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Hawaiian foods offer a break from the winter blahs

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    Chicken Katsu Plate Lunch (breaded chicken with rice and macaroni salad as side dishes) Wednesday, December 20, 2017, in Toledo, Ohio.

    THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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    Ahi Shoyu Poke (a raw, marinated fish-and-onion bowl) Wednesday, December 20, 2017, in Toledo, Ohio.

    THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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    Ahi Shoyu Poke (a raw, marinated fish-and-onion bowl) Wednesday, December 20, 2017, in Toledo, Ohio.

    THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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    Spam and Egg Musubi (a variation on sushi) Wednesday, December 20, 2017, in Toledo, Ohio.

    THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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As January begins — especially after we’ve just celebrated the holidays and enjoyed some vacation time — it’s a bit dreary to be back at work, at school, and in the midst of real life, isn’t it? So why don’t we hide from our extended cold weather conundrum and take a culinary trip to Hawaii?

Hawaiian cuisine serves up more than just pineapple and poi, two of the most famous offerings from the islands. With indigenous foods, an abundance of fruits, Asian influence, and even a notorious love affair with Spam that has lasted since World War II, there’s a treat for nearly every taste.

Kalua (not to be confused with Kahlua) pork is a full roasted pig that’s often the highlight of a luau. The smoky meat is shredded and served after having been wrapped in banana or ti leaves and cooked slowly in an underground oven called an imu. While some approximate recipes can be prepared in a Crock-Pot using Liquid Smoke for flavor, this Hawaiian delicacy really can’t be replicated properly at home.

Huli Huli chicken is found nearly everywhere on the islands, from restaurants to roadside stands. It’s grilled over mesquite and basted with a ketchup-based sauce perked up with brown sugar, soy, garlic, and ginger. The word “huli” is Hawaiian for “turn,” and thus an appropriate name for a dish that was originally prepared on a makeshift spit by Ernest Morgado and Mike Asagi in 1954, using a recipe from Mr. Morgado’s grandmother for the glaze.

Another dish that is practically synonymous with the state is Loco Moco, a comforting concoction that can only be called food of love. A base of white rice is topped with a hamburger patty, gravy, and soft-cooked fried eggs; if the yolks don’t run in and mingle with the mixture, then it hasn’t been done properly. Originally created in the late 1940s to feed hungry teenagers as they were hanging out, it’s become a cultural icon.

Shave ice — a lighter variation on snow cones, with finer shards rather than crushed cubes — is a classic Hawaiian sweet. Tropical fruit syrups are often served as flavorings, and adzuki bean paste and sweetened condensed milk are popular accompaniments. (Needless to say, this is much better suited to warm, rather than our wintry, weather.)

Still more favorites include native fruits, which can be served in their natural state or coated with li hing mui: a sweet-tart pickled plum skin powder. Portuguese-style fried malasadas resemble beignets. Taro leaf-wrapped lau lau are portions of pork or chicken that have been steamed. Lomi Lomi salmon, a salad featuring tomatoes along with the fish, is a common side dish.

We’re offering recipes for three Hawaiian delicacies that offer a true taste of the islands but won’t require tracking down any difficult-to-find ingredients.

Poke (pronounced poh-KEH) is a raw fish preparation that began as a means for fishermen to not waste scraps. It’s growing in popularity throughout the United States and can be served simply with salt and some seasonings or with flavorings from teriyaki, ginger, onions, sesame, and even hot peppers.

The plate lunch is Hawaii’s version of the meat-’n’-three or the bento box: a fast food offering an entrée and several side dishes. Scoops of sticky white rice and macaroni salad are mandatory, while the centerpiece can be anything from kalua pork to lau lau to poke to crispy breaded Chicken Katsu cutlets.

Spam Musubi, a near-ubiquitous snack, is immensely popular. When Barack Obama returned to his native Hawaii for a post-election vacation in 2008, reporters noted that he enjoyed the simple mixture of sticky rice and Spam wrapped in nori while playing golf. (Peter K. Yamashita, general manager of the Olomana Golf Links, was quoted by Time magazine: “You know [Obama]’s a local boy if he’s eating Spam Musubi.”)

As we try to bring some warmth to our Ohio winter, try saying “Aloha” to Hawaiian cuisine.

FEA-hawaii2-3

Ahi Shoyu Poke (a raw, marinated fish-and-onion bowl) Wednesday, December 20, 2017, in Toledo, Ohio.

THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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Ahi Shoyu Poke

“The word poke (pronounced poh-keh) is Hawaiian, meaning ‘to slice or cut crosswise into pieces,’” writes Kalei Talwar. “The poke first eaten by native Hawaiians was a simple mixture of raw fish, Hawaiian salt, seaweed and chopped kukui nuts (called inamona in Hawaiian). Post-colonial contact, that basic recipe got a bit more interesting with the introduction of onions” and other items, such as tomatoes.

MARINADE:

¼ cup soy sauce

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 small, hot chili pepper, cored, seeded, and minced

Sea salt, to taste

TUNA:

1 pound fresh ahi steaks, cut into cubed, bite-size pieces

¼ cup chopped green onions, tops included

¼ cup chopped sweet yellow onion

2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

2 teaspoons finely chopped toasted macadamia nuts

In a large bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients.

Stir in the tuna and half each of the green onions, yellow onion, sesame seeds, and macadamia nuts; mix lightly. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, then stir in the remaining green onions, yellow onion, sesame seeds, and macadamia nuts before serving.

Yield: 2 cups

Source: Adapted from hawaiimagazine.com

FEA-hawaii2-3

Chicken Katsu Plate Lunch (breaded chicken with rice and macaroni salad as side dishes) Wednesday, December 20, 2017, in Toledo, Ohio.

THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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Chicken Katsu Plate Lunch

Plate lunches are a Hawaiian classic. They must include two scoops of white rice, 1 scoop of macaroni salad, and an entrée as the centerpiece. Chicken Katsu is immensely popular and easy to prepare.

SAUCE:

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup ketchup

⅛ cup sugar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

⅛ teaspoon pepper

⅛ teaspoon garlic powder

⅛ teaspoon Tabasco sauce

⅛ teaspoon paprika

BATTER:

2 eggs, beaten

¾ cup cornstarch

1 cup water

BREADING:

6 ounces panko crumbs

¼ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

CHICKEN:

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Oil, for frying

Table salt

FOR SERVING: 2 scoops of sticky short grain rice per person, 1 scoop of prepared creamy macaroni salad per person, and chopped scallions for garnish

Make the sauce: Combine the sauce ingredients and mix well. Adjust seasonings as desired, then set aside.

Make the batter: In a pie pan, beat together the eggs and the water. Add the cornstarch and mix well.

Make the breading: Place the panko in a pie pan. Add the seasonings and mix together.

Make the chicken: One at a time, place each piece of chicken into egg batter until both sides are coated, then place into the panko crumbs to coat both sides of chicken.

Place the chicken into a deep-sided skillet filled with 1/​2-inch of oil and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, or until chicken is cooked through, crispy, and golden brown. (Do this in batches, so as not to overcrowd the pan.) Place on paper towels to remove excess oil and sprinkle with table salt, to taste.

Slice the chicken into strips and serve it on a plate next to the rice and the macaroni salad, with the sauce on the side. Sprinkle with scallions.

Yield: 6 servings

Source: Adapted from ilovehawaiianfoodrecipes.com

FEA-hawaii2-5

Spam and Egg Musubi (a variation on sushi) Wednesday, December 20, 2017, in Toledo, Ohio.

THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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Spam and Egg Musubi

Spam Musubi is a very popular snack in Hawaii, and unique to the islands.

1 18-ounce box microwaveable sticky white rice

2 tablespoons furikake (rice seasoning mix), optional

Salt

1 12-ounce can low-sodium Spam, cut into 6 slices

2 tablespoons oil, divided

4 eggs

1 sheet nori (dried seaweed), cut into six 1-inch strips lengthwise

Soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, ketchup, or other condiments, as desired

Cook rice according to package instructions. Let it cool for 15 to 20 minutes, then stir in furikake and salt to taste.

While the rice is cooking, brown the Spam slices in 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat; cook until golden brown and crispy on both sides. Reserve the can.

Drain excess grease from the skillet and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Beat the eggs and pour into the skillet; cook over medium heat until the egg is fully cooked and set, gently lifting the edges and letting extra egg run underneath the omelet to cook. Carefully flip the omelet to cook it briefly on the other side. Let cool until it can be handled. When the omelet has cooled a bit, use the Span can as a template to cut out 6 portions.

Line the Spam can with a sheet of plastic wrap, draping edges of the plastic wrap over the sides of the can.

With damp hands, take a 1/​2-cup scoop of rice and press it into the bottom of the Spam can, pressing down firmly on it to form an even layer. Lay a portion of egg over the rice, then lay a slice of Spam over the egg.

Use the extended ends of the plastic wrap to carefully lift the musubi out of the pan, retaining its shape; place it on a work surface and unwrap it.

Lightly dampen one strip of nori, then wrap it around the center of the musubi, making sure the ends are tucked underneath and pressing lightly to secure them to each other. Place the musubi onto a serving plate, then continue until all of the ingredients have all been used.

Serve with your condiment(s) of choice.

Note: Musubi molds (if desired) and furikake should be available at Asian markets.

Yield: 6 portions

Source: Adapted from cookinghawaiianstyle.com

Contact Mary Bilyeu at mbilyeu@theblade.com, and follow her at facebook.com/​thebladefoodpage, bladefoodpage on Instagram, or @BladeFoodPage on Twitter.

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