Nico and I spent an amazing three weeks in Hawaii. We camped around Kauai, Honolulu, and the Big Island. We went on crazy, grueling hikes to see amazing sights and swam the oceans and met an incredible breadth of sea creatures, it was so cool!
Most of the time, we cooked our own food since we were camping, but we had the opportunity to savor some of Hawaii’s national cuisine. I was most impressed by the fresh tropical fruit and plethora of ahi tuna available. I had poke and smoothies almost every day. Poke was cheaper and fresher than any tuna I could buy at a market or grocery store at home.
A lot of the other national foods were a bit too rich for a summer menu, so I decided to incorporate another culture I have been researching of late, Japan. There is a huge Japanese population in Hawaii and their national cuisine has long been infiltrating into the flavors of Hawaii. Udon and Hot Pots are readily available at beach-side restaurants, and Mochi Ice-Creams are sold all over the strip in Honolulu to cool the sun-burnt beach-goers.
Our dinner last week combined the beautiful traditions and produce of Hawaii with the quick and masterful techniques of Japanese cooking.
Find the links to all of our recipes as well as a game plan on how to reproduce our meal below!
I wanted the simplicity of a cold course for our first course of the evening. This was the perfect opportunity to try to recreate some of delicious poke that Nico and I sampled while we were in Hawaii. We made a beautifully smooth and creamy Spicy Ahi Tuna with Avocado Poke, and to complement it a savory and soy flavored Shoyu Ahi Tuna Poke. To complement our two tuna poke dishes, I also made a Miso Tako (Octopus) Poke and a Ginger Carrot Poke!
Poke is Hawaii’s answer to a ceviche, so obviously the most important ingredient is perfectly fresh, raw, sashimi-grade fish! I highly recommend buying the best that you can, and not buying it more than a day in advance, unless you are buying flash-frozen sashimi grade tuna. The second most important thing is an incredibly sharp blade. I have been obsessing over Japanese steel of late, so I use a Yoshihiro single edged yanagi sashimi knife. It glides through your fish like butter creating beautiful clean slices….basically it is magic, I highly recommend!
Since I was already on a roll with slicing sashimi grade tuna, I decided to add a Japanese dish that makes use of Sashimi grade fish, some simple and delicious Tamaki Hand Rolls!
- Spicy Ahi Tuna and Avocado Poke
- Shoyu Ahi Tuna Poke
- Miso Tako (Octopus) Poke
- Carrot Ginger Poke
- serve with some chips or bread crisps.
- Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls
- California Roll Hand Rolls with real crab
I wanted to create the epitome of both Japanese and Hawaiian communal meals for our main course. I wanted to bring back a bit of the spirit that first started our communal dinners – the idea of cooking together. There is this beautiful cooking vessel in Japan. It is called a Donabe. This gorgeous, handmade vessel has quite a utilitarian mission, it serves to cook hotpots for families and friends all over the country. Hot pots are either cooked in the kitchen, or more frequently, they are assembled table-side and cooked on a small butane stove.
I loved the idea that every guest gets to add to the soup and change and enrich the broth with their addition. That is a perfect metaphor for our dinners, coming together to share our stories and enrich each others lives.
We also incorporated a Kalua Pig, my version of the whole pig that is traditionally served at Hawaiian Luaus as well as some homemade Udon Noodles and delicious Pork Gyoza (which flew off the table in seconds!)
Serve all of these with some Furikake for some extra umame flavor. You can buy them in any Asian shop or make it at home by grinding some bonito flakes, seaweed, and dried chili peppers together, and adding some toasted sesame seeds
With dessert, I decided to combine the tropical fruit flavors of Hawaii with a traditional Japanese preparation of ice cream. I prepared four homemade ice cream flavors (Mango, Passion Fruit, Matcha, and Raspberry) and enveloped them in a chewy matcha dough!
I made so many, over 70 pieces, and they all disappeared within a half an hour. I call that a success.
The Game Plan
3-4 days before:
- Mochi Ice Cream (2 days)
2 days before:
- Kalua Pig (4-5 hours in oven)
- Sauces: Gyoza Sauce and Raya Oil from Pork Gyoza, Zaru Udon Sauce, Ponzu Dipping Sauce and Momiki Oroschi from Sugata Nabe Hot Pot (10-15 minutes each)
1 day before:
- Pokes (2 hours total)
- Dashi (10-20 minutes)
- Assemble Gyoza (2-3 hours)
- Udon Noodle Dough (roll out and cut tomorrow)
1 pm Roll, Cut, and Boil Udon Noodles. Chill until ready to serve.
2 pm Assemble Hot Pots, refrigerate until ready to serve
3 pm Slice Bread and Bake Toasts for Poke
4 pm Prepare sushi rice for Hand Rolls
6 pm Assemble Hand Rolls
Chop Seaweed for Noodles
7 pm Guests Arrive
Serve First Course
after guests start eating, cook hot pots and cook gyoza. Also reheat the Kalua pig and broth.