hawaii

Pulehu is a Hawaiian cooking method, which translates to “roast over hot embers”. This method was traditionally used for items like breadfruit, but today it’s most associated with steak, typically seasoned simply with ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, and a bit of sugar.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read my short history on beef in Hawaii, at the start of my recent Pipikaula recipe post. If you’ve already read it, cool, let’s pulehu some steaks.

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Pipikaula, like many dishes in Hawaii, is the result of several cultures colliding. First, let’s talk about how beef became part of the Hawaiian diet, since cows are not native to the islands. In 1793, famous British Navy explorer George Vancouver gifted King Kamehameha I (the chief who first united the Hawaiian islands) a bull and five cows; the king placed a kapu (Hawaiian taboo) on the hunting of these cattle and their descendants that lasted through 1830; by 1845 there were an estimated 25,000 feral cattle on the big island of Hawaii.

John Palmer Parker, an American who allegedly first arrived in Hawaii in 1809 by jumping off of a ship (there’s probably a good story there), quickly gained the favor of King Kamehameha I upon his infamous arrival. In 1815, after a bit of travel, he returned to Hawaii with a state-of-the-art American musket; the king gave him the honor of hunting the first cattle in Hawaii. Over the next 20 years, he helped to thin the number of feral cattle on the island, and was gifted some land as compensation. Parker founded Parker Ranch in 1847, one of the oldest and largest ranches in the United States, with 250,000 acres that remain today.

To help manage livestock, Parker brought in cowboys (Vaqueros) from present-day California (Mexico at the time); these cowboys were called Paniolo (a Hawaiian pronunciation of the word “Español“), and the name sticks today. The Paniolos would dry strips of beef in the sun, to chew on while driving cattle; this food was eventually named Pipikaula (literally “beef rope”). To flavor the beef, they would use soy sauce, as it was locally available thanks to Chinese and Japanese immigrants.

So that’s how Pipikaula came to be, through a joining of Hawaiian, British, American, Mexican, Chinese, and Japanese cultures. Today, Pipikaula is served in Hawaiian restaurants and sometimes at luaus. It is commonly dried in wire boxes in the sun, or by hanging it to dry, then broiled or pan-fried before serving. The recipe that I’m sharing today is modeled after my wife’s favorite Hawaiian restaurant, Helena’s Hawaiian Food, on N. King Street in Honolulu. For efficiency’s sake, we’ll dry the beef in an oven and pan-fry it to a crisp.

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I’m really starting to find beauty in simple meals. Like I mentioned a few weeks ago when sharing my recipe for three-ingredient Spaghetti Squash Bolognese Boats, I’ve had less time in the kitchen than usual (new babies will do that). It’s always tempting to reach for a takeout menu, but I’ve been determined to simply find quicker solutions for dinners. For example, I’ve been making a lot of pressure-cooker risotto, since it reheats well for lunches throughout the week.

This week’s recipe is similar in its approach – it contains just a few ingredients, and comes together in minutes. It’s a popular preparation in Hawaii, found on many restaurant menus. But to be honest, once I figured out how easy it is to prepare at home, I’ve had a hard time shelling out money to let someone else make it for me.

Furikake is a Japanese rice seasoning typically made with dried fish, sesame seeds, and seaweed. It was initially distributed in the early 1900s under the name Gohan No Tomo (“A friend for rice”) as a possible source of calcium (early recipes used ground fish bones). At first, the seasoning was too pricey for everyday eaters, but by 1948 it was commercially produced by Nissin foods (most famous for their Top Ramen), to help combat malnutrition in the Japanese population.

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My parents-in-law recently visited from Hawaii over the holidays, to help around the house as we adjusted to having a new baby in our family. It was great spending the holidays with them, but it also made me realize how much I miss living in Hawaii. I lived there from ages 21 to 28, and many of the events that shaped who I am today – from meeting and marrying my wife, to honing my skills as a home chef, to suffering the worst of my health adventures – came while living in view of the Honolulu skyline. For a few of those years, Janey and I lived with her parents, whom we affectionately called our “roommates”.

When we left the island in 2008, it genuinely felt like I was leaving home; time has caused that sentiment to wane a bit, but in the end, Hawaii has a special place in my heart. And within that special place in my heart there is another, perhaps specialer place in my heart, which is where Hawaii’s Chinese-style oxtail soup resides.

The title for Hawaii’s best oxtail soup is hotly contested. I’ve heard everything from Kapiolani Coffee Shop to Aiea Bowl. Somewhat surprisingly, restaurants attached to bowling alleys are generally known for having good oxtail soup – even the famous Kapiolani Coffee Shop oxtail soup got its start at Kam Bowl, which closed in 2007 but re-opened just last month.

I like to think that preparing an authentic dish from Hawaii makes the sting of not living there hurt a little less, and you really can’t go wrong with a Chinese-inspired creation that’s equal parts rich and comforting. So we’re going to recreate it today for those of us who can’t just drive to our local bowling alley to buy a bowl of soup. Included below are stovetop and electric pressure cooker variations of the recipe, whatever floats your boat.

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Having used up my vacation days writing a book earlier this year, I wasn’t able to join my wife and son during their summer trip to visit family in Hawaii. While there, they lovingly (teasingly?) texted me photos of all the delicious meals they were enjoying. So for my own little slice of revenge, I developed this recipe for one of Hawaii’s best-known dishes, Huli-Huli Chicken, while they were gone.

“Huli-Huli” translates to “turn, turn” in the Hawaiian language, but this chicken is not a traditional Hawaiian dish. In the 1950s, the head of a Hawaii chicken breeders association, Ernest Morgado, broiled up some teriyaki chicken for a farmers’ meeting. The chicken was a hit, and so he started selling the cooked chickens for local fundraisers. The name “Huli-Huli” comes from the fact that the chickens are cooked between two grills, and are turned as each side finishes cooking. Today, Huli-Huli Chicken is still a staple fundraising tool in Hawaii. Morgado, who passed away in 2002, holds the Guinness world record for the single largest chicken barbecue, cooking 46,386 chicken halves at a school fundraiser in 1981.

Morgado trademarked the name “Huli-Huli” in 1958 and the sauce is still sold today. For a bit of excitement, I decided to make my recipe using wings, to fully capture the sticky-sweet fun of eating this dish. My take on the sauce uses pineapple juice, honey, and apple cider vinegar to lend the chicken its sweet flavor (as opposed to gobs of brown sugar), and a bit of red palm oil will give the dish its signature red color (usually achieved with ketchup).

By the way, Ernest Morgado and I share more than just a love for chicken: he served as a Navy Chief Petty Officer during WWII (I’ve been serving in the Navy since 2000, and was recently promoted to the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer).

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Poke is a raw fish salad from Hawaii, most famously made with yellowfin tuna (“Ahi”). The word “Pokē” itself is a Hawaiian verb that means to slice or cut. It’s not unlike other raw fish dishes worldwide (fish tartare, carpaccio, and sashimi, for example), but it holds a special place in my heart, having lived in Hawaii for most of my 20s.

Originally made with sea salt and seaweed, foreign ingredients like soy sauce, ginger, onion, and tomato were added later when other cultures brought their cuisines (and ingredients) to the islands. Poke as we know it today – with a base of fish cubes, soy sauce, onion, and salt – became popular in the 1970s when it started to appear in local cookbooks, and has been growing in popularity ever since.

For those of you who haven’t picked up Paleo Takeout yet, or are thinking of gifting it, now’s the perfect time to grab it – the book is currently down to $18.13 on Amazon right now, which is 48% off its $35 cover price! Amazon is having some trouble keeping the book in stock, so if you want it even sooner, both Costco and BJs superstores are carrying the book at a deep discount, too (less than $22 each). For my international readers, keep in mind that Book Depository ships worldwide for free, and their current price isn’t bad either ($26.56)!

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Having spent most of my 20s in Hawaii, we regularly made trips to Giovanni’s shrimp truck in Kahuku to enjoy their signature dish: garlic shrimp. The shrimp is pan-fried in an aromatic scampi sauce, and served with a cubic ton of garlic. I have regularly tackled this dish since moving to the mainland in 2008, but it wasn’t until this past year that I really figured out how to recreate the dish at home.

My process includes marinating and par-cooking the shrimp in butter, then reducing the marinating liquid and garlic until it’s crispy, and finally returning the shrimp to the pan to finish everything off. I have made a couple adjustments over the years that ended up making a big difference in the final product. In order to prevent the butter from burning, I used clarified butter (or ghee) which has a higher smoke point than butter (previously I used olive oil, which I don’t like using at high temperatures). Also, by using tail-on (or even shelled) shrimp, the marinating liquid better penetrates the shrimp, making for a more flavorful (and less messy) experience.

For clarification (no pun intended), there is a difference between clarified butter and ghee, although the two are often confused. Clarified butter is butter with its milk solids removed, generally scraped from the surface of the butter as it gently simmers. Ghee, on the other hand, is made when the milk solids are allowed to fall to the bottom of the butter and brown as the butter simmers. Ghee has a more toasted flavor than the more neutral clarified butter.

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Today’s recipe is unique in that it’s basically a combination of two traditional dishes: Chicken Long Rice (Hawaiian) and Japchae (잡채, Korean). They’re both very similar, and in making either dish Paleo-friendly, they both just kinda mixed into this one dish you see above. Although it doesn’t have an official name, don’t worry: it tastes great!

Chicken Long Rice is a Hawaiian luau food that consists of chicken broth, mung bean starch noodles, chicken, and green onions. It was brought to the islands by Chinese immigrant workers in the 19th century, and is now integrated into Hawaiian cuisine.

Japchae is a Korean dish that is traced back to the 17th century, which traditionally was made with vegetables and mushrooms (Japchae literally means “a mixture of vegetables”), and sometimes with beef. Since the 20th century, sweet potato noodles (dangmyeon, 당면) have been a major part of the dish.

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NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

Poi is a Polynesian staple food, typically made with mashed taro root. However, it’s a little-known fact that the Hawaiian people also made poi from sweet potato and breadfruit. Given the fact that taro root is relatively hard to come by here in Maryland, we regularly make sweet potato poi to stave off our Hawaiian-food cravings. To bring in a little extra island flavor, I add a little coconut milk to the poi, which gives it a taste similar to haupia (a Hawaiian coconut dessert). Its creamy texture and sweet taste are perfect accompaniments to my kalua pig recipe.

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Saimin is a dish unique to Hawaii, and a marriage of the many cultures found on the islands. Chinese egg noodles are served in a Japanese broth with garnishes taken from Chinese (char siu), Japanese (fish cake), Filipino (adobo), Korean (won bok cabbage), and Portuguese (sausage) cuisine. My favorite saimin in Hawaii is found at Shiro’s Saimin Haven, which features 70+ variations of the dish (my favorite is “dodonpa” – 10 garnishes!). Likewise, fried saimin is a stir-fried version of the soup, and is also popular in many saimin shops. It’s a refreshing break from noodle soups and your everyday lo mein-style dishes. Unfortunately, saimin noodles are made with wheat.

To remedy this, I settled on sweet potato-based noodles, which as far as I know are a Korean invention. They are made with just sweet potato starch and water, and are similar to glass/bean noodles used in dishes like chicken long rice.

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