Among the many local produce and products that surprised us when we moved to Hawaii, local grass-fed, hormone-free, antibiotic-free beef was one of the best. With all the concern about the chemicals and pharmaceuticals that are pumped into commercially produced meats in the U.S., it is such a relief to find high quality beef raised right here in the Islands.
Truth to tell, we were introduced first to Big Island beef on a visit there. We had heard that beef was raised on Oahu and the Big Island of Hawaii, but we didn’t see it on market shelves. The only retail source seemed to be the Saturday Farmers’ Market near Diamond Head — and we had only been there once (it’s a long haul from where we live). Anyway, on our second visit to the Big Island, we chanced upon a loco moco (rice topped with beef patty and egg, smothered in brown gravy...mmmm) that was made with Big Island grass-fed beef patties. OMG! The difference in flavor between beef we had known and grass-fed beef is the difference between fresh tuna and canned tuna — seriously, it is that much of a difference!
We actually hand-carried several pounds of steaks and ground beef back to Oahu from that trip! Now that we were converted, we started looking more intently for grass-fed beef on Oahu, too. Happily we finally found a retail source closer to home — Tamura’s Market in Wahiawa carries Oahu’s North Shore Cattle Company grass-fed beef. A closer inspection of the frozen meat section of other retailers uncovered Big Island-produced Kulana Foods (couldn’t find a URL for them) grass-fed beef at the Kokua Market co-op near the University.
Why local beef? If the incredible flavor is not enough to win you over, consider the health benefits as well. Hawaii’s local beef is leaner per pound, so less fat ends up on your plate and hips. And the cattle are not given hormones or antibiotics — both of which are absorbed and stored in the body.
Lastly, Oahu-produced North Shore beef is not treated with carbon monoxide (aka “tasteless smoke”) — a color preservative used to keep meats and fish artificially “red” and “fresh-looking.” Carbon monoxide is intended to make meats look fresh and safe to eat long after some of the most harmful bacteria making the news today may be present, including Clostridium botulinum, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E-coli 0157:H7. It’s one of the reasons the use of carbon monoxide for meats and seafood is banned in the European Union, Japan, Canada and Singapore (read full article here).
We received confirmation from North Shore Cattle Co. that they do not use carbon monoxide, and from what I remember of the Big Island beef, it does not look like it is treated either (if someone knows for sure, please comment or email us). So let’s support local island producers who provide such high-quality additve-free meats. How can you tell whether carbon monoxide is used? The treated meat or fish (sadly, carbon monoxide is used a lot in ahi too) is bright mauve-red or cherry-red. Still unsure? Ask the butcher!
OK, enough of the blah, blah, blah...where’s the beef?!
We recently grilled a Tequila and Calamansi Marinated Flank Steak made with North Shore beef and it was out of this world. The first thing I noticed about the flank steak when I took it out of the package is that it was so beautifully trimmed — very little to no “silverskin” (that thin membrane that surrounds the tissue in flank steak that will cause it to shrink and curl on itself when cooked). Also, flank is a notoriously “un-tender” piece of beef that requires either long marination and/or cutting across the grain to break it down to palatable chewiness, and so we did both. But when the meat was sliced after grilling, we marveled at how easily the meat cut compared to other flanks — it was smooth and tender. In fact, at the table we ended up cutting our beef with a fork instead a knife!
Whether or not you can find grass-fed beef, this marinade will put some sizzle into your next grill. Calamansi is a lime native to southeast Asia with a very distinct and addictive flavor that marries especially well with beef (learn more). In this marinade, calamansi and tequila not only infuse the steak with loads of rich flavor, they help tenderize it too. We are sending this, too, to Sig at Live to Eat, our host for the “Grill It!” Monthly Mingle begun by Meeta at What’s for Lunch, Honey. Although we didn’t serve them together this time, this steak would pair well with our other entry for the “Grill It!” event, the Guam-style Grilled Eggplant Salad with Coconut Milk.
TEQUILA & CALAMANSI MARINATED FLANK STEAK
This should serve 4-5 people
(Marinate one day before grilling)
1-1.25 lb (455-570g) flank steak
3-5 cloves garlic, sliced lengthwise
1 oz. (30 ml or 2 TBL.) tequila
1/4 cup (60ml) fresh calamansi juice
1 tsp. soy sauce, preferably Kikkoman
1/2 tsp. sea salt (omit if using Aloha shoyu)
1 tsp. ground black pepper
Remove silverskin from flank steak, if necessary.
Cut small slits across the grain on one side of steak. Insert slivers of garlic in each slit. Lay steak in glass or other non-metallic pan, or use a large recloseable plastic bag.
Combine remaining ingredients, and pour over steak. Refrigerate ovenight.
The next day, prepare your grill for direct heat cooking.
Remove steak from fridge while grill is pre-heating. Take steak out of marinade and pat dry. Just before steak goes on the grill, sprinkle with sea salt, preferably alaea sea salt (red clay salt).
Grill over high heat to desired doneness. Allow steak to rest for 5 minutes before cutting. Slice across the grain to serve. We served this with Salsa Rice and sauteed peppers and red onions.
You can see the marinated and cooked garlic slivers
still embedded in the steak slices (we arm wrestle for these pieces!)
When it comes to food from the deep and the reef, the waters have gotten very murky lately, literally and figuratively. Literally, since it seems every week there is a report identifying another fish species as having dangerously high levels of mercury, PCBs, and other toxins from fertilizer run-offs and other pollutants in the nation’s oceans and rivers; and figuratively when, along with the warnings, health advocates encourage consumers to incorporate more fish — rich in omega-3 fatty acids and lean protein — into their diet. And as if this weren’t confusing enough, environmentalists want consumers to be aware of the dangers of over-fishing and poor fisheries management both at home and abroad, too! It’s enough to paralyze even the most want-to-be-informed consumer.
Finally, there’s help. A pocket-sized take-along guide for your wallet or purse identifying safe fish choices for both you and the environment from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website. Separate guides are available for each region in the U.S. (West Coast, Northeast, Hawaii, Southeast, Central, and Southwest) and they are color-coded to red-flag fish species that are currently found to carry unacceptably high toxin levels, and to highlight non-toxic species that are sustainably managed. The charts are available in English or Spanish for the U.S. There is also a searchable on-line database for different fish varieties that provides all the necessary information to assist you in making an informed choice about your seafood, and also offers alternatives if your first choice is either unhealthy or unsustainable.
Seafood Watch (SFW) also provides links to similar charts prepared by the World Wildlife Fund or an environmental organization in the respective country for Italy, Germany, Canada, the UK, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Australia, France, South Africa, and New Zealand. From similar sites, here are also links to fish guides for Finland, the Netherlands, Poland, Norway, and Switzerland (available in 3 languages). (The guides for Spain seem to have been removed from that country’s WWF website.) Most of these sites have a printable color guide that you can carry in your purse or wallet that make it easy to find non-toxic, sustainable choices in seafood; most also have a searchable database of fish varieties; some however, provide only an on-line database but no take-along guide.
Lastly, SFW has also teamed up with the Environmental Defense Fund in producing a searchable national database and take-along guide for your mobile phone! Check it out on the EDF’s site here.
So whether you live in the US or one of these llisted countries, or are planning a visit to them, take along a portable guide to help you make wise choices for your health and the health of the environment.
And if all this reading has made you hungry, here’s an exceptionally flavorful and easy way to bake fish that will help keep it moist and infuse flavor. Monchong, or sickle pomfret, (see top photo and left) is listed as a “Good Alternative” in the SFW database, and it is a meaty, mild-tasting fish that readily compliments strong flavors. We all know hummous (bottom, right in photo) as a thick, savory dip of pureed chickpeas, sesame paste (tahini), lemon juice, olive oil and salt.
Usually eaten with pita or vegetables as part of a Middle Eastern mezze table, here hummous pulls double-duty as a crust for the baked fish. You can use a commercially prepared dip, but hummous, like the preserved lemons, costs a mere fraction of the commercial product AND is so easy to make at home. Try this recipe and you’ll never want to buy a pre-made product again. It’s worth the effort to boil your chickpeas from dried beans, and keep them frozen with some of the cooking liquid until you need them. But canned low-salt chickpeas are a good pantry staple for whipping up quick weeknight meals like this or when you’re asked to bring a dip to tomorrow’s function at work, and you don’t have time to soak beans overnight. Of course, you can substitute any of the other firm, white or oily flesh fish in the SFW “Best” or “Good Alternative” list for the monchong — the first time we tried this hummous crust on fish 9 years ago, it was with salmon and that was especially ono.
BAKED MONCHONG WITH HUMMOUS CRUST
For the Hummous:
1 cup of dried chickpeas, soaked in water to cover at least 8 hours
Drain chickpeas, place in 4-quart or larger saucepan, and cover with by the least 2” of clean water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and cook for 1 hour. Add 1/2 tsp. of sea salt, and cook for another 30 minutes or until beans are easily pierced with a toothpick but not mushy (cooking time will depend on the hardness of your water). Turn off heat, cover and let cool in pan.
2 TBL. liquid reserved from cooking chickpeas (if using canned chickpeas, use plain water, not the liquid in the cans)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
5 TBL lemon juice
4 TBL olive oil
1/3 cup tahini, a.k.a. sesame butter/paste, stirred well before measuring
Place ingredients in the order listed above into food processor or blender. Last, add drained cooked chickpeas or 2 15 oz. canned low-salt chickpeas. If you prefer your hummous with a little texture, reserve a 1/4 cup of chickpeas. Puree the mix until smooth. If using a blender and the mixture is too thick, taste a little and see if it needs more lemon juice or water, and add accordingly. If you’ve reserved some chickpeas, add them in and pulse briefly to break them up a bit. Taste again and correct for salt, lemon juice or olive oil. Set aside for at least an hour if using as a dip.
For the Fish:
2 6 oz. filets of monchong, cleaned and patted dry
ground black pepper
To coat fish, season fish fillet with sea salt and ground black pepper. Layer a generous amount of hummous to one side of the fish. Measure the thickness of the fillets at the thickest point. Set aside for at least 30 minutes while oven and pan pre-heat.
Pre-heat oven and oven-proof skillet or baking dish to 450F/230C.
Add 2 TBL. olive oil to heated skillet or baking dish, and place fillets, hummous-side up, on the skillet or dish. Place in pre-heated oven and bake for 10 minutes for every 1” of fish. If top crust has not sufficiently browned by the time fish is cooked, set oven to broil for a minute to brown the hummous crust. Garnish with a pinch of paprika or chili (red pepper) powder, if desired. Serve with your choice of starch and vegetable.
Download and print a seafood guide for your region here.
Other “Good” or “Best” Fish Choices for Hawaii (according to the SWF) that have been featured on this site:
Surimi (surprise!): Crustless Quiche with Asparagus, Cress & Surimi
Clams: Linguine with Clams, Pork, Clam & Periwinkle Stew
Alaskan Cod: Curry-glazed Cod w/ Wasabi-Sesame Soba Salad
Opakapaka: Pan-Fried Opakapaka with Warm Spiced Cabbage Salad
Ehu: Grilled Ehu in Banana Leaf
Kajiki: Kajiki with Pomegranate-Ogo
Wild Alaskan Salmon: Alaskan Salmon with Pomegranate Sauce
Butterfish/Sablefish/Black Cod: Miso Butterfish, Kasu-Marinated Butterfish
Dungeness Crab: Crab Cioppino
Mahimahi: Fish Tacos, Mahimahi Patties w/Lemongrass & Lime Leaf
To learn more about other nutrition issues for Hawaii and Asian diets,
see If you are what you eat ...
Once we had discovered the delightful marriage of pomegranate and fish in the Salmon in Pomegranate Sauce, we wondered how the pairing would work with other fish. We had more fillets in the fridge to play with — this time firm white-fleshed Kajiki, or Pacific blue marlin. Rather than marinate the fish, I seasoned it shortly before cooking with some of the Middle Eastern flavors we usually associated with pomegranate — namely cumin and coriander. I then used the base ingredients for the marinade to make a sauce and a dressing instead.
The key flavor ingredient here, pomegranate molasses, is an intensely fruitful and tart syrup with the dense viscosity of, well . . . molasses. Used primarily in savory dishes in Persian and Turkish cuisines, it's finding greater uses in Western kitchens with the rise in popularity and availability of all things pomegranate. On Oahu, your best source for pomegranate molasses is India Market, near the University. Elsewhere, check a Turkish or Middle Eastern dry goods store, or your local health food store.
Sea grasses of all kinds, including the limu ogo we use here, are ubiquitous in Hawaii. You find it in salads, soups, pokes (POH-kays), and as a raw ingredient by the bagful in many supermarkets. Among the diverse Asian population here, consuming sea grass is par for the course. US and other Western populations are also discovering sea grasses, lured by their "superfood" status for their high nutritional and mineral content, and low calorie load. I hope we begin to see sea grasses also more widely available and utilized in innovative ways. We had a bag of fresh ogo on hand, so I wanted to include that in this presentation. We actually made this meal when my dad was visiting last month, and sea grasses were one of the top foods in the list of low-purine foods for his gout-management diet.
Fresh ogo appears dark brown or reddish-brown (photo at left), when raw. After blanching, it turns a bright forest green. Although blanching is not necessary when using ogo as a salad or with other seafood preparations, since we were pairing it with some non-traditional flavors I wanted to reduce its normal brininess just a tad. The brief hot shower did no damage to the ogo's pleasing crunch — a surprising contrast to the firm texture of the fish. The pomegranate and ogo complimented each other well — the sea grass absorbed the punchy, mineral flavors of the pomegranate and Manuka honey and delivered them intact to the fish. We will try this combination again.
KAJIKI WITH POMEGRANATE-OGO
For the Fish:
2 4 oz. (120g) skinless fillets of kajiki, ahi, or other firm-fleshed fish
1/2 tsp. cumin powder
1/2 tsp. coriander powder
ground black pepper
Combine cumin and coriander powders, and gently massage or rub into fish. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.
For the Ogo:
Take one large fist-ful of raw ogo and place in colander. Rinse well. Bring 4 cups of water to a hard boil, then pour over ogo in colander. Shake and drain well, then rinse with cold water. Leave to dry while you prepare the dressing.
For the Sauce and Dressing:
(adapted from Laurie's Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp. coriander powder
1/2 tsp. Aleppo pepper
1-1/2 TBL. pomegranate molasses
1-1/2 TBL. Manuka or other non-flowery honey (raw honey, if watching your gout)
sea salt, to taste
1 TBL. red wine or raspberry vinegar
1-2 TBL. olive oil
sea salt, to taste
In a small saucepan set over low heat, sweat garlic in oil until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add wine, and turn heat up to medium-high. Add coriander and pepper, and cook until spices are fragrant and alcohol has burned off, about 1 minute. Add molasses, honey and sea salt, and stir through. Cook together for about 1 minute.
Remove 2 TBL. of sauce to a small mixing bowl and whisk in vinegar and oil. Taste and correct for salt. Using kitchen shears, cut ogo into 2-inch pieces. Add to dressing and mix well. Set aside.
Heat skillet with 2 TBL. oil over high heat. Salt fish fillets, then immediately add to pan, salted side down. When fillets release from pan, turn them over and reduce heat to medium. Cook until flesh will flake with a fork (or until desired doneness — if using ahi or wahoo, some people may prefer to leave the center sashimi-esque, like the Ahi with Peppercorns).
For service, spoon a pool of sauce on the plate and place a fillet in the center. Top with the dressed ogo, and serve with smashed potatoes and roasted broccoli.
For a gout-management diet, be certain to use skinless fillets and raw honey for the fish, and serve with whole roasted or smashed potatoes (i.e., with the skin on). This will be included in the GDC round-up.
One of the hundreds of great things about living in Hawaii is the access to simple and quick healthy meals that only require a pot of home-cooked hot rice and a few minutes of skillet time. Misoyaki Butterfish fillets are available in almost every grocery, pre-marinated in a boozy miso-laced sake marinade that permeates the flaky silken butterfish, aka black cod or sablefish. Served with deli-made sea salad (sesame sea grass) or marinated warabi (fiddlehead) greens, as pictured above, misoyaki butterfish brings fine dining home. (The fish above and below were from purchased, pre-marinated filets.)
If you don't find pre-marinated butterfish filets at your local market, try this marinade at home. We've used this recipe before, and have stored it away for a day when we will not find marinated butterfish filets in the local markets. I gave the fish 2 days marinating time, but 3 would have been better. Give yourself the full 3 days marination for the most flavorful results. You can try this marinade with any flaky white fish, but if you can find sable fish or black cod, try it with this fish. There is a synergy that happens between the flavors in the marinade and the texture of butterfish that is infinitely greater than the sum of the parts.
(Also check out rowena's take on Miso Monkfish with a laulau-esque presentation alla Italia.)
4 1/2lb. (220g) filets of butterfish (aka black cod or sablefish)
1-1/2 cups (300ml) Japanese sake (rice wine)
3/4 cups (150ml) mirin
1-1/2 cups raw sugar
2 cups (450g) white (aka shiro) miso
Combine sake, mirin and sugar and bring just to a boil over high heat. Immediately turn heat down to medium and stir well to dissolve sugar. Add miso paste, and incorporate completely. Cook for 10 minutes, then remove from heat and cool completely.
Pat filets dry, then cover with marinade, seal well and refrigerate for 3 days.
When ready to cook, preheat a small pan in the oven at 350F/180C. (A small tabletop oven or toaster oven is perfect for this.)
Pre-heat your pan, and add 2 TBL. olive oil. You can pat filets with paper toweling, but don't rinse with water. Place the skinless side down first, and gently (very gently) press to make contact with the pan. After a full minute or so, the glaze should release from the pan (i.e., not stick), and you can turn it to the other side for browning. After 30 seconds, put the filets on the pre-heated pan in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the fish flakes with a fork. Serve with rice, sesame-laced vegetables (see Warabi or Watercress recipes) or sea salad, and Namasu.
My bento is ready to go and so am I. An unexpected trip to the Bayou State has presented itself and I will be away one week. Airline meals being what they are, I usually pack my own when I can, like this easy meal of rice, pickled plum, (umeboshi), pickled ginger, sesame burdock and carrots (kinpira) and miso-glazed chicken. Simple flavors, lots of rice and ginger for a sometimes queasy stomach, and I'm good to go. Miso glazed chicken is quick and easy enough for weeknight meals, but elegant enough as well for your next dinner party.
1lb (450g) boneless chicken
3/4 cup (375ml) water
1/2 cup sake, or dry sherry, or apple juice
1 slice fresh ginger
2 TBL. mirin
3 TBL. sugar
4 TBL. white (aka "shiro") miso paste
Combine water, sake and ginger in saute pan. Lay chicken in pan, and bring liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook about 5 minutes.
Turn chicken over in pan, and add mirin, sugar and miso paste. Cover and simmer another 5 minutes.
Remove cover and continue cooking until liquid thickens and coats chicken. Turn meat to glaze both sides. Remove from heat. Garnish with green onions, or sesame seeds.
. . . 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!
Fresh fish, fast. And easy. That's what comes to mind when I think of fish tacos. As the myriad holiday and end-of-the-year preparations are underway, it's the kind of quick and healthy meal every busy cook has tucked in her or his sleeve. The fish tacos I first fell in love with over 10 years ago had lightly battered and deep-fried fillets; but more than anything, it was the garlic sauce that put it over the top for me -- very distinctive, the perfect binding agent between the sweet fish and the crunchy but bland cabbage. I've since adapted the dish of my memories to one using flaked grilled fish, to save on both calories and time. Fresh or frozen fillets work equally well -- choose any flaky white meat fish. The key is the fresh garlic sauce.
Purchased tortillas and pre-shredded coleslaw mix means dinner can be on the table in 30 minutes, and everyone can have some fun putting together their own tacos as they eat. But these also dress up well — we've included them with beef and chicken fajitas as part of a festive dinner cooked at the table with friends. (See last month's post on How-to-do Tabletop Cooking) For a fajita-style presentation, or for tabletop cooking in general, slice the fish against the grain before marinating, and cut marination time to 15 minutes.
FRESH FISH TACOS
for 4 persons
2 1lb. fillets of skinned white-meat fish, such as ahi or snapper
Juice of 1 large lemon, about 3 TBL.
1 tsp. cumin
1 TBL. oil
Combine lemon juice, cumin and oil. Place fish in glass or other non-reactive dish, pour marinade over fillets and coat all sides. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup mayonnaise
3-4 TBL. milk (optional)
Place garlic and salt in mortar and grind to make a smooth paste. Combine with mayo and milk, if using, to reach desired consistency. Set aside to serve.
1 medium head of cabbage, finely shredded
2 limes, quartered
20-30 fresh corn tortillas, warmed and kept covered
sliced pickled jalapenos (not traditional)
homemade or bottled salsa (not traditional)
Remove fish from marinade and lightly pat dry. Season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Grill or broil for 5 minutes on each side, or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Immediately dress with fresh squeezed lime juice, and flake meat with fork.
Place warmed tortillas, cabbage, garlic sauce and other optional garnishes at the table with flaked fish. Let each person make their own tacos as they eat. Can be served with rice and beans, too.
Earlier this week I had ground pork and beef out and was debating whether to go "loaf" or "ball." Italian flavors? Maybe Thai? How about Greek? I was leaning toward a feta/spinach flavor combination — which is sort of Greek, so I thought of looking at Laurie's Mediterranean cooking site, Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska, for other ways to go. Wouldn't you know it, her latest post was for Soutzoukakia (soo-tsoo-kah-kee-ah), a hand-formed sausage made from ground pork and beef, and simmered in a red wine sauce. I'm pre-disposed to like anything long-simmered in a red wine sauce, so this was a no-brainer. It also allowed me to play with Aleppo pepper again since both the meat "balls" and sauce had this special pepper. After tracking down this spice for 2 years, I finally happened upon it at The Souk spice store at Pike Place Market in Seattle last January. The Plasto recipe that we had last week also called for Aleppo pepper, but it's flavor was not as pronounced as it was this time. It's a very flavorful and mild heat that reminded me of Spanish hot pimenton.
The recipe calls for the meats and spices to be combined, then formed into football-shaped "sausages" and browned before being added to the simmering red wine tomato sauce. It comes together fairly quickly, and the house was redolent with a rich meaty smell that T commented on as soon as he stepped through the door. We served this as recommended, with feta (I still got my cheese fix!) and kalamata olives; but skipped the rice in favor of fresh-garlic bruschetta to sop up the wonderful sauce and to ensure we got our garlic dose for the day. The cumin and pepper really differentiate this from its Italian cousin, as does the surprise addition of red wine vinegar. This is another one for the keeper files. Here is Laurie's Soutzoukakia recipe on her site. I used only half the given quantity for the sausages (11 palm-sized footballs), and shaped the rest as meatballs, fried them, and immediately froze them for future use (maybe with grilled polenta?).
FRESH GARLIC BRUSCHETTA
1 loaf of French bread or a baguette
2-3 large cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
Halve loaf or baguette lengthwise. Toast or broil until just golden brown. Immediately rub garlic cloves over all cut surfaces of the loaves. Drizzle with olive oil. Great with any dish with a sauce, especially these Soutzoukakia, but also Crab Cioppino, Crawfish Etouffe, Chicken Barbera, and Stuffed Cabbage.
We only ate half the sausages for dinner so there were these tempting ground meat things swimming in delicious gravy in the fridge the next morning. You know what that means, don't you? Loco-moco, of course! For the yet-to-be-initiated, loco-moco is an Hawaiian breakfast favorite consisting of a bed of rice topped with a meat patty and fried egg, and covered in brown gravy! We christened this version . . . you guessed it — the Soutzou-moco! (You heard it here first, Folks!)
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.
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.
PORTUGUESE BEAN 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.
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.
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
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.
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 mapquest.com showing one-way streets) The street signs in Chinatown are pretty distinct, as they're written in both English and Chinese script.
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.
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
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.
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
First, I pan-fried one slice with furikake (actually a Japanese nori and sesame topping for rice) — a dish I learned here in Hawaii (Furikake Ahi). Oishi-katta!
Two thicker slices were coated with mixed (white, black, Szechuan, green and rose) crushed peppers and quickly seared so the inside remains uncooked (T's favorite) — Ahi with pepper crust. We served this with mashed potatoes, mashed Okinawan potatoes (purple mash on left), sesame sauteed warabi (fern greens) and shredded daikon namasu.
Lastly, I made a pasta sauce with the trimmed smaller pieces, cooked with roasted tomatoes, olives, capers, anchovies, garlic and oil — Tonno Puttanesca. This base will have a splash of vinegar added before mixing for a cold pasta salad to take with us on Monday when we have to vacate the house for the termite exterminators (yikes!).
Mahalo, Terry and Scott, for these three wonderful meals!
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.
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.
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.
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
Everyone loves a good fest. Food, music, drink, maybe dancing — what’s not to love? Earlier this month the Hawaii United Okinawa Association held its 25th Anniversary Okinawan Heritage Festival at the beautiful Kapiolani Park, between Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head. We were there only on Saturday evening for the bon odori, or obon dance.
Obon is a Buddhist festival of gratitude towards and celebration of one’s ancestors. Traditional group dances of colorfully dressed professionals and enthusiastic hobbyists alike circle a tower, called a yagura, ringing with drummers, musicians and singers. I love watching the dancers’ faces. Some seem contempletive and serene, whether they are thinking of their loved ones now gone or simply intent on the music. Others are clearly enjoying the camaraderie of the present, laughing and teasing someone nearby. Still other brave souls venture into the fray not knowing the dance steps and openly copying the movements of a more confident dancer in their view. All are welcome and encouraged, which is what makes bon odori so much fun.
Singers lead the dancers at this year's festival
A more traditional yagura at the 2006 Okinawa Festival
This little guy knows that if you don't know the steps, you just follow someone who does!
Before the dancing begins at dusk, the festival is alive with markets, exhibits, games, and food booths. There’s a craft market, a nursery, an open farmers’ style market, and a food market of Okinawan favorites: black sugar cookies, bittermelon teas and beverages, Okinawan style noodles and kombu.
So many food and drink booths from which to choose
These dedicated andagi makers go non-stop to fill the demand for the delicious doughnuts
Ashibitchi and Andadog --- does it get any better?
To build one’s stamina before putting on the dance togs, fresh-cooked Okinawan specialties are also available: aschibitchi (pigs’ feet soup), chanpuru ( tofu scramble), yakisoba (fried noodles), and andagi (fried doughnuts). Last but not least, there’s the piece de resistance -- the Andadog, Hawaii Okinawans’ answer to the corn dog.
Papayas&Apple bananas --- Lychee(top)&Dragonfruit ---Taro,Russetts,Okinawan sweets&Red-skin Sweets --- Long beans,Squash blossoms&Red shallots
As a fairly new resident in Hawaii, I’ve really enjoyed combing through local farmers’ markets, ethnic groceries, even supermarket produce aisles to find what’s local and fresh here. Of course one expects to find tropical fruits (papayas, mangoes, dragonfruit, bananas, pineapples) and Asian vegetables a-plenty, and there’s certainly no shortage of these. What took my breath away is the abundance of unexpected delectables that are also grown locally: mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini, asparagus, strawberries, apples, oranges, and corn (corn?!). (And one of the local papers reports that coming soon…. blueberries from cool volcano slopes!) ©2007 setsat3
Another striking thing about the local produce is the variety that one will find in each category.
Do you like beans? You’ll find Kentucky green, yard-long, flat romanos, wing, sugar snap, and snowpeas.
How about sweet potatoes? They come in three colors – Okinawan purple or white flesh, and the traditional red-skinned yellow flesh (none of these are the orange yams called “sweet potatoes” on the Mainland).
Squash fan? Try zucchini, tongan or upo; or the hard-skinned kabocha.
Then there are the papayas – sunrise (orange flesh) or rainbow (red-orange) , or the unripe green ones for cooking;
and the luscious mangoes -- ripe greens, purples, reds, and deep orange Manilas.
And if you like cabbage, you’ve come to the right place – napa, Chinese mustard (also called gai choi, not US “mustard greens”), bok/pak choi (regular & baby sizes, white or green stem), choi sum, Chinese broccoli, green or white head cabbage.
Bananas that are locally grown include regular (Cavendish), apple, WIlliams, and saba (Philippine cooking bananas); but one can also find baby varieties, red eating and cooking varieties (separate types), as well as plantains in many shops.
But the crème de la crème for me is definitely the local mushroom bounty – fresh shiitake, shimeji, enoki and oyster mushrooms . . . . all year long. Mmmm.
The Hawaii Agriculture and Food Products Directory is compiled by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture compilation of Hawaii fruits and vegetables, showing peak availability, month-by-month. In addition to fruits of the tree and vine, there are also eggs, milk, pork and wonderful grass-fed beef --- all locally produced.
Other local products to look for:
- coffee, of course, both from the Kona coast and from the other islands;
- fragrant honeys;
- vanilla beans;
- Hawaiian Heritage chocolate;
- macadamia nuts and oils;
- alae sea salt (a wonderful finishing and preserving salt mixed with red clay);
- farm-raised sweet shrimp and white-flesh moi (fish);
- and award-winning goat cheeses from Maui and the Big Island.