Feb 11, 2014

"Li'i Le'a"... Hawaiian for "Little Orgasm"

Hiyayakko with Ponzu Sauce
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I took first year French in high school... twice. I love the language, but I wasn't very good at learning it, it was the only class I ever failed, so I took it again and passed.

When I went to cooking school and studied French cooking, I ran into the French words "amuse-bouche" (pronounced ah-myuz boosh). Basically it means "mouth amuser". It's a FREE tidbit, a bite-sized hors d'oeuvre, served before your meal is served, and is not to be confused with appetizers, tapas, or pupus.

An amuse-bouche can be almost anything, as long as it shows off the artistry and showmanship of the chef. The amuse-bouche has actually become a competition between celebrity chefs with restaurants around the world.

The concept is a good one, a way for the chef to "wet your appetite" and show off his kitchen skills at the same time. The problem for me is that amuse-bouche is a French word which just doesn't sound right here in Hawaii, even though the French own 118 tropical islands called French Polynesia, where the ancient Hawaiians came from. 

So I have decided to take it upon myself to rename amuse-bouche to "Li'i Le'a", Hawaiian words for 'little orgasm'. You can read about the word le'a on this site... kind of an interesting read. I just think that 'little orgasm' sounds better than 'mouth amuser', and it's hopefully more descriptive of what you are about to have. So do me a favor and pass the Hawaiian words around the next time you serve an amuse-bouche, but remember who coined the phrase "li'i le'a" (little orgasm).

I have put together a few of my own bite sized li'i le'a that might be served in restaurants here in Hawaii, or they may inspire you for your next dinner party. All of these recipes use tropical ingredients found right here in Hawaii, and if I may say so, they are orgasmic.

Hiyayakko with Ponzu Sauce
This is a beautiful one-bite starter (Li'i Le'a) for any Japanese meal (see photo above). Traditionally two Hiyayakko, pronounced "hee - yah -yak - koh", are served in a small saucer. This ancient Samurai tofu recipe relies on its sauce and toppings for flavor, and like the proverb "revenge is a dish best served cold", this dish must also always be served cold.

1 block (14 ounces) chilled silken tofu
4 tablespoons Katsuo Mirin Furikake (a combination of roasted sesame seeds and dried shaved bonito)
2 tablespoon grated fresh or pickled red ginger (Kizami Shoga)
4 small scallions, thinly sliced into 1/16 inch circles (green part only)

Ingredients for Ponzu Sauce:
4 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
2 tablespoons mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine)
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Carefully remove cold tofu from container and drain on paper towels. Slice into small squares/rectangles. Keep chilled in fridge if not serving immediately. In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the ponzu sauce. Put each serving of 2 blocks of tofu in a small saucer and drizzle with the ponzu sauce mixture. Top each block with grated ginger, then scallions, then top with bonito flakes or other crunchier toppings just before serving. Serve immediately. Makes 4 li'i le'a servings.

Note: The toppings on the recipe above is the classic recipe, however many restaurants serve a variety of toppings, so you can experiment with what you like. If you are serving guests who aren't all that used to chopsticks, then try to get the firm tofu because it is easier to pick up.

Tobiko Tapenade

Tobiko Tapenade
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Tapenade is a popular olive spread eaten in the South of France. The combination of flavors in my recipe, takes this dish out of France, and transports it to Hawaii.

1 1/2 cups pitted ripe olives (I use canned California ripe olives because they are sweeter than kalamata olives)
2 garlic cloves
4 anchovy fillets
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/2 cup tobiko (flying fish eggs)
2 tablespoons ground roasted sesame seeds
2 Japanese cucumbers


Combine the first 5 ingredients in a food processor. Pulse the food processor until the tapenade is thick but still has texture. Split cucumbers in half lengthwise. With a 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon, remove seeds from cucumber halves. Turn cucumber halves over and with a potato peeler, remove one long slice of peeling on the bottom of each cucumber half so that when this appetizer is served, it sits up flat on a serving plate. Fill each cucumber half with the olive mixture, then sprinkle with ground roasted sesame seeds. Top with tobiko, then cut into 1" bit-size pieces and arrange on serving plate. Serve immediately. Makes 1 cup, or about 30 servings.

Black Snow Shrimp

"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
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This makes a delicious li'i le'a (little orgasm). 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.

Oysters on the Half Shell with Passion Fruit Mignonette Sauce
Mignonette sauce is a condiment usually made with minced shallots, cracked pepper, and vinegar. It is traditionally served with raw oysters. This is my Hawaiian version.

1 lemon, juice only
1 lime, juice only
1/2 cup olive oil
2 passion fruit, cut in half, pulp scraped out with seeds
3 tablespoons cracked black pepper
1/4 cup finely minced shallots
small handful fresh cilantro, finely chopped
36 oysters on the half shell
crushed ice for presentation
2 limes, cut into wedges, to serve

Place all the ingredients, except the oysters, lime wedges and ice, into a small bowl and mix well, cover and refrigerate. Carefully open the oysters using an oyster shucker by loosening the muscle from bottom shell, removing top shell. Arrange oysters on a large, deep serving plate filled with crushed ice. To serve, spoon a teaspoon of the passion fruit mignonette sauce over each oyster and garnish with lime wedges. Makes 6 servings of 6 oysters, or 36 li'i le'a.

Mu Shu Pork Wrap
1 small head napa or savoy cabbage
2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 (8-ounce) boneless pork loin, trimmed
1/2 cup matchstick-cut carrots
4 mushroom caps, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
3/4 cup sliced green onions, divided
3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

Reserve 8 cabbage leaves. Shred remaining cabbage to measure 2 cups. Combine soy sauce and next 3 ingredients (through cornstarch). Cut pork crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Stack several slices vertically; slice pork into 1/4-inch-thick pieces. Repeat procedure with remaining pork. Add pork, carrots, and mushrooms to soy sauce mixture; toss. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil. Add 1/4 cup onions; sauté 30 seconds. Add shredded cabbage and water; sauté 2 minutes. Remove cabbage mixture from pan. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add remaining 1/2 cup onions and garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add pork mixture; sauté 3 minutes or until done. Add cabbage mixture; toss. Place about 1/3 cup pork mixture into each of 8 reserved cabbage leaves. Makes 8 servings.

Lomi Lomi Salmon Lettuce Wraps
Lomi lomi in Hawaiian means to rub, massage, or kneed. In this case raw salmon is cured with salt, then the rest of the ingredients are added along with lettuce leaves for serving as a delicious li'i le'a.

1/4 cup coarse sea salt
8 ounces salmon fillet
1/2 cup finely diced white onion
3 tablespoons finely chopped green onions
1 cup diced tomato
16 butter lettuce leaves

Place salt and fish in a large zip-top plastic bag; shake bag to coat fish evenly. Chill 8 hours or overnight. Remove fish from bag; rinse well. Soak fish in ice water 2 hours, changing water every 30 minutes. Drain well. Pat fish dry with paper towels. Dice fish; place in a large bowl. Set aside.

Soak white onion in ice water 15 minutes. Drain well. Add diced onion, green onions, and diced tomato to fish; toss gently to combine. Spoon about 3 tablespoons fish mixture into each lettuce leaf. Makes 4 li'i le'a servings.

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