hawaii

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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Spam is very popular in Hawaii, dating back from its widespread use in World War II. In fact, spam is consumed more per capita in Hawaii than in any other state, and is even served at McDonald’s and Burger King there. This little dish also doesn’t carry the “poor people’s food” stigmatism that it enjoys in the rest of the US. Spam musubi is a variation of Japanese onigiri (rice balls wrapped in nori seaweed) and is a common snack in Hawaii; I personally lived off of them for years. We would often sneak them into our pockets for UH football games and take them on plane trips to the mainland. Ah, memories.

Now that we’ve been living in the Baltimore/DC area for the past couple years, our only shot at getting our hands on spam musubi is making it at home. Luckily my wife is awesome and can make it with her eyes closed. To capture the authentic Hawaii taste you’ll need Aloha brand shoyu (which contains soy and wheat) as well as mirin (sweet rice wine, which is hard to find without corn syrup nowadays) so I’m labeling this as an “official cheat meal”. You could definitely try it with tamari to eliminate the wheat, or coconut aminos to also eliminate the soy, but the taste may be compromised. Also, keep a look out for mirin without corn syrup, which you can find at some Japanese grocery stores.

Interestingly, spam is paleo-friendly; its ingredients consist mainly of pork products and potato starch. It is, however, loaded with sodium and nitrites, so you’ll definitely want to eat it sparingly, look for the lower sodium version, and drink lots of water! (I sound like my mother.)

Also, you’ll need a onigiri/musubi mold, which you can find on Amazon for relatively cheap.

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

Lomi lomi salmon is a traditional Hawaiian dish served in most luaus. It is served cold and is an interesting way to consume a good chunk of nutritious, fresh food. The words “lomi lomi” in Hawaiian actually translate to “massage”, and comes from the the mixing of the ingredients by hand at the end.

I should caveat here at that I can’t stand raw onions, so I’ve never actually had lomi lomi salmon. However, my wife loves it, and makes a killer recipe that I thought the world should know.

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

Kalua pig is one of Hawaii’s best-known dishes, and easily replicated at home. Traditionally, an entire pig is placed in an underground pit (“imu” in Hawaiian) that is lined with hot rocks and wrapped in banana leaves, then covered with a layer of soil and roasted overnight. Since we don’t have room in our back yard for an imu, nor access to a suckling pig and banana leaves, nor the desire to go through such a hassle, we just use a crock pot or french oven.

This recipe calls for about 6 lbs of pork butt, which is actually the upper half of a pig’s shoulder (the lower half is called the picnic cut, which can also be used). Pork butt is also often called a Boston butt or roast. You can also find the cut simply labeled as “pork shoulder”. Basically, any cut that’s labeled picnic, butt, shoulder or Boston should be fine.

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