This is why I would quickly weigh 350 pounds if I lived in Hawaii. While it’s a relief to escape the chilly weather, and there are countless activities we love (more on this later), food in Hawaii is something of an obsession for me. That’s the Saimin Special at Hamura’s in Lihue above, an army-helmet sized bowl of deeply flavored broth, noodles, roast pork, wontons, fish cake, bok choi and various other delicacies. On the counter, they have homemade chili-pepper-infused vinegar to season the soup, as if it needed more flavor. But when in Rome…
I’m also constantly “foraging” for the best Spam musubi, with the ones at Fish Express in Lihue usually taking top honors. But this time, because of the book event, we had a few days on Oahu, which meant several visits to the food court at Shirokiya. There, I found the best Spam musubi so far: Warm rice, seared spam, thin layer of egg, takuan (pickled daikon radish) and still-crisp nori wrapper, topped off with a light dusting of tart-savory shiso (beefsteak plant) furikake. Oh, man.
Also at Shirokiya (we went twice), I found fresh made takoyaki, which is a chewy, grilled dumpling with octopus inside. They drop half a dozen dumplings hot off the grill into a tray and cover it with teriyaki sauce, wasabi-mayo, toasted sesame seeds and a huge pillow of aromatic shaved, smoked bonito (the stuff that looks like cedar shavings) fluffed across the top. Max umami.
I could go on and on about the smoked pork ramen with broth made with the pan drippings, or the coconut-chocolate-coffee-macadamia nut ice cream at Lapperts, or the fried rice and egg breakfasts, but I think I will wrap this up with one of my all-time favorites: Chili-pepper fried chicken at the Village Bakery in Hanalei. This is light, crisp fried-chicken thighs which you then cover with sweet/hot ginger, chili soy sauce. I look forward to it year ’round, and it does not disappoint. Just posting these shots makes me hungry all over again, but I think I better go eat some vegetables…and think about jogging.
Well…at least my kind of soul food. This is my version–handed down, modified, personalized–of the Japanese-American and Hawaiian staple: fried rice. I usually cook extra rice for a weekend meal, then use the leftovers to make this for a quick weeknight dinner. Kids love it. And so do grownups.
Our version is pretty simple: I dice up some good thick bacon and cook until crisp. Then remove the crispy bacon bits and reserve in a bowl for later use. Add diced yellow onions to the pan and cook until translucent and slightly browned. Remove and store in the bowl with bacon bits. Remove most of the bacon fat from the pan, leaving a couple teaspoons in for flavor. Add enough steamed rice (we like a mix of Lundberg Brown & Wild and Japanese white rice, cooked ahead of time) to fill the pan. Sprinkle with garlic salt, black pepper and a bit of soy sauce to taste. “Sambal” chile paste is pretty good, too. Stir until thoroughly mixed, then allow rice to crisp on the bottom. For me, it’s this crispy, chewy texture that really makes it awesome. Turn occasionally. Add cooked bacon, onions and some mixed frozen veggies (cooked ahead of time) to the pan.
Served with a couple of over-easy eggs and wholewheat sourdough toast, I could eat this every week. In fact, that’s what we’ve been doing for several weeks in a row. Or now that I think about it, we might be going on several months. And I’m already looking forward to next week’s batch.
I guess I should say “foraging,” with quotation marks, because we “foraged” this rambutan up at the farmer’s market in Lihue, Kauai. Actually, Weston spotted them, and we got a whole bag for about five bucks. This is him going in for his first taste, which he enjoyed, although I think a lot of it had to do with the fruit’s outer skin, which looks like something from a science fiction movie.
To me, the white, translucent fruit tastes a lot like a lychee nut–tropical and slightly floral, but relatively mild. Not bad, but not yet something I crave. At least not like smoky kalua pork stewed with cabbage. Or spam musubi. Or fried rice and eggs. Or any of the other delicious Hawaiian treats I know and love. Did I mention I gained 12 pounds in 12 days?
And that’s the last of the tropical posts for this go around. We’ll now return you to your regularly scheduled, Pacific Northwest programming. Aloha!