INDULGE IN THE SWEET SIDE OF WAIKIKI. TRY ONE OF THESE GOURMET DELIGHTS AT SOME OF OUR FAVORITE EATERIES. YOU CAN FOREGO THE DILEMMA OF SAVING ROOM FOR DESSERT BY SKIPPING FORWARD AND HAVING THE BEST PART OF YOUR MEAL COME FIRST.
HOBO’s from Uncle Bo’s
The trip up Kapahulu Avenue is well worth the effort when the payoff is sweet taro beignets sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with vanilla ice cream. The beignets are served warm and literally melt in your mouth. Using taro as a base provides the purple color, and adds a local flavor you won’t find back home.
HOBO’s from Uncle Bo’s
Where better to get a New York-style cheesecake than a restaurant that has New York in its name? CJ’s provides a classic cheesecake and the slices are huge. It has a traditional graham-cracker crust and is garnished with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.
“Piña Colada” from Heavenly
Of course, no dessert menu in Hawaii would be complete without at least one dish featuring Hawaii’s signature fruit: the pineapple. Though not native to the Aloha State, pineapples are now synonymous with the sun and surf of Hawaii. This non-alcoholic piña colada features Hawaiian Crown Pineapple on coconut ice cream. It’s a fresh treat that won’t leave any lingering guilt.
Hawaii is undoubtedly a melting pot of different cultures, and this is most obvious when exploring local cuisine. Chinatown and Waikiki have many options for foods that might seem bizarre to Mainland visitors, but are staples in other cultures. Here are a few tamer options for foods you might not find back home, but aren’t too far afield, either.
Combination Seafood Platter Bali Steak and Seafood
Many visitors come to Oahu with one unique Island food in mind: poke. This traditional Hawaiian cuisine is cubed raw fish in a variety of sauces. It can be intimidating to try something new and totally raw. So try poke in the combination seafood platter at Bali, where guests can try poke alongside more familiar seafood, such as king crab legs, lobster, shrimp, Japanese-style sashimi and fresh oysters from the Pacific Northwest.
Bibimbap Goofy Café and Dine
This Korean dish literally translates to “mixed rice.” At Goofy, a bed of brown rice is topped with fresh local vegetables, pork and a fried egg. The chili sauce is served on the side so that patrons can determine how spicy they want the dish. It also comes with a warm seaweed soup to perfectly accent the potentially spicy meal.
Washu Beef Tataki Roll Kaiwa
Tepid sushi eaters usually object to consuming raw fish. They may go for a cooked tempura roll in lieu of sashimi. Kaiwa has another option for meat lovers. The Washu Beef tataki roll uses ultra-rare seared beef on and in the roll. The marbled beef is flavorfully paired with sushi rice, cucumber, garlic and green onion.
Bangkok Red Curry Noi Thai Cuisine
Eating at Noi is as much about the experience as it is about the food. The chefs are all from Thailand, and use unique techniques in cooking and presentation. Elaborately carved vegetables made to look like flowers or birds often garnish plates. Their red curry is a chef favorite, served with a choice of meat that comes in a separate dish, still steaming on smoked kiawe wood.
Kahuku Shrimp Kai Market
Most restaurants on the Mainland serve shrimp shelled with the tail off. Some restaurants are now trending toward leaving the tail on for presentation, but that’s usually about as adventurous as it gets with serving shrimp. In Hawaii, Kahuku shrimp is often served fully intact, with the head, legs and tail. Generally these shrimp are cooked in butter and the outer shell and tail are crispy, providing contrast to the soft meat inside. You can also remove the head and tail if eating the shell has no appeal.
AZURE LOBSTER “ROLL” WITH MEYER LEMON PRESERVE AND TOBIKO
2 lobster tails (4 ounces peeled)
4 Tablespoons aioli
1 teaspoon finely chopped truffle
1/2 teaspoon truffle oil
12 each Meyer lemon
6 ounces sugar
3 Tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 ounce browned butter
1 ounce red tobiko
1 loaf brioche
1 cup clarified butter
Tarragon to taste
Skewer lobster tails and blanch in Court bouillon. Pull out right before it is fully cooked, letting heat carry over. Do not ice. Once chilled, slice into fourths. Add truffles and oil to aioli. Peel lemon leaving only zest with no pith. Blanch zest. Juice lemon and save. Put salt, sugar, juice, turmeric and zest together and bring to a simmer. Cook until soft. Blend until puree is smooth. Add water if needed. Freeze brioche. Cut brioche into 3-inch-long-by-1 1/4-inch-wide and 1/2-inch-tall slices. On slicer, cut bread on a 13-15 setting. Cut out 1-inch-diameter circles. Fry circles in the clarified butter until golden brown. Season as they come out. Toast rectangle of bread with seasoned whole butter. Brown butter and add tarragon and chervil. Strain.
Pull a large bead of aioli on top of the plate and a pool for the bread to sit on. Pull a large bead of lemon preserve on bottom right. Place bread on aioli, lobster on top of that with aioli in between slices. Single toasted brioche in lobster. With warm butter, add tobiko and drizzle over lobster. Garnish with chervil.
ROY’S HAMACHI APPETIZER
4 ounces fresh sushi-grade hamachi
1/2 cup lemon-juice concentrate
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 medium chopped onion
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
2 Thai chilis
1/4 cup olive oil
Over medium heat, cook onion, garlic and Thai chilis, then add liquids. Let sauce cool. Carefully slice hamachi to roughly bite-size pieces. Gently mix with other prepared ingredients. Garnish with edible flowers and green
BILL’S PERFECT SCRAMBLED EGGS
1 ounce heavy cream
1 Pinch sea salt
1 Tablespoon butter
Whip eggs and cream in a bowl. Heat butter in a nonstick pan. Once the butter is melted, add salt. When the salt starts to crackle in the pan, add the egg mixture. Let the egg mixture settle in the pan. As soon as it starts to harden, take a spatula and ring it around the edges of the pan until the eggs are fully cooked (approximately 5 minutes). The eggs will appear slightly runny in the pan.
ROYAL HAWAIIAN PINK HAUPIA CAKE
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8-inch baking pans.
8 ounces cake flour
6 ounces granulated sugar
3/4 Tablespoons baking powder Sift the cake flour, granulated sugar and baking powder together and set aside
4 ounces vegetable oil
4 ounces egg yolks
5 1/2 ounce water
8 ounces egg whites
4 ounces granulated sugar
Whisk oil, egg yolks and water in a bowl and gradually add dry ingredients while whisking. Mix till a smooth batter is created. Whip egg whites until foamy and gradually sprinkle in the sugar. Whip until mixture forms stiff peaks. Gently fold cake batter into egg whites. Pour into pans and bake at 350 degrees 30–40 minutes. Cool on rack.
1 (12-ounce) can coconut milk
4-6 Tablespoons sugar
6 Tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 3/4 cup water
3-4 drops red or pink food coloring
Bring coconut milk and sugar to a boil. Make a slurry with the cornstarch and water, whisk into boiling mixture. Add a few drops of pink color and continue mixing on heat for 3-5 minutes, until thick. Pour into container and cool completely.
Whip cream with sugar till medium peaks, then add pink to create a pastel color. Set aside. Mix coconut flakes with pink until desired color is reached. Set aside.
Cut the 8-inch rounds in two equal layers for a total of four layers. Put the set haupia in a stand mixer and mix until creamed. Alternate layers of cake and haupia. Ice the cake with the pink whipped cream and coat sides with pink coconut flakes.
As a Sonoma County, California, native, I am no stranger to fermentation. My dad used to make his own wine and beer in the garage of our home. Weekends often included jaunts to favorite wineries where my sister Sarah and I could play in the gardens. Only once did we mortify our parents by throwing rocks in a fishpond (I still contend Sarah started it).
Wine and the fermentation process were everywhere, driving our local economy. I assumed all 8-year-olds could cite the difference between a Zinfandel and Petite Syrah. It seemed totally normal.
While I was a child in Northern California, a place synonymous with wine production, George Killmer was half a world away in Japan and Korea, the latter locale having its own ubiquitous fermented fare: kimchi.
Kimchi is largely considered the national food of Korea. It takes many forms, but most commonly it’s a spicy fermented cabbage, traditionally served with white rice.
Killmer grew up with kimchi. He’s gone through phases when he didn’t eat it much, but now he devours it regularly. “If you don’t have kimchi,” Killmer says, “you’re having a bad day.”
Killmer is “hapa haole,” a colloquial term for someone who is part Caucasian and part another ethnicity. His mother is Korean, and his dad is a Caucasian former U.S. government contractor. Growing up, kimchi was everywhere. As a kid he even ate the spicy cabbage his mother made in oatmeal for breakfast. Her recipe for kimchi is the foundation for Jincha Kimchi, the small business he runs with his partner, Jamie-Lynn Gomes. Gomes did not have regular access to kimchi in her youth. She is part Hawaiian and graduated from Kamehameha Schools. She recalls how her mother’s Korean friend would gift a jar of kimchi once or twice a year. It was a treat, not a given. This aromatic side dish had yet to develop a place in larger restaurants or markets in the Islands.
Ready access, however, can have some drawbacks, which Killmer knew well. “When I was growing up, it was embarrassing,” he says. “It was always like, Don’t let people see the kimchi.” It was a source of shame to have something so different in his home. By this point, his family had moved stateside after time spent in Japan and Korea. Living in the Pacific Northwest as a teen, Killmer wanted to fit in. Kimchi was “stinky cabbage” that looked, tasted and smelled weird to his friends.
Then something interesting happened. Killmer became a chef who worked in the Mid-Atlantic region. He started seeing kimchi outside of Korean markets and restaurants. Suddenly it was gaining mainstream popularity with eateries for a simple reason: People liked it.
With this surge in popularity, Killmer returned to his childhood staple. It no longer held a stigma as a smelly cabbage. Killmer moved to Hawaii 10 years ago, where he met Gomes. They started Jincha Kimchi in June 2015.
Their process begins with only local, fresh produce, including Napa cabbage, ginger and garlic. “It’s the quality of our ingredients that makes our kimchi so good,” says Gomes.
It’s more than the ingredients, though. There is tremendous care in how they make each batch. It can take up to nine hours to make. Killmer says it’s something “deep in my soul,” that drives him to keep making and selling kimchi. The pair makes roughly 100 pounds of the fermented and pungent cabbage every two weeks from their 500-square-foot kitchen.
With ingredients in hand, Killmer and Gomes start making kimchi by carefully washing then cutting the cabbage. It then soaks in a saltwater brine for two to five hours, by far the most time intensive step of the process.
Killmer starts by cutting the cabbage to soak while Gomes preps a fish sauce. The sauce is made with kelp, green onions and dried anchovies that Killmer’s mother brings with her from Korea. It’s a fragrant mix.
With fresh fish sauce in hand, Gomes and Killmer begin prepping the kimchi paste with which they will slather the cabbage. Each ingredient is carefully cleaned and measured. The paste is made of garlic, ginger, herbs, fermented baby shrimp, fish sauce and, of course, dried spicy red chili peppers.
Today, most kimchi is spicy and colored bright red from chili peppers. This wasn’t always the case. Chili peppers aren’t native to Korea. It wasn’t until trade was established with the Americas in the 1500s that chili peppers became available to the world, eventually changing the nature of kimchi to its current spicy state. Traditionally, it was made seasonally based on whichever vegetables were available. It was not what modern eaters think of as kimchi.
Killmer and Gomes definitely make a modern kimchi, though they label the flavor as “local kine,” meaning it’s suited to the tastes of Hawaii residents. Kimchi in Korea tends to have a much stronger flavor, with more spice in the paste. The paste they make is spicy and savory, but not overwhelming.
Once they have the perfect paste, Killmer will check the cabbage to see if it has soaked long enough. The cabbage gets rinsed several times to remove excess salt, and then it’s massaged into the paste until evenly mixed.
At this point it’s edible, but it hasn’t had a chance to ferment yet. Fermentation takes at least two weeks, which is the minimum time they age each batch before sale. It’s left bottled in reusable mason jars in their fridge until ready.
It never tastes the same twice. Like wine, different vintages of kimchi are nuanced. They’ve taken as many controls as possible in refining the recipe, but fermentation can fluctuate, producing variations in each batch. It’s interesting to taste the changes, or even note the development in kimchi as it continues to ferment after purchase.
Kimchi in general is fermented via lactic acid bacteria, which kills off any other bacteria that would normally lead vegetables to rot. This process leaves kimchi with probiotic properties, meaning that kimchi is actually incredibly good for you. It’s also high in vitamins and may prevent certain cancers. Gomes mentions one frequent buyer who says the kimchi helps ease her rheumatoid arthritis.
This is just one process for one kind of kimchi. Jincha makes several varietals, but this is its staple, and what most people think of as kimchi. It’s a big world where kimchi is concerned, and anyone can make it.
As Killmer says, “there’s really no wrong or right way. It just comes down to if you like it or not.”
Jincha Kimchi is available at the Windward Mall farmers’ market. Visit its website for more information at www.jinchakimchi.com.