Pupus With A Purpose Event Series: Food waste and natural farming

pupus with a purpose

pupus with a purpose

Purchase Tickets

About the event:

Talk story and Q&A presented by Jessica Rohr (Forage Hawaii) & Special Guest. Pupus provided by The Healthy Locavore

Our Mission is to educate consumers about sustainable Hawaiian agriculture and create conscious change in our local food system.

In this installment of Pupus With A Purpose we will be learning about the Korean Natural Farming method and tackling the topic of food waste with David Wong of Mountain View Farm.

Appetizers and beverages will be provided.

About the presenters:

Jessica Rohr, founder of Forage Hawaii distributes high quality meats from local Hawaiian farms strait to the consumer through farmer’s markets and direct ordering. She partners with farms that use sustainable, humane and natural farming practices. Her mission is to spread awareness about local farms, the nutritional benefits of natural farming and to make local meats more accessible to Hawaii residents.

David Wong of Mountain View Farm  is responsible for raising the pigs used for the Pono Pork brand (Founded by Bob McGee). He is an expert in Korean Natural Farming, and in addition to raising pigs, grows moringa for medicinal use on his 20 acre farm in Waianae. His farming techniques not only create zero waste, they also utilize waste generated from food businesses around the island.

The Healthy Locavore is a food and lifestyle blog and brand created by Sarah Burchard. Sarah is a natural foods chef, small business marketer, event planner and freelance writer based in Honolulu. She is fiercely dedicated to supporting her community, and sources locally grown and produced ingredients for all of her nutritious and culturally inspired dishes. In addition to hosting farm-to-table events she also leads tours at the Kakaako Farmers Market.

About the venue:

Impact Hub is a co-working, event, office, and community space in Honolulu designed to facilitate sustainable impact in Hawaii and abroad through collaboration and empowering communities.

They are located at:

1050 Queen St. #100 in Kaka’ako

Parking garage + limited street parking are available.

Tickets are $39/person and can be purchased here.

Thai Green Papaya Salad

thai green papaya salad

thai green papaya salad

In Thailand, where the flavors of spicy, sour, sweet and salty come together in pure harmony––attaining good balance is the goal. Thai green papaya salad exemplifies this balance.

In order to balance these nuances in a dish, you must be familiar with your ingredients. You want to create a blend of textures, aromas, flavors and temperatures that make each ingredient shine.

Here you have crunchy green papaya, soft fragrant herbs, spicy chiles, salty fish sauce, sour lime and a dash of sugar for sweetness.

thai green papaya salad

Thai food is vibrant, light, nutritious and delicious. And that is exactly how I would describe Thai green papaya salad.

It is customary, when preparing this dish, to pound the ingredients together using a mortar and pestle. If you do not have one, you can make the dressing in a food processor and pour it over the papaya, or chop the ingredients with a knife and mix them together in a bowl.

thai green papaya salad

Thai Green Papaya Salad

Since I have a shellfish allergy I do not make this salad with dried shrimp. If you want yours to be more authentic, add a pinch of dried shrimp to pound up with the other ingredients for the dressing. You can also use palm sugar instead of monk fruit sweetener here for authenticity. Monk fruit sweetener is lower glycemic and is touted as a "healthier" sugar.

Course Salad
Cuisine Thai
Keyword Thai green papaya salad
Servings 4 servings


  • 1 each Green Papaya approx. 1 1/2 lbs
  • 4 each Scallions sliced thin
  • 1/2 bunch Cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 bunch Mint leaves
  • 1/2 bunch Basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup Roasted & salted peanuts coarsely ground
  • 1 each Shallot sliced
  • 2 cloves Garlic smashed
  • 1 each Chinese Long Bean (or 2 green beans) chopped
  • 1 each Red chili sliced
  • 1 pinch Sea Salt
  • 1 pinch Monk fruit sweetener
  • 1 each Lime juiced
  • 2 Tbsp Fish Sauce


  1. Peel the papaya and cut in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Either grate the papaya using a box grater or julienne it with a mandoline.

    thai green papaya salad
  2. In a large bowl toss together the shredded papaya, scallion, herbs and peanuts. 

  3. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the shallot, garlic, long bean, chili, salt and sugar into a paste. Stir in the lime juice and fish sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. 

    thai green papaya salad
  4. Pour the dressing over the papaya salad, toss to combine and serve immediately. 

  5. This salad can be held in the refrigerator and eaten later, but the papaya will start to soften and lose its crunch. 

Recipe Notes

For fish sauce I recommend Red Boat

Need a mandoline? Here's what I use. 

Want to try out Monk Fruit Sweetener? Try this.



Elevated Polynesian Food: Poisson Cru

polynesian food poisson cru recipe

polynesian food poisson cru recipe

Some of the dishes prepared in Hawaii today are adapted from Polynesian food favorites. A perfect example of this is Poisson Cru, also called ‘Ota “ika, which originated from Tahiti.

Poisson Cru is similar to ceviche––raw fish marinated with citrus juice. Except, with Poisson Cru, coconut milk is also added to the marinade. Other typical ingredients that are mixed in with the fish are ginger, cucumber, onion and tomato.

In this preparation I use lemon, grapefruit, lemon grass and makrut lime leaves, instead of straight lime juice to create more complexity and brightness. I also use mango ginger instead of common ginger to impart fruitiness rather than spiciness. For spice, I use a few dashes of Sriracha sauce.

For the fish I use Uku, also known as Grey Snapper. You can find Uku locally caught in Hawaii. It is a mild, flaky white fish. I salt the fish before marinating it, which helps tenderize it.

This recipe makes three appetizer size portions. Or, as we call them in Hawaii, pupus.

Poisson Cru

This dish can be made using any type of fish, so use whatever is fresh and local. The mango ginger can be omitted if you cannot find it. You can also substitute a squeeze of lime juice for the market lime leaves if necessary. *Use local and/or organic ingredients whenever available. 

Cuisine Hawaiian, Polynesian food
Keyword Polynesian food
Servings 3 servings


  • 1 cup Coconut milk unsweetened
  • 1 ea Makrut lime leaf fresh
  • 1 inch Lemongrass pounded
  • 1 tsp Mango ginger peeled and smashed
  • 10 oz Uku (Grey Snapper) large dice
  • 2 tsp Sea salt course
  • 1/2 cup Sweet onion sliced thin
  • 1 ea Lemon
  • 6 sprigs Cilantro roughly chopped
  • 1 sprig Basil stem removed, sliced
  • 1 ea Green onion sliced thin
  • 1/2 tsp Sriracha sauce
  • 1/4 ea Grapefruit segmented


  1. In a small pot, over medium-low heat, warm the coconut milk, makrut lime leaf, lemongrass and mango ginger until it is hot, making sure not to bring to a boil. Set aside to cool completely.

  2. Toss the diced fish with the sea salt and let sit in the refrigerator for 15 min. 

  3. Rinse the fish well, removing all salt. Remove excess water. 

  4. Toss the fish with the sweet onion and juice from a half of lemon. 

  5. Strain the steeped and cooled coconut milk over the fish. Discard the makrut lime leaf, lemongrass and ginger. 

  6. Give the fish a stir in the marinade, and let it sit refrigerated for 1-2 hours. 

  7. Fold the cilantro, basil, green onion, Sriracha and grapefruit segments into the fish mixture. Give it a taste. It made need another pinch of salt and/or another squeeze of lemon. 

  8. Served immediately, nice and cold. 



Saying Goodbye To My Culinary Hero: Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain

“I wanted to write in Kitchenese, the secret language of cooks, instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever dunked french fries for a summer job or suffered under the despotic rule of a tyrannical chef or boobish owner.”
― Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

The world lost an amazing man today.

When I was 19, in culinary school and started working in restaurants, Kitchen Confidential came out and changed my life.

Cooking in kitchens became something to be proud of. Not because everyone started idolizing chefs and started paying more attention to them (which they did), but because it became so much easier to no longer give a shit about what others thought. Why you stopped hanging out on the weekends with your friends, why you started missing every family holiday, why you had burns all over your arms and didn’t care, why you decided against college and a “normal” life to work long hours, get dirty every night and destroy your body instead.

Kitchen confidential made me proud and excited to be entering into the restaurant industry. It made me understand it more clearly. The chapters, “Who cooks?” and “So you want to be a chef” had me smiling and nodding my head the entire time. This guy was speaking our language. A language that most people didn’t understand. I gave the book to my Mom to read when I first got into the restaurant industry, so she could understand. And she did. It probably saved us a lot of hard talks, and saved her a lot of hurt feelings and confusion.

“Line cooks are the heroes,” Anthony said. This statement made us feel like all the 15 hour days working for 12 bucks and hour was worth it. For practically all of us who were (or still are) cooks and chefs, it made us feel respected as professionals and not just the misfits that couldn’t (and didn’t want to) hack it in “normal” jobs or society in general.

He didn’t glamorize the disfunctionality of the restaurant business, he just called it like it was.

Anthony (or Tony as most chefs called him) not only inspired me to be a chef, but a writer too. He is a true master of words. He gave people like me, who had no formal education in writing and a colorful vocabulary, “permission” to write and throw and F-bomb out there, and not care what anyone else thought about it.

He is the reason chef memoirs are so popular and relevant today.

He is the reason we have travel food shows.

His respect for people’s cultures and food preparations taught America to start thinking outside the box, get off our soapboxes, shut our mouths and start learning from people from other countries. Because that’s how you become a better chef and a better person.

Even though I didn’t know Anthony, he was a mentor to me. He was a huge influence in my career, even still to this day, after leaving the industry. I feel like I lost a close friend. I definitely lost my culinary hero.

Rest in peace chef. You have left an eternal legacy that no-one will ever be able to replicate.




My Trip To Ma’o Farms

Mao farms

Mao farmsI’ve never felt as warm and fuzzy about a farm, as I do for Ma’o Farms.

After shopping with them regularly, for a year at the farmers market, I finally made it over to Wai’anae for a farm tour.

Mao farms

Ma’o Farms is not your average farm. They are a non-profit with a mission to empower and train underprivileged youth to become entrepreneurs and leaders. They succeed at this while helping to create a healthier, more sustainable food system in Hawaii at the same time. It creates an opportunity for both the land and the community to thrive. I invite you to learn more about their social enterprise here.

Mao farms

We had two tour guides showing us around the 25 acre farm: Hiwa, the daughter of the owners of Ma’o Farms and Josh, who leads a small team of farmers, doing everything from harvesting to processing vegetables.

Ma'o Farms

We started the tour with a debriefing of sorts, similar to the way the farmers and interns start their day every morning. As we stood in a circle (symbolizing the seamless circle of life) we introduced ourselves, and talked about our intentions for coming on the tour and what we were there to learn.

Mao farms
A wall hand-made of rocks and soil lines the perimeter of the morning and evening gathering place.

The first stop was the green house where baby plants get their start. Many of the greens they plant out in the field, and even ulu (breadfruit) trees get their start here, before being transferred into the ground.

Ma'o Farms
Full grown ulu tree, just starting to bear fruit

The green house provides protection from pests and wind when these plants are still in their most vulnerable stages. Hiwa reminded us that Ma’o farms is situated right in the middle of a crater, which can act as a wind tunnel, with winds sometimes getting up to 50 miles per hour. Wind this strong would rip baby plants right out of the ground if planted to soon.

Mao farms

But, being in a crater has its advantages too. The type of soil here (vertisol)  is one of the top three most nutrient dense in the world. Because of its high clay content it gets rock solid and cracks when dry. These cracks allow for more water and nutrients to be absorbed and locked in when wet.

Ma'o Farms
There are 12 types of soil in the world. Ma’o Farms has one of the top 3 most nutrient dense types.

Ma’o has an interesting fertilizing system too. They use bonemeal made from fish bones and a method of burning weeds which puts nutrients back into the soil after harvesting. My imagination raced as Hiwa described a tractor driving through the fields with flames shooting out the back.

When asked if they ever worry about the infamous, rat lungworm disease that tends to affect organic farms in Hawaii, Hiwa said they didn’t seem to have many issues with it. This disease is carried by snails and slugs that like wet conditions, and since it tends to be drier where they are, they don’t often see them around.

Ma'o Farms

When it comes to pests, cabbage moths can be an issue for their kale. They use a natural citrus herbicide very sparingly for this, since it can cause the kale to turn yellow and create holes in the leaves.

Ma'o Farms
Sampling Lacinato kale straight out of the ground
Ma'o Farms
Lacinato kale, also known as dino kale or cavalo nero

When it comes to controlling weeds, Ma’o uses what they call a black weed mat. When the sun hits these mats, they heat up and essentially burn the weeds out.

Ma'o Farms
A black mat is used to control weeds

Ma’o used to be a huge chicken farm back in the day. The two former chicken coops are now processing plants filled with interns washing and packaging vegetables to be delivered.

Ma’o has the ability to track every seed they plant, all the way until they are delivered. It’s a food safety precaution. This way if someone were to get sick they could track back to the field where the plant was grown to find out if it had somehow been contaminated.

Ma'o Farms
The processing shed
Ma'o Farms
Baby red beets
Ma'o Farms
Baby carrots

On the way out we caught a glimpse of what Ma’o calls, “the chef’s garden”. Still in its early phases, this project will soon be available for local chefs to virtually choose what they want Ma’o to grow for their restaurants.

Ma'o Farms
The chef’s garden

Ma’o sells their produce wholesale to restaurants, at farmer’s markets, in local grocery stores and through their CSA program. CSA members often get the prime picks and speciality items that aren’t available to anyone else.

When we completed the tour we came back around to where we originally started––standing in a circle. Hiwa explained that, similar to the start of the day, they finish their day back in the circle to rehash the day’s work and plan for the next.

Ma'o Farms
What Michelle Obama has nicknamed “the Queens road”.

It was a reminder of  how much importance they put on the development of their interns, the thought that goes behind the running of the farm and the spiritual aspect of their organization.

It is truly admirable what Ma’o Farms provides for their people and for the land.

Ma'o Farms
The driveway leading into Ma’o farms is lined with kalo (taro), a sacred crop believed to be the original ancestor of the Hawaiian people.
Ma'o Farms
Ma’o Farms, a place rich in mana and built with love.

Have you visited Ma’o Farms? Tell us all about it in the comments section. And if you liked this article I invite you to subscribe to The Healthy Locavore for more on how to eat local, live well, cook healthier and support each other. I am so grateful for this community, thank you so much for being a part of it!

Ma’o Organic Farms

86-148 Pūhāwai Rd.
Wai‘anae, Hawaiʻi 96792


Variety Showcase Comes To Oahu

variety showcase

variety showcase

Farmers, chefs and food geeks flocked to this year’s Variety Showcase on Oahu. The annual event, which usually takes place in Portland, came to Hawaii for the first time this year on March 13, 2018.

The event gives attendees the opportunity to taste vegetable, legume and grain varieties, that are still being tested. It gives chefs the opportunity to cook with these ingredients and collaborate with plant breeders––which in turn gives the plant breeders an inside look at consumer preferences.

These plant breeders develop seeds that thrive under organic farming conditions, produce excellent flavor and can handle specific growing conditions.

Once the new varieties of crops are bred they are sent to the farmers to test along side other varieties that they are already growing.

I remarked when I first got to the event how I have noticed that the variety of ingredients being offered at the farmers markets has increased dramatically over the past few years. Kathy from Mohala Farms agreed, saying she believed that, “the new generation of farmers in Hawaii are the ones who are responsible for bringing all of these exciting new crops to the island.”

Jay Bost from GoFarm Hawaii and Lane Selman of the Culinary Breeding Network, an organization whose mission “is to build community among plant breeders, farmers and consumers to improve culinary and agricultural quality” hosted the event at Kapiolani Community College. KCC is well known for it’s outstanding culinary program and weekly farmers market, sponsored by the Hawaii Farm Bureau.

At the event, each ingredient was represented by either a farm, co-op or representative of the University of Hawaii that grew the ingredient along side a chef showcasing several varieties of each ingredient to try on their own, as well as in a prepared dish.

All of the dishes prepared were innovative, expertly crafted and delicious. To put it bluntly, I thought the chefs f*cking brought it!

Thanks to GoFarm, The Organic Seed Alliance and farms like Counter Culture who pushed to bring this event to Hawaii, we got to experience something truly unique, special and delicious. I would not be surprised if this event shows up again next year, three times as big. It was a huge success.

Here are some of the highlights (although truly, each table was just as good as the next):

One of the most promising and exciting crops being bred for tropical and organic growing conditions is the mild habanero pepper, since peppers are notorious for being hard to grow in Hawaii.

Bryan and Natalie, the owners of De La Mesa Urban Farm, highlighted the habaneros in two dishes: A pureed habanero salsa made with guijillo and arbol chiles (this would make a killer taco sauce) served with tortilla chips that were made with hand ground Waimanalo yellow corn and a ceviche made of fresh marlin, Kauai shrimp, pickled habaneros, jicama and pineapple.

Chef Ed Kenny offered us a side by side comparison between two different polentas. One made with Guisto’s, a respectable northern California brand and the other made with a polenta made with Nalo orange corn, bred in Waimanalo. The polenta made with Nalo orange corn was noticeably sweeter, had more character and a rounder flavor.

variety showcase

variety showcase

Chef Keake Lee from Pig and the Lady created a dish of pickled purple winged beans and cold “Poamoho dark long” eggplant marinated in a black vinegar dashi broth, garnished with fresh basil. Everything Pig and the Lady does in my option is bold, creative and crazy delicious.  This dish was no exception.

variety showcase

The crew from Counter Culture had a strong presence, with several tables. They presented a mind boggling selection of legumes, jicama, and bananas.

variety showcase

variety showcase

variety showcase

Chef David Gunawam from the Farmer’s Apprentice came all the way from Canada to participate in the event and cook. He prepared Hirayama kai choy, paired with a slice of raw skipjack, seasoned with a house-made vinaigrette made by simmering skipjack bones with seaweed and soy sauce.

In addition, he presented two types of beans grown by Counter Culture: black beans marinated with culantro and charred scallion, and chickpeas flavored with Hawaiian shallot and herbs from Green Rows Farm.

variety showcase

Chef Scott Nelson of Vida Farms also cooked for Counter Culture. He prepared a crepe made “sourdough style” with fermented jicama, and stuffed it with raw slices of sweet jicama and hibiscus jam. It was divine.

variety showcase

Lauren Tamamoto, instructor at KCC blew everyone’s mind with her cauliflower chocolate mousse made of cauliflower, cocoa powder, coconut milk, sugar and vanilla extract. It was velvety smooth and tasted like the chocolate pudding of your childhood (and I mean that in the best possible way).


Chef Jenn Hee from Juicy Brew grated cassava, soaked it in golden milk, turned them into hash browns and wrapped each piece in a piper sarmentosom leaf to showcase yellow cassava.

variety showcase

Chef Stacey Givens from the Side Yard Farm & Kitchen came out to represent Portland with her spiced carrot cookies stuffed with Side Yard Farms goat cheese, fig leaf dust and crispy fried carrot tops. Again, mind blown.

variety showcase

Chef Edward Domingo from Roy’s Beach House made a dish I could eat all day long. Moringa fried rice with lechon lomi lomi. Crack an egg on top and you’ve got the perfect breakfast, lunch or dinner in my opinion.

An award winning variety of cacao, called Easton was presented by Skip Bittenbender of University of Hawaii. Manoa chocolate made a decadent 70% chocolate bar for sampling.

variety showcase

Robynne Maii, chef/owner of Fete, showcased broccoli using my favorite preparation, roasted with chile flake, garlic and lemon. I love the crispness and the nuttiness of this dish. Robynne made it even more complex by adding capers, golden raisins and crispy parmesan on top. She also presented Tromboncino squash pickled and served with local mint, roasted kukui nut and feta cheese.

variety showcase

Nina, from Nina Cucina Health (who’s food I miss dearly at the farmers market), took us on a journey of turmeric. Several varieties were pickled and put out for sampling and to wash it all down she made a lovely soup made with turmeric and coconut milk.

variety showcase

variety showcase

variety showcase

Hannah Vernon, from Home Cooked With Love, presented  Manoa and Leopard lettuces with a vegan creamy Italian dressing made with local herbs, Dijon mustard and olive oil for dipping.

variety showcase

On my way out the door I luckily caught Gabe Sachter-Smith, banana expert and farmer for Counter Culture, showing off his several varieties of tropical bananas.  Chef Janna Rose, from the Mossback Restaurant in Washington was scooping up banana ice-cream and vegan banana-chocolate chip cookie right along side him.

I had just talked to Gabe the Saturday before the event at the farmers market. He was the one who got me the most excited about the event in the first place. So it was fitting that, I ended the evening on a sweet note, wrapping the night up with him.

variety showcase

I’ve never seen so many happy faces in one room. The passion for high quality ingredients was swirling that night. Everyone involved in the event was there for the same reason––to continue to push for a healthier, tastier and more sustainable food system in Hawaii. One with a lot of variety.

Did you have an amazing time at this year’s Variety Showcase too? What did you learn, what inspired you? What was your favorite dish and why? Tell us all about it in the comments section. And if you liked this article I invite you to subscribe to The Healthy Locavorefor more on how to eat local, live well, cook healthier and support each other. I am so grateful for this community, thank you so much for being a part of it!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on March 18, 2018 and has since been updated for accuracy. 






Traditional Hawaiian Lau Lau

Hawaiian lau lau
Hawaiian lau lau
Hawaiian lau lau

On an overcast day, at the top of a hill in Kaimuki, I went to my first Hawaiian lau lau party.

I met one of the hosts last year attending my first yoga retreat. I think the fact that food dominated most of our conversations gave her the indication that I would be a good candidate for her lau lau assembly line, because the next time she planned her annual party I was on the invite list. An invitation I was quite honored to receive.

In the weeks leading up to an event like this there is preparation that needs to be done on everyone’s part. We were asked to bring ti leaves, pork or fish and a breakfast item or side dish to contribute. Along with that, guests are encouraged to bring alcoholic beverages of their choice. I mean this is a party, first and foremost, after all.

The ingredients that go into the preparation of lau lau are very specific and somewhat time consuming, so our host asked that most of them were prepped before we arrived.

Ti leaves

First, you have to have ti leaves. But not just any ti leaves, they can’t be too small and they can’t be too big either.

Hawaiian lau lau
Ti leaves

They also have to be, what the Hawaiians call “de-boned.” You do this by placing the leaf, shiny side down, on a table and making a little nick where the stem first starts to protrude at the top of the leaf. Then you pick up the leaf placing your forefinger behind the leaf, where the back of the stem is, and your thumb in front of the leaf to secure the leaf in place. Then with your other hand you gently peel back the top of the leaf which pops the stem out.

You continue with this motion all the way down, until you have stripped the entire stem from the leaf, but have left the leaf completely still intact. When you reach the bottom of the stem, split the stem in two, all the way up to the base of the leaf. I have to admit, this takes a little finesse.

Here’s an instructional video on how to do this…..

Ti leaves can be found all over the island and are usually foraged in people’s backyards. You can also buy them at flower shops that make leis. These leaves are for wrapping the lau lau, as a vessel to steam them in, they are not edible.

Taro leaves (also called luau leaves)

These can be bought at Wongs in 20 lb bags for I think $38. You can also find them at Foodland or often times at the Farmers Market––Ma’o Farms will sometimes have them in Kaka’ako on Saturdays.

Taro leaves
Taro leaves

With scissors, snip off the stems and cut the stems into one inch pieces. You will end up with a giant pile of leaves and a large bowl of cut up stems. Wash and dry them well. A group of 6 or 8 of us did this at the party before we started wrapping lau lau. An important note about taro leaves, they must be cooked before eaten. That is unless, you like the sensation of eating broken glass.

Taro leaves
Snip taro stems off with scissors and cut into 1 inch pieces
Taro leaves
Once stems are trimmed, wash and dry leaves and stems.

Pork shoulder (also called pork butt)

Purchase boneless pork shoulder. Do not remove or discard any fat. The more fat the better in this dish. It is what keeps the lau lau nice and moist and adds flavor. Dice it into one inch cubes.

Diced pork shoulder
Diced pork shoulder


You need to select fish that has a high oil content. Like the pork, the fattiness of the fish is what makes the lau lau rich and succulent. Although neither local, salmon or black cod (which is actually sable fish, but often called butterfish in Hawaii) are commonly used. We used both.

The salmon needs to be scaled, but you can leave the skin on and the bones in, since they are both delicate and will melt away in the cooking process.

For the black cod, however, the skin and bones should be removed and discarded.

Once your fish has been cleaned, dice it into 1 inch pieces.

Diced fish
Diced fish

Some recipes call for salting the fish ahead of time. We skipped this step and it came out just fine.


You will want to use a course sea salt for this dish, preferably Hawaiian Alaea salt, an unrefined local sea salt that has been mixed with red alae volcanic clay. You can find this on Amazon or in select markets on island (I’ve seen it at Foodland Farms).

I was told that “you cannot use too much salt” in this dish, so have more than you think you will need on hand.

Kiawe wood

Known on the mainland as mesquite, kiawe lends a nice smoky flavor and aroma to the lau lau when steaming it over an open fire.

This can be sourced by foraging around the island or from a local firewood business like Kiawe Hawaii.

Kiawe wood
Kiawe wood


You will need long prep tables, scissors, large steamer pots, cinder blocks (I’ll get to those in a minute), heavy heat-proof gloves and a refrigerator full of beer (to keep you entertained while the lau lau cooks). Tables and industrial sized pots can be purchased at a restaurant supply store like Chef Zone.

Stock pot with steamer insert
Stock pot with steamer insert
Steamer for lau lau
Heavy bottomed rondeau (or brazier) pot with steamer baskets (not pictured)

The big day

People started trickling into our host’s home around 8am. Coffee was offered, name tags were made, the breakfast buffet started coming together and mimosas were poured.

hawaiian lau lau

Around 9am my friend’s husband who co-hosts the party, Lau Lau Luna (luna is Hawaiian for boss), made a lovely toast to the occasion, honoring loved ones that were no longer with us and telling us the story of how he started this annual tradition over twenty years ago.

Breakfast buffet

After diving into a spread of fresh fruit harvested from the backyard, home-made pastries, banana bread, frittatas and quiches, we filed out into the garage to start wrapping lau lau.

The table of ingredients was set up assembly line style, but the process in which we prepared each lau lau was not. Each person was responsible for seeing their lau lau all the way through, beginning to end.

lau lau prep
the lau lau prep station

How to build a lau lau

The first thing you do is start with a pile of taro leaves stacked up in one hand. The number of leaves will depend on how big they are. You will want to fan them out and layer them, so that they make a spiral and create a base big enough to enclose a large handful of pork and fish.

step 1
Step 1 – Stack several taro leaves in one hand

Next you go down the line, adding first about 4 or 5 pieces of pork (again, depending on the size), 1-2 pieces of fish, a small handful of taro stems and a liberal sprinkling of sea salt.

Step 2
Step 2 – Add the pork
Step 3
Step 3 – Add fish, taro stems and salt

Finally, you wrap the whole bundle in ti leaves. You will need two leaves for this. Apparently, there are a couple of different ways you can do this, but here is how we wrapped ours….

Step 4
Step 4 – Wrap and tie the bundle in two ti leaves

First, lay one ti leaf on the table and place your bundle on top of the leaf, at the very top. Roll the bundle up in the leaf until you get almost to the bottom and stop. Lay a second ti leaf on the table, place the bundle on top turning it, so that the open ends are facing the length of the second ti leaf, roll it up until you get almost to the bottom of the leaf and stop. Take the split stems from the first leaf that are now sticking out, and tie a double knot around the pouch.

tying lau lau
tying lau lau

Secure it again, by then tying it with the split stems from the second leaf.

lau lau
Boss lady (a.k.a. Luna lady)

lau lau

lau lau

Here is a demo, from the Lau Lau Luna, on how to do this…

While the majority of the party is in the garage wrapping lau lau, two fires were being built in the yard to create two make-shift wood burning stoves, made out of cinder blocks and grill grates.

Fire for lau lau
Fires are built for the wood burning stoves while the lau lau are being prepped.

hawaiian lau lau

hawaiian lau lau
The steamer pots are filled approximately 4 inches high with water and brought to a boil.

When the lau lau were ready, we brought them out to the yard in large coolers and laundry baskets.

lau lau ready to be steamed
lau lau ready to be steamed

Lau Lau Luna and his sous chef, Luna Jr. were in charge of the cooking process. (They wore aprons with their titles sewn into them so we knew who was who.)

Boss man
Boss man (a.k.a. Lau Lau Luna)
Luna Jr.
…and his sous chef, Luna Jr.

Junior carefully stacked each lau lau tightly into two industrial sized pots with steamer baskets counting each one as he went. The pots needed to come to a full boil before the lau lau could be added. Once in, the pots were covered with lids and then weighed down with cinder blocks to keep steam from escaping. A timer was then set for exactly 3 ½ hours.

cooking lau lau
Luna Jr. stacks the lau lau tightly into the steamer pots

lau lau

hawaiian lau lau

Now that the lau lau was on and most of the work was complete we had time to hang out,  talk story (as the Hawaiians say) and drink beer. Yay!

hawaiian lau lau

hawaiian lau lau

As the day went on, more side dishes were delivered and prepared. By the time the 3 ½ hours was up we had ourselves a proper luau buffet, complete with chicken long rice, poke, potato-mac salad, poi, fried rice and musubi, along with some other tasty non-traditional salads and a couple of desserts.

It almost brought tears to my eyes when Lau Lau Luna offered me one of the first lau lau to come out of the pot. I grabbed a pair of chopsticks and dove in, tasting the first bite unadulterated before adding a splash of Hawaiian chile water on top. It was heavenly.

lau lau

lau lau

lau lau

The taro leaves cooked down and had a reminiscent flavor and texture of canned spinach, that reminded me of my childhood. The fatty pork and fish were tender, juicy and unctuous.

The flavor combination is addictive, and that chile water cuts the fattiness just enough to completely balance them out. It was like snuggling up with a warm fuzzy blanket on a cold day. Something we don’t do often in Hawaii,  but you get the idea.

proper luau plate
From left to right – Chinese long rice, poi, potato-mac salad, marlin poke, coleslaw and lau lau.

At the end of the event styrofoam boxes were spread out and guests were loaded up with the fruits of their labor to bring home with them. Photos were posted on Instagram and high fives, kisses on the cheek and hugs were given all around.

lau lau to-go
At the end of the day lau lau was packed up to-go for all guests

I was honored and humbled to not only have been so lucky enough to enjoy this feast, but to be accepted into the gathering and appreciated for my efforts as well. It was an experience of true aloha that I will always cherish.

Mahalo nui loa to everyone that was involved.

Especially our hosts, Lau Lau Luna and Luna lady…

Traditional Hawaiian Lau Lau

We made over 200 lau lau at our party. As I don't expect everyone will need that sort of volume I have scaled the recipe down to a more moderate size for a group of a dozen or so people. 

Cuisine Hawaiian
Servings 55 each


  • 110 each Ti leaves de-boned
  • 5 lbs Taro leaves Stems removed, cut into 1 inch pieces and reserved
  • 1 cup Hawaiian Alaea sea salt course
  • 10 lbs Pork shoulder boneless, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 4 lbs Salmon and/or black cod diced into 1 inch pieces
  • Kiawe wood Chopped to build a fire


See method described above.







A Year of Ingredients

year of ingredients
year of ingredients
Photo by Ketino Photography

2017 was a year of new discoveries after moving from San Francisco to Honolulu. But, I have only begun to scratch the surface of what these beautiful islands have to offer.

In 2018 I am starting a new project, that I am calling, A Year of Ingredients. A project inspired by the talented Bay Area artist, Windy Chien, who in 2016 introduced The Year of Knots.

Windy surprised me in Waikiki, the day before New Year’s Eve, gifting me with one of her famous knots (they are works of art really). And not just any knot, the star knot. A knot she admittedly had such a hard time learning she had to resort to watching a YouTube tutorial before throwing in the towel. At the time I marveled at its beauty but hadn’t yet realized its significance.

After hearing all about Windy’s inspirational journey of committing to her art every day without fail for an entire year I sprung out of bed the next morning knowing in my gut what I needed to do.

I needed to commit to my passion for local food on another level, in order to become the expert I wanted to be.

Starting January 1, 2018 follow me on Instagram as I introduce a local Hawaiian ingredient, and how to prepare it, every day for a whole year.

It might be one of the most challenging projects I have ever committed to, but I’m doing it for the knowledge, for the love of food and for my deepest appreciation for all things local. And I couldn’t be more excited.

Join me here for A Year of Ingredients on Instagram.



New Year. New Plan.

new year. new plan
new year. new plan
Photo by Ketino Photography

Do you feel like you didn’t accomplish what you set out to do last year? Or, like you are fed up with how things are going and you need a change? Sometimes you gotta get it wrong before you can get it right. Right?

It’s a new year. Time to re-focus and start fresh.

Take out a clean sheet of paper and a pen. Make sure you have about an hour free, to answer these questions and create your plan for the new year. 

1. What were my epic fails, let downs or things (let’s be honest) I half-assed this year, that could have gone better?

2. What are three things I can do this year to ensure a more successful outcome in those areas?

3. What is one thing that has been bugging me lately, that I wish were different?

4. What is one thing I can do to change the answer to #3? (Think small and doable.)

5. What are my intentions for the new year in these areas:

  • Career
  • Health
  • Relationships
  • Self-care
  • Self-improvement and/or education

6. What is one thing I can do in each one of these areas to ensure my intentions get seen through?

7. What are three trips I would like to take this year (big or small)?

8. Set a tentative date right now for each trip. Add a reminder in your calendar for each one, two months prior to that date, so that you have plenty of time to plan it.

9. What is one thing I will eliminate from my life this year, in order to have more time for the things that are most important to me?

10. What are my top three priorities right now? (They can change throughout the year.)

Now it’s time to create a system, so this worksheet doesn’t end up at the bottom of that stack of papers on your desk, only to be forgotten about. 

First, set up two calendars.
One for your work life and one for your personal life.

In the personal calendar block out the times when you are working (including your commute, checking email at home and out of office meetings).

In the work calendar block out time for your personal life.

Using your New Year’s plan, schedule the action steps that you can take this year, into the appropriate calendar, to ensure the success of your goals and intentions.

For example, let’s say your top three priorities are “lose 5 pounds”, “save more money for retirement” and eat more vegetables. Then, in your personal calendar, you could schedule in one hour of exercise at the same time every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, have a reminder set on the last day of every month to transfer money into your retirement account and schedule in a trip to the farmers market every Saturday morning.

After you are done scheduling in all of your action steps in order to accomplish this years goals, start looking at your daily schedule. Are you giving yourself enough time everyday to fit everything in?

If not, start looking at areas where you can trim and/or delegate.  This could mean starting to use a grocery delivery service, committing to checking email only twice a day or working out at home in order to save time traveling to the gym.

Essentially, you are creating your ideal schedule. Something you think you can realistically stick to.

Create chunks of time each day designated to the things that are most important to you. Then, focus on sticking to the scope of those chunks no matter what happens.

For example, if you have a chunk of time carved out each week for your social life and your friend cancel’s brunch one week, don’t fill that time with work or house chores instead. Schedule brunch with a different friend or go be social at your neighborhood coffee shop. Whatever you do just don’t give up that chunk! Overtime, the more you give it up the more you will turn it into a different chunk until you wake up one day and you no longer have time for a social life. See what I mean?

Scheduling your life into chunks of time each day enables you to have time to do everything that’s important to you, build routines and create good habits. They become your boundaries.

Sticking to your boundaries is how you are going to carry out those New Year’s intentions instead of getting knocked off course this year.

The more decisions you make right now, the easier it will be to carry out your ideal schedule later when you are tired or stressed. And the more boundaries you set and (more importantly) stick to the less you become overwhelmed and likely to make decisions you will regret later.

So, let’s make a plan, stick to it and get ready to kick some ass in the new year, shall we?

Do you have your new year’s plan dialed in? What is your secret to setting yourself up for success? Tell us all about it in the comments section. And if you liked this article I invite you to subscribe to The Healthy Locavore for more on how to eat local, live well, cook healthier and support each other. I am so grateful for this community, thank you so much for being a part of it!



Surviving Burnout – How to restore your health and happiness starting right now

surviving burnout

surviving burnout

I haven’t always lived a healthy lifestyle. In fact, it was quite the opposite for a long time. My “aha moment” came at a time in my life when I was at the peak of my career and going downhill fast. Surviving burnout was one of the biggest struggles I have ever had to deal with. But truly, it was also a gift in disguise.

My story

It’s 5:30am and still dark out. The wind howls outside and my partner is fast asleep beside me. I have just reluctantly turned off my alarm clock for the second time. My body hurts.

In the darkness, I grab a white t-shirt, a pair of baggy, greasy, stained chef pants; underwear and socks and walk to the bathroom. I turn on the light. It’s bright, too bright. I squint my way over to the shower and turn it on. I shiver as I undress and hop in. My shower won’t even be long enough to warm my body through.

I get dressed, throw my hair up in a bun and pop my contact lenses into my squinty, burning eyes. I grab a hoodie, pea coat and scarf and a Yoplait yogurt on my way out the door. My morning routine is now complete.

As I walk to the subway station, eating my yogurt, I call my fish purveyor to place the day’s order. Talking to him for ten minutes is the highlight of my day. He is kind, makes me laugh and sympathizes with me. I need it, it lifts my spirits.

If there aren’t any issues with Muni that day and my train actually shows up I get to work at 6:45am. The linen truck and my prep cook are already there waiting for me. I joke around with them for a minute, push aside the homeless man who has made a bed in front of the back door to the restaurant, and walk in. I relish the few minutes I’m in the chef’s office putting away my coat because it’s warm in there.

I get my prep cook going on the tasks for the day and then assume my duty of going into the walk-in cooler for a half an hour to gather items I need for the day. By the time I finish I’m so cold I can’t feel my fingers or feet.

If I don’t get continually interrupted by deliveries while I’m in the walk-in, then I can resume my day on schedule not feeling like I am starting off on the back foot. Though, this pretty much never happens.

The next twelve plus hours are spent on my feet, half way between panic mode and adrenalin high. I try my best to get through a never ending prep list, deal with line cooks and their personal problems, try not to lose my shit when I’m hit with large surprise catering orders (that I don’t have time for) and two fast and hard lunch and dinner services. In between “putting out fires” and covering cooks, so they can take breaks,  I have to magically find time to complete my administrative tasks and be “creative”.

With the exhaustion I am feeling I don’t have a single creative thought in my brain, nor do I have the time to steal one out of a cookbook or magazine. The daily specials start to look the same and I can see the line cooks growing bored with them. Shit, I’m bored of them. But, I’m in survival mode. Every day.

When I get home that evening I cook my partner and I dinner, we eat, drink a few beers and then I go to sleep and do it all over again the next day. I do this over and over every day like a rusty drone ready to short circuit at any given moment.

This used to be my life. I was pale, skinny, malnourished, and had chronic headaches and backaches. My feet hurt all the time. I had a horrible diet, didn’t exercise, didn’t rest and had wicked mood swings. Sure, there were people in my life who made me smile and who I loved, but for the most part I faked a smile to cover up how I was feeling inside, which was exhausted and miserable.

I remember being so stressed out one day that I had to stop in the street and sit down. My heart was racing, I couldn’t breath and tears were streaming down my face. I was having my first panic attack. On my day off.

I had never had a panic attack before. Was this the new normal? Was this going to be my life? I couldn’t even enjoy a day off without panicking about what was happening at the restaurant? It was then, that I knew.

I started to think about my life. What I had missed out on, what I would continue to miss. How little joy was left. When my father passed away I hadn’t seen him in almost two years. He was my best friend, but I barely had time to talk to him when he would call. I thank god now, that I had at least picked up the phone. I missed him terribly and I blamed work for not being able to have had more memories with him.

After twelve years the restaurant industry had finally won. I had officially been defeated mentally and physically, and I was done.

A career that I had worked so hard for and given my whole life to had chewed me up and spit me out. I felt weak and embarrassed. But I also felt free. My last day managing a restaurant kitchen was probably one of the happiest days of my life.

A new normal

The healing process began immediately afterward. I took about two months off where I didn’t even think about work. I started traveling – going to places I had never been, visiting family and taking time to relax, eat and sleep.

I started eating three meals a day (sitting down even!), and although my hips were so tight I couldn’t even sit Indian style, I started a yoga practice, which I now accredit to saving my life.

It took a while for me to slow down. Being a chef had trained me to do everything in my life fast, from brushing my teeth to walking down the sidewalk. Impatient didn’t even begin to start to describe who I was. I was a “master” at multi-tasking (at least that’s what I thought) and I planned everything I did for efficiency, rather than enjoying the process. I was also extremely pessimistic, sarcastic and pretty closed off emotionally to my friends and family.

I had a lot of work to do.

After bumming around a couple years working part time in a few friends’ restaurants, helping out with prep and doing some consulting, I decided it was time to get serious and get back to work. But this time, on my own terms.

I became an entrepreneur and started taking on freelance work.

I was motivated by one thing and one thing only — a flexible schedule. Until now, I had never had that in my life, since I started working at the age of 15.

I realize now, that it was in that moment, I started living my life according to my own personal values, instead of chasing status, recognition or money. It was one of the most important shifts I ever made.

Over the past several years, I have changed my life dramatically and have never felt better. There are so many things that I have learned that I wish I knew back than.

There is a combination of healthy habits that I have adopted slowly overtime, since leaving the restaurant industry. I truly believe that with the right mindset and framework that anyone can make these changes in order to restore their health and bring peace to their life, whether you are in a demanding job or not.

Surviving burnout

When you are experiencing burnout it is hard to see anything else. You don’t have time for anything. I mean, that’s one of the reasons why you are burning out in the first place right?

For the sake of your life, and the lives of those you love around you, you need to stop, look at your situation and reassess it in order for things to change and get better.

Take one afternoon and think about how you are going to do the following:

  1. Set boundaries: Before you can start to do any type of work on yourself no matter what it is you have to build the courage and strength to set boundaries and reclaim your life. This might mean pissing people off, letting others down, being made fun of and/or having to isolate yourself temporarily. It does not matter. This is the first and most crucial part of recovering from burnout. To do this, you must first figure out how much time you need to take back for yourself in order for you to regain your health and sanity. You will then make yourself an “ideal” daily schedule and share it with the people whom it will affect the most. Then you do your very best to stick to it, not allowing anyone to alter it with their own personal agendas. This is where you learn to say NO (for probably the first time in your life).
  2. Get on a sleep schedule: If you are burned out chances are you are not getting enough sleep every night. Sleep is absolutely crucial for your mental and physical health. Get yourself on a schedule that allows you to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Not getting enough sleep every night can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, low energy, lowered immune system, poor mental health and can lead to diseases like Alzheimer’s cancer and diabetes. According to Matthew Walker, the director for the Center for Human Sleep at UC Berkeley and the author of Why We Sleep, “..after just one night of only four or five hour’s sleep, your natural killer cells – the ones that attack the cancer cells that appear in you body every day – drop by 70%” and “the shorter you sleep, the shorter your life”. So, make sleep your first priority.
  3. Look at the way you handle stress: Are you in panic or worry mode everyday? Do you feel constantly frustrated, pissed off, tense or anxious? Do you feel like “nothing can ever just be easy” or that you can’t seem to get your life into a good place? Chances are this is something you have actually manifested yourself. Is it really just a coincidence that something “goes wrong” every day? The reality, is that even with jobs that are more stressful like a police officer, a fire fighter (or a restaurant chef!) you always have a choice in the way you handle yourself. It may not seem like it, but you do. Have you ever noticed that there are people in your life, maybe even people you work with, that just never seem phased by anything? You are running around like your hair is on fire trying your hardest to keep up and keep the proverbial “boat” from sinking and they are just cruising. That person should get fired you say or maybe you just personally loathe them. But why? Isn’t what you want for your life for it to be easier and less stressful? In a way, you want what they have. Harping on the past and worrying about the future rarely brings anything productive to the present moment. Know that you are doing your best. Trust that you are doing everything in that moment that you can, in order to be successful in the future, and just let life happen. If you are working with integrity and effort than that is all you can do. Are you worried that someone is going to say you didn’t try hard enough? Are you worried about being a failure? That is your ego taking over. Tell it to shut up and go about your day being the rock star that you are at an even keeled pace. And just remember this, the way you do anything is the way you do everything. So the next time you have to manage your emotions or a situation, no matter how big or small, keep that in mind. Make sure the way you handle yourself is the way you want to show up in this world, to yourself and to others. That, and the proven fact that stress causes the same major health issues that sleep deprivation does. Eventually it will literally kill you.
  4. Create a solid morning routine: The old days of me giving myself a half an hour between waking up and running out the door are over. The best way to ensure you have a good day is to set yourself up for success. This starts with making your to-do list the night before and getting a good night’s sleep. Give yourself at least an hour before you have to hit the shower and leave for work to mentally prepare yourself for the day. For me this includes, drinking a full glass of room temperature lemon water, to cleanse my liver and boost my metabolism; meditating, journaling, reading and having a healthy breakfast. Everyone should create a custom morning routine that fits their own needs yet gives you ample time to ease into your day with intention.
  5. Eat healthier: This has just as much to do with the food you eat as it does the way you eat it and think about it. You could be eating the cleanest, most nutrient packed food everyday but if you are shoving it in your mouth on the run, eating more than your body needs or moralizing every piece of food you put (or don’t put) in your mouth than you are not eating healthy. Find the foods that make you feel good and give you energy, drink lots of water and enjoy what you eat. Food restriction does not help you maintain a desired weight and it screws with your head. You know deep down what you need and how much you need of it to thrive. Less processed foods, more REAL food. Don’t over complicate it.
  6. Move: It may sound counterproductive to someone who is on their feet 12 hours a day to develop an exercise routine. After all, “I’m running around moving all day, aren’t I?” Working on your feet all day and exercising are not the same thing. You need at least 30 minutes a day where you are moving without having to think about anything except the movement that you are performing. My current favorite workouts involve swimming, TRX and yoga. I also sold my car and walk a lot more now. It doesn’t matter what you choose as long as it gets your blood pumping and helps strengthen your muscles. Yoga is my favorite because it incorporates mindfulness, meditation and movement all in one – three things crucial for balancing burnout symptoms. If you are lethargic and tired from being burned out exercise will actually give you the energy and mental clarity that you need.
  7. Practice self-compassion: Above all give yourself a break. You have been pushing yourself past your limits for too long. It is time to show yourself some love and care so that you can then show the same to others. It is OK to be a hard worker but not at the cost of sacrificing yourself.

If you are suffering from burnout, it is time to take back your life right now. Best of luck to you.

Do you have a burn out story? How did you survive? What were the changes that you made in your life that helped you recover? Tell us all about it in the comments section. And if you liked this article I invite you to subscribe to The Healthy Locavore for more health tips, cooking ideas and resources. I am so grateful for this community, thank you so much for being a part of it!