Weekday Dinners in Hawai’i

Monday, June 16, 2008 10 No tags Permalink 0

As evidenced by my gradually expanding waistline, I enjoy eating out tremendously – where to eat, what to eat, which restaurant or bakery or gelato shop to head next, whether I could fit just a bit more room post-dessert desserts and stuff of that matter, consumes 90% of my thoughts. Thought with all that said, when it all boils down in the end, I’d rather eat at home.

There’s something about eating at home that makes these meals so special – not so much the effort (or sometimes, lack thereof) involved in a home meal, but the collaboration between family and friends, or in the case of weekend dinners at grandma’s home, the joy she receives from seeing our excited expressions as she heats up the wok, and the blissful smiles to follow as we take the very first bite.

Our dinners at home often don’t even much ‘heavy duty’ cooking. Dad will stop by Tamashiro’s or Marukai on the way home, and pick up a gorgeous pound of hamachi. He slices it right before we set the table, and we’ll have the simplest dinner of steamed rice, hamachi and nori. We take fresh fish for granted in Hawai’i – I don’t even dare think how much hamachi of this quality would cost at a restaurant back in Manhattan.

Some nights we’ll mix it up and get poke for dinner – my sister likes shoyu poke, while I prefer limu poke. We compromise by getting a pound of each, most of the time from the Beretania Foodland. Like the hamachi, we eat poke with rice and nori, adding in a few local avocados from our neighbors.

We usually have a ‘hot’ dish on the side – otherwise the meal doesn’t feel complete. Most recently, we used the long beans from Ho Farms and made a beef stirfry. Oh man, the meat drippings over hot rice? Ridiculous!

The other week Marukai was a having a huge special on Hamakua mushroos just flown in from the Big Island. My mom was particularly excited and bought home tons, and tons of mushrooms…clockwise from top: Gray Oyster, Ali’i, Shimeji, and Kea Hon Shimeji mushrooms.

We sautéed the Gray Oysters in butter and plenty, plenty of garlic, plus a splash of nuoc nam (which I personally believe makes everything better)…

…we did the same with the others, only grouping them all together. If I could eat mushrooms like these everday, I’m pretty sure I’d never crave meat.

On Sunday morning trips to Marukai, you can bet that we’ll come home with at least a dozen local eggplants in hand. There’s only one dish our family ever has in mind when it comes to eggplants…

…and I’m not sure if it has a proper name, though when people ask, I just tell them it’s “Vietnamese Eggplant.” It’s not the most visually appealing dish, a mucky dark green, bumpy, and slopping mounds. But it is delicious…oh so delicious. This is perhaps my single most favourite dish in the world. The whole world. I was raised on this dish, two, sometimes even three times a week if I got lucky. We usually do eight eggplants at a time. Boil in water till the skin gets all wrinkly. Remove, drain, and let cool. Then, peel off the skins and mash the eggplant in a bowl. Then heat up olive oil in a pan and brown A LOT, A LOT of garlic. We’ll use up to two heads for eight eggplants. Once the garlic is brown, add the eggplant and sauté away (the eggplant uses up a lot of oil, so you’ll have to be generous with the grease, yah?). Season with nuoc nam (I told you nuoc nam makes everything better!) to taste, and a bit of salt. My sister and grandma like to scramble in a few eggs along with chopped thai bird chilis…just tailor to your personal tastes. Serve over hot rice right out of the cooker, and viola, the best meal ever :)

And what do we have for dessert? Why, local Kunia watermelons of course!

10 Comments
  • FranMag
    June 17, 2008

    That eggplant sounds like something my husband and I would enjoy. It’s similar to the Guamanian and Filipino style eggplant that I’ve had. For both you char the eggplant on a grill, then peel. For Guamanian style we leave them whole with the stem on then put them in a sauce of coconut milk, lemon or vinegar and chopped up boonie peppers (basically thai bird chilis). Filipino style is chopped up with tomatoes, onion and patis to taste. Neither of these concoctions are visually appealing, but so so tasty!

  • K & S
    June 17, 2008

    that picture of the limu poke made me a bit homesick :(

  • anonymous
    June 17, 2008

    have you done this dish with those long purple eggplants you can find in NY chinatown?

  • anonymous
    June 17, 2008

    wow, i have been unintentionally making poke for a while (horrifying jeremiah slightly ^-^) by mixing cubed raw salmon with soy sauce/sesame oil and seeds with a dash of srirachathe eggplant dish sounds amazing — in Russia we have “eggplant caviar” which is mashed up roast eggplant with garlic and either oil or some mayo/sour cream mixture. The nuocnam addition sounds great tho!

  • elmomonster
    June 17, 2008

    I love this post. So fluid. So honest. So revealing. I relished every word and imagined what it must be like to grow up and eat with your family. You are so right. I eat out about 6 nights a week, lunches also. But on Sunday, I go home and eat my mom’s cooking and it doesn’t just satisfy my appetite, it nourishes my soul. To think I took it for granted all those years of my childhood!

  • KirkK
    June 18, 2008

    Hi Kathy – Such a nice post! The joys of eating at home. One thing I took for granted living in Hawaii was the access to all the great fish….I really miss that.

  • rowena
    June 18, 2008

    Of what I remember of your posts on your grandma’s cooking, I need no convincing that at least for you, home meals are no ka oi. I like how your dad plays a repeated part in meals as well….will never forget the post about him biting off the top of fresh baguettes!

  • J. Lo
    June 18, 2008

    did you buy those long beans from costco? my family just had them for dinner too! there are enough beans in each bag to make an entire dinner. my dinner literally consisted of garlic stir-fried beans and japan clam poke.

  • shann
    June 19, 2008

    HA.MA.CHIIIIIII. alsdkfjalsdkflaskdjflkammmmm.

  • Kathy YL Chan
    June 20, 2008

    Hey Franmag!Ooo eggplant + coconut milk sounds great – I’ll have to try this combination! It’s unforutnately eggplant never looks nearly as delicious as it taste!Hey Kat!Awww, I hope it was the good kind homesick at least! ^_^Danny!I think those would work just fine! :)Olia!Haha, omg your take on poke sounds even better than what we do in Hawai’i!…..I need to give that a try one night :) Oh man, did we have the eggplant caviar when we went to Brighton Beach that time? I HAVE NOT SEEN YOU IN SOO LONG!Hey Elmo!I totally know what you mean! I love posting on ‘home cooking / cooking with friends’ posts much more than ‘eating out’ posts, they have so much more meaning, and bring back such delightful memories. Thanks for such sweet comments! ^_^Hey Kirk!Thanks! I was talking with my friend the other day – what we miss most is good cheap sushi like Kozo and Genki! hehehe ^_^Hey Rowena!heheh, I can’t believe you still remember that post! It felt so good when dad came home from work last week with a baguette in hand – top torn off, of course! :)Justin!We got the long beans from the KCC Market last Saturday – soo tasty! :)Shann!The basil is wilting ever so slightly…am attempting to revive it!

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