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.
…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 :)