Cuisine Hawaii

The Hawaiian Isles are at the crossroads of culture, trade, sailing winds and cuisine.   The rich volcanic soil produces quality vegetables, fruits and ranching of cattle on the isles has been a success.

I have heard of Poi, made from the cooked and pounded root of the Taro. Yes, there is the dominating influence of Spam (or Spiced Ham) as brought in by US Marines in the Second World War. Japanese Sushi and Sashimi thrive in their Mid- Pacific locale.   The stereotype I have of food in Hawaii are images of banana, pineapples, sweet potatoes, coconuts, sugar cane and breadfruit, perhaps accentuated by watching too many Hollywood movies when I was growing up, or of thoroughly enjoying reading James A. Michener's huge classic novel simply called Hawaii.

Being born in and surrounded the ocean,  the significance of sea salt to Hawaiians cannot be under emphasised.   Red Hawaiian sea salt or the Alaea as a necessary icon to value started with the historical populating of the islands  and continues to play its seasoning and preserving role today.

The spirit of Aloha welcomed several ethnic groups from East and south-east Asia to join the original Polynesian settlers.   The latter sailed efficiently in their traditional canoes and other sea going craft across much of the South Pacific and native peoples from Tahiti and the Marquesa Isles, amongst others, did reach the Hawaiian isles.

So what is a culinary day like in contemporary Hawaii?  Fusion, imagination and fun are emphasised in making the unique dishes and food creations of the islands, apart from the traditions of immigrant cooking styles.   It can be a heady mix, more adventurous than perhaps California and New Orleans, definitely more than New England and Alaska.

For brunch, try the Loco Moco - what looks like a hamburger patty with fried egg and gravy also has a white rice component.   Its origins started with hungry surfers after a day out on the waves.  The Loco Moco can be viewed in the broader term as a hotch-potch of a complete meal with a little bit of sampling from various cooked dishes, akin to what I find on a banana leaf in southern India with steamed rice and bits of different curries and pickles.

Or realise that the Chinese pork bun now comes with a dizzying filling of Azores Islands Portuguese sausage, Chinese black sugar and chicken curry - the Manapua.

Many Asian visitors can readily associate with the Saimin.   These look like Ramen noodles but are actually made thinner, but you do find the familiar spring onions, fresh or dried shrimps, slices of Char Siew or southern Chinese roast pork with the red borders and fish cakes called the Kamaboko.

Americans like their Tacos and in Hawaii, they can have a fish version.   These are served with Mexican styled Salsas, garnished by fresh slices of mango or pineapple and toppings that may be cabbage slaw with a creamy sauce.

Pupus or snacks are ideal whilst touring, with bites like Lomi Lomi Salmon - with green onions, salads, diced salted salmon and tomatoes in crushed ice.   (Lomi is the native term for massage.)  

Or a snack can be the local fish Ahi or yellowfin tuna, to be sampled with a dressing of sesame oil, seaweed , soy and chopped onions in the Poki.   Ahi is best eaten when it has a deep red colour, glistens in the flesh and has a firm texture to the touch.

If you are yearning for Teriyaki chicken, you will be delighted by its Hawaiian recipe called the Huli Huli.   The outside of the grilled bird are caramelised, the insides have been marinated and basted lovingly to give your palate a juicy tender experience.

Cool down with desserts like shave ice, or the creamy Haupia, a coconut milk based jelly or have the Mochi inspired ice cream balls.   It is important that the former dessert is not gelatinous.

Dinner time and enjoy barbecues with the Kalua pig, chicken or Lau Lau. The latter refers to salted butterfish and pig cooked Imu or Hangi  style with Ti or Taro leaves. Kalua is the wrapping of Taro leaves with the pig before the roast.   This is best enjoyed when invited to or attending a Luau or traditional feast. 

Sweeten the palate with Malasadas or yeast doughnuts ala Portugal before one hits the bar.    The Filipino butter topped pastry or Ensaymadas are another idea for the sweet tooth.   

For the adventurous, ask for the Ake. This has roasted Kukui nut, Limu seaweed and rinsed liver, all seasoned with salt and chilli.

The USA celebrated 240 years of independence on 4 July  this year and Hawaii became its 50th state in May 1959.


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