The Canoe House’s smoked potatoes were so good that we nearly leaked the serving bowl. I asked our waiter about the cooking method. He said they are cooked and mashed first and then placed into a continuously running smoker at the back of the restaurant. The level of smokiness was as delicate as a reminder of a campfire and charcoal roasted potatoes from my childhood. There was just enough butter and seasoning to emphasize natural flavors of potato. The texture was a combination of creamy fluffiness and chewable morsels. No wonder I wanted to recreate these smoked potatoes at home!
During my visits, I prefer eating food that is unique to the islands. Typically, I concentrate on seafood and tropical fruit. Four years ago, I saw Huli-Huli chicken on Maku’u Farmers Market and decided I have to try it next time. Since it is a signature dish for Hawaii, I assumed it should be served on every corner on the Big Island. I was wrong. During my recent hunt for Huli-Huli chicken, I found only two highly recommended businesses and both of them were open for a few hours one or two days a week. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance being at the right place at the right time to taste their food. Oh well, I had to make my Huli-style chicken at home in Texas then!
When on the island, at least one of my dinners is a grilled abalone. It’s a Big Island treat I must to have! I visit the farm with a cooler and ice to buy them. Once abalones get cold, they fell asleep and travel well for a few hours on ice. They are easy to cook if you have a grill or an oven where you stay. Just follow my instructions!
The texture of cheese curdled with ocean water is fantastic. It is creamy-soft and, for the lack of a better word, juicy, even after straining most of the whey. I could never get the same results when making ricotta with mozzarella whey or acidic water. The ratio of salty ocean water to milk may seem scary, but this ricotta tastes surprisingly sweet with only an intriguing trace of saltiness and minerality.
Poke-tini is a popular appetizer in eclectic/modern Polynesian/Japanese restaurants. It’s a salad made of fresh raw fish (mostly ahi tuna) cut into 1/4″ cubes and mixed with diced onion, and seaweed. It is usually seasoned with soy sauce, fresh ginger, vinegar (rice, black rice, or balsamic) or lime/key lime juice, and sesame oil. Sometimes avocado and sesame seeds are added. It is served cold in martini glasses. Tiny peaces of perfectly seasoned fish will melt in your mouth!
The name of this salad comes from its cooking method. Lomi lomi today is a term for “massage therapist” or “Hawaiian massage.” In Hawaiian, the word lomi traditionally used to describe an action of kneading, rubbing, or soothing, just like happy or content cats do. It is documented that for ages Hawaiians have beed preparing fresh fish salads by mixing diced ingredients — fish, sweet Maui onions, tomatoes, and salt — and gently massaging them with hands, letting fish to get cured by salt and vegetable juices.