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eG Foodblog: SuzySushi - A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs


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Our next destination was the historic town of Haleiwa (pronounced hah-lay-EE-va).

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Established over a century ago by missionaries and later developed by a railroad magnate, Haleiwa retains a "Wild West" flavor, with wooden clapboard storefronts in the middle of nowhere. The town was revived during the "hippie days" of the 1960s as a haven for surfers, and it's still laid-back and funky, chockablock with a colorful hodgepodge of surf shops, art galleries, boutiques, and low-key eateries.

A surf shop in Haleiwa (yeah, the weather was getting overcast).

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We usually like to dine at Jameson's by the Sea, where we love the ocean view and "old Hawaii" atmosphere -- chintz-cushioned rattan furniture, potted palms, lazy ceiling fans, a garden fountain complete with tiki torches and cavorting dolphins.

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Off-topic, but I just have to show you this car that was in Jameson's parking lot!

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Back on-topic, Michael had a craving for chiles rellenos, and voted for Rosie's Cantina, a Mexican restaurant that's been around Haleiwa since 1981. The restaurant was packed, even at 2 p.m., and we lucked out getting a table.

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Rosie's Cantina, all decorated for Christmas

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Wendy and Nikki at Rosie's. Nikki came home with us for a sleepover after Caryn's party.

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To Michael's great disappointment, however, the chiles rellenos were sold out! We switched our order to pork-filled tacos de carnitas, which Michael (who grew up in Los Angeles) pronounced "too gringo." The platter was huge -- enough for the two of us.

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The girls had quesadillas, cheese for Nikki, chicken for Wendy.

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The girls had spotted a Malasadas stand in the parking lot, and clamored for those as dessert. Malassadas spelled with two s's) originated in the Portuguese Azores and were brought to Hawaii -- along with Portuguese sweet bread -- by the Portuguese immigrants who came here as plantation workers circa the 1880s. Like their cousins Dutch oliebollen, French beignets, German krapfen, Israeli sufganiyot, Mexican sopapillas, and Polish paczki, malassadas are doughnuts without holes. They're typically dusted with granulated sugar (though cinnamon-sugar variations are also available) and served hot from the fryer. If they cool off, they're leaden.

Several bakeries around Oahu specialize in malassadas, with Leonard's

on Kapahulu Avenue probably being the best known. Malassadas are also popular at outdoor fairs, particularly the Punahou Carnival that is held as a fundraiser by the Punahou private school every February, when several hundred thousand! are sold during the two-day event.

Recently, some malassada shops have also begun offering versions filled with haupia (coconut custard), chocolate pudding, or other custard fillings.

This malasada stand is run by a sweet Korean lady. She also sells kalbi plate lunches and bubble tea (country of origin: Taiwan). I think we can safely say that Hawaii is a melting pot! :laugh:

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Here's a close-up of a malasada (or malassada). It cost 75¢.

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SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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A must-stop in Haleiwa is a local landmark, Matsumoto Shave Ice.

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Shave ice was originally brought to Hawaii by Japanese plantation workers. Although shave ice looks like a mainland "snow cone," it's made with ice that is finely shaved by a small countertop machine rather than crushed.

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Almost every day summer and winter, a queue of tourists and locals snakes out the door.

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Matsumoto's serves about 1,200 portions daily and offers 29 flavors of homemade syrups.

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Their most popular flavor combination is the Rainbow, consisting of strawberry, pineapple, and lemon, chosen more for its lurid colors than flavor compatibility.

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My favorite combo is more exotic: lilikoi (passion fruit) and lychee. You can also get popular shave ice variations with ice cream or sweetened azuki beans at the bottom (the latter, a traditional Japanese way of serving this icy treat), or condensed milk poured over the top. A small cone with up to three flavors costs $1.50, a large $1.75 (more for add-ins or a flower-shaped plastic cupholder).

People sit on a bench or hang around outside the store to eat.

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Like many other old stores in Haleiwa, Matsumoto's began as a tiny grocery and dry goods shop serving plantation workers. When waves of surfers, hippies, and tourists began flooding into Haleiwa in the 1960s, the store switched to selling shave ice, T-shirts, and souvenirs.

T-shirt display in Matsumoto's store

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Matsumoto's is not the only shave ice game in town -- there's also Aoki's just down the road. That's where we usually get our shave ice because Aoki's lines are shorter and it's the only place on Oahu that offers a shave ice with a choice of sugar-free syrups. This photo of Wendy was taken there a couple of weeks ago -- she was in seventh heaven! Notice the sign in the window with the store hours.

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Across the road from Matsumoto's is the pretty, New England-style Queen Liliuokalani Protestant Church. Hawaii's last monarch, Queen Liliuokalani had a summer home in Haleiwa. She was also a songwriter, and composed the music and lyrics to Hawaii's plaintive farewell song, Aloha `Oe.

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In the park across from Jameson's, we spotted this guy with his custom-made Harley-Volkswagen, which he's taken on a road trip around all 50 states. (No, he didn't drive to Hawaii -- he had the motorcycle shipped by boat from Alaska, which took 17 days.) He has a sign out asking for "photo donations" to help defray the cost of his trip.

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A few weeks ago, there was an article about him in the local newspaper, but I can't find a link. :unsure: He's been sleeping in his car here because it's so rainy at night. No one likes packing up a wet tent. The girls got to pose on the motorcycle, too.

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When surf's up like it was on Thursday, the two-lane Kamehameha (Kam) Highway around the North Shore draws bumper-to-bumper traffic with both tourists and locals out to see the waves.

These waves are bigger than they look in the photo -- probably about 20 feet.

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We only made it a mile-and-a-half out of Haleiwa to Laniakea Beach.

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From everything we heard, the road was safe ahead of us, but by this time, it was getting close to 5 p.m. and the sun goes down by 6 in the winter. With traffic just inching forward, I knew we couldn't make the approximate 10 miles to the Turtle Bay Resort before sunset. :sad:

The resort has long been controversial because people who live around here consider it overdevelopment (and the resort plans to expand its facilities). A lot of cars and trees are plastered with stickers reading "keep the country country" or showing a "no turtle" logo.

But I've always had a soft spot for the Turtle Bay Resort because that's where Michael proposed to me 16 years ago. We also celebrated New Year's Eve there at the dawn of the New Millennium. For the holidays, the lobby is decked out with a huge Christmas tree composed of tiers and tiers of potted poinsettias.

Sigh. Another time.

We also missed seeing the waves at the North Shore's most famous beaches: Waimea Bay, with its high overlook and horseshoe-shaped sandy shoreline. Shark's Cove, notable for its underwater caves, which experienced divers can explore when the surf is low in the summer. The Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach, where professional surfing competitions are held. I read the next morning that the wave-viewing had been less than spectacular because northerly winds caused choppy seas.

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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However, I can post photos of some local foodie spots where we stopped a few weeks ago, when I was scouting locations for this blog.

Several coconut stalls dot the roadside between Haleiwa and Kahuku. Wendy wanted to stop at one for some "young coconut juice."

Their roadside sign

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And the stall itself. You can see some crafts, including "tapa cloth" (traditionally pounded from tree bark) to the left.

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Coconuts, a local avocado, and apple bananas. They grow all their produce in the field behind the stand.

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I think the folks at this stand are Samoan. This lady is real pro. Rotating the coconut in one hand, she expertly tapped the husk with a machete, like opening the shell of a soft-boiled egg!

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Stick in a straw, and it's ready to drink. Young coconut juice is the almost-clear liquid that's inside a green coconut. (Coconut milk is a different product, made from grated mature coconut flesh that's squeezed out with water.)

After we finished drinking the juice -- this coconut had enough for all three of us! -- the vendor cracked open the coconut and used a trowel-like tool to scoop out the "spoon meat." Young coconut flesh is very nutritious (it can be fed to babies) and has a mild flavor with the consistency of slippery Jell-O.

Coconut "spoon meat" -- or in this case, a fork

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In honor of eGullet, we made a pilgrimage to another North Shore landmark, Ted's Bakery, home of the award-winning Chocolate Haupia Cream Pie. Ted's products are sold in supermarkets around Oahu, but there's nothing like getting them freshly made from the source. The famous pie consists of a layer of chocolate custard made with coconut milk, topped with a layer of haupia (coconut pudding), and finally whipped cream topping.

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We settled for sharing one slice

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Wendy got the first bite

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We also scoped out the famous shrimp trucks in Kahuku. Kahuku used to be a sugar mill town. The sugar mill closed 35 years ago, but Kahuku has become an active shrimp aquaculture area.

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I don't especially like Kahuku shrimp. To me, they taste watery and flavorless compared with wild varieties (and even the aquacultured frozen shrimp I buy from Thailand). But this truck made for colorful photo.

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Edited by SuzySushi (log)

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Wow. Just, wow.

I'm struck by how much the church you showed looks like some of the Maori churches I saw in New Zealand.

Pineapple is one of my favourite fruits, and I always try to get some when I see it - the pineapples are the size of regular apples here, and are quite sweet. They usually cost about 30 cents for one. In the ESL book I use in class, they have pineapple grouped as a "luxury" food, which always puzzles my students. Needless to say, the book was not written in South East Asia. :biggrin:

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A gecko descending a bamboo tree. Bamboo grows prolifically in Hawaii, but as far as I know, the shoots are not harvested for food.

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I think young shoots are harvested and prized if they can be found. You might remember a couple of years back an elderly man died when he got lost in the Tantalus forest while "hunting" for these young shoots.

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Great stuff, Suzy!!!!

One offhand comment about rambutan:

It's true that the most common variety of rambutan has to turn red to be ripe, but there is a smaller variety grown in Malaysia that is green when ripe. I don't remember the specific name of that variety, but I've eaten it and it tastes very similar to the red rambutan, as I recall. I don't distinctly remember what the difference in taste is.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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This is an incredibly beautiful blog, Suzy.  We can't thank you enough!
Thanks, Ellen! You got me thinking about my own lack of holiday traditions growing up, and how it's so important to me to make my own. My parents were atheists, and we didn't celebrate any holidays except Thanksgiving. They also did very little entertaining. Consequently, the concepts of baking cookies to distribute to friends, having people over for big holiday dinners, etc. wasn't even on my radar screen until I was in high school and got invited to friends' homes.

I remember one Christmas dinner at a Black friend's house. The living room was elegantly decorated with a tall, shimmering aluminum tree. Her parents served roast pork and homemade eggnog laced with brandy -- yes, to a group of teenage girls.  :laugh:

Another time, I was invited to a Polish friend's house where I don't recall what we ate for dinner, but the kitchen table was laden with all the baked goods her mom had made.

When I was single and living in NYC, I began hosting Thanksgiving dinners for "waifs and strays" -- friends who had no family in the city, my ESL students (English-as-a-Second-Language, which I tutored as a volunteer). I usually got invited to other people's Christmas celebrations.

My husband's experience was entirely the opposite. His parents were big on semi-formal Christmas dinners, standing rib roast and everyone gathered around the piano singing Christmas carols.

So over the years, we've been forging our own family traditions.

This is a wonderful description of how you're making family traditions and food traditions, and well, making memories. ...So well put, I love it.

Tonight we're invited to a party at a friend's house. This afternoon, I'll prepare an apple crisp, spiced with candied ginger and sweetened with Splenda, for dessert.

Before the party, I wanted to tell you a little about the Hawaiian concept of family, called ohana. Ohana means "family" (as you may know if you saw the Disney movie Lilo & Stitch), but it's more than that. It means extended family, encompassing not only people who are actual relatives, but "calabash cousins" who are so close emotionally that they figuratively drank out of the same calabash (gourd bowl) as you did as children.

These friends we're seeing tonight -- along with Mike and Ginny's family, who will also be at tonight's party -- are our ohana, in the absence of any of us having other actual relatives living here. We three families get together for just about every major holiday celebration -- Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day -- for either a meal at one of our homes, or a beach or park picnic.

Another Hawaiian family concept is hanai, which means "adopted." In old Hawaii, there was a tradition of informal adoption, whereby children were given away to be loved and reared by someone other than their natural parents, often to their grandparents or a childless relative. In practice, hanai today is a verbal shortcut to define the warmth of any fostering relationship. For instance, one of Wendy's friends (who sadly has moved off-island) used to spend so much time at our house that she became our hanai daughter. (I'm an earth mother anyway!) Hanai can be used to refer to the foster parent, the child, or the process.

And ohana is my new favorite word.

To catch up and to finish up your blog Suzy, take all the time you need, as long as you are willing.

Many, many thanks!

Susan, thank you for your so kind comments. I've never considered myself a lyrical writer, so to hear that you consider my blog "beautiful," with "wonderful description" warms my heart. :wub:

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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I think young shoots are harvested and prized if they can be found.  You might remember a couple of years back an elderly man died when he got lost in the Tantalus forest while "hunting" for these young shoots.

:shock: I don't remember that at all! I must've missed the story. I know all about the opihi pickers who die each year, though. . .

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Great stuff, Suzy!!!!

One offhand comment about rambutan:

It's true that the most common variety of rambutan has to turn red to be ripe, but there is a smaller variety grown in Malaysia that is green when ripe. I don't remember the specific name of that variety, but I've eaten it and it tastes very similar to the red rambutan, as I recall. I don't distinctly remember what the difference in taste is.

Thanks, Pan!

Interesting about the green rambutan. I don't think we grow that variety here -- I've only seen the red ones for sale.

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Continuing with my day-by-day countdown, on Friday's agenda was another regular Mensa event, "Seismic Coffee," a kaffee klatch held on Friday afternoons at Coffee Talk, a café in Honolulu's Kaimuki neighborhood.

Driving there, we caught a rainbow over the highway. That’s not uncommon on Oahu -- Hawaii’s license plate even has a rainbow on it, as do our drivers’ licenses.

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Here's the café

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This event is child-friendly and dog-friendly!

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I don't know how the café got around Health Department regulations (sshhh!), but its enclosed lanai even has a dog door!

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Coffee Talk won The Honolulu Advertiser's annual "Critics' Choice" award for being the best café in the city. The guy with the moustache is one of the baristas.

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Artsy atmosphere. Great homemade-style desserts -- a different selection each time. But I don't like their coffee! Michael had coffee; I enjoyed a piece of chocolate-gingerbread bundt cake.

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An older neighborhood, Kaimuki has become a haven for interesting restaurants. Within a few short blocks are scores of restaurants and cafés. Hawaii Diner, a website by very knowledgeable eGullet member glossyp, lists 56 eateries in Kaimuki!! They range from trendy (Town and 3660 on the Rise), to laid-back (Big City Diner and 12th Avenue Grill); Chinese (Happy Days), Japanese (Maguro Ya), Vietnamese (Hale Vietnam and Green Papaya), Italian (C&C Pasta and Verbano), Mexican (José's Mexican Cantina), a French patisserie (JJ Bistro & French Pastry), a European-style konditorei (Café Laufer), a New York-style deli (A Taste of New York), and many more.

Side-by-side: Kim Chee Korean restaurant, Big City Diner, and Café Laufer.

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SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Oh, Suzi, !! What a bright beginning to a New Year!! We just got home from five days on the road, and this is just a perfect homecoming.

All the scenery and the places you go---what a lively, lovely life you lead. All the produce and exotic plants, plus living within the sound of the surf. That's the thing I really miss about living on the coast---we'd look at each other after supper, grab a towel and some water, and head for the beach, to just sit and watch and listen. We'd linger WAY into the early morning, with no companions save the waves and convivial crab life and the occasional bandana/safari shorts metal-detecting man, both scooping the night away, looking for treasure.

One thing that really struck a note---the calabash cousins. I consider a lot of my old friends from childhood to be "dipper kin" because of the back-porch buckets of cold clear well water brought from the flowing well in the center of town, even though everyone had a perfectly good faucet in the kitchen. We'd run up on the porch out of breath, scoop up that heavenly silvery cool water, pass the shiny dipper til every thirst was sated, and off we'd go, Mammaw's oldest towels safety pinned into Superman or Batman capes, or on some laughing pursuit known only to ourselves.

And it's lovely to see your whole family participating--taking the girls to your meeting was a nice note, with the warm atmosphere of the coffeehouse---beats folding chairs around a big table, stale coffee burbling in the 30-cup, everytime. I'm SO glad I got home before you had to sign off---it's been a fascinating read, and your photos are spectacular.

Thanks for the invitation to share your busy, interesting life.

Edited by racheld (log)
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After leaving the café, we headed to Ala Moana Center for some recreational shopping, and caught a quick dinner at one of the shopping center's two food courts. There's a large food court called Makai Market, with more than two dozen fast-food eateries on the ground-floor mall level, as well as a smaller food court with four fast-food outlets inside the Sears department store. That's in addition to some 40 other restaurants, cafés, and fast-food joints -- ranging from McDonald's and Subway to California Pizza Kitchen and Mortons Steakhouse -- scattered throughout the mall.

We chose to dine at the Sears food court because Wendy wanted to eat at Ba-Le, the Vietnamese sandwich shop chain whose bakery items put in an appearance Sunday at my neighborhood farmers' market.

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Ba-Le was founded by a Vietnamese immigrant who won a national Small Business Administration award a few years ago. Besides the chain of more than 25 sandwich shops (many of them franchised to other immigrants at low fees -- the founder feels he was blessed to have been able to succeed in America, and wants to give other newcomers the same opportunity), Ba-Le has a wholesale bakery business that provides French-style breads to many Hawaii restaurants and to airlines. The name, incidentally, is the Vietnamese pronunciation of Paris, as in "gay Par-ee."

Wendy loves their steamed pork banh mie sandwiches, and so do we. This one is filled with steamed pork.

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Nikki, meanwhile, was thrilled to get a chicken katsu (fried cutlet) bento from Osaka Okazuya, a Japanese fast-food counter in the same food court. She lived in Osaka until she was six years old and still misses some of the foods.

On the left of the bento is the fried chicken on a bed of shredded cabbage, topped with a slice of pink-and-white Japanese fishcake and a green plastic leaf. On the right are steamed rice sprinkled with nori, some salad, and at the extreme right, a slice of candied sweet potato.

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Another local institution with a branch in Sears' food court is Zippy's, a 40-year-old chain of diners. (Sorry the photo is blurry. . .)

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Virtually everyone who lives on Oahu has been to Zippy's at one time or another. They do local "plate lunch" kinds of foods at reasonable prices -- items like teriyaki chicken or beef, beef stew, fried mahi-mahi, mild curry -- all served with a side of "two scoop" rice or macaroni salad.

Local food is notorious for being heavy on the carbs and fat, but to its credit, Zippy's also features a rotating menu of "Shintani Cuisine" -- low-fat, low cholesterol, whole grain and veggie-packed recipes developed by nutritionist Dr. Terry Shintani, author of The Good Carbohydrate Revolution and creator of the Waianae Diet, HawaiiDiet, and the Eat More, Weigh Less Diet.

A few days ago, Mizducky asked me to show some really local foods, such as saimin (the Hawaiian version of ramen soup, typically garnished with strips of Spam and/or slices of red-and-white fishcake) and loco moco (a hamburger topped with a fried egg, then doused with brown gravy). I haven't gotten a shot of loco moco yet, but here's the saimin, from Zippy's menu board.

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What Zippy's is most famous for is its Original Recipe Chili (made mild). Zippy’s sells over 110 tons of chili each month through its restaurants, fundraising activities, and the freezer cases of local supermarkets. You can buy Zippy's chili by the bucket for parties, and it's even available by mail order for homesick Hawaiians on the mainland!

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Saimin is so popular in Hawaii that most branches of McDonald's offer it -- along with chopsticks. :laugh: McDonald's menus here also offer popular local-style breakfasts featuring Portuguese sausage, eggs, and steamed white rice.

Zippy's also has a baked goods division called Napoleon's Bakery, which is locally renowned for its cakes, pastries, and pies -- from guava cakes and dobash tortes (dark chocolate chiffon cakes with pudding-like dark chocolate frosting) to banana cream pies, eclairs, and their signature Napples apple turnovers.

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SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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We stopped by Shirokiya, an upscale Japanese department store after dinner, to check out their food department and buy yet more New Year's treats. (Can you tell we feel an affinity to Japanese cuisine?)

A New Year's display of wagashi, Japanese confectionery/cakes. The tiny cakes are arranged in pairs on sheets of white paper in the foreground.

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This tray contains cakes that are shaped and realistically painted to look like traditional New Year’s delicacies like head-on shrimp and grilled red snapper (the flowers are plastic, however). Well, if they can make marzipan pigs in Germany and Austria. . .

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The osechi ryori items I bought were:

Kuromame, large black soybeans glazed with syrup. Kuromame sounds simple but it's as hard to prepare as it is to photograph -- each bean must remain plump with its skin unbroken. Eating kuromame as part of the New Year's osechi portends good health for the New Year because the name is a pun on the phrase mame de kurasu, "to live in good health."

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Kamaboko, a red-and-white semi-cylindrical surimi fishcake whose colors are auspicious.

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Konbumaki, kelp scrolls tied with kanpyo (edible gourd). These need to be cooked before serving. They are meant for happiness.

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We also bought a couple of manju -- small baked Japanese cakes -- that we devoured immediately. At the left is a matcha manju, flavored with green tea. The entire cake measured 1-1/2" in diameter and we split it four ways! At the right is a slice of yokan maki, rolled genoise cake filled with slabs of red and green-colored sweetened bean pastes.

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Downstairs on the mall level, this, my friends, is a "crack seed store," a local Hawaii institution with distinct Chinese roots.

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It specializes in selling sweet-and-salty dried fruits, especially li hing mui (dried plums that are sweet & salty with a hint of licorice flavor all at the same time) and other li hing varieties (apricots, ginger, etc.); candied ginger; local-style pickled mango; and salty snacks such as rice crackers and dried squid floss.

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Almost everything is sold in bulk from large apothecary jars. The front row jars are filled with various types of Japanese rice crackers (arare). In the back row are delicacies like dried squid.

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The Crack Seed Center in Ala Moana Center also has a website where homesick out-of-state Hawaiians, tourists, and you can order their products by mail. You can read more about the fascinating history of crack seed and li hing here.

I bought a packet of delicious local-style sweet-sour-salty-and-spicy pickled mango. It's made from deliberately unripe mangoes, preserved in a base of vinegar, sugar, salt, and a touch of five-spice powder (and augmented with red dye).

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Here's Saint-Germain, a Japanese-owned French bakery chain.

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They make the best baguettes in Hawaii, which they bake on the premises upstairs in Shirokiya several times daily. They also offer Japanese-style white bread loaves (denser and more flavorful than Wonder bread); specialty breads such as pain d’epi and walnut bread; feather-light chiffon cakes; cookies and palmiers; flaky croissants and Danish pastries; and a large selection of anpan (Japanese pastries), from melon pan to curry buns.

After we got home, our next-door neighbors' daughter came over to join the sleepover -- or as my sister dubbed it, "wakeover." :laugh::laugh::laugh: The three girls were up till 3 a.m. :shock: pillow-fighting and generally having a roaring good time. (That "Pipe down!" you heard clear to Timbuktu was Michael's.)

Edited by SuzySushi (log)

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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SATURDAY AND IT'S PARTY TIME!

In honor of eGullet, I decided to show you a typical Hawaiian backyard BBQ-luau-pool party.

The Hawaiian word lu`au has two meanings. The first is a yummy dish of tender spinach-like taro leaves that are braised in creamy coconut milk (and often mixed with tidbits of chicken or octopus). Because that was a favorite dish at festivities, its name came to describe a feast, which today is the word's more familiar meaning. (The ancient Hawaiian word for a large banquet was `aha`aina.)

Many tourists to Hawaii get to see the large-scale commercial luaus mounted at venues such as the Polynesian Cultural Center, Germaine's Luau, or Paradise Cove (click the "sneak peak" box for a video clip), with staged shows of Hawaiian and Polynesian dances, fire-throwers, and even a hukilau (ceremonial pulling in of fishnets).

Here are two good articles on the history of the luau:

http://www.germainesluau.com/luau.htm

http://www.hawaii-luaus.com/history.htm

But the word "luau" is also used to denote a casual family party, often held in someone's backyard. These kind of luaus are a traditional way to celebrate a baby's first birthday, a graduation, a wedding, an anniversary . . . or any other excuse for a party. The music comes via a boombox or friends with guitars or ukuleles, and any hulas tend to be impromptu.

Family luaus are always potlucks, and the banquet table becomes a groaning board of delights. We invited a whole bunch of friends. A few couldn't make it because they were working or off-island, and one family confused the date and thought the party was New Year's Eve. :blink:

In all, we had 21 people.

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Since moving here, we've done most of our entertaining poolside rather than indoors. The condo complex's pool, hot tub, and barbecue area is just steps away from our front door. The kids can swim while the adults gab at the tables, the preparation and clean-up is easy, and I don't need to clean the house beforehand! :wink:

Here's the view from our doorstep. The recreation center's roof is steeply pitched like those of ancient Polynesian longhouses.

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The girls said the pool was too cold. . .

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. . .so they spent most of their time in the hot tub.

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Even Tuffy joined us. I told you he's a real party animal! :raz:

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Whether commercial or family-style, some of the most popular luau dishes are traditional Hawaiian foods.

Kalua pig is shredded smoked pork, historically roasted in an imu (underground oven). Sometimes people build imus in their backyards. This website shows how to build a traditional imu. We once went to a luau where the hosts prepared turkeys in an imu.

Personally, I buy my kalua pig at Costco!

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Here it is on the table. Note the chic Rubbermaid plastic container. You can't get a sense of scale from this photo, but the container measures 10" (25 cm) in diameter. At almost every local luau I've been to, food is served on plain white paper plates from plastic containers or disposable foil pans. No fancy faux "tropical theme" tableware here!

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Poi, Hawaii's infamous starchy lavender gruel, is made from pounded cooked taro roots (botanically, they're actually corms). Every supermarket here carries it already prepared.

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Some people say poi tastes like wallpaper paste. Never having tasted wallpaper paste, I can't vouch for that! It's very bland, unless it's "day-old" (or older) poi that has begun to ferment; then it's both bland and sour. Many people also like to spice up their poi with a dousing of "chili pepper water," a local condiment made from wild chilis blended with water and bottled.

The trick to poi is, think of it like mashed potatoes. It's rarely eaten by itself, but rather to accompany other foods. Its blandness and cool, velvety texture wonderfully complements a biteful of salty, steaming hot kalua pig.

Kids sometimes eat poi like cooked cereal, sprinkled with sugar and milk. Poi is also used as an ingredient in baked goods like sweet rolls, sweet bread, muffins, and waffles, where it gives the products a lovely purplish cast.

When I was a girl and Hawaii was approaching statehood, I read about "one finger," "two finger," and "three finger" poi, the numbers denoting the consistency by how many fingers are required to scoop the poi from bowl to mouth. I've never seen anyone eat poi with their fingers, though, except for Wendy when she was a toddler!

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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More food and fun.

A lasagna-pan-sized tray of rice, with a nod to Hawaii's Asian heritage. Two of the teenagers thought it hilarious that I was photographing plain white rice for the blog. "Haven't people on the mainland ever seen rice before?" one asked. "Sure," I responded, "but probably not in this kind of quantity!"

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Sometimes people at pool parties here even bring along an electric rice cooker (I don't have one) and set it up on the kitchen counter.

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I was a bit disappointed that none of our guests brought poke or lomi salmon. As mentioned earlier in this blog, poke (pronounced POH-key) is a kind of salad usually made from raw seafood -- but sometimes cooked seafood or even tofu -- cut in cubes and mixed with seasonings such as scallions, chopped limu (a branchy, crunchy seaweed), crushed kukui nuts, soy sauce, sesame oil, chilis, or other condiments.

Lomi (or lomi-lomi) salmon is made from diced salted salmon tossed with diced tomatoes and scallions and/or Maui onions. The name comes from the Hawaiian word for massage because the ingredients are traditionally mixed by hand.

Another authentic Hawaiian dish that no one brought to the party is laulau -- packets of layered taro leaves filled with pork or chicken, and sometimes a piece of salted butterfish, all enwrapped in ti leaves or banana leaves (which are not edible) and steamed.

Our guests did bring teriyaki chicken wings, Filipino pancit (stir-fried noodles), "Chinese chicken salad," and German potato salad.

The teriyaki chicken wings. This angelic face hides a real kolohe (rascal)! During the party, David came over to ask, "Can Tuffy swim?" :hmmm: Thinking two steps ahead, I immediately responded, "I don't know, and we're not going to find out!" :raz:

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Ginny with her tray of pancit. I wish I were as photogenic as she is!

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The Chinese chicken salad -- a potluck standby, it's made with shredded cabbage, chicken, crumbled dry ramen, and sliced almonds.

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The German potato salad

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My first plate. :biggrin: At the top is the rice; at the bottom the poi (it was very thick -- I should have brought a larger bowl and thinned it with water for serving). To the left are the kalua pig and a chicken wing; in the center is Chinese chicken salad.

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Since this was a barbecue, we also served hamburgers with all the fixin's. Here's our friend Cheryl woman-ing the grill. That started out as the men's assignment, but they got so caught up talking that the burgers began to smoke and they didn't even notice! :blink:

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Cheryl also brought a homemade coconut cake, which her 10-year-old daughter frosted.

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Our next-door neighbors brought store-bought marble cake and a tray of miniature cupcakes decorated for Christmas with red-and-green decors.

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My haupia (coconut pudding), to the left in the photo, turned out to be a disaster -- it hadn't had enough time to set in the refrigerator, so was the consistency of a lumpy custard (anyone remember Junket? :blink: ) instead of a firm block that could be cut into neat Jell-O -like cubes. Oh, well. We ate some as a sauce for the cake.

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Fresh pineapple and clementines. I'd wanted to make a tropical fruit platter, but the papayas in the market weren't ripe enough, and mangoes are out-of-season in Hawaii now.

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Cans of ice-cold soda and guava juice, straight from the cooler. Guests brought a cooler of sparkling cider, beer, and a bottle of wine that didn't even get opened.

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Everyone brings enough food for at least 10 people, and takes home the leftovers -- usually different foods than the ones they brought! For instance, I ended up with the chicken wings, Caryn’s potato salad, and a lone leftover portion of pancit, while Cheryl took home a dozen extra hamburger buns and the marble cake. :laugh:

Our party, which began at 3 p.m. (our condo has two time slots available for party reservations -- 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.), didn't break up till after 8 p.m. Michael sat out there even longer, gabbing with our next-door neighbors. I guess that means everyone had fun. :cool:

The happy hosts

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For dinner, I polished off the pancit, and Wendy had a leftover burger before disappearing next door for yet another sleepover. Wish I had their energy level! Our social life normally isn't half as busy as it has been this past week – and to tell the truth, I can't keep up with this joyful chaos for much longer! :laugh::laugh:

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Although nakji has already begun her wonderful foodblog from Vietnam, mine will overlap by a day or two since it was prearranged that I show you how my family celebrates New Year's in Hawaii.

Sunday is our family day. We met Daniel (who was working) for dim sum brunch. Here's a quick glimpse of the Chinese Cultural Plaza in Chinatown.

The centerstage and moon gate

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A shrine to Kwan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, where people go to pray and light incense

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These elderly men often hang out "jamming" classical Chinese music. They are not asking for donations and would probably be insulted if someone tried to give them one.

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However, we didn't eat in Chinatown, but at another of our favorite dim sum restaurants, Panda Cuisine, located on Keeaumoku Street in the heart of Honolulu near Ala Moana Center.

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The atmosphere is quieter and more elegant than the restaurants in Chinatown, with rosewood chairs, soft lighting, and white tablecloths.

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Here's Panda Cuisine's charismatic owner, Daniel Leung. The walls in the waiting area showcase autographed photos of many celebrities who have dined there.

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Panda features an extensive Hong Kong style selection of dim sum, with a menu of more than 60 items. BTW, although it's been fun doing this blog, my family's getting a little tired of me admonishing everyone not to dig in until I get a good shot of each dish. :raz:

Wendy's favorite, har gau, translucent wheat starch wrappers filled with shrimp and bamboo shoots

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The waitress suggested we try this new creation: bacon-wrapped shrimp and scallops, served with a mayonnaise-based dip

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Another new addition to the menu, miniature pork-filled Shanghai dumplings, made with a soft wheat flour wrapper. These were really delicious.

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Crispy taro "footballs." Michael loves these. The interior is the texture of mashed potatoes, with bits of pork in the center.

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Steamed char shu bau, soft bread dough buns filled with roast pork. Wendy and Daniel love these.

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Glutinous rice steamed in lotus leaf (the leaf is not edible, but it adds an indefinable fragrance to the rice), studded with bits of pork and black mushrooms. One of my favorites.

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Steamed beef balls, redolent of herbs, served on a bed of bean curd skin

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Succulent chicken feet, braised in black bean sauce, a touch of oyster sauce, and fresh chilis. Panda makes the best on the island, IMO, and it's reportedly one of the top items on their menu among their Chinese clientele. Yeah, we're the weird haoles (Caucasians) who eat chicken feet, except for Daniel, who's a reformed. . . er. . . former vegetarian and still won't eat anything that looks like a part of the animal it came from.

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Silky mango pudding, made with chunks of real mango. It's usually served doused with evaporated milk, but Wendy and I prefer ours plain.

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Don tart, miniature egg-yolk-rich custard tarts in flaky puff pastry shells

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Daniel had stopped at Saint-Germain bakery on the way over, and after lunch, he and Wendy briefly played "dueling baguettes" in Panda’s lobby. She's wearing another of her Chinese dresses.

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SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Neither Michael nor I have ever been big on going out on New Year's Eve. We're fine with a quiet evening at home, watching TV and drinking a little Champagne.

However, we always end the year Japanese-style by eating toshikoshi soba ("year-crossing noodles"), buckwheat noodles dipped in a soy-based sauce, as our last meal of the old year. The noodles should be long and unbroken to portend a long life.

Here's our soba with a cup of dipping sauce. We used cha-soba -- buckwheat noodles delicately flavored and tinted with green tea. Because the weather is warm all year round in Hawaii, we like to serve it chilled as zarusoba -- a summer dish in Japan -- topped with shreds of nori (laver seaweed). Each person gets an individual zaru (bamboo tray). The dipping sauce is made from soy sauce, sugar, dashi (bonito- and kelp-based broth), and mirin (syrupy rice wine); we add wasabi and minced scallions to individual taste. The sauce is usually served in black lacquer cups, but I don't have any, so I use my chawanmushi cups -- lidded china cups meant for steaming a savory egg-based custard soup by the same name. I don't have lacquer trays to go under the zaru, either, so these are resting on dinner plates.

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10. . . 9. . . 8. . . 7. . . 6. . . 5. . . 4. . . 3. . . 2. . . 1. . . Happy New Year!!!

Welcome to 2007!

Edited by SuzySushi (log)

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Woo-hoo!!! Back to blogging in real time!

Most Japanese-Americans in Hawaii begin the New Year by eating bowls of ozoni, a soup in which float pieces of mochi (glutinous rice cakes) and fresh mizuna (a leafy green related to mustard greens, but with a considerably milder flavor). Ozoni is not traditional in our family. I like mizuna as a salad green, though.

Another typical Japanese New Year's food popular in Hawaii is oshiruko, a thick dessert soup made of sweetened azuki beans, served warm. It usually has a few cubes of mochi floating on the top, much like marshmallows on a cup of hot cocoa. I find it soothing comfort food. My husband doesn't like oshiruko, which is just as well since it has way too much sugar for him to indulge in freely.

Our breakfast is French baguettes and cheese, and for dinner we're going to sample the osechi ryori we bought at Marukai and Shirokiya a few days ago. I'm also going to prepare several other traditional Japanese New Year's specialties.

Edited by SuzySushi (log)

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Happy New Year, Suzy!

A few days ago, Mizducky asked me to show some really local foods, such as saimin (the Hawaiian version of ramen soup, typically garnished with strips of Spam and/or slices of red-and-white fishcake) and loco moco (a hamburger topped with a fried egg, then doused with brown gravy). I haven't gotten a shot of loco moco yet, but here's the saimin, from Zippy's menu board.

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Thank you for remembering! And also for clarifying how saimin relates to ramen--I had sort of wondered about that from time to time...

Downstairs on the mall level, this, my friends, is a "crack seed store," a local Hawaii institution with distinct Chinese roots.

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It specializes in selling sweet-and-salty dried fruits, especially li hing mui (dried plums that are sweet & salty with a hint of licorice flavor all at the same time) and other li hing varieties (apricots, ginger, etc.); candied ginger; local-style pickled mango; and salty snacks such as rice crackers and dried squid floss.

I'm glad you explained about the crack seed store--every time you used that phrase, my brain persisted in trying to read it as "crack house." :laugh: Though I suspect that people could well develop a crack-like addiction to those dried fruit/snack concoctions.

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Happy New Year, Suzy!
Downstairs on the mall level, this, my friends, is a "crack seed store," a local Hawaii institution with distinct Chinese roots.

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It specializes in selling sweet-and-salty dried fruits, especially li hing mui (dried plums that are sweet & salty with a hint of licorice flavor all at the same time) and other li hing varieties (apricots, ginger, etc.); candied ginger; local-style pickled mango; and salty snacks such as rice crackers and dried squid floss.

I'm glad you explained about the crack seed store--every time you used that phrase, my brain persisted in trying to read it as "crack house." :laugh: Though I suspect that people could well develop a crack-like addiction to those dried fruit/snack concoctions.

Thanks, Ellen! Same to you!

Yes, crack seed is addictive, but the name came from the practice of slicing or cracking right through the seeds or pits of fruits like mango, and pickling the whole shebang, pits and all. I guess some people like to gnaw at them. :biggrin:

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Thanks for a wonderful blog - I've been marveling at the sheer variety of food stuff you have available! And I'd love to eat at so many of the restaurants you've shown us should I ever get to visit!

Marcia.

Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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And now for the finale. . . This is our New Year's osechi.

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I ended up cooking only one dish from scratch -- kimpira gobo, a side dish made from shredded gobo (burdock root) and carrots sauteed in soy sauce and sugar. As I mentioned earlier in this blog, the gobo is cut by hand, like whittling like a pencil. I was going to cook datemaki, a sweet omelet, but no one was that keen on it.

Despite all the delicacies I picked up in the market, when it came to filling the jubako, they only took up two tiers, and that's after adding some non-traditional foods I had in the house, like the rest of the leftover teriyaki chicken wings and a sliced avocado. I wish I had thought to buy snowpeas as a symbolic substitute for the shape of green bamboo leaves in the Japanese sho-chiku-bai (pine - bamboo - plum blossoms, symbols of the winter season).

The jubako was harder to arrange than I imagined, because the ingredients are supposed to be packed tightly together and they kept falling over! It's customary to arrange the tiers in a specific order, meant to be eaten from the top down, from appetizers to main courses and vegetables.

My top tier combines appetizers and grilled dishes:

Clockwise from the top left, kuromame (sweetened black soybeans), kombumaki (kelp scrolls tied with edible gourd cords), golden grape tomatoes, teriyaki chicken wings, kamaboko (fish cake), and grilled shrimp on skewers.

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The bottom tier contains vegetables:

Again, clockwise from the top left, seasoned lotus root, sliced avocado, more kelp -- this time with bamboo shoots (this was surprisingly sweet), and the kimpira gobo -- decorated with carrots cut with a tiny vegetable cutter to resemble plum blossoms.

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Would I do it again? Probably not! It's a lot of work -- even when most of the dishes were bought ready-made -- and the flavors are too similar (either soy-salty, sweet and salty, or fishy-salty). But I'm glad I did it once, and we'll nibble off it for several days.

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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This pretty much wraps up my week of blogging. I'll be around to answer questions as long as the eGullet staff keeps the blog open.

A few odds and ends. . .

* * *

Every mainstream supermarket here has an aisleful of "Oriental Foods" (no political correctness here!) with Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino -- and to a lesser extent, Thai and Vietnamese -- items represented, along with a big display of 20- and 25-pound sacks of rice.

Supermarket produce departments regularly stock Asian vegetables and fruits -- like bok choy, choy sum, daikon, Japanese eggplants, Thai basil, Korean pears, and fuyu persimmons -- alongside a refrigerator case for tofu, kimchi, Japanese pickles, and fresh Asian noodles and wrappers.

Meat and poultry are packaged in popular Asian-American cuts: beef sliced for sukiyaki, shabu-shabu, and teppan-yaki; chicken hekka (diced small for stir-fries) or already on skewers for yakitori.

In the fish department, blocks and prewrapped sliced ahi (yellowfin tuna) for sashimi rest side-by-side packages of whole fish whose heads are all arranged facing the same direction. Even shrimp are packaged so the body of each nestles the same way as the other.

* * *

In case you're wondering, I've never actually lived in Japan, but I've spent five or six weeks at a time visiting, residing in friends' homes (and writing enough freelance articles to pay for my trips). I learned to cook Japanese food side-by-side with friends in their kitchens in Japan and in the USA. And yes, I do love sushi! :wink:

* * *

If you'd like to see more of my photos of Hawaii, my album of Scenic Oahu photos was featured on Webshots last month (November 25). That came as a complete surprise -- the pictures had been up there quietly for over 2 years.

Thank you all for reading! It's been a delight to share our home and our holidays with you. Wishing you all health, happiness, peace, and prosperity in the New Year!

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Thank you, Suzy! I've enjoyed my virtual visit to Honolulu and tour of your favorite foods.

And Happy New Year!

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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