May 24, 2014


The word "barbecue" was derived from the word "barbacoa",
a word used for a wooden rack used as a cooking device
by ancient natives in Brazil in 1547.
It's always summer in Hawaii, so grilling is an everyday event here. Barbecue is about as red, white and blue as American cuisine gets. Hawaii is no different than the rest of the states, or are we? Hawaii has been cooking underground in an "imu" oven ever since the ancient Hawaiians arrived on the islands. While this method of cooking involved steam, my guess is that this method led to wooden frames being built over fires to keep the wood from burning, which resulted in the meat cooking slowly and absorbing more smoke. Smoking, drying, and salting allowed food to be kept longer. Thanks to the iron age, the metal grate was developed which let to grilling and barbecue as we know it today.

The kiawe tree was introduced to Hawaii in the 1820's for cattle to feed on their leaves. Today Hawaii is fortunate to still have kiawe wood for our barbecue fuel. Kiawe is in the same family as mesquite wood. Just ask any Texan how they feel about mesquite-grilled brisket for their barbecue fuel. And then, depending on what part of the country you live, Memphis, Tennessee; North Carolina; Kansas City, or Texas, barbecuing becomes very personal. The commonality is that real barbecuing is slow indirect cooking (sometimes for as many as 18 hours). The resulting flavor is a combination of smoke, meat juices, fat and whatever spices or rub have been added... and then there is the barbecue sauce. Shame on you if you buy your barbecue sauce out of a bottle from the grocery store. Homemade is much better, and you can adjust it to your own taste, plus it keeps in the refrigerator for weeks.

Grilled Hawaii Spiny Lobster Tails
Hawaii has an abundance of fish, pork, chicken, and venison, so naturally these items are commonly found on the grill here. We also have the best tropical fruit and vegetables in the country, which are perfect for grilling; pineapple, mango, breadfruit, corn, asparagus, etc. Naturally our "mixed plate" here in Hawaii has influenced the taste of our barbecue sauce. Ingredients like soy sauce, sesame oil, oyster sauce, rice vinegar, sake, Sriracha sauce, pepper water, sea salt, pineapple juice, fresh Tahitian lime juice, etc. go into a final Hawaii tropical blend to be mopped onto our local barbecue. Check out these barbecue recipes, and I'll meet you at the grill:

Asian Barbecued Fish Wrap
This barbecued fish wrap recipe is great for a pupu or a light lunch around the grill.

4-6 fillets fresh 'white' fish, such as opakapaka (snapper), mahi-mahi, etc.
2 heads iceberg lettuce

Marinade For Fish:
4 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3-4 cloves garlic, minced

Dipping Sauce:
1 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 red chili, minced and de-seeded or 1/2 to 3/4 tsp. dried crushed chili
1 thumb-size piece galangal (or ginger), grated
1+1/2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water

Topping Suggestions:
2-3 cups bean sprouts
1 cup fresh coriander (cilantro)
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped or ground
1 cup fresh basil
3 spring (green) onions, sliced

Stir marinade ingredients together in a cup or small bowl. Rinse off the fillets and cut them into thirds or quarters (smaller sections, roughly 3 inches long, are good for this dish). Place these sections in a flat-bottomed bowl and pour marinade over fish, making sure all sides of the fish have marinade on them. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator while you make the dipping sauce and prepare the toppings.

Stir all dipping sauce ingredients together in a sauce pan. Place pan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Taste-test, adding more chili if not spicy enough. If too spicy, add more coconut milk. If too salty, add more lime juice. When the sauce is hot, add the cornstarch-water mixture and stir. When sauce has thickened, remove from heat and set aside until you're ready to eat. This sauce can be served warm, or at room temperature.

Prepare the toppings you have chosen. Place them in separate bowls on the table where you will be eating.

For the lettuce wraps, carefully cut out the core of each head and discard. Now you should be able to carefully peel away the separate leaves. If lettuce is unwashed, carefully rinse under cool water. Pile the leaves back together and place on a plate on the table.

Brush your grill with oil and heat up, then grill the fish until inner flesh is opaque and flakes easily. To serve, place the barbecued fish on a plate and place on the table. Now invite your guests to assemble their own wraps. Start with a leaf of lettuce. Add a small "bed" of bean sprouts, then place 1-2 pieces of fish on top. Add whatever toppings you'd like. Makes 4 servings.

Luau Huli-Huli Chicken
This recipe is very popular in Hawaii and will work well on chicken and pork ribs. It is called Huli-Huli Chicken ("Huli" is the Hawaiian word for "turn").

2 chickens cut into quarters
1 cup pineapple juice
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup rice vinegar, or fresh lemon or lime juice
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
4 tablespoons fresh ginger, skinned and grated fine
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons Sriracha Sauce or Tabasco sauce
4 medium cloves of garlic, pressed or finely minced

Mix all the ingredients together in a saucepan and simmer gently for about 10 minutes. You can refrigerate it for several weeks. Makes enough for 2 whole chickens cut into quarters.

Marinate the chicken parts in the sauce for at least 3 hours or as long as 24 hours. Preheat your grill to about 325°F. Pour the marinade into a sauce pan and simmer to reduce its volume by 25%. Roast the chicken with the lid down on the indirect side of the grill (not over the fire). "Huli" (turn it) frequently so the sugar in the sauce doesn't blacken. After turning, paint the upper surface with a layer of the sauce.

Take the meat's temp, and as it approaches 150°F, stop basting so you don't contaminate the cooked meat with juices in the marinade from the brush. Discard the sauce. When it hits 150°F, move the meat over the direct heat, skin side down to crisp the skin. Check it every minute or two to make sure it is not burning. When the white meat is 165°F and the dark meat 170°F to 175°F, you're ready for your luau.

Barbecue Sauce for Grilled Fish Steaks
This is a simple butter sauce that's great for grilled fish steaks. Just remember to oil your grate first so the fish doesn't stick.

2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 mahi-maui steaks, opakapaka, or even octopus (5 ounces each)

In a small saucepan, combine the first six ingredients. Cook and stir until butter is melted. Remove from the heat; set aside.

Using long-handled tongs, moisten a paper towel with cooking oil and lightly coat the grill rack. Grill fish steaks, covered, over medium-hot heat or broil 4 in. from the heat in your oven for 4-5 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily with a fork, basting frequently with butter mixture. Makes 4 servings.

Chili Pepper-Honey Barbecue Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
1/2 cup honey
1-10 ounce jar chili sauce
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons Garlic Chili Pepper Sauce
2 tablespoons Red Curry Paste
Juice of 1 lime

In a sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion. Saute until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and ginger. Saute for 1 minute, making sure not to brown garlic. Add honey, chili sauce, chicken broth, vinegar, Worcestershire, garlic chili pepper sauce, red curry paste, and lime. Simmer until thick, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes about 2 cups.

Sweet Glazed Soy Pork Ribs
These sweet glazed soy sauce ribs are similar to "kalbi", a Korean grilled beef short rib dish. This recipe cooks the ribs in the oven, however they can be finished off on the barbecue grill for added flavor.

1 1⁄4 cups light brown sugar
1 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
1⁄4 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1- 2" piece peeled fresh ginger, finely chopped
3 pounds pork baby back ribs
3 scallions, thinly sliced

Whisk together brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, chile flakes, garlic, ginger, and 1⁄4 cup water in a large bowl. Add the ribs and toss to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let marinate for at least 1 hour at room temperature, or refrigerate overnight, turning occasionally to coat.

Heat oven to 450°. Remove ribs from marinade and arrange, curved side up, on a rack set over a rimmed foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the marinade in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and syrupy, about 20 minutes.

Using tongs, flip ribs and cook, basting frequently with the reduced marinade, until the ribs are browned, glazed, and tender, 15–20 minutes. Transfer ribs to a platter and garnish with scallions. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Tart & Tangy Lilikoi Pork Ribs
Ingredients for the sauce:
1 1⁄2 cups ketchup
3⁄4 cup fresh lilikoi juice, or frozen lilikoi juice concentrate, thawed
1⁄4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1⁄4 teaspoon worcestershire
1⁄4 teaspoon Tabasco
1 clove garlic, chopped

Ingredients for the ribs:
1⁄2 cup rice vinegar
1⁄4 cup chopped garlic
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh ginger
1⁄4 cup sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 1⁄2 pounds baby back ribs, cut into 6- or 7-rib portions, slit halfway through between ribs

Sprigs from 1 bunch watercress

For the sauce: Put ketchup, lilikoi juice, sugar, honey, corn syrup, oyster sauce, vinegar, worcestershire, Tabasco, and garlic into a medium pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, until very thick, about 1 hour.

For the ribs: Meanwhile, put 8 quarts of water into a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add vinegar, garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add ribs and continue to simmer, partially covered, until tender, about 1 hour. Drain ribs, pat dry, and arrange in a single layer on a sheet pan fitted with a rack.

Arrange oven rack 3–4 inches from broiler element and preheat broiler. Generously baste one side of ribs with some of the sauce and broil until sauce dries slightly and begins to bubble, about 2 minutes. Flip ribs, baste generously again, and broil for 2 minutes more. Repeat flipping, basting, and broiling process 3 more times, until ribs are well lacquered and beginning to char slightly. Note: This last step can be done on the barbecue grill for added flavor.

Cut ribs apart, stack evenly on 4 warm plates, and garnish with sprigs of watercress. Serve immediately. Makes 4 serving.

My "Memphis-Style" Hawaii Barbecue Sauce
Chopped Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches
with Sweet Memphis-Style Coleslaw

Click on photo to view larger
I used to live in Memphis, Tennessee when I was in high school. I learned to love the Memphis sweet, tart and tangy style of ketchup based barbecue sauce. After moving to Hawaii I made a few adjustments to my recipe to make it even better. This sauce works best on grilled pork and chicken, especially a Memphis-style pulled pork sandwich piled high with slowly cooked pork shoulder, shredded, then topped with this sauce and Sweet Memphis Style Coleslaw. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it... the best sandwich ever!

1 1/2 cups tomato ketchup
1/2 cup Asian oyster sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup molasses
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon finely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons celery salt
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha Thai chili pepper sauce
1/2 cup prepared mustard
the zest of 1 thumb-size piece fresh ginger
the zest from1 lemon or lime (use a microplane to zest)
the juice from 1 lemon or lime
2 teaspoons liquid smoke (Wrights brand)
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
honey (optional)

In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point, taste the sauce and adjust it to your liking. If you like it a little sweeter, add a little honey to your taste, or if you like the sauce to be more tart, add more vinegar and or lemon juice. If you want it hotter, add more Sriracha sauce. Makes about 4 cups.

Kentucky Bourbon-Bacon Barbecue Sauce
1/2 cup small-dice bacon (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup finely diced red onion (about 1/2 small onion)
2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons dark molasses
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground mustard
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons bourbon (I use Makers Mark bourbon, use whatever you like)

Place the bacon in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a small bowl; set aside. Reduce the heat to medium low, add the onion to the pan, and cook in the bacon fat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 to 60 seconds.

Whisk in the remaining measured ingredients, except the bourbon, and season with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Stir in the reserved bacon and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened slightly and holds a line on the back of a wooden spoon when you drag a finger through it, about 25 minutes. After the sauce cools, add the bourbon, stir to blend. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 1 month. Makes 2 cups. Note: For a smoother sauce, finish the sauce in a blender or food processor.

Taro Tuna Cakes
1 large taro root
2 tablespoons butter
1 1⁄2 pounds ahi tuna, chopped
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, diced
1 green onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1⁄4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon baking powder
1⁄2 cup cream
1⁄4 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Steam taro root in a covered pan, with a bit of water in a 350°F oven until tender, about 1 hour. Cool, peel, and coarsely grate. Set aside.

While taro cooks, melt butter in a sauté pan and sauté tuna with onions, garlic, shallots, and green onions for 7 minutes. Cool.

Add salt, taro, egg, cornstarch, baking powder, cream, cilantro, and lemon juice to tuna mixture. Mix well and shape into cakes. Fry or grill in a little butter until golden brown on both sides. Garnish with cilantro, if you like. Makes 4 servings.

Grilled Garlic Shrimp
I love this recipe for a spicy grilled shrimp, it's all about the paste. Great for pupus, football food, or as a main course, served with rice naturally. 

Brining Solution:
1 cup Hawaiian or Kosher salt
6 tablespoons sugar
2 quarts water

3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 1/2 teaspoons lemon or lime juice
2 pounds large shrimp, with shells left on

Prepare brining solution and brine shrimp for 15 minutes. Remove from brining solution and pat dry, set aside. Using mortar and pestle, smash garlic and salt into a smooth paste. Add cayenne and paprika and mix well. Add olive oil, ginger, and lemon to form a thin paste, making sure the paste isn’t too loose or it will not cling to the shrimp. Toss shrimp with paste until evenly coated. Grill until shells are bright pink, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve hot. Makes 8 servings.

For more "ONO Moloka'i BBQ" recipes, check out this story... click here.

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