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"Real" Hawaiian Food


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#1 skchai

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Posted 22 November 2003 - 04:01 PM

The thread on pineapple and "Hawaiian" food got me thinking: what exactly does qualify as Hawaiian food? Clearly much of the stuff that gets served at tourist luaus - teriyaki beef, grilled ribs, tossed salad, coconut cake, etc. - doesn't qualify, and is a often ridiculed by proponents of more authentic Hawaiian food.

But how do we define authentic? As Rachel Lauden has pointed out, the exercise in defining a fixed authenticity is often quite an arbitrary one, since cuisines are living, evolving entities that are constantly embracing new dishes. Already, the "traditional" luau menu contains a number of dishes (lomi lomi salmon, chicken longrice) have have clearly been adapted from other cultures in the post-contact era. Also, the boundary between authentic and fake Hawaiian food is constantly changing. Very recently, shoyu-based poke and pulehu shortribs seem to have been admitted into the fold. On the other hand, there are other popular local foods, such as teriyaki, chicken katsu, etc. that clearly remain outside the boundaries of what can be called Hawaiian food.

That being the case, perhaps we can look at authentic cuisine as a social construction that is part and parcel of a larger "nation-building" exercise. What determines that one dish qualifies and another doesn't? I hope this doesn't sound too academic!

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#2 The Little Blue House

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Posted 24 November 2003 - 11:16 AM

In terms of nation-building, do you mean the fairly inclusive Local community? Or do you mean a Hawaiian Nation? The implications of each, particularly on this question, are fairly important in considering your questions.

I wish that I had thought of these issues last week--I spent a day at a meeting with several kupuna talking about fishing regulations, and thus, fish. It would have been neat to find out what they thought of current Hawaiian food and where it fits into their ideas of authentic Hawaiian food.

-Emily

Edited by The Little Blue House, 24 November 2003 - 11:18 AM.

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#3 Carolyn Tillie

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Posted 24 November 2003 - 11:34 AM

Spam.

Seriously - my godmother was Hawaiian and what I inherited was her Kahlua Pig and Fried Rice recipes. Other than those two, everything else she ate contained spam (scrambled eggs, sandwiches, etc...)

#4 Kimo

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Posted 24 November 2003 - 11:43 AM

Fish, seafood, ferns (i.e. pohole), berries, lilikoi. There isn't a whole lot of "real" Hawaiian food. Almost everything (including the wild boar/pua'a) were brought in by the first Polynesians or missionaries.

Kimo

#5 FoodZealot

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Posted 24 November 2003 - 01:56 PM

SK, I take it you are talking about "real Hawaiian" as in associated with Polynesians, ethnic Hawaiians and luaus, rather than the modern melange of cuisines. I suppose it all depends on what era we're talking about. Before there were Polynesians on the Hawaiian Islands, there were just ingredients going about their nature, waiting to be cooked. [grin]

As a lay person, here's how I see it: the Polynesians have a cuisine and aesthetic that has developed over time, then split off. They interacted with the Hawaiian locale and the cuisine evolved some. Then as each wave of immigrants arrives or "discovers" Hawai`i, there is some level of exchange - the now Hawaiian aesthetic collectively receives an influence or rejects it. Salted salmon, beer, longrice - yes. Wine, vinegar, garlic, spices - no.

Non-Polynesian influences has only been known to Hawai`i since the late 1770's - relatively short - shorter than new world foods have been in Europe and Asia. I'm sure others have thought this, but I think at some point, the aesthetic becomes more important than the snapshot of the actual ingredients, recipes and dishes. Yes, it's valuable to know what changes have occurred through the years, but modern Italian cuisine has embraced and integrated tomatoes, potatoes and corn - all ingredients from North America - without much discussion of their validity.

All that being said, we each also have our prejudices and associations. IMHO shoyu does not belong at a luau - teriyaki, shoyu poke, etc. My bias is to think of Hawaiian food as the Polynesian based food from the early 1900's.

~Tad

#6 skchai

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Posted 29 November 2003 - 01:36 AM

Emily, you're definitely right in saying that one's definition of "Hawaiian Food" depends in large part on how one wants to define what it means to be "Hawaiian", which in turn impacts on views of what sovereignty will eventually mean and to whom it will apply. Those who want to restrict Hawaiian identity to people with blood ties to the pre-Western contact population will likely also seek a more restricted view of Hawaiian Food as well. I am not suggesting, of course, that Hawaiian cuisine has any huge causal role in generating a particular conception of Hawaiian identity. However, it is nonetheless not irrelevant, and is useful as an indicator of where a person or group stands.

Given this, it's not taking it too far to view Hawaiian Regional Cuisine has having a subtle political undercurrent, deliberate or not. By attaching the label "Hawaiian" to something that is essentially East-West fusion cuisine, it promotes a "bridge" concept of Hawai`i, as a meeting place of Asian and European / North American cultures, with the Pacific being merely the inert expanse spanned by the bridge. Indeed, other than the use of local fish species, there is very little about HRC that links to pre-contact indigenous Hawaiian or Pacific cuisine. However, as you point out Tad, it's not the mere neglect of pre-contact ingredients or cooking techniques that makes HRC an affront to certain notions of Hawaiian cuisine and identity, it's the aesthetic that HRC embodies. This just provides a another reason for those with a fairly strict conception of Hawaiian-ness to view HRC as just another invasive import rather than an element of any local cultural renaissance.

Sun-Ki Chai
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#7 fifi

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Posted 29 November 2003 - 04:07 AM

I am somewhat of a history buff on Hawaii and I can say that one of the appeals is the way assimilation has occurred. I would hate to see that go backwards. Hawaii's history is what it is, good and bad. Where we are today is a miraculous place where a mixing of cultures has occurred with relatively little divisiveness compared to the rest of the world. I have seen that in the day to day interaction of the people as well as the cuisine.

I have a very good friend who is part Portugese and part Hawaiian. His Hawiian grandfather only recently died at about age 98 and went surfing the day before he died. When asked about the "problems" of the merging of the cultures, his answer was... "I don't worry about it. I just go have lunch." I guess that is my take on what is magic about Hawaii and its cuisine.

The choice of Oahu as "The Meeting Place" may have been prophetic.
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

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#8 Pan

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Posted 29 November 2003 - 12:00 PM

sk:

For the uninitiated, what's HRC?

I find it interesting that you're talking about Hawaiian sovereignty as something that's a likelihood. (Personally, I'd love New York City sovereignty, but there's no chance of that.) But I guess that's a line of discussion that can't be pursued further outside of a connection to food.

#9 skchai

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Posted 29 November 2003 - 12:06 PM

Michael,

HRC is "Hawaiian Regional Cuisine", a upscale, highly influential, self-consciously "nouvelle" culinary movement that started in the late 1980s.

"Sovereignty" in the Hawaiian context doesn't necessarily mean political independence, though that is one version. More broadly, the term has become a catch-all phrase to refer to greater self-determination and empowerment for native Hawaiians. Part of the debate has centered around who gets included and excluded within the boundaries of Hawaiian sovereignty.

Sun-Ki Chai
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#10 skchai

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Posted 29 November 2003 - 11:10 PM

Linda, I'm glad you have such a positive image of ethnic relations in Hawai`i, as well as of the role of cuisine in preserving harmony. And to risk sounding like someone blind to the very real social problems of the islands, I have to agree with a lot of what you say!

Part of what keeps ethnic relations less polarized than they may be in other parts of the world is their sheer complexity. The huge number of national groups that have made their home in a relatively small space have led to mixing and cross-cutting alliances that make any clear-cut definition of "us" and "them" very difficult. And the food, in its most distinctive manifestations, reflects that mixing and cross-cutting.

Sun-Ki Chai
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#11 Sweet Willie

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Posted 22 December 2003 - 06:50 AM

Already, the "traditional" luau menu....

What would be included on a traditional luau menu?
"I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be"

#12 FoodZealot

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Posted 23 March 2004 - 09:07 PM

Willie, I just noticed that no one answered your question on this thread. I'm sorry I missed it the first time, but here's the start of an answer - everyone else, please correct me where I'm wrong. As discussed above, it depends on when you think the tradition started, but in broad terms:
kalua pig - whole pig cooked in an underground oven by stuffing it with hot rocks, and burying it to cook for many hours.

lau lau - pork chunks wrapped in taro leaves and steamed.

poi - taro root steamed, then mashed into a smooth paste

sweet potatoes - simply steamed/roasted in the imu with the pig

whole fish - simply steamed/roasted in the imu with the pig or grilled over fire

poke - raw fish sliced and marinated with seaweed, salt, roasted kukui nuts (candlenuts)

chicken or squid luau - taro leaves stewed with coconut milk and chicken or octopus (octopus is sometimes referred to as squid in Hawai'i)

opihi - raw limpets

salted, dried fish of various kinds




more modern additions

lomilomi salmon - a "salad" of tomatoes, onions, and salted salmon which has been shredded.

chicken longrice - chicken stew with cellophane noodles

haupia - coconut pudding for dessert
~Tad

#13 skchai

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Posted 26 March 2004 - 11:06 PM

Thanks for that very comprehensive rundown of traditional luau foods, Tad.

By the way, I really like your "I loves the Pork" image. Where does Kalua Pig fit into your pantheon of great pork foods?

Sun-Ki Chai
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#14 FoodZealot

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Posted 29 March 2004 - 11:33 AM

Thanks, SK. Kalua pig is on the head, near guanciale, tocino and head cheese!

#15 PakePorkChop

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Posted 29 March 2004 - 09:44 PM

Although lomi salmon (massaged spiced salmon) uses imported salmon, the technique would seem to be native, as with lomi oio.

We cannot forget the older items, such as ia nahu pu, from which the more contemporary poke would seem to be derived, and the more exotic palu, and its South Pacific cousin, fafaru.

For a more descriptive narrative, visit:

http://www.hawaii.rr...fajatpphigh.htm

#16 FoodZealot

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Posted 31 March 2004 - 08:30 PM

Although lomi salmon (massaged spiced salmon) uses imported salmon, the technique would seem to be native, as with lomi oio.

Very interesting - would you know what would have been used instead of tomatoes and onions?

#17 PakePorkChop

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Posted 01 April 2004 - 01:40 PM

I don't know whether there was a standard traditional preparation for lomi oi'o. I have seen recipes that use inamona (ground roasted kukui nut kernel), limu kohu (a reddish-brown variety of seaweed used in Hawaiian cuisine), and dried opa'e (freshwater shrimp). As with ia nahu pu or poke, there may have been a sprinkling of pa'akai (sea salt). As other peoples came to Hawaii, I imagine that they added slices of round or green onion.

You can find lomi oi'o at the Kekaulike open market or better yet, Haili's Hawaiian Foods at the Ward Farmer's Market, along with the delicacies ake (raw beef liver) and palu (shall we say... aged fish parts?). Now that's sooome Native eating!

#18 NeroW

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Posted 01 April 2004 - 01:44 PM

Food Zealot (or others)--

Haupia. Would you have a recipe?
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#19 FoodZealot

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Posted 01 April 2004 - 04:52 PM

Food Zealot (or others)--

Haupia.  Would you have a recipe?

NeroW, I can't vouch for it because I haven't made this recipe for haupia, and I'm not a coconut lover either, but it looks about right to me. Hopefully someone else will offer one that they've tested personally.

If you happen to have real coconuts, I've heard of people making their own coconut milk (heating coconut flesh with water and straining) and it's a million times better, etc. etc., but it's not very common. I imagine it would make sense to reserve the liquid from the coconut to use instead of water to punch up the flavor.

#20 NeroW

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Posted 01 April 2004 - 05:13 PM

Thanks!

In my International Cuisine class for our final project (regional American cuisines), my group is doing Hawaiian food, so I was damn happy to see this thread.

I want it to be as authentic as possible (at least my component of it) and I drew the desserts and breads category.

Let the research begin!
Noise is music. All else is food.

#21 skchai

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Posted 02 April 2004 - 12:10 AM

To make an excellent Haupia, it's important to use very thick coconut milk, or what is referred to as "top milk" and "coconut cream". In Hawai`i, many people use "Mendonca's" brand, which is available frozen. If you can't get this and aren't willing to make coconut milk from scratch, the remaining alternative is to take unshaken cans of good canned milk (e.g. Chaokoh), open it, and carefully remove the creamy top layer, then thin to taste with small amounts of the watery bottom layer.

Arrowroot-thickened haupia is less stodgy than the cornstarch-thickened type.

If you're looking for more Hawaiian food recipes, you can do a google search for "luau recipes" and dozens of recipe sites will show near the top of the results. The gohawaii.about.com site seems to have a particularly long list, though I haven't looked closely at any of them. Most have at least some foods that some would not consider "authentic" Hawaiian food.

There are also a number of Hawai`i "local" recipe sites that cover both Hawaiian food as well as other ethnic foods that are popular in Hawai`i. Two the largest are Art Pollard's "Local Kine Recipes" and Alohaworld.com's "Ono Recipes".

Sun-Ki Chai
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