Photography by Marissa Phillips-Wallace
On March 27th, 2019, at Moku Kitchen in Honolulu, Jess Rohr (Forage Hawaii) and I hosted our second Pupus With A Purpose Event, continuing our mission of creating conscious change in our local food system. The theme was wild and invasive ingredients.
Our special guest for the evening was wild foods advocate Sunny Savage. Sunny foraged for several of the ingredients I used throughout the menu, helped with food prep in the days leading up to the event and gave an unforgettable expert talk .
As an educator Sunny teaches people how they can connect to the land through food and increases a sense of food security by showing us how to forage for ourselves.
Sunny has a Bachelor’s of Science in Dietetics, a Master’s of Science in Nutrition Education and has traveled extensively on all 7 continents foraging and learning about wild edibles along the way. She knows the medicinal benefits of these foods as well as the role they play in nature.
Jess kicked off the evening by explaining the theme of our event and what her company Forage Hawaii does in relation to it. She also introduced me and Sunny. An introduction so heartfelt I was nearly in tears, by the time it was my turn to go up and talk…..
…I manage to pull it together enough to introduce myself, my inspiration for the menu and score a couple laughs.
Nothing gets me more excited than talking about local ingredients and the people who grow them.
Such as this wonderful human, Vince Dodge, owner of Waianae Gold. who came bearing gifts of dried wild, invasive Kiawe pods for all of our guests to try.
Sunny commences the meal by burning redwood needles harvested along the high elevation slopes of Haleakalā. She starts with a prayer, an invitation to create and purify the space in which we would share our evening together.
She explains that “smoke medicine” increases our awareness and signals the body to pay attention.
Sunny teaches us that invasive species are sacred plants from where they came from. Encouraging us to not think of them as a “problem we need to get rid of,” but as an opportunity to collaborate with life.
Thai Venison Laap
Maui Nui venison loin** / kahili ginger*** – powdered, pickled & hydrosol / housemade sourdough fermented with wild Honolulu yeast* / Thai aromatics
Maui Axis deer enjoy a stress-free life, void of natural predators. This immunity contributes to their invasiveness but also results in some of the tastiest, least-gamey venison you ever will find.
I served this meat raw, unadulterated by heat, to showcase its high quality. Because its flavor is mild, I invoked the vibrant flavors of Thai cuisine. I replaced galangal with kahili ginger, an invasive plant that spreads like wildfire, snuffing out other native plants. Sunny processed this ginger three ways – dried and ground into powder, sliced and pickled, and distilled into hydrosol – to maximize its aroma.
I chose a sourdough crostini as a serving vessel, instead of the traditional side of salad or rice, to incorporate another wild ingredient: Honolulu yeast. To tie it all together, I seasoned the dough with spices used in Thai cuisine including Kahumana Farms coriander.
Sunny sprays her wild kahili ginger hydrosol for guests to enhance the dish with its beautiful aroma.
Sunny tells us stories throughout the evening demonstrating how invasive plants are a symbol of abundance. How through our battle with herbicide, climate change and pathogens in the environment it is the invasives that continue to thrive.
Wild, foraged greens*** / sweet onion / Java plum***-haole koa seed miso*** vinaigrette / ogo / housemade inamona* / Alaea sea salt / butter lettuce wrap
One of the benefits of eating wild ingredients is the deeper relationship that you can cultivate with your environment. Sunny ventured deep into the wild to pull these greens from the earth by hand to commence this connection. The salad was served in a butter lettuce cup like a taco, so guests could use their hands to connect with the dish. (All of the dishes on this menu were finger foods for this reason.) Putting down the knife and fork reduces the distance between us and our sources of nourishment.
These greens may be foreign to many of us, so I added the familiar tastes and textures of a favorite local dish, poke, to encourage guests to consider introducing them into their kitchen.
Vietnamese La Lot Rolls
Makaweli Meat Co. antelope* & Big Island mac nut boar** wrapped in la lot leaves / nuoc cham / marinated, local vegetables
La lot leaves, which are native to Vietnam, are grown on Oahu by Jay Silverstein at Kamahi Produce & Horticulture. Thịt bò nướng lá lốt is a Vietnamese dish made by wrapping ground beef mixed with aromatics in la lot leaves, like Greek dolmas, and grilling them.
I adapted the recipe to use local ingredients – wild antelope and invasive boar – instead of beef. Nuoc Cham and marinated, raw vegetables accompanied the rolls to create contrast and to honor the traditional dish.
Kiawe Cornbread & Tea
Cast-iron skillet cornbread made with Counter Culture Organic Farms cornmeal, kiawe flour** & ulu flour / Java plum jam*** / kiawe honey / kiawe & wild spice tea***
I used cornmeal grown, dried and milled by Counter Culture Organic Farms and kiawe and ulu flours in place of all-purpose flour to prepare this bread from local ingredients.
The kiawe flour, produced by Waianae Gold, is made from kiawe pods harvested from the invasive trees that surround Kahumana Farms. The honey drizzled over the cornbread comes from bees that pollinate these same kiawe trees during the summer.
Sunny transforms the astringent Java plums – one bite can suck all the moisture out of your mouth! – by cooking them down into a jam. My hope was that if Java plums had turned our guests off in the past, then this jam would inspire them to try them again.
Java plum is a sacred tree at the center of the island at the center of the world, written about in the Bhagavad-Gita. Lord Ram spent 14 years exiled to the forest eating java plums. It is sacred stories like this that encourage us to have respect for ingredients like the java plum.
It was a magical evening blending story, education, friends and wild flavors. A huge thank you to everyone who came out to support local.
*wild & local
**wild, local & invasive
***foraged on Maui or Oahu by Sunny
Distributed by Forage Hawaii:
Wild venison – Maui Nui Venison
Wild boar – Big Island Boar
Wild antelope – Makaweli Meat Co. (Kauai)
Foraged/produced by Sunny Savage:
Kahili ginger powder – (Maui)
Kahili ginger pickle – (Maui)
Kahili ginger hydrosol – (Maui)
Edible flowers – (Oʻahu)
Java plums (for jam) – (Maui)
Greens – (Oʻahu)
Kiawe pods – (Maui)
Allspice – (Maui)
Haole koa seed miso – (Maui)
Produced by Sarah Burchard:
Spiced sourdough bread – with wild Honolulu yeast
Inamona – using Kukui nuts from Lokoea Farms
Java plum vinegar – using Java plums foraged by Sunny Savage
Kahumana Farms (Waiʻanae, Oʻahu):
Counter Culture Organic Farms (Waialua, Oʻahu):
Nalo orange cornmeal
Lokoea Farms (Haleʻiwa, Oʻahu):
Makrut lime leaf
De La Mesa Farm (Waimānalo, Oʻahu):
Micro Cilantro, Scallion, Pea Shoots, Daikon & Salad Mix
Roots and Remedies Farm (Waimānalo, Oʻahu): Butter Lettuce
“Old Time” Brand/Hawaiian Paʻakai Inc. (Honolulu, Oʻahu): Alaea sea salt
Waianae Gold (Waiʻanae, Oʻahu): Kiawe flour
Manaʻe Farm (Molokaʻi): Ulu flour
Manoa Honey (Wahiawa, Oʻahu): Kiawe honey
Bear Claw Farm (Waimānalo, Oʻahu): Lemongrass
Maʻo Organic Farms (Waiʻanae, Oʻahu): Scallion
Lovanʻs Farms (Waialua, Oʻahu): Sweet onion
Kamahi Produce & Horticulture (Kāneʻohe, Oʻahu): La lot leaves
Mahina Pua Farms (Waimānalo, Oʻahu): Fennel
Olakai (Kahuku, Oʻahu): Ogo
Sunny Savage is the author of Wild Food Plants of Hawaiʻi, the host of the show “Hot On The Trail with Sunny Savage” and her TED talk “You can eat that––The gift of wild foods” has received over 9,000 views on YouTube. Her new app Savage Kitchen Edible Invasive Species, promising to link you to 5 edible invasive plants in your own back yard (that is, if you live in Hawaii), is slated to launch next year.
Subscribe here to find out when and where the next Pupus With A Purpose will be.
Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and experience host whose writing focuses on cooking, holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made foods.