Fresh floral air, warm inviting waters, white sandy beaches, rainbows after every shower and warm tropical temperatures (even in February!). Doesn’t that sound like a perfect holiday destination? Yes, and of course it is – the land of fiery sunsets, beautiful beaches, hiking, biking, surfing, snorkeling, trekking, museums, galleries and, of course, good food – this place has it all. Any traveler’s dream destination, the honeymooner’s paradise, the perfect holiday get-away – Aloha!! And welcome to the island state of Hawaii!!
I am personally very excited and intrigued by the variety and diversity of Hawaiian cuisine. I cannot wait to learn more, and who better to talk to than our very own Editor-in-Chief and proud Hawaiian, Kay. I have wanted to feature Kay ever since I got to know of Hawaii’s famous Pineapple Upside-down cake, the very idea from which “Yummy Yum” first originated. More than just the recipe for Upside-down cake, it was an opportunity to learn more about beautiful Hawaii and its cuisine, and Kay was absolutely delighted to talk about her home state and its cuisine.
As tantalizing as Hawaii is for its beaches and its beauty, I learn that equally tempting are the islands for their wide variety of food. Hawaiian cuisine is a melting pot of an array of cuisines – American, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Chinese, Filipino and Polynesian to name a few. Staple foods include breadfruit, a local specialty, taro, grown both for its corn and its leaves, bananas, sweet potatoes, yams, coconut and sugarcane, combined with local fish such as mullets and mahi-mahi. Most of the plant and animal food sources have been introduced to Hawaii by the many voyagers who have travelled through or migrated to Hawaii. Hence, the diverse varieties of produce!
Think local Hawaiian cuisine, and the first things that come to mind are fish and poi, plate lunches and luaus. Now that sounds interesting, but what exactly is all this? Poi, I understand, is a Hawaiian word for a staple food grown from the corn of the Taro plant. Poi has a paste-like texture and a delicate flavor. Fresh poi is slightly sweet and can be eaten by itself, but with time becomes sour. Poi (and taro) is considered an integral part of Hawaiian cuisine and is eaten both by itself and used as an ingredient in bread and other dishes.
Plate lunches are a quintessential part of Hawaiian cuisine and served in most restaurants. A typical “plate” would include two scoops of rice, macaroni salad and a main entree. The plate lunch stands out for its pan-Asian influence, with the main entree invariably being a dish of Japanese, Korean or American influence.
A luau is a traditional Hawaiian feast. Kay mentions that in Hawaii there are birthday luaus, graduation luaus and wedding luaus. A typical luau would feature poke – bit-size pieces of raw, fresh fish marinated with seaweed and served as an appetizer or snack, poi, kalua pig – a traditional shredded pork dish made from a whole pig – and lomi lomi (meaning “massage” in Hawaii) salmon – small thin slices of raw, fresh salmon marinated with tomatoes and chopped green onions. And, of course, yummy yum desserts, Haupia and Pineapple Upside-down cake being very common ones!
A coconut-milk based Hawaiian dessert, Haupia is served at luaus and other local gatherings in Hawaii.
1 can (12 oz.) coconut milk
5 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons cornstarch
1.5 cups water
Put coconut milk in sauce pan and bring to a boil on low heat. In a bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch; add water and blend well.ÿAdd cornstarch mixture to coconut milk. Stirring frequently with a whisk, cook over medium heat until mixture thickens. Continue cooking until mixture gets translucent and leaves sides of pan. Pour into baking pan. Chill in refrigerator.
PINEAPPLE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE
1/4 cup butter or margarine
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 can of sliced pineapple rings
(well-drained with cores removed); should be 9 slices*
9 maraschino cherries-without stems
1 1/3 cups flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup shortening
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1. Heat oven to 350øF. In 9-inch square pan, melt butter in oven. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over melted butter. Arrange pineapple slices over brown sugar (you are creating what will be the top of the cake). Place a cherry in center of each pineapple slice.
2. In a medium bowl, beat remaining ingredients with electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Pour batter over pineapple and cherries.
3. Bake at 350øF for 50 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out cleanly. Immediately place heatproof serving plate upside down over pan; turn plate and pan over. Leave pan over cake a few minutes so cake can absorb brown sugar mixture. Remove pan.
*You can also use a fresh pineapple for your rings, but that version is a little more time-intensive.
Thank you Kay for the yummy yum recipes. We’ll be sure to try them out. We take off again on our delectable journey exploring destinations across the globe. As always, join us next week for a yummy yum time in Columbia.
Niranjana Neelakantan Gupta is an EC Partner. A home-maker, Niranjana enjoys hosting friends, cooking, writing and travelling.