn, soft lettuces, celery, and spinach.

The beef and kidney beans restriction pretty much put the kabosh on dad making his famous chili for the Superbowl football game last Sunday. Instead, we opted to go the local route and make an Hawaiian poke (POH-kay) platter, served with fresh (carrot sticks, cucumber, daikon radish, and cherry tomatoes), steamed (sugar snap peas) and pickled (kimchee and seaweed salad) vegetables. Poke, a combination of raw fish or cooked octopus, sea salt and other seasonings, is available ready-made in just about every supermarket on Oahu, and makes a great quick meal with a salad and rice. Gotta have rice. Having grown up, and now living again, in a rice-focused culture, I’ve found it hard to completely switch to plain brown rice. The chewy texture is pleasant in small doses, and with certain types of foods, but for more traditional meals (as with sashimi or poke), the softness and stickiness of white rice is essential even if only in part. I’ve seen a brown-and-white rice blend in some supermarkets, but I’m leery of the additional processing the brown rice is put through which would allow it to cook with the same amount of water as the white variety requires.

Instead, I’ve devised a method that allows us to cook the rices together in a rice cooker, and produce a nutritional yet fluffy (very important criterion) brown-and-white rice. I call the blend “mestizo rice” (mestizo is a Filipino term meaning, “of mixed ancestry”). All you need is a good long soak.

150g (3/4 cup) regular brown rice
150g (1/2 cup) white medium grain rice

Rinse brown rice well, and drain. Cover rice with water to 1-inch (4cm) over the top of the rice. Allow to soak for at least 8 hours. (Do this in the morning before you go to work.)

When ready to cook, rinse white rice well, and drain. Repeat, until rinse water runs clear.

Drain brown rice. Combine white and brown rices together, and add to rice cooker. Add 1-1/4 cup (320ml) water. Turn on rice cooker and allow to cook/steam. After rice cooker turns itself off, allow rice to finish steaming and do not open lid for at least 15 minutes, but no longer than 30.

Open lid, and with a clean towel, wipe condensation from sides and lid of rice cooker. With a rice paddle or spatula, gently turn rice over, bringing the rice on the bottom to the top in a folding motion (as you would fold in egg whites to a cake batter). Rice is ready to serve.

Leftover mestizo rice makes a great fried rice, especially with pineapple and spices. Read more about making
Fried Rice.

Honolulu's Chinatown, Part 2: Best Buys

Next Thursday, February 7th, is the start of the year 4706 in the Chinese calendar and, as my niece's new T-shirt points out, is also called the Year of the Rat. People born in the Years of the Rat (1924, 1936, 1948. 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996 and this year) are said to be intelligent, just, balanced, orderly, and honest in personal relationships, or so says our all-knowing wall calendar! (Were you born in a Year of the Rat?) Festivities to welcome the new year are well underway in Honolulu's Chinatown and other Chinese communities around the island, but key festivities still remain (see side bar at bottom). Streets are festooned with colorful lanterns and signs bearing wishes for prosperity and long health; dragon-like lions wend their way through shops, banks, markets, and malls; and the air cracks with sharp reports of firecrackers to ward off evil spirits and bad luck. If you need a reason to venture into Chinatown, these last few days leading up to the New Year are a great time to visit this historic district at its prettiest and liveliest. Shops and restaurants are filled with special foods, prices can be even more competitive than ever, and there is just an air of celebration and anticipation.

As far as we're concerned, though, T and I think any day is a great day to be in Chinatown. As outlined in the earlier post,
Honolulu's Chinatown: come see what you've been missing, we visit a couple of times a month for the freshest local produce, noodles, seafoods, smoothies (see Summer Frappe post) and ready-cooked meats, dumplings, and other goodies. Locations and some parking options were also covered earlier. Here we highlight some of our key finds.

Goji berries, aka wolfberries (Fructus lycii). We've used this medicinally for several years, but within the last year include wolfberries in our weekday daily breakfast oatmeal. Generous 1lb. packages retail between $4.50-$8.00 -- perhaps a third to half the retail cost we've seen elsewhere.

As mentioned in earlier posts, we prefer to shop for produce here because the turnover is so high that freshness is almost a given. We frequent many of the vegetable vendors, but our first stop is always a stall in the Kekaulike Mall marketplace called Cheap Market, Kahuku Farmers (right photo) for our leafy greens watercress, choy sum, Chinese broccoli, baby bok choy, dill, herbs, and gai choy but they have many others as well.

Kitchen tools I love: The julienne peeler (left), allows you to make julienne slices as easily as peeling a potato ($7-8), from Hong Fa Thai market on Maunakea/Pauahi. A Laotian rice steamer for sticky rice; the aluminum pot and bamboo basket are sold separately, and the assembly retails less than $20; also at Hong Fa. Vietnamese drip coffeemaker, a relaxing way to enjoy your favorite cup of joe on the weekend, with or without the traditional condensed milk accompaniment, retails less than $5 at most Vietnamese markets along King.

Kitchen collectibles: I have a weakness for wood kitchen articles, old and new. These antique mooncake molds and hand-grater are from Guan Hua (Chinese antiques and reproductions) on King.

For newer mooncake molds, check out Bo Wah on Maunkea. If you're discerning about hair care and insist on a boar-bristle brush, consider also using a wood, rather than plastic, comb. Wood is said to be less likely to pull (and therefore, weaken) hair; and to provide a massage-like feeling on the scalp to promote blood circulation. I love them the top right 3 are mine, I have one at home and one in my purse, and one in my backpack; all the others are gifts for family. All the models shown retail less than $6, except for the 2-tone one which starts at $18 (depends on size and type of wood used). Available at the Americomb House on Maunkea/King it's hard to miss with a giant wood comb in the window!

Char Hung Sut Manapua Factory's hand-made selection includes sweets and savories for every taste. Go early, things start selling out by mid-morning.

The selection of roasted chicken, char siu, pork, duck, as well as various kinds of offal at the ever-popular Wing Loy's BBQ on Maunakea. We also frequent Hong Kong style BBQ at the Far Eastern Center on King, and Nam Fong, also on Maunakea.

Fresh local and imported fruit selections are unparalleled. Visitors and picnickers looking for a ready-made taste of the islands will find cleaned and cut fruit bowls ranging from $2-4, depending on the fruits included. Chau's Fruits (middle) at the Hotel St. entrance to the Maunakea Markets, Summer Frappe in the Maunakea courtyard, and several vendors in the Food Court have ice-cold fruit bowls from which to choose. It's the best way to try a new fruit, too, if you're unsure how to prepare or eat it everything from the common (in Hawaii) pineapples and mangos, to watermelon, rambutan, sapote, dragonfruit, jackfruit and durian (seasonal).

Here's a special find for connoisseurs of fish cakes. These are made daily from fresh spearfish/marlin at KC Meatball House, one of the stalls inside the Markets at Kekaulike Mall. KC also carries Asian-style (bound with cornstarch for a springy texture) pork meatballs that are one of T's favorites.

This factory on Likelike Mall produces hundreds of the thin, rolled rice sheet noodles in shrimp (tiny dried kind), plain and char siu flavors. Each roll is $1 or less, depending on the flavor. Recipe: Char-siu or Shrimp Funn with Chive Oil.

This small dark store-front on King Street, just ewa of Kekaulike Mall, belies the bustling noodle factory inside. Dozens of types of fresh-made wheat and egg noodles in varying thicknesses and forms, as well as wrappers for wonton, gyoza and mandoo are available. A price list is posted in the foyer just before you step down into the factory proper to place your order. Often there's a line here (but it moves quickly) so you may have time to peruse the list and make your selections before you get to the counter. Shown here are udon (left) and thick saimin noodles, both sell for $1.00/lb.

Ready for lunch? Dim sum at Good Luck Chinese restaurant at Mauna Kea/Beretania allows diners to select from dozens of steamed, fried and sauteed dishes from their traveling carts or off the extensive menu.

Pho 97 on Maunakea, near the Marketplace entrance, is our go-to stop for all Vietnamese meals: BBQ pork bun (left), Vietnamese mung bean crepe, or soups.

Want something faster than a sit-down restaurant affords? The food court at the Maunakea Marketplace has the most compelling assortment of Asian food stalls on Oahu: Singaporean, Malaysian, Thai, Laotian, Filipino, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese vendors offer fully-cooked meals ready to take, as well as short-order items like noodle soups cooked to order. Of the more than dozen stalls here, almost half offer Filipino foods so if you've ever been curious about Filipino foods, this is the place to sample different regional styles.

This is in no way a complete list, just a few of our favorites. We've only been exploring for 2 years, so if we've missed your favorite haunt or you know we're missing out on a great product, please share it with us by leaving a comment below. And if you've recently visited this vibrant district yourself, we'd love to hear what your experience was like.

We missed some of the festivities over the last 2 weekends, but a few remain this coming weekend:

Friday, February 1
First Friday Arts at Marks
Chinatown Open House at Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Chinatown District

Friday & Saturday, February 1 & 2
Chinese New Year Celebration at Chinatown Cultural Place
Friday: 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Saturday: 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Fireworks and lion-dances

Saturday, February 2
CMA Parade - 4:00 p.m.
Night In Chinatown - 9:00 a.m. - 10:30 p.m.

Thursday, February 7
Chinese New Year


5-A-Day: Flash-Cooked Watercress

Still starved for fresh greens, I bought 3 large bunches of watercress in Chinatown. The photo here shows 1 bunch of cleaned, trimmed cress. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that before coming to Hawaii I only considered cress for 2 things: tea sandwiches and a plate garnish. Pretty sad, no? Both these ideas came from my training in London, but I'm glad I've overcome these limitations in my thinking and have embraced watercress for the versatile, nutritious vegetable it truly is.

Watercress, like mustard greens (see
earlier post), is a cruciferous vegetable and like its cousins broccoli and cabbage, has long been recognized as an important source of calcium, iron and folic acid. According to Wikipedia, it is one of the oldest known leaf greens eaten by humans (read more). Eaten raw, watercress is prized for its peppery flavor; but when cooked, it takes on a more savory, almost tangy character, that stands up well like to strong flavors such as garlic or fermented black bean sauce, both popular preparations in restaurants serving knowledgeable Chinese clientele. Again, if you like strong flavored greens such as endive, chicory or broccoli rabe, there's a good chance you will enjoy watercress both raw and cooked.

Perhaps the best incentive to add this delicious green to your culinary repetoire is the exciting research coming out of the University of Ulster (UK) in the last year about the anti-cancer properties of watercress. That study found that daily intake of a modest amount of watercress (about 85g) can significantly reduce an important cancer trigger, namely DNA damage to white blood cells; as well as lowering cholesterol and improving absorption of lutein and beta-carotene, key minerals for eye health and the prevention of age-related conditions such as cataracts. Read more about this on the
Medical News Today site.

If you're lucky enough to live near Alresford, Hampshire, UK, you can attend the Watercress Festival on Sunday, May 11, 2008. There is also a newer festival in the US that celebrates watercress in Osceola, Wisconsin the third annual fest should be in late spring (no details available yet).

Here on Oahu, watercress grows in a most amazing locale. This close view of the Sumida Farms in Aiea (at right) shows us the lush vegetation amid irrigation culverts one would expect in a watercress farm.

But the larger view reveals that this beautifully cultivated and landscaped oasis of edible green fronts one of the major east-west thoroughfares on Oahu, Farrington Highway, and is bounded on its other three side by a large shopping mall, Pearlridge Center! The first photo is taken from the highway, which sits right beside the northernmost end of Pearl Harbor, and looks to the northeast corner of the farm. The second photo is taken from the northern (mauka) side of the shopping center, looking back towards Pearl Harbor (makai) and the highway side of the farm. Cultivation and harvest is year-round, as evidenced by the taller dark green patches adjacent to apparently harvested lighter colored patches. What a poetic resource!
View of Sumida Farms from highwayView of Sumida Farms watercress

So how to incorporate watercress into your diet? Well, instead of looking for specific recipes for watercress, again I would recommend using it in your own favorite preparations for fresh spinach or braised greens. Of the 3 bunches we bought, one was braised with garlic using the same method as for the Mustard Greens (
see post), one was used along with spinach in Sukiyaki (coming soon), and one was flash-cooked for later use as a topping for Okinawan soba or ramen. When we buy very perishable greens such as watercress or mustard greens, I will usually either garlic-braise or flash-cook them within a day of purchase. Cooked, the greens take up less precious fridge space and are no longer susceptible to wilting. I've also provided myself with some handy timesavers for mid-week meals: with cold potatoes and eggs, we can have a frittata in 20 minutes, or an omelet in 10; with a few additional spices and perhaps a sauce, we will have a great pasta; with a sesame dressing, we have a cooked salad to accompany any meal; after a 10 second buzz in a microwave, we have a great topping for ramen; or it can provide a healthy boost to your favorite soup recipe a couple of nights ago we added some flash-cooked watercress in the last 10 minutes of cooking a homemade chicken vegetable soup. One recipe still on the back burner in my mind is to substitute all of the spinach in a spinach dip with watercress I'll get back to you on that one, but if someone out there does it sooner, I'd love to hear how that worked for you!

Until then, here is my method for flash-cooking watercress, or any easy-to-cook green.


1 large bunch watercress, about 1lb (450g)
TBL. olive oil
2-5 cloves garlic, diced (optional)
sea salt (optional)

Trim hollow stems of watercress to about 1-inch (5cm) of the leafy parts. Wash thoroughly in clean water, and vinegar-water solution (see
Mustard Greens post for detailed directions on washing leafy greens). Cut into 2-inch (10cm) lengths.

Heat wok or other large pot just to smoking point. Add enough olive oil to coat wok/pot, then add garlic, if using, and let gently brown (about 10-15 seconds), then remove from pan.

Add watercress, and using 2 wooden spoons or spatulas, turn to coat with oil. Add more oil to the sides of the wok, if necessary, but not directly on the greens. Continue cooking on medium-high to high heat until the cress wilts and becomes bright green. Remove from heat and add salt to taste, if using (I don't use salt if I'm not using the greens right away). Cover and leave in pan another 5 minutes.

Gently squeeze greens to remove excess moisture, and either dress and use right away, or store in fridge for up to 3 days. If storing, be certain the greens will be cooked again (as in soup,
Plasto, tortilla, etc.). If using as a ramen topping or side dish, microwave briefly to heat through before serving.
Sesame Watercress

2-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
TBL. toasted (aka "dark) sesame oil
1 TBL. raw sugar
tsp. sea salt
2 TBL. mirin, sake, or sherry
tsp. soy sauce

Sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

Mix together sugar, salt, mirin and soy sauce. Stir to dissolve sugar. Pour over cooked cress and garnish with sesame seeds.

Watercress and vegetable tempura kamaboko top this ramen for an easy, nutritious one-bowl meal.
Okinawan Soba with cress and kamaboko

More Recipes with Watercress:
Watercress Dumplings
Portuguese Bean Soup
Green Papaya Soup (Tinola)


Starting off on the right foot . . .

When we did our first degree Reiki training, the Reiki Master told us that 2 side effects of working with Reiki are 1) what she called "dog breath" and 2) that electronics, especially computers, can get a bit "squirrely" on you. I can say from personal experience that both these things are true for me. I tried to post this about an hour and a half after finishing this morning's session, and this Mac was decidedly uncooperative. I opted to leave it alone and to take care of some errands away from the house for a few hours, and hope that now the computer has worked through its Reiki issues . . .

Beach at Kaena Point, Oahu, Hawaii
I hope everyone is feeling warmed and at peace. Thank you to each and every person who responded to this gift of Reiki. I am so happy I could end this year and begin the next with you on such a wonderful note.

My warm up exercises began this morning at 4, and Reiki about 30 minutes later. It was a very unusual session for me. I was aware of three distinct phenomena I had not experienced before. The most profound was the change in energy when I transitioned from healing for those on my regular healing list to those on our special New Year’s Eve list. The energy “ball” that I sense and in which I hold the folks to whom healing is sent usually pulses outward strongly and rhythmically, but this shifted quite dramatically to a very gentle, wave-like sensation. It grew in strength but remained wave-like in its rhythm for the entire 45 minutes it lasted on its own. The session ended just before 6:30, and I was surprised how much time had passed once I looked at the clock!

For everyone across the Dateline, I know you are already well into the New Year, and as all the rest of us join you “in the future” I want to wish you all good health, laughter around great meals with your family and friends, and love:

Rowena, Dario, Pammie, Stephanie, Olga, Lyssa, Lorraine, Ate Belinda, Uncle Moj, Anne, Kat, Mom and Dad Cruz, Seth, Sophie, Andy, Dhivya, Laurie, Diane, Alison, Troy, Cynthia, Leonardo, Lauren, Vanessa, Gladys, Stephen, Jeff, Tracy, Vicki, Cath, Bhavana, Darlene, PJ, Ron, June, Robert, Maia, Manisha, Nicola, Patrick, Jennifer, Nicolette, Nicolas, Flore, Joyce, Elizabeth, James, William, Jessica, Jennifer, Stacey, Amanda, Kendra, Jeff, Angela, Victor, Masato, Debi, Carla, Leesa, Victoria, Andreas, Paula, Kit, Vann, Malinda, Alysa, Craig, Ruth, Debi, Ulrike, Ditmar, Izzy, Jen, Ken, Louie, Ernest, Ruth, Ron, Cathy, Barbara, Peter, Daniel, Andrew, Jo, Robert, Medha and Divyesh . . .

Happy New Year 2008!

UPDATE: Resources if you would like to explore more about Reiki here.


You might be a Public Radio Geek if:

Radio with Vision

. . . the first programmed station on your car radio is your local NPR station
(you’re DEFINITELY a public radio geek if the second programmed station is also tuned to NPR)
. . . you can tell what time of the day it is by what NPR show is currently on the radio
. . . you know the difference between NPR and PRI
. . . you want Carl Kasell’s voice on your home answering machine
. . . you think Derrick Malama is talking to you when he says Aloha in the mornings (Hawaii only)
. . . you wake up to public radio
. . . you could pick out Ira Glass’ voice in a crowded room, but wouldn’t recognize him if he was standing on your big toe
. . . you have stood in line to get tickets for a live taping of
A Prairie Home Companion and still saw the movie of the same name
. . . you are a member of your local public radio station
. . . you know the difference between Terry Gross and Liane Hansen
. . . you listen to ancient episodes of British radio game shows that your friends in the U.K. can’t believe are still on the air in the U.S.
. . . you think listening to commercial radio when public radio is off the air (e.g., during national disasters) is a painful experience
. . . the first thing you do when you rent a car in a strange city is turn the dial all the way to the left to look for a station
. . . you know who all these people are just by their first names: Derrick, Noe, Kayla, Lillian, Ray, Wayne, Cedric, Beth-Ann (Hawaii only)
. . . you think Ray and Tom Magliozzi are funny

I'm a public radio geek. And proud of it, too. T and I have been members of public radio wherever we've lived, but especially so here. Hawaii is one of the rare places in the world where geeks such as myself have not one, but two, public radio stations to choose from each and every day. Hawaii public radio provides not only the diverse national and international news programming one can’t find in other media streams, but also insightful and in-depth local news during the day. It also has the only Hawaiian language news cast on radio.

But it’s not just news. If you’d like to hear and learn more about contemporary Hawaiian music, you will find 3 hours of listening pleasure on
Kanikapila Sunday and Music of Hawai’i every Sunday afternoon (1-4pm HST). Or you can hear short stories written by local authors and read aloud by local actors on Aloha Shorts every Tuesday evening at 6:30. The actors’ readings fully bring to life the humor, pathos, and wisdom in these stories, especially capturing Hawaii's distinctive pidgin. (This is one show I hope will soon be made available as podcasts, too.)

If you live beyond Hawaii’s airwaves, you can still listen to these and most of Hawaii public radio’s original broadcasts in a live audio stream
here. For a complete program guide for KIPO, the news, talk and contemporary music station, check here; and for sister station KHPR, the classical music and news venue, click here.

I’ve been a supporter and fan of public radio since it first came to Guam in 1994. I was a free-loading listener for a year, then decided to step up and become a member, too. When I stopped by the studio one evening to drop off my check, I was solicited to also become a volunteer. I agreed, thinking I was going to stuff envelopes or man a fundraising phone line. Instead I was asked to take a radio control board for 3 hours every Wednesday evening. Hmmm, I’m pretty "mechanically challenged." But I was told I would be trained well by the operator whose shift I was taking over. The trainer I met on the appointed day was very patient, if a little bemused by my dearth of competency on the control board (I put Post-its with numbers and arrows on each sliding control button I had to use). But since all the programming was pre-taped, it left us with 3 hours to talk, in between half-hourly station announcements. So talk we did. We talked again the next week, and the next, before he flew off for a month to Thailand. And we still talk
about music and politics, books and computers, poetry and food. Every day, just as we did that first evening twelve years ago this day.

Are you a fan of public radio? Tell us what do you love about your public radio station!

Go Home, Cook Rice: Laulau Uncovered

Ehrr, what were Santa and the Mrs. tucking in to in the Honolulu City Lights display two days ago laulau? Looks very exotic and strange. Kinda scary, too, all wrapped up in one leaf! Well, do you like smoked pork? How about slow-cooked greens? Yeah?! You'll love laulau! Smoky pull-apart pork shoulder or butt are wrapped in meltingly tender greens (taro leaves, to be exact) and encased in non-edible ti leaves for steaming and presentation. A tiny piece of salted butterfish is included for seasoning, but does not impart a fish taste or smell to the meat or greens. Untie and remove the ti leaves to reveal a delicious ready-made meal.

Here in the islands, almost every supermarket carries vacuum-packed pre-cooked packages of laulau (3 in a pack) in the chilled section that need only a 30-minute steam or a shorter ride in the microwave-go-round. Cook a pot of rice, or pick up a bag or tub of poi (also in the chilled counter), and you have a nutritious instant meal (we have both poi and rice -- it's all about the starch . . .). We keep laulau in the freezer for those REALLY lazy days when even chopping onions or washing salad greens is too laborious, and T takes them to work for lunch too. (Separate the laulau into individual quart-size freezer bags unless you plan to cook 3 at a time).

If you're visiting the islands, many local drive-inns and the bento counters of the supermarkets will have hot, ready-to-eat laulau. On the Mainland, I've seen laulau both at the bento counter and in the frozen section at the Uwajimaya chain of Japanese/Asian groceries in the Northwest. I'd love to know if other Mainland markets, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, carry laulau, too. (You can leave a comment below or email me thanks!) There is also a local fast-food chain, L&L Drive-inn, that has locations along the West Coast I haven't tried them outside of Hawaii, but they might carry laulau as well.

What did you think of laulau the first time you tried it? Would you try it if you saw it after reading this?

Christmas in Honolulu: Trees Display

Having had your photo op on the lawn of Honolulu Hale (pronounced HAH-leh) with the over-sized North Pole denizens vacationing in Hawaii (last post), it's time to see what's happening inside. Once through the doors of the Hale (City Hall) and after your eyes adjust from the bright sun to the softer natural light of the the Hale atrium you are met with a charming Christmas tree display organized and decorated by city and county employees. Each tree is sponsored by a department agency and sports a theme (recycling, protecting wildlife, family tradition, etc.). The first photo of the atrium is actually from last year's display because I forgot to take one this year, but this gives you an idea of the effect.

The blue Christmas palm tree is one of my favorites this year because it envisions a foxtail palm as a Christmas tree, which seems more practical in the tropics — and has lauhala (coconut woven) fish as decorations. It looks blurry because it's actually spinning, to simulate the fish swimming underwater (I think).

Santa goes local with an aloha shirt and grass skirt; an elf chef sports an aloha shirt and apron.

These little miniature houses represent a few of the many cultures at home in Hawaii: Chinese, Hawaiian, Japanese and Portuguese (click on photo to enlarge)

All these last photos are from the same tree display hosted by the customer service department -- it's theme was protecting Hawaii's native species and using recycled materials to build "homes" for them.
At the foot of the tree are a mynah and a couple of mongoose; as well as a band of gecko fans plugging for the UH-Warriors in the Sugar Bowl.

These mice seem to be playing petanque (aka bocce) in front of their exquisitely constructed straw and wood house. The detail in the doors, lanai, and windows is inspired. As is this bird house cleverly recycled from a Zippy's chili tub and plastic eating utensils!

As you step back, the full effect of this creatively imagined and beautifully realized tree can be enjoyed. An endangered white fairy tern alights at the tree's top.

If you head through the atrium and to the right, then left just before the exit, you'll find a wreath display. Several dozen wreaths were made by schools and individuals for an annual island competition. They are all well-crafted, but here are four that really captured my attention. The first is from a local school championing conservation and recycling (something dear to my heart). The garden implements envisioned as a wreath is just darn clever!

This tribute to Queen Keopuolani by the women of her namesake dormitory at the Kamehameha Schools just took my breath away. There is such grace and power in the woman's form, which is covered in a decoupage of pictures of the Queen, as well as moss. The red and gold are the colors of the Ali'i, the native Hawaiian ruling class. The last wreath recycles dried native flora into a beautiful wreath that can be displayed long into the new year.

To see pictures of the Honolulu Hale Christmas Tree and lawn display with their lights all aglow for the opening night festivities, visit the Honolulu City Lights official site.

Christmas in Honolulu: City Lights

Menehune on the Lanakila Pineapple Express
Christmas trees amid swaying palms, Menehune (Hawaiian "little people" of fable) on trains, Hawaiian sea turtles playing with penguins, a snow family braving the full tropical sun must be Christmas time in Hawaii! The annual Honolulu City Lights display is in full swing again in front of city hall, Honolulu Hale. It's a whimsical glimpse of how the Clauses might spend Christmas morning after Santa's hectic dash around the globe the night before. Hawaii is one of Santa's last stops on this side of the International Date Line, so it's time to kick off the slippahs (uh . . . boots), and have a tropical cocktail juice and some local grindz (laulau and poi). (Now that's what I'm talking about!)
Christmas in Honolulu
Santa and Mrs. Claus hangin' loose
Penguins in Hawaii?? Snowbirds that know how to chill
This Honu ofers Santa a cool guave juice Laulau and poi are on offer from this chillin' Honu
They're okay as long as their hats stay on . . .
Next in store: The Christmas Tree display inside Honolulu Hale . . .


A Bit of Lost Sunshine: Pina Colada Trifle

UPDATE: Dear Zorra has posted the Round-up for SHF #38 just in time for all our New Year's celebrations. Come see all the wonderful recipes from around the world here:

SHF #38 - The proof is in the Pudding!

Sunshine in a cup: Pina Colada Trifle
It's a bit of a mess here in not-at-all-sunny Oahu today power lines and trees are on the roads, roofs have blown away, schools are closed, buses aren't running, many homes are without power. All this the result of a freak windstorm in the early morning hours. The weather reporter said the UV (ultra-violet) Index for today was 1 (it's usually 10-12), so that tells you how dark and dreary it is today, and will continue to be until the weekend. I always think of our poor visitors, some who are here on a vacation of a lifetime, some to escape the dreary weather in their cold hometowns. How awful to have come so far and then be told by the civil defense authorities that people should stay indoors, seas are too rough for boat travel or swimming.

So here's a little aloha to all of our wind-swept visitors (and to everyone in a colder clime): a ray of island sunshine in a cup, the Pina Colada Trifle. A fresh pineapple and rum cake is enveloped by a creamy, gently sweet coconut pudding. Easy to make, easy to serve. What could be better during this busy season? (The cake improves with one day's wait, so bake it early if time permits.)

Part I: Pineapple Rum Cake
12 TBL. (170 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups (250g) brown sugar
6 egg yolks

3 cups (270g) sifted cake flour
1 TBL. + 1 tsp. (20 grams) baking powder
3/4 tsp. (5g) salt
½ cup (112 ml) dark rum
½ cup (112ml) milk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 cups (360g) chopped fresh pineapple

Preheat oven to 350F (177C).  Butter and flour 2 9-inch x 1-1/2 inch (23 x 3.75 cm) cake pans, or 1 13x9-inch pan. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder.
Combine rum, vanilla and milk.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar on high until sugar dissolves and mixture is light. On medium speed, add egg yolks, one at a time, ensuring each yolk is incorporated before adding the next. Scrape down bowl.  Add dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with rum mix, and ending with dry. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are incorporated, then increase mixer speed to medium and beat for about 2 minutes. Scrape down bowl.  Add pineapple and fold in.

Pour batter into the prepared pan(s). Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, or when the cake springs back when pressed lightly in center.  Cool in pan on wire rack.

Part II: Haupia (Coconut Pudding)
(This recipe produces a looser pudding than haupia served by itself. If you want to make Haupia squares, increase cornstarch to 4 TBL.)
1-½ cup (350ml) coconut milk (12 oz. can)
1 ½ cup (350ml) water
3-4 TBL. sugar
3 TBL. cornstarch

Combine water, sugar, and cornstarch and cook over low heat until just below simmering. Stir constantly until sugar dissolves. Slowly add coconut milk, stirring constantly. Keep stirring, shifting directions, and stirring across the center so the mixture is in constant motion and doesn’t burn. After 10 to 15 minutes the color will change from chalky opaque to shiny bright white, and the mixture will thicken. Remove from heat and let cool at room temperature.

To Assemble: Cut cooled cake into 1 in. (2.5cm) cubes. Place in individual wine glasses. Pour slightly cooled haupia over cake. When pudding has completely cooled, cover and chill until serving time. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh grated coconut.
Pina Colada Trifle

SHF #38 - The proof is in the Pudding!

Aloha also to all those participating in Sugar High Friday, hosted this month by the indefatigable zorra, aka kochtopf, at 1x umrühren bitte. This is my first entry to this long-standing blog event!


Game Day: Portuguese Bean Soup

Rainy days on Oahu

The weather is quite dreary here this weekend and will remain so into the middle of next week, if you believe the weather guy. Our poor hibiscus looks quite weighed down by the heavy rains we got yesterday, doesn’t she?

Nevertheless, there’s a big game today at Aloha Stadium — the undefeated (11-0) University of Hawaii Warriors face off against the Washington Huskies in the last game of the regular season. The excitement on Oahu is palpable and infectious, even sweeping in sometimes-sports fans like yours truly. We casually tuned in to last week’s televised game against Boise State and then sat glued to the TV to the end. Luckily we still had Thanksgiving leftovers (ala tetrazzini) then because I was too into the game to cook.

(You can listen to today's game via the UH website here or watch on ESPN2)

This week we’re prepared with the perfect Hawaiian TV football-watching food: the venerable Portuguese bean soup. And judging by the empty Portuguese sausage shelf and dearth of ham hocks and shanks at my local supermarket yesterday, I’m guessing there are lots of soup pots bubbling away right now. This ultra-hearty spicy island classic rivals American style chili con carne in its variations and plain down-home comfort. For me the key ingredient is Hawaiian style Portuguese sausage, it’s quite distinct from its European ancestor and whatever the blend of spices they use here, it’s uniquely Hawaii. And ono. When we lived in Europe, I made this soup a couple of times using sausages (chouricos) from Portugal and those were good too, but in my heart I felt like something was missing.
Our favorite Portuguese sausage

The method I use for this (and most soups) is different in that I use a slow-cooker. This will require that you start at least 48 hours before you plan to serve, if you also want to de-fat the broth (which I do), at least 36 hours if you skip the cooling process. It does take a while, but I like the fact that I’m not tied to the stove making the broth or soup. In Europe we found a slow-cooker made in the U.K. that was 220-volt, and eliminated the need for a voltage-converter for a 110 volt machine. And the multiple draining and rinsing may seem like a bother, but according to Aliza Green in "
The Bean Bible," this process, along with the parboiling, reduces the beans’ propensity to cause flatulence so skip this step at your own peril! ; P

The substitution of mustard greens for cabbage is a new thing in the evolution of this soup for us — we tried this variation in a soup we had near Hilo on the Big Island a couple of years ago. The slightly bitter green brings a nice balance to the spicy meaty soup.

Making broth for soup

Make the broth:
1 large smoked ham shank, whole
1 medium onion, peeled but left whole, or halved
4 whole cloves
4 celery heart branches, with leaves
2 large bay leaves
2 carrots, peeled and cut in large chunks

Stick cloves in onion halves or whole. Place all ingredients in 5 quart or larger slow-cooker. Cover with water, at least to 4/5 of the ham shank. Set slow cooker to High and cover. After an hour or so, check and remove scum rising to the surface. When water comes to a boil, turn setting to Low and leave for 8-10 hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone.

Meanwhile, soak 8 oz. (225g) of rinsed red kidney beans in 8 cups (2L) cool water. After 4 hours, drain the water, rinse, and cover with 6 cups (1.5L) cool water. Repeat after 4 more hours.

When the broth is done, remove the ham shank and all the vegetables. Debone and shred or chop the meat, and return to broth. You can either cool the broth overnight and remove the fat in the morning, or proceed to finish the soup as is. These pictures show the cooled and defatted broth.
Broth after coolingBroth after de-fatting
If you choose to cool the soup, after de-fatting, return to slow-cooker and set on High for one hour before proceeding.

For the soup:
10 oz of Hawaiian Portuguese sausage, halved lengthwise, then sliced into half-moons
4 cloves of garlic, diced
2 cups water
1 15oz can of diced tomatoes, including juice
1 6oz can of tomato paste
1-½ tsp. paprika
1 tsp. black pepper
2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 medium bunch Chinese mustard greens, Italian chicory, endive, or other bitter green, chopped
4 oz. (113g) dry elbow macaroni, or other small pasta shape

Drain and rinse beans. Bring 6 cups of water to boil, then add rehydrated beans and boil for 15 minutes. Leave in water until ready to use. Then drain, rinse and add to hot broth.
Portuguese bean soup
Mmmm, soup . . . .
Over medium heat, pan fry the sliced sausage until browned, then add to hot broth. Remove the excess fat from the pan, then add garlic and cook until just fragrant. Turn heat to high and add water to pan and deglaze, add to broth with tomatoes, tomato paste, pepper and paprika. Turn slow-cooker to Low and let cook about 4 hours. Add potatoes, carrots, stem parts of cabbage, and uncooked macaroni. Cook on Low another 1-½ to 2 hours, or until potatoes and beans are tender. (Add tender green parts of cabbage last half hour.) Correct seasoning (salt will depend on type of sausage or smoked shank/hocks used) and serve with cornbread, hawaiian sweet bread, or garlic bread.

If you want to use cooked pasta or macaroni, reduce water to 1 cup, and add cooked pasta with tender cabbage greens, in the last half-hour of cooking.

For a great step-by-step pictorial on how to make Portuguese bean soup local kine, check out Pomai’s site at The Tasty Island.

For a European take on this island favorite, see local girl Rowena cooking in Italy at
Rubber Slippers in Italy.

Update: The Warriors took it in a come-from-behind, nail-biting finish, 35-28. . .

See also
Portuguese-style pork, clam and periwinkle stew


Unplug: The Byodo-in Temple

Bridge entering Byodo-in Temple

As a counterpoint to the consumer mania that the US's "Black Friday" (the start of the holiday shopping season) ushered in yesterday, we offer here a chance to visit one of Oahu's oases of calm — the Byodo-in Temple in the Valley of the Temples, near Kane'ohe. Erected in 1968 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii, this beautiful temple and its serene grounds are set against the stunning cliffs of the Ko'olau mountain range. The Valley of the Temples is actually a cemetery with specially designated areas to accommodate the different burial practices of Hawaii's diverse cultures and communities. The Byodo-in Temple is located at the rear of these majestic grounds. A nominal fee is collected just before crossing this bridge to the main temple area, but it is well worth the visit.

A full panorama of the temple and its front garden is here. (Do you notice anything strange about this photo?)

There are small ponds throughout the gardens, stocked with koi, or decorative Japanese carp. Many birds also take sanctuary here, although we did not get anything more exotic than some zebra doves (including one that looked like it was "diving") in our photos.
Golden koi in the temple streamsDoves taking refuge in the temple pond

View of the main temple from the pond in the front gardens (top) and from the rear gardens( bottom)
View from the front gardensView from the rear gardens

As you approach the main temple from the left, this iron bell invites the visitor to announce his visit and intention. [The bell is open for all visitors to use, but please remember this is a place of contemplation and prayer. The bell is not a toy]
Bell shrineByodo-in temple bell

Inside the temple, a golden Buddha sends loving kindness out to our beleaguered world. [Please be prepared to remove your shoes before entering the sanctuary]
View from sanctuarySmiling Buddha

Honolulu's Chinatown: Come see what you've been missing

Lions greeting visitors to the Maunakea Marketplace Main entrance to Maunakea Marketplace
It's with great sadness that I read the growing number of reports about problems with foods and products made in mainland China. It gives one pause and certainly makes me look twice and thrice at labels. But I know I should do that anyway, regardless of where I buy something, whether it's a supermarket or an small ethnic grocery.

Many people we know have also told us they are wary of going to Chinatown here because they've heard it's scary or they've seen things on TV about high crime there. We heard the same thing about Boston's Chinatown when we lived in that area, and London's too. We didn't find those things to be true in those places either. I think it's a matter of being smart and careful, just as you would in any part of a large metropolitan area.
Colorful fruit stand at the Hotel Strret entrance to Maunakea Market Looking down Hotel Street toward River St. From Oahu Market, looking uptown
So I'd like to share the Honolulu Chinatown that we know and love. It's a terrific place. We try to go every couple of weeks for fresh produce, fish and seafood, bakery items, and a few dry goods. If you're interested in learning more about some of the unfamiliar items you might find on the store shelves, I highly recommend Linda Bladholm's
The Asian Grocery Store Demystified.

Where is it? Where do you park?
Chinatown is located Downtown Honolulu and is roughly bordered by Nimitz Highway to the south, River Steet (west), Beretania Street (north), and Nuuanu Avenue (east). Caveat: all these streets, except Nimitz are one-way. (
See a map from showing one-way streets) The street signs in Chinatown are pretty distinct, as they're written in both English and Chinese script.
Chinatown's unique street signs

Street parking is limited and 1-hour slots only (free Sundays and holidays), but there are municipal garages (pay half-hourly) on Smith (near Nimitz), Maunakea (near King), Nuuanu (past King), and Maunakea (near Beretania, at Chinese Cultural Plaza). Our favorite place to park, though, is at a private lot at the corner of Nuuanu and Nimitz (weekend rate, $4 all day til 5pm). We've been known to get to Chinatown for breakfast and not leave until after lunch so this is a good deal for us.
Philippine vegetable stand Freshest vegetables available Roasted and barbequed meats at Wing Loy
Where to buy:

  • Seafood: we go to the Troy Enterprise fish market (corner of King and Kekaulike Marketplace) for fresh whole moi (sweet white-meat fish) and Dungeness crabs (they will gut and scale the fish for you on request), and Da Kine Seafood (Maunakea, b/w King and Nimitz) also for Dungeness and for frozen seafood (they carry froglegs, French escargots — with or without butter, and crawfish tail meat if you're looking for such exotics); The Oahu Market (across Troy Enterprise) also has several different fish and seafood vendors; Wah Wah Seafoods (King/Keakaulike) has fresh fish and live frogs and eels; Seven Sisters (inside Maunakea Mktpl) has fresh local sweet shrimp
    • Fresh meat: market stalls at the Oahu Market and in Kekaulike Marketplace, and Maunakea Marketplace: you can find whole oxtail and other cuts of beef, sides of pork, fresh chickens
    • Produce: the market stalls on King, and in and around Kekaulike Marketplace can't be beat for price and selection (the early bird gets the best choices, they start opening around 6:30am)
    • Fresh noodles: we go to Yat Ting Chow Noodle Factory (King/River) for saimin, udon, and wonton, gyoza and mandoo wrappers; and Look Funn for plain, char siu or shrimp rice noodles
    • Chinese BBQ and roast meats: Eastern Food Center
    (King/Kekaulike Mkt), Wing Loy (Maunakea/Hotel), and Nam Fong (across from Wing Loy)
    • Pastries: Chinese (Lee, on King; Ruby's on Hotel; ) and Filipino (Pelio on Hotel); many dim sum houses will also carry pastries you can order for take-away
    • Chinese dry goods: There is the venerable Bo Wah (Maunakea/Hotel), but of course many many others throughout the area
    • Vietnamese dry goods: many along King Street between Kekaulike Mktplace and River St), 555 Market (King/Kekaulike Mkt)
    • Laotian: (Pauahi/Smith)
  • Thai: Hong Fa Market (Maunkea/Pauahi)
    • Manapua: Char Hung Sut (Pauahi/Smith); most bakeries will also carry different types of manapua
    • Cookware: China Arts on King/Maunakea has both carbon steel and stainless steel woks in a large range of prices and sizes, and other professional grade cookware and utensils; as well as tea sets, and serving and dinner ware
  • Acupuncture/Herbalists: as you might guess, there are quite a few in this neighborhood; we visit the acupuncturist at "Acupuncture and Herbs from China" (Nuuanu/Pauahi); she accepts certain types of insurance (unfortunately not ours), and can provide a receipt for insurance or FSA purposes
Entrance to acupuncture shop Entrance oto Summer Frappe smoothies shop Fresh fish market in the Troy Enterprise Bldg.
Where to eat: Where to begin? This area has quite a trove of dining opportunities and has something for every budget. You'd expect all flavors of Asian restaurants, but there are also Indian, Cuban, Mexican, a French bistro and others too. These are talked about elsewhere in the local press and blogosphere. Since we are rarely in Town in the afternoon, much less after dark, I can only tell you about our favorite breakfast and lunch locales. (Our rule of thumb when scoping out restaurants in an unfamiliar locale: look inside to see who eats there.)
  • The Maunakea Marketplace food court features Singapore, Malaysian, Filipino, Korean, Thai, Japanese, Laotian, Vietnamese and Indian stands. The first four are also open for breakfast, serving not only typical meat-egg entrees, but also warm noodle soups and rice porridges (congee, or arroz caldo at the Filipino stands). In the Maunakea Courtyard, fresh fruit smoothies are the real deal at Summer Frappe (see our post here)
  • The Eastern Food Center is a sit-down BBQ house that also opens early for breakfast, serving traditional breakfasts, but also succulent roast meats and warming congees.
  • There are many Vietnamese pho houses, but our go-to place is Pho 97 (Maunakea/entrance to Marketplace). Their Vietnamese crepe (made with mung beans and coconut milk), spring rolls, bun with BBQ pork, and pho have never disappointed. (Be prepared to wait at peak lunch hours)
  • Finally, there's Good Luck Dim Sum (Beretania/Maunakea). I was weaned on the glorious dim houses in San Francisco so I have to be able to choose my dumplings from a rolling cart, or I feel kind of cheated out of the dim sum experience. You get that full experience here, though the space is a bit small. Of course, you can also order anything off the extensive regular menu. We often order take-out from here, as dim sum makes great picnic food for an afternoon at Foster Gardens.

What else is nearby?
Don't miss Foster Gardens (Vineyard/Maunkea)! There's also an auction house (Nuuanu/King), Chinese antiques (Smith/King), art galleries, the Aloha Tower marketplace, and Fort Street mall shops. We often walk to the Hawaii State library and adjacent Iolani Palace grounds (King/Punchbowl), but that is probably a mile or so away. A nice walk when it's relatively cool out.

Coming soon:
Our favorite treasures from Chinatown (of course, most of them are edible ...)

It took longer than I hoped, but just in time for the Chinese New Year celebrations:
Best Buys in Chinatown

Our favorites: Summer Frappe smoothies

Sadly, we found Summer Frappe abruptly closed with no notice about a new location or any explanation, just a few weeks before we left Oahu. If Summer Frappe has re-opened in another location, please leave a comment below or email us and we will post the information.

Owner Summer Chau
One of Honolulu's best-kept secrets? Has to be Summer Frappe at the Maunakea Marketplace in Chinatown. Hands-down the best fresh fruit smoothies in the islands. No artificially-flavored powdered smoothies here. Owner Summer Chau uses recipes and techniques learned in her native Vietnam: adding only the freshest fruits in her smoothies, and no fillers, ice cream, yogurt or artificial flavors — just fruit, a little ice, a touch of sweetener (if needed) and enough water to blend. Mrs. Chau prepares each smoothie to order, and if the fruits she finds in the market don't meet her exacting quality standards (not ripe enough, not sweet enough, too stringy), she won't offer that flavor on a particular day. (The saddest news I can get from her: avocados not good today)

The prices here are crazy cheap ($3-4) for the ratio of fruit to ice & water in your smoothie. What you taste is fresh ripe fruit. Flavors include: fresh mango, papaya, pineapple, soursop, jackfruit, honeydew, durian(!), and avocado. There is also fresh orange and watermelon juices, and fresh lemonade.
Individually prepared smoothies Fresh fruits for your smoothie
The refrigerated shelves in this clean and cheerful shop are stocked with the beautiful blemish-free fruits used in the smoothies. You will also find prepared fresh fruit bowls that make a perfect take-away treat, and are great value.

Summer Frappe's newest offering: fresh-pressed juice, gotu kola, a.k.a. pennywort. Gotu kola has been gaining popularity in the West for its health benefits, including reducing hypertension and boosting the immune system. Mrs. Chau says she has regular customers in the Vietnamese, Thai, and Laotian community who drink this fresh-pressed juice daily as a health tonic. She recommends sweetening the juice for first-time drinkers, but prefers it unsweetened herself. We both found the lightly sweetened drink very pleasant and grassy, although T admits his first impression was of lake water (he grew up swimming in Maine's fresh-water lakes). Since gotu kola tends to grow in wet marshy areas, this makes sense. We've tried the canned "pennywort drink" that's available in many Asian groceries before, and the fresh juice drink tastes very different.
Fresh_pressed gotu kola (pennywort) Fresh gotu kola

The ever-popular “bubble tea” drinks with the large chewy tapioca balls floating in various tea, coffee, and fruit flavors are also available at Summer Frappe. The bubble teas
do not have fresh fruit. But you can request tapioca "bubbles" for your fresh fruit smoothie for an extra 50 cents.
Avocado smoothie -- the best! Entrance to Summer Frappe
In Maunakea Marketplace Courtyard, Chinatown
(On Maunakea, between Hotel and Pauahi Streets)
Entering from the Maunakea Street entrance, it's to the right as you enter the courtyard