Jul 30, 2012

Fingers, Forks, or CHOPSTICKS

Chopsticks for eating Musubi
click on photo to view larger
The three main types of human dining tools are fingers, forks and chopsticks. Seizing food with the fingers is a custom mainly practiced in Africa, the Middle East, Indonesia and the Indian subcontinent. The Europeans and North Americans use forks for dining. Other people, like the Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Koreans, have used chopsticks as part of their traditional eating utensils for thousands of years. Traditionally and historically, Hawaiians also used their fingers to eat their meals. Eventually Western and Eastern traditions began to influence the eating habits of the Hawaiians with the use of knives and forks and chopsticks. Today you'll come across chopsticks at almost any Hawaii eatery, particularly ones serving local or Asian dishes; most times they offer chopsticks as an alternative to using a fork.

Chopsticks were developed about 3,000 years ago in China. The first chopsticks were probably used for cooking, stirring the fire, serving or seizing bits of food, and not as eating utensils. Chopsticks began to be used as eating utensils during the Han Dynasty. It was not until the Ming Dynasty that chopsticks came into normal use for both serving and eating. They then acquired the name "kuaizi" and the present shape of the chopstick. In Japan, chopsticks were originally considered precious and were used exclusively for religious ceremonies. The earliest chopsticks used for eating looked like tweezers; they were made from one piece of bamboo that was joined at the top. By the 10th Century, chopsticks were being produced in two separate pieces. Japanese chopsticks differed in design from Chinese chopsticks in that they were rounded and came to a point; they were also shorter (7 inches long for females and 8 inches long for males). Traditionally, chopsticks have been made from a variety of materials. Bamboo has been the most popular because it is inexpensive, readily available, easy to split, resistant to heat, and has no perceptible odor or taste. Cedar, sandalwood, teak, pine, and bone have also been used. The wealthy, however, often had chopsticks made from jade, gold, bronze, brass, agate, coral, ivory, and silver. The Japanese were the first to lacquer wooden chopsticks, making them slippery but usable. The Japanese were also the first to create disposable wooden chopsticks (called "wari-bashi"), which appeared in 1878. Disposable chopsticks are typically made from fast growing woods like birch, poplar and bamboo that are not endangered. Today they're so common that Japan uses about 24 billion pairs a year, and in China, factories are turning out roughly 63 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks each year. That's a lot of sticks!

I think we've all had trouble using chopsticks, especially in the beginning. Trying to pick up small pieces of food with a pair of sticks isn't as easy as using your hands or a fork. The idea is to use the same hand you use when holding a fork or spoon and think of it like this: top stick moves, bottom stick is stationary. Operate the top stick with your pointer and middle finger, while resting the bottom chopstick between the base of your thumb and index finger. After a while you will get the hang of it, and it becomes a fun way to eat.

Different regions of the world have different chopstick do's and don'ts. Mostly, the rules derive from superstition, symbolism and tradition. Take a look at these chopstick rules for formal occasions, and if you can manage to master them, you are a truly refined chopstick user:

• Don't shovel food directly from your rice bowl into your mouth.
• Don't take food from a communal plate with you own chopsticks, this is considered unsanitary. You should use the supplied serving utensils.
• Never leave chopsticks standing vertically in a bowl of rice or food; this gesture is used to honor deceased family members. When not using your chopsticks, place them on the chopstick holder.
• Don't stab food with the chopsticks like a spear. The chopsticks never go through the food but only around it.
• Don't let liquids drip from your chopsticks.
• Don't stir your food around with your chopsticks. This is considered to be rather insulting to the cook.
• Don't pass food from chopstick to chopstick
• Don't use chopsticks to dig around your meal for a particular morsel; it symbolizes digging your grave.
• Don't point chopsticks at others seated at the table, whether at rest or in your hand.
• Don't leave chopsticks crossed at the table; it symbolizes death.

• Do not lick or touch your lips with the chopsticks while eating, because most of the time you will be eating a "family style" meal. This means that everyone will be eating from the same bowl.
• Do not make noise with the chopsticks. Playing with chopsticks is considered bad manners and it decreases your status during a party or banquet.
• When you see that your chopsticks are not the same length, don't eat with them. Instead, you should ask the waiter/waitress to exchange them for you.
• There are some who say that if you drop your chopsticks while eating, then it will bring you bad luck. And there are some others that say that if you do so, you will be poor. Either way, there is nothing good that will come out of it. However, this is a very old tradition and not many people pay attention to it. Don't worry if you drop your chopsticks. In our modern times, all you need to do is ask for a replacement.
• To signal that you are finished with your meal, you put the chopsticks across your bowl.

As far as I am concerned, it doesn't matter whether you are using fingers, forks or chopsticks, as long as you get those tasty morsels in your mouth.

Jul 27, 2012

Oodles of Noodles

Bow-tie Pasta with Basil Pesto Sauce
Click on photo to view larger
Humanity has one thing in common, nearly everyone seems to love noodles, including Hawaiians. I recently read that there are approximately 310 different shapes of noodles, with over 1300 names. There are "oodles of noodles" out there. Noodles are cheap, an excellent source of protein, easy to prepare, and they are delicious to eat. They can be served hot or cold, steamed, stir-fried, deep-fried, boiled, or served in a soup, or with sauce.

Nearly all cultures have at least one noodle dish they can call their own, but only the Italians can compete with the Chinese for the title of the culture that most loves noodles. The Chinese have been eating noodles for approximately 2000 years. One legend has it that the Italians first tasted noodles when Marco Polo brought it back from his 17 year trip to China, another says that durum wheat pasta was introduced by Libyian Arabs during their conquest of Sicily in the late 7th century. In early times, noodles were eaten plain, without sauce, in small portions. It was also eaten with your hands, because only the wealthy could afford eating utensils. Later, tomato sauce was introduced to give noodles flavor. That gave way to the complex and sophisticated pasta dishes we enjoy today.

Italian pasta comes in all different shapes and lengths. Chinese noodles vary in width, but unlike Italian noodles, Chinese noodles are long and uncut. This is because long noodles symbolize a long life in Chinese tradition. Chinese noodles, known collectively as "mien", are generally made from either wheat flour, rice flour, or mung bean starch (called cellophane noodles or glass noodles), with wheat noodles being more commonly produced and consumed in northern China and rice noodles being more typical of southern China. Chinese noodles may be cooked from either their fresh or dry forms. They are generally boiled, although they may also be deep-fried in oil until crispy. Boiled noodles may then be stir fried, served with sauce or other accompaniments, or served in soup, often with meat and other ingredients.

Rice is Hawaii's starch of choice but Hawaii has its own favorite noodle dishes. One of them is the local fast food of the Hawaiian islands, Saimin. Macaroni salad is another staple of the Hawaii-style plate lunch, usually served with, you guessed it, two scoops of rice. Hawaii also enjoys all of the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, and Portuguese noodle dishes that have evolved into native cuisine called "ono kine grindz" (local talk for "good eats").

Just think, right now, people are slurping, gulping and twirling "oodles of noodles" around the world.

Note: Because their are "oodles of noodles" to talk about, more than I can mention here, I suggest you check out this website. A great source of information on many types of Asian noodles with photos to help you understand the difference between all of them and what they look like.

Thai Spring Rolls with Noodles
1 cup dried rice vermicelli
1 carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1/2 cup snow peas, thinly sliced lengthwise
3 green onions, trimmed and finely chopped
1 cup shelled shrimp, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed and chopped
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili sauce
1/2 pound spring roll wrappers, (buy the large size ones) cut into 6-inch squares
1 medium egg white, lightly beaten
canola oil, for deep-frying
sprigs of fresh cilantro, to garnish
sweet chili sauce, for dipping (I use Mae Ploy brand)

Cook the rice vermicelli according to the package directions, then drain thoroughly. Coarsely chop and set aside. Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil, and blanch the carrot and snow peas for 1 minute. Drain and rinse under cold water, then drain again and pat dry with paper towels. Mix together with the noodles. Add the green onions, shrimp, garlic, sesame oil, soy and chili sauces, and set aside. Fold the spring roll wrapper squares in half diagonally to form triangles. Lay a triangle with the fold facing you, and place a spoonful of the mixture in the center. Roll over the long end of the wrapper to enclose the filling, then bring over the corners to enclose the ends of the roll. Brush the point of the spring roll furthest from you with a little egg white, and continue rolling to seal. Fill a wok about one-third full with canola oil and heat to 375˚F or until a cube of bead browns in 30 seconds. Deep-fry the spring rolls, for or five at a time, for 1-2 minutes or until golden and crisp. Drain on absorbent paper towels. Fry the remaining spring rolls in batches. Garnish with sprigs of cilantro and serve hot with the dark soy sauce and sweet chili sauce. Makes 30 servings.

Singapore Wok Noodles
2 2/3 cups flat rice noodles
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 green onions, peeled and sliced on an angle
2 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed, and chopped
2 tablespoons freshly shredded ginger
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely sliced into strips
1 hot red chili, seeded and finely chopped
1 1/2 cups shelled raw shrimp
1 1/4 cups boneless pork, diced
2 cups boneless chicken, diced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves

Put the noodles into a large bowl and add enough boiling water to cover. Let stand for 3 minutes or until slightly underdone according to the package directions. Drain well and set aside. Heat a wok until almost smoking. Add the oil and carefully swirl to coat the sides of the wok. Add the green onions, garlic, and ginger, and cook for a few seconds. Add the bell pepper and chili, and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes or until the pepper has softened. Add the shrimp, pork, chicken, and curry powder to the wok. Stir-fry for an additional 4-5 minutes until the meat and shrimp are colored on all sides. Then add the fennel seeds and the cinnamon, and stir to mix. Add the drained noodles to the wok along with the peas, and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes until heated through. Add the lemon juice to taste. Sprinkle with the fresh cilantro leaves and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Potato-Mac Salad with Surimi and Green Peas
There are many variations to Hawaiian mac salad, but this is my favorite.

1 pound package elbow macaroni pasta
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pound surimi (imitation crab), cut into 1 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups frozen peas (defrosted, no need to cook them)
1 cup celery (finely chopped)
1 cup shredded carrots
6 large hard boiled eggs (chopped)
2 tablespoons sweet relish
1/2 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried dill or 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
3/4 cup chopped green onions (white and green parts)
3 cups mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, or to taste
1 chopped green onion (white and green parts) for garnish

Boil macaroni and potatoes in separate pots, 10 to 12 minutes, or until cooked to your taste, drain & cool 30 minutes. Add all other ingredients to cooled macaroni and potatoes, in a large bowl. Gently stir to mix everything together. Keep cold in the refrigerator until ready to serve. The macaroni and potatoes will absorb the mayo, so you may want to make your salad a day ahead to let the flavors combine. You might also want to add more mayonnaise just before serving. Garnish with more chopped green onion. Makes 16 generous servings.

Shrimp Lo Mein
Ingredients for noodles:
8 ounces dried Chinese egg noodles, or 1 pound fresh

Ingredients for the sauce:
1 packet chicken bouillon mix, such as Knorr, dissolved in 1 3/4 cups hot water
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon Sriracha chili sauce

Ingredients for shrimp lo mein:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 small bunch scallions, white and green parts, sliced
1 pound small shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup thinly sliced white button mushrooms
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, shredded
1/4 head Napa cabbage, finely shredded
2 tablespoons cornstarch

For the noodles: In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the noodles according to their package directions. Drain and set aside.

For the sauce: Combine the bouillon, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and Sriracha in a large glass measuring cup or small bowl and set aside. This may look like a lot of sauce, but you have a lot of noodles and veggies to coat!

For the lo mein: Heat a wok over high heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, half the garlic, half the ginger and half the scallions and saute 30 seconds. Add in the shrimp and cook until they just start to turn pink and curl up, about 2 minutes. Transfer the shrimp and aromatics to a plate and reserve.

In the same pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and add the remaining garlic, ginger and scallions. Saute 30 seconds, and then add in the mushrooms, celery, carrots and cabbage. Saute the veggies until they begin to brown and caramelize, 4 to 5 minutes.

Whisk the cornstarch into 2 tablespoons cold water. Once dissolved, add to the sauce. Add the sauce to the pan with the vegetables and bring to a simmer. Toss in the reserved shrimp, aromatics and noodles and serve! Makes 4 servings.

Bow-tie Pasta with Basil Pesto Sauce
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
3 cloves chopped garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts or half of each
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 pound dried bow-tie pasta
1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt

Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the oil and half the cheese and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, in large pot over moderately high heat, combine 8 quarts of water to boil then add salt. Add bow-tie pasta and cook to 1 minute short of al dente according to package directions (pasta should still be quite firm). Add the basil pesto sauce, gently stir and serve with the remaining grated Parmesan cheese on top. Makes 1 cup of sauce for 6 servings.

Linguine with Clams
This is a recipe that is fairly easy, and the ingredients are available almost anywhere, even on a small island in Hawaii. Once you have gathered all of the ingredients, it will take you about an hour to prepare this delicious meal for 4. It's best to eat it right away, naturally with a nice bottle of cold Chardonnay and some hot crusty bread.

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher or coarse sea salt
1 pound linguine dried pasta
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
2 pounds fresh clams, shells scrubbed clean
3- 6.5 ounce cans chopped clams with juice
   (Available at Friendly Market here on Moloka'i)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup dry white wine, like Chardonnay
1 (14.5-ounce) can sliced tomatoes in juice,
juice reserved and tomatoes coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top of pasta,
   with hot crusty garlic bread on the side

In large pot over moderately high heat, combine 10 quarts of water to a boil with salt. Add the linguine and boil on medium high for 12 minutes until pasta is 'al dente' (quite firm).

Meanwhile, in large sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat butter and extra olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add onion, garlic, and red bell pepper, and sauté until the onion is just golden, about a minute or two. Add both canned and fresh clams and the red pepper flakes and sauté 1 minute. Add wine, tomatoes (chopped) plus the juice, and 1/4 cup parsley and simmer, uncovered, just until clams open, 7 to 8 minutes.

Drain the linguine and return it to the pot with a little olive oil to keep it from sticking together. After the clams have opened in the pan, pour the sauce over the pasta and carefully mix the ingredients together so that the clams remain in the shells. Transfer the linguine with clams to plates or a serving bowl and serve immediately, sprinkled with the rest of the chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese. Serve with crusty garlic bread on the side.

Makes 4 servings.

Ramen Noodle Crab Salad
1 pack ramen (discard the seasoning packet)
1 1/2 cups shredded Napa cabbage (the green leafy part)
1/2 cup shredded imitation crab
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon Hawaiian chili water, or Tobasco
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
a pinch of sugar
1/4 teaspoon of white and black sesame seeds (toasted)

Bring water to boil and prepare the ramen noodle. Boil for about 2 minutes or until it’s cooked. Drain the water, set aside and let cool covered in the refrigerator. When cold, transfer the ramen noodle to a bowl and toss it with the shredded cabbage and imitation crab, mayonnaise, and other seasonings. Garnish with chopped scallions and toasted sesame seeds. Serve cold. Makes 4 servings

Glass Noodle Salad
Glass (or "cellophane") noodles are very different than other noodles, they are thin and as transparent as the name suggests. Healthier than wheat noodles, glass noodles are made from green beans, broad beans, and peas, which makes them gluten-free and a source of iron, calcium, and fiber. They are opaque (white) until soaked in water. Look for them at your local Asian store sold in dried bundles/packages (check ingredients to be sure they are "glass" noodles - look for bean or pea flour).

Ingredients for Vietnamese dressing:
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
2 fresh long red chiles, seeded and finely diced
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
4 tablespoons fish sauce
1 lime, juiced
4 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Ingredients for salad:
8 ounces cooked small shrimp
6 ounces glass noodles
4 ounces sugar snap peas
4 ounces bean sprouts
3 scallions, sliced at an angle in thin circles
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves, to garnish

To make the Vietnamese dressing, simply mix all the ingredients together. The dressing will keep very well in a jar in the refrigerator for at least a week. To make the salad, marinate the shrimp in 1/2 cup of the dressing for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, soak the noodles in warm water for 15 minutes to soften them. Once re-hydrated, drain them. Snip the glass noodles into smaller sections with scissors, if desired. Bring a pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the drained noodles to the boiling water. Cook the noodles for 30 seconds to one minute to the desired textured. Drain the glass noodles immediately and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and avoid mushiness in the glass noodles. Put the sugar snaps and bean sprouts into a colander and pour boiling water over them. Rinse with cold water and drain. In a large bowl, mix the marinated shrimp with the drained noodles, scallions, sugar snaps, and bean sprouts. Dress with 2 tablespoons more of the dressing; add more dressing, to taste, if desired. Sprinkle over the chopped cilantro and toss everything together before serving. Makes 4 servings.

Jul 20, 2012

Poke – Hawaiian Soul Food

Poke (pronounced poh-keh)
Click on photo to enlarge
In Tahiti, poisson cru, French for raw fish with fresh coconut milk, is an orgasmic island salad, and unfortunately is not seen here in Hawaii very often unless you make it yourself. Poisson cru is usually made with fresh ahi tuna that is first briefly marinated in lime juice, then mixed with fresh vegetables and drizzled in fresh coconut milk, which softens its flavor and takes it over the top. I have been to Tahiti, and the poisson cru was amazing, I couldn't stop eating it!

Poisson cru has been taken to another level here in Hawaii in the form of poke. Poke (pronounced poh-keh) is a delicious combination of raw fish, and other fresh local ingredients. Just as poisson cru has become the national dish of French Polynesia, poke is Hawaii's soul food. It is a mixture of all that is beautiful about the islands, a hybrid of Polynesian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, European and western influences, and is loved by both locals and haoles. Today there is a huge selection of delicious poke available everywhere from supermarkets to high-end restaurants. Poke is very easy to make yourself, and is a delicious first course for your next party, or if you don't want to share, make it just for yourself.

Here on island, locals drive down main street Kaunakakai looking for fishermen who sell their small, freshly caught ahi or aku tuna out of coolers in the back of their pickup trucks. It's a lot cheaper to buy tuna this way here, and so much better because the price is right and it's right out of the ocean. It's good to live Moloka'i.


Kapu Aku Poke Sunrise
In 2002, I was a finalist in the Sam Choy Poke Recipe Contest here in Hawaii, 
this was the recipe I entered:

Marinade ingredients:
Juice of 12 limes
6 tablespoons sweet pickled ginger finely minced
6 tablespoons Hawaiian shoyu
6 teaspoons sesame oil
6 teaspoons ground roasted sesame seeds
3 teaspoons red chili powder to taste
3 teaspoons Hawaiian sea salt

Combine in bowl:
6 pounds Aku (skipjack tuna), finely diced to 1/4” size
1 cup crushed roasted macadamia nuts
3 cups fresh ogo finely chopped (soft red Hawaiian seaweed)
3/4 cup minced green onion
3/4 cup minced sweet onion
1 1/2 cup red tomato finely diced 1/4” size

To serve:
2 boxes round sesame crackers
7 dozen quail eggs
1 cup roasted black sesame seeds

Combine Aku mixture with marinade. Gently mix together and marinate for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. With small ice cream scoop serve 1” mound of poke on top of a sesame cracker. Make an indentation in the top of the poke mound and top with the yoke of one raw quail egg. Sprinkle with roasted black sesame seeds and serve immediately. Serves 60 poke pupu’s (appetizers).

Tahitian Poisson Cru
When you get that craving for poisson cru, you don't have to go all the way to Tahiti, try this recipe, it's easy, authentic, and delicious.

1 1/4 pounds sashimi-grade 'ahi tuna, cut into small squares
pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup lime juice
1 Japanese cucumber, cut into strips or cubes or shaved
1 ripe tomato, seeded and diced
1 tiny hot red pepper, seeded and minced, or a good splash of chili pepper water
pinch of fresh-ground pepper
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk (canned is OK but fresh is best)
3-4 sprigs green onion, thinly slivered

Place cut tuna in a large, non-reactive bowl. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the tuna. Pour over the lime juice, give it a gentle stir, and allow it to marinate 5-10 minutes. Add vegetables and chilies, season with pepper and pour over coconut milk. Gently fold mixture. Taste and correct seasonings, then cover and chill. Garnish with green onion and serve. Variations: Add grated or shaved carrots, diced or shaved red onion or sweet onion, a little minced garlic and/or a pinch of sugar. Makes 6 servings.

Spicy Ahi Poke
Kochujang is a Korean hot & spicy condiment made from glutinous rice powder mixed with both powdered, fermented soybeans and red peppers, and is widely available in Asian markets. If you can find it, substitute Sambal or Siracha chili pepper paste. Be careful, they are hot!

2 pounds highest-quality ahi tuna, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 tablespoons tobiko (flying fish eggs)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 heaping tablespoon Kochujang Korean chili pepper paste, or to taste
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cup sugar
bunch of cilantro, chopped (Chinese parsley) or green onions, chopped fine

Start with the soy sauce. Add sugar slowly, until you have "cut the saltiness of the soy sauce" but do not make it taste 'sweet'. Add the Kochujang paste and mix well. Add sesame oil, sesame seeds, chopped parsley, ahi and tobiko, mixed gently. Refrigerate for about an hour to allow flavors to marry. Makes 8 servings.

Ono Island Poke
1 pound fresh Ahi tuna
juice from 1 lime
juice from 1 lemon
sea salt to taste
1 or 2 Hawaiian chili peppers, minced (or 1/2 Jalapeño pepper, without seeds)
1 cup yellow onions, diced
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 cup ripe mango, diced
1 cup ripe papaya, diced
1/2 cup coconut milk

Cut Ahi in cubes. Juice one lime and one lemon. Pour over fish and let fish sit for a couple of minutes. Add a good pinch of sea salt, or to taste. Add peppers and onions to fish and mix well. Carefully stir in mangoes, papaya and coconut milk. Makes 4 servings.

Lobster Poke Salad
1 1/2 pounds boiled lobster tail, chilled (imitation crab meat may be substituted)
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup Japanese cucumber, diced
1/2 cup rinsed and chopped fresh limu or ogo (Hawaiian seaweed)
1/4 cup minced green onions
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 or 2 Hawaiian chili peppers, minced (or 1/2 Jalapeño pepper, without seeds)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon sesame oil
4 ripe avocados, halved, peeled and seeded
4 cups watercress tops or frisee lettuce seasoned with fresh lime juice and salt

Cut cooked lobster in bite sized pieces, then combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl, except the avocado and lettuce, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Carefully cut avocado halves into slices, leaving the top end attached, forming a fan. Place each avocado half on a bed of seasoned watercress tops or frisee lettuce and spoon 1/2 cup of chilled lobster poke salad into each avocado half. Makes 8 servings.

Jul 18, 2012

"Gone Bamboo" Bites

"Black Snow Shrimp"
Cooked shrimp on bamboo skewers, with ocean salad
(marinated seaweed), and black sesame seeds (black snow), 

served with a tamari sauce mixed with wasabi
To view larger, click on photo
"Gone Bamboo" is the slang term to describe travelers who have decided not to return to their lives and homes, but to go native in the tropical locale they are in, Hawaii for example. "Bamboo bites" are what I call pupus (Hawaiian for appetizers) on a stick, like popsicle sticks, but bamboo sticks. I'm talking about those disposable, eco-friendly, bamboo skewers you see in the grocery store that are used for everything from martini olives to chicken sates. They come in several lengths and are made from dried bamboo. I started thinking about them last night in the wee hours, and thought that they needed a little creative thought as a delivery device for pupus.

The idea is to create one bite appetizers on bamboo skewers, but make them out of foods we love to eat. For example, the famous "S'more", why not put a marshmallow on a bamboo skewer, toast it over a burner on your stove, dip it into a chocolate ganache (thick chocolate sauce made of chocolate and cream), and sprinkle it with crushed graham crackers. Yum! Let's continue, this is getting interesting, well for me anyway. You could divide these bamboo bites into categories, bites for kids, bites for adults, sweet bites, sour bites, spicy bites, fruit bites, cheese bites, bbq bites, famous food bites, Mexican bites, Italian bites, etc. You could even get your kids involved in making them. Let's think about it for a minute, what if you took one of those toaster waffles, toasted it, then cut it into a bite sized squares, skewer them, dip them in maple syrup then sprinkled them with crumbled bacon. Or take a bite sized chunk of banana, skewer it, sprinkle it in lemon juice, to keep it from turning brown, then put a peanut butter mixture of peanut butter and honey on top, then sprinkle it with crushed peanuts. This could go on and on, this is why I couldn't sleep last night. Ok, here's another one... fruit. What if you took a chunk of melon, like cantaloupe, wrap it in a small slice of ham or prosciutto and put a bamboo skewer through it. Woops, that's already a classic, but not creative enough. Ok, take a can of apple pie filling, skewer an apple, then sprinkle toasted panko (Japanese bread crumbs) on top with a little cinnamon and powdered sugar.

let's take a classic salad that most people order when they eat out, the Caesar Salad. Take a small crouton, wrap it in romaine lettuce, skewer it, drizzle Caesar salad dressing over it, and sprinkle it with parmesan cheese. You could even take a classic sandwich like a Reuben, deconstruct the sandwich into its parts, but use the same ingredients, a small slice of corned beef on top of a cube of toasted rye bread, sauerkraut on top, drizzled with Russian dressing, with Swiss cheese sprinkled on top. If you live in Hawaii, and love poke the way I do, take a chunk of marinated ahi tuna, or cooked shrimp, (see photo above), and stick it on the end of a bamboo stick, then wrap it with a little ocean salad, which is marinated seaweed, and sprinkle it with roasted black sesame seeds. You could do something similar with other forms of poke, like tako (octopus). If you like beets, and I do love beets, buy some beets, roast them in the oven, or boil them, cut them into bit size pieces, put them on a skewers. Dip the top of the beets in ranch dressing and sprinkle them with chopped hard cooked egg. Or take a grilled steak, cut it into bite sized pieces, place half a cherry tomato on a skewer, then a bite of steak, then the other half of tomato on top. Dip the whole thing in bbq sauce, and sprinkle with crumbled potato chips. Or buy a jar of marinated artichoke hearts, skewer one, then sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. You get the idea behind "Bamboo Bites", so now you ask "how do you serve them"? You could just lay them on a small plate, or stand them up in a decorative glass, or if you want to get fancy, cut a cantaloupe, watermelon or pineapple, and use it for a heavy base, then stick the bamboo skewers in them. These are just a few ideas to get you going, have fun, and be creative.

Black Snow Shrimp
This makes a delicious do-ahead appetizer. The black snow refers to the black sesame seeds that are sprinkled on the shrimp just before serving. 

White Shrimp, large, cleaned with tail left on
bamboo skewers, 6 inches long
Ocean salad (green marinated seaweed found in Asian markets)
black sesame seeds (black snow)
served with a tamari sauce mixed with wasabi

Select large “white” shrimp, and boil them in salted water, to cover, for 3 minutes. Remove and rinse in cold water. Refrigerate until ready to assemble. When ready to assemble, take a bamboo skewer and run it up the tail through the body of the shrimp. Drape a few strands of ocean salad over the top of each shrimp. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds. Serve 3 per person for an appetizer, either laying on a plate with the sauce in a small dipping bowl, or serve them standing up in a small glass with the dipping sauce on the side. For the dipping sauce, mix tamari sauce (found in the Asian section of your grocery store) with wasabi, to taste. Make as many servings as you want.

Jul 8, 2012

It's So Good... It's Addictive!

Pork Belly, two scoops of rice, and beans
Click on photo to enlarge
No longer the “other” white meat, pork is now the meat of choice at almost all the world’s best restaurants. It wasn't long ago that pork belly was considered scrap meat, but now is the newest rage, and is what this blog wants to shout about. It is a boneless cut of meat taken from the belly of the pig, but it's not bacon, because it is not cured. It has been popular in Asian and European cuisine for a very long time, and is now gaining popularity in the U.S. Here in Hawaii, top chefs on Oahu are preparing pork belly in new and creative ways, and are finding out that it "sells like crazy".

The down side to this delicious protein is that e
ach ounce of pork belly contains 145 calories, but a recommended serving of meat is 3 ounces, making a total of 435 calories, but remember fat = flavor. Ok, so now that we have gotten through the gory details, and remembering "all things in moderation", lets talk about how good it tastes. There are many ways to cook pork belly, roasted, braised, fried, grilled, etc. The most popular is roasting. This process puts a heavenly crispy crust on the outside and melts away much of the fat inside transforming the meat into something succulent and obscenely tender. It's so good... it's addictive. 

Pork Belly Recipes:
Roast Pork Belly
2 pound piece of pork belly, with skin on, and scored
4 tablespoons soy sauce
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup hot water

Score the pork skin with a sharp knife. Combine the soy sauce, garlic, sea salt, and pepper. Rub the skin generously with mixture and let it sit for at least an hour until the moisture begins to be drawn out.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line a roasting pan with heavy foil and place a roasting rack in the pan. Now lay the pork on top of the rack, skin side up. Put 1/2 cup of hot water in the bottom of the pan to steam the meat as it cooks. Roast for 3 hours without basting. Remove the skin and slice the belly for serving. Crisp the skin in hot oil and serve on the side. Makes 4 servings.

Honey Fried Pork Belly
This is a Japanese pork belly recipe that is usually served donburi style, which is pork belly over rice.

3/4 pound pork belly, skin removed
1/4 teaspoon Ichimi Togarashi (Japanese ground red chili pepper), or substitute cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
rice for two, cooked
blanched fresh spinach
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Slice pork belly into 1/4 inch pieces. sprinkle with Ichimi Togarashi. Heat oil in frying pan to high. Add pork slices and brown on both sides. Use a splatter screen over the pan to keep grease from splattering. Turn off heat and discard fat in pan. Turn heat back on to medium and add honey, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and minced garlic. Cook and stir until meat is nicely glaze. Try not to burn the sauce. Serve on top of hot rice and blanched spinach. Garnish with sesame seeds. Makes 2 servings.

Grilled Pork Belly & Mango Salad
This Filipino grilled pork belly is perfect with a mango salad on the side.

Pork Belly and Marinade Ingredients:
2 pounds pork belly without skin - sliced about 1/2 inches
1/3 cup palm vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon ground pepper flakes (optional)

Mango Salad Ingredients:
2 large ripe mango - peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium tomato - sliced
1 small red onion - sliced thinly
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup thinly sliced red radish

Mango Salad Dressing:
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
black pepper to taste

Marinade Procedure:
Combine all marinade ingredients in a big bowl. Add sliced pork belly. Mix until all slices of meat is fully coated. Transfer in a large Ziploc bag with the marinade. Set aside in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours (longer is better). Turn marinade bag every hour. Heat the barbeque grill to about 400˚F. Place sliced pork bellies on the grill and barbecue until each sides are medium brown.

Mango Salad Procedure:
Combine the mango salad dressing ingredients in a small bowl, mix until fully combined then set aside in the refrigerator. In another bowl, toss sliced mango, tomatoes, onions, radish, and cilantro. Add salad dressing to taste. Serve pork belly over cooked jasmine rice with mango salad on the side. Makes 4 servings.

Pipeline Beer Braised Pork Belly Sliders
Sliders are mini burgers started in Wichita, Kansas in 1916 by Walter Anderson (who five years later founded White Castle). Even today, most slider lovers only think of using beef, but rules were meant to be broken. Take this recipe for example, a labor of love using pork belly, slowly braised in dark Pipeline beer, then served on sweet pillowy Hawaiian rolls and topped off with pickled Maui onions, Walter would be proud.

Ingredients for curing:
3 pounds of pork belly, skin on, cut into large pieces
3 tablespoons sea salt
2 tablespoons cracked black pepper
1/2 cup of light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cloves

Ingredients for braising:
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 whole carrots, cleaned and cut into large chunks
2 celery ribs, cleaned and cut into large chunks
1 large yellow onion, cut into large chunks
24 ounces of a dark Hawaiian beer, like Pipeline Porter from Kona Brewing Co.
1 whole bay leaf
cracked black pepper
4-6 cups of chicken stock, enough to cover the pork belly
small sweet dinner rolls (King's Hawaiian Bakery, 12 pack)
4 - 10 ounce jars of pickled sweet Maui onions, with spiced ogo (Kula brand)

Mix all of the curing ingredients together and rub it all over each side of the pork belly. Place in a large, sealable bag in the refrigerator for two days. After two days of curing, rinse all of the pieces under cold water, then dry each piece with paper towels. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat a Dutch oven or large pot on medium heat, then add in the canola oil. When the oil is hot, add the pieces of pork belly, skin side down, and cook another few minutes. Once the pork skin is golden brown, remove the pork pieces from the pot and place on a plate. Add the carrots, onions, and celery, and stir until they begin to soften, trying not to burn them. Next, add the beer and bay leaf and bring to a simmer for 30 minutes, letting the beer reduce. Add the pork belly, skin side up, back into the pot. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Add chicken stock, pouring in enough to cover the pork. Cover with a tight lid, and place in the preheated oven, cooking for about 3 1/2 hours. After 3 1/2 hours of cooking, carefully remove the belly pork and slice. Place slices in between slices of small sweet bread rolls and top with pickled, sweet Maui onions. Serve with thinly sliced, fried sweet potatoes. Makes 12 sliders for 6 people.

Jul 2, 2012

MANAPUA, take a bao!

Sweet, steamed barbecue-pork-filled bun
Click on photo to enlarge
Golden Coin Manapua
Click on photo to enlarge
The Cantonese immigrating from China to Hawaii in the 19th century to work on the sugarcane plantations, brought their culinary heritage with them. One of those foods was a sweet, steamed barbecue-pork-filled bun, called cha siu bao (pork-filled bun). This delectable bun immediately became a favorite with islanders and soon was given the Hawaiian name, mea'ono-pua'a ("mea'ono" for cake or pastry, and "pua'a for pork). Over the years that name became lost in translation and today it is just called manapua, pidgin for mea'ono-pua'a. I have to say that it is one of my favorite snack foods. I first had cha siu bao in dim sum restaurants in San Francisco many years ago, but it wasn't until I moved to Hawaii that I really began to appreciate this inexpensive, easy to prepare, Chinese treat. 

On Oahu they are found everywhere from dim sum restaurants, to Chinese bakeries, to food trucks. There is even a restaurant called the Island Manapua Factory, in Manoa, that specializes in manapua with fillings like Peking duck, pork hash, taro and sweet red bean paste. Here on Moloka'i we are not that lucky, but we can get bags of frozen manapua in our grocery stores, in bags of 6, from a Filipino bake shop in Honolulu called Golden Coin Food, (see photo above). 

Manapua also has a baked version, but the dough for this type is different from the steamed version in that it is made from Hawaiian sweet bread dough, and is usually glazed with honey. These fully cooked buns are prepared by steaming or baking, or you can just take a bun right out of the frozen package and place it in the microwave for 1 minute on high, you don't even have to defrost it or cover it. How easy is that? They are not only great for a quick snack or lunch, but can also be served alongside other Chinese dishes. This is another reason why Hawaii is such a great culinary melting pot, MANAPUA, take a bao!

For those of you who feel like making these tasty steamed buns yourself, here's a recipe, however I have to warn you, they are a bit of work.

Ingredients for char siu filling:
3/4 cup char siu, Chinese barbecue pork, found in the Asian section of your grocery store, or see recipe below
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons chopped
green onions
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1-2 drops red food coloring (optional)

Ingredients for char siu dough:
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, or a combination of all purpose and cake flour
1 tablespoon shortening
1/4 cup sugar
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water

Procedure for filling:
Dice char siu. In a saucepan, heat oil and stir fry char siu for 20 seconds. Add onions, sugar, soy sauce and salt. Mix flour and cornstarch with water. Stir into char siu. Cook until mixture thickens; cool.

Procedure for dough:
Put three cups of the flour into a bowl. Cut in shortening. Stir in two tablespoons of the sugar. Combine the remaining two tablespoons sugar with the yeast and add 1/3 cup of the warm water. Stir until yeast is dissolved. Add the remaining 1/2 cup flour; mix well. Combine flour mixture, yeast mixture and remaining 2/3 cup water. Knead on lightly floured board five minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough in greased bowl, cover with plastic and allow to rise until doubled in size, approximately one hour at room temperature. Divide into 18 portions. Oil hands and flatten pieces of dough. Put about 1 tablespoon filling in center of dough. Form buns by pulling dough up and around filling. Pinch and seal seams. Place on squares of waxed paper. Let rest 20-30 minutes. Place on rack and steam 15 minutes. Makes 18 buns. Serve with a hot cup of Chinese tea.

Char Siu
Char Siu is of Cantonese origin where skewers of pork meat are marinated in a honey and hoisin sauce, and then roasted in the oven to charred, savory, and sticky sweet perfection. This is an easy recipe, and worth the effort.

1 pound pork belly, unsliced with skin trimmed off
2 tablespoons Shaoxing Chinese cooking wine
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce, or substitute regular soy sauce
2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
2 tablespoons honey

In a large bowl, mix together the wine, dark soy sauce, sugar, garlic, hoisin sauce, and five-spice powder. Rub the pork belly with the marinade mixture and marinate for 2 to 3 hours in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Rub the excess marinade off the pork belly (but don’t rub it all off!) and place in a roasting pan. Brush the top with the honey. Roast the pork for 40 to 45 minutes, flipping the pork belly over half-way through and brushing honey on the other side. The pork is done when the outsides begin to crisp and blacken, and the center of the pork belly strip feels firm. Remove the pork from oven and let it cool for a 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into thin slices. Arrange the slices on a plate and serve, either plain as part of a multi-course meal, or with rice or noodles, garnished with sliced green onions. If you want to use the char siu for manapua, dice the meat to 1/4" pieces. Makes 4 to 6 servings.