Being as remotely located as we are on a permaculture property on the east coast of the Big Island, we haven’t had a chance to sample some of the local Hawaiian fare as much as we’d like. But slowly and surely, we’re getting around to it.
Even besides prepared foods, we are being exposed to lots of new foods here in Hawaii; some of it indigenous to the land here, and some of it just stuff we never really considered trying. Here are a few keepers we’ve found so far:
This post was originally published in 2007. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
Steel Cut Oats
Who knew oats didn’t come rolled? Instead of cooking up rolled oats, we’ll often soak some steel cut oats overnight (with some gogi berries or raisins or dried cranberries), and in the morning we’ll add cinnamon, a little sugar or maple syrup (thanks, mom!), and fresh fruit. Top it off with some yogurt (courtesy of the lovely goats I milk daily) and we have a breakfast of champions.
This was originally our breakfast of choice, but the cost of buying granola (or any cereal for that matter), even in bulk, was getting outrageous. The steel cut oats are a happy compromise on the yummy raspberries & cream granola we used to get.
This is one of the few “only in Hawaii” meals we’ve had so far, and it was by chance that we had it. We were hiking through Pahoa one day, and happened across a “chip truck” of sorts that not only had your typical burgers and sandwiches, but also Plate Lunches. This is what the locals get, so we had to get it too.
The most common plate lunch is Loco Moco, which is two scoops of rice, hamburger patty, fried egg, and gravy slathered over everything. Oh yeah – and a side of macaroni or potato salad to finish the job of clogging the arteries.
We had the Mochico Loco, which is the same idea, except the hamburger patty is substituted with fried chicken pieces. The $7 plate was more than enough for both of us to share and roll away super-full.
I assure you it was delicious! Kelly & I would be hard pressed to walk by a chip truck hungry again without ordering it.
Our lunches aren’t usually too interesting, since we tend to graze throughout the day on fruits and focus most of our efforts on dinner. But one of the sandwiches we’ve enjoyed eating is fresh-off-the-tree avocado, cheese (we haven’t found the cheese tree yet, so we just buy it), cherry tomatoes picked within three feet of our yurt, greens also picked inches from our front door, and mayo.
We’ve also been enjoying a type of bread that is flour-less…..it is made from 100% sprouted grains. I have always loved grainy breads, but even Kelly has learned to love it too. He actually said the other day that he prefers it to white bread (don’t tell his dad – the white-bread-king)!
And another timeless and favourite sandwich we truly enjoy is peanut butter, fresh (and I mean fresh!) honey, and Kelly even adds a fresh banana to top it off. It’s pretty much dessert, but it’s lunch.
Using a hot box (check out my article here on hot boxes) has been incredibly useful to us in meal preparation, so as to conserve the amount of propane used on the stove. And, with a little forethought and preparation, it saves energy costs and is quite an adventure too!
We’ll often cook up a big batch of brown rice or other grain and some sort of bean or lentil in the hot box, then use it as a base for the next three days’ dinners. Indian curry one day, Mexican (with fresh guacamole and salsa of course) the next, and Japanese sushi another. We have even been known to pick up a BBQ chicken at the store and dig into that for dinner, using the left-overs for chicken salad the next day.
There are a myriad of grains we enjoy when rice and pasta gets boring. For example:
Oh my gosh. Who knew wheat could be so yummy?!?! Again left by the previous caretaker, it took us a while to reconcile this substance bearing a resemblance to brown rice with what we saw in the bulk aisles when in town. Finally we identified it as hard red wheat berries. Cook it up like rice, and you have little nutty flavoured nuggets of joy that have great texture and amazing nutritional value.
As a quick cooking and easy grain, couscous saves cooking energy and provides a quick meal. We usually sauté some veggies, add water & spices, and once boiling add the couscous and let it sit. Voila – a one-pot wonder-meal.
One of our recent successes with couscous involved sautéing onions, garlic, hot pepper, tumeric, and ginger. Add cumin and black pepper, and give it a stir. Add cooked soy beans, parboiled sweet potato, and water. Bring to a boil. Add couscous, then turn the heat off and let it sit for five minutes. Presto – a one-pot-wonder-meal with superb vegetarian nutritional value, and tons of flavour.
Other grains We have experimented with millet (very yummy), plan to use quinoa, and have also had some fun with orzo (a kind of pasta that looks like rice). And of course, having a nice Italian pasta dish with a can of tuna thrown in for good measure is also a treat.
Since we don’t always have meat in our diets, we are learning to incorporate beans as a rich protein source. So far we have used soy beans, red kidney beans, red lentils, garbanzo beans (chick peas) and will also try using black-eyed peas and green lentils. We always use the dried kind (easier on the pocketbook and less waste from cans), and soak them overnight before cooking them using the hot box.
The farts aren’t too stinky, and despite initial reservations about a bean-y diet, we’re learning to enjoy what they can add to a meal.
DRESSINGS, SAUCES, AND DIPS
Of course the staple oil & vinegar dressings are great, but it’s also fun to experiment.
Guava Salad Dressing
Using blended and strained guava, fresh lime juice, and a bit of cane sugar (the golden brown kind), you have a delicious and guilt-free sweet and sour salad dressing. So good, I think we’re going to adapt it into a drink too!
Avocado Salad Dressing
This is still being perfected, but basically it’s a matter of blending avocado, garlic, hot pepper, some seasonings, and yoghurt together until it is a desired consistency and flavour that matches the rest of your meal. Try it!
Fresh cherry tomatoes, onions, garlic, fresh basil, a little hot pepper, and a few sun dried black olives make for a great condiment, bruschetta base, or pizza topper.
It’s not really a salsa but we don’t know what else to call it. All the ingredients are fresh from our backyard: broadleaf thyme, garlic, onions, and hot pepper. It’s great as a side condiment, on potatoes, meat (if we had meat), pasta, rice, or really just about anything. Yum!
Coconut Curry Sauce
Blend up some of the plentiful fresh coconut, add water, curry powder, salt, and sugar, and you have a great sauce for fish, as well as (believe it or not) a great dipping sauce for raw veggies.
Since avocado trees are about as common as maple trees at home, there are lots of these nutritious green fruits of joy to be enjoyed. The local store charges $1 for five avocados, so even if we can’t find any on our property, they don’t break the bank.
And our favourite thing to do with said avocados is to make guacamole, which is a great side dish to just about anything.
Slice up the avocado, add some diced onions, a basil leaf, a squeeze of fresh lime, salt, and pepper, and there you have it – yumminess in a bowl.
As for salad greens, lettuce doesn’t grow in abundance here, so we make due with a variety of leafy greens that neither of us have ever laid eyes (or lips) upon before. One of them is called kituk, and is a dark green triangular leaf about 2” long with a delicate nutty taste. It’s also extremely high in omega acids, and we eat it both raw and cooked.
Poke for Sushi
Poke (pronounced poh-kay) is a Hawaiian specialty, made with cubed raw fish (usually ahi tuna) marinated in a mix of soy sauce, seaweed, sesame oil, green onions, and some seasonings. Wonderful on its own as an appetizer, we have also been known to roll it up with some rice and seaweed to make some killer tuna rolls. It’s cheap and delightful, found in most grocery stores.
Fish! From Da Ocean!
A relatively new phenomenon for us since we arrived, we’re starting to catch fish! We have already caught a few, including the prized squirrel fish, which tastes like lobster and was big enough to yield two yummy dinners. (Day one: fish steaks with light breading on a bed of fresh kituk served with potatoes & lentils and a spicy curry gravy. Day two: thai coconut curry fish, served over a bed of whole wheat noodles.) Yum!
MISCELLANEOUS / DESSERTS
We’re learning the art of sprouting various types of beans. The previous caretaker had left some mung beans for us, and once we figured out that’s what the little green nuggets actually were, we tried our hands at sprouting them. Check out this article I wrote on the art of sprouting your own foods. It’s super nutritious, and really easy on the pocketbook!
The sprouts go wonderfully in salads, sandwiches, and even stir frys.
Basically bannock is a poor-man’s pancake, but Kelly has perfected it into a rich and flavourful part of many a meal. Flour, a little baking soda, and water and seasonings made into a paste, liquid, or dough and fried up can make excellent pancakes, crepes, or bread (depending on the desired consistency of the batter).
For dessert, we add cocoa and sugar, and once cooked we spread some peanut butter on top. It’s one of those things we say we’d cook if we lived in the city, but I wonder if we don’t think it’s great because we have nothing else to compare it to some nights!
Bannock also works as a side to some of the Indian dishes we’ve prepared. Think “naan”.
It also makes an awesome pizza crust and bruschetta base.
We had to think of this at some time or another. Shred up some of the plentiful coconuts to be found, add flour, sugar, a pinch of salt, and some butter, and fry it up in a little olive oil. They are half cookie, half macaroon, and all good. We have been known to make them extra special by enjoying them with a small piece of Hershey’s milk chocolate.
After sampling the raw food fare offered by various local vendors, I decided to try my hand at chocolate balls. A variety of yummy ingredients can go into them, and I went out on a limb: instead of using a butter base (like cocoa butter or cashew butter), I actually use a soft fruit base (like egg fruit or mamey sapote). It adds a sweet and meaty consistency to the balls, and saves a ton of fat and guilt.
Add to the base a ton of cocoa, fresh chopped vanilla bean, cinnamon, a pinch of salt, some sunflower seeds, and roll the balls of joy in fresh grated coconut, and you have many many, MANY friends.
Kelly says they remind him of his mum’s famous rum balls: the best compliment I could receive.
Although our initial attempts yielded only moderate success (!), we are now producing more bountiful and tasty bowls of popcorn to accompany our movie nights. As anybody would know from cooking Jiffy Pop, it involves a lot of tedious and hot shaking of a pan filled with kernels and oil, and just when you think it will never pop, you are appeased by the glorious sound of an exploding kernel. Too bad first time around we didn’t believe that it would pop and stopped shaking once too many times, hence letting the oil burn too.
We are currently experimenting with kettle corn (a favourite of ours), by popping it with both sugar and salt. Still doesn’t taste the same as that glorious kettle corn we used to enjoy at the Callingwood Farmer’s market though.