Tofu Bibimbap with Creamy Red Pepper-Ginger Dressing

tofu bibimbap

tofu bibimbap

This is a light, colorful and healthy twist on the classic Korean comfort food dish: bibimbap.

Make the rice, dressing and containers of cut vegetables over the weekend for a dish you can throw together quickly during the week.

You can use tofu, like I suggest here, or put any kind of leftover meat on top. This dish works well with steak, chicken, pork… anything you have on hand really.

Tofu Bibimbap with Creamy Red Pepper-Ginger Dressing

This recipe makes enough for four people, or enough for one person to make ahead of time to enjoy multiple meals throughout the week.

Cuisine Korean
Keyword bibimbap, red pepper ginger dressing, rice, tofu
Servings 4 people

Ingredients

Creamy Red Pepper-Ginger Dressing

  • 3/4 cups red bell pepper chopped
  • 1 Tbsp ginger peeled and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp shallot chopped
  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp oil sesame
  • 1/4 cup olive oil extra virgin
  • 2 tsp Bragg liquid aminos or soy sauce
  • 1 tsp raw honey
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 pinch black pepper freshly ground

Bibimbap

  • 2 cups brown rice medium or long grain, rinsed
  • 2 Tbs oil grapeseed or canola
  • 14 ounces tofu extra-firm, drained, dried and cubed
  • 1 cup red cabbage shredded
  • 1 medium carrot grated
  • 1 small red beet grated
  • 1 small zucchini grated
  • 1 cup sprouts sunflower or alfalfa
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
  • to taste salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbs sesame seeds black or white

Instructions

For the dressing

  1. Place everything into a blender and puree until smooth.

For the rice

  1. In a medium pot place the rice, 4 cups of water and 1 tsp of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit covered for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork.

For the tofu

  1. While the rice is steaming, in a medium non-stick skillet, warm the canola oil over high heat. Add the tofu in one layer and sear about a minute without stirring until golden brown. Flip the tofu over and cook 2-3 minutes more until golden brown on the other side. Remove from pan and drain on a paper towel. Season with salt and pepper. 

To assemble

  1. Divide the rice into 4 bowls. Place a spoonful of tofu in the center of each bowl and surround the tofu with piles of the cabbage, carrot, red beet, zucchini, sprouts and cherry tomatoes. Drizzle the dressing over the top of each bowl and garnish with sesame seeds. Serve extra dressing on the side.

Recipe Notes

On Oʻahu I recommend the following...

Aloha Tofu

The Rice Factory 

 

How To Make Puerto Rican Pasteles Local Style

Puerto Rican Pasteles

Puerto Rican Pasteles

So many dishes enjoyed in Hawaiʻi today can be traced back to the introduction of various cuisines and cultures during the plantation era.

Puerto Ricans were one of the migrant groups that came here in the early 1900s and with them they brought pasteles (known in Hawaiʻi as “pateles”).

Hawaiʻi, being a tropical environment like Puerto Rico, possessed many of the ingredients necessary to make these tamale-like treats. What couldn’t be found was easily replaced with similar substitutions.

Puerto Ricans use banana leaves to wrap their pasteles. Hawaiʻi had banana leaves and ti leaves which could both be used.

Puerto Ricans often put yautia in their masa. Hawaiʻi had taro.

Both places had plantains, squash, pork and bananas.

There are different variations of this recipe, commonly made during the Christmas holiday in large amounts. My recipe is a merging of many I have found online used with ingredients grown on Oʻahu.

I recommend spending a few days to put it together and enlisting the help of at least one friend. The process of making them is as much if not more rewarding than eating them.

Puerto Rican Pasteles

"Local Style" Puerto Rican Pasteles

On Oʻahu you can find many of these ingredients from local farms. Otherwise try your local Latin American market for ingredients such as banana leaves. I use ti leaves for my recipe because they are readily available in Hawaiʻi and make a great wrapper, but they are traditionally wrapped in banana leaves.

Suggested timeline for this project:

Day 1 - Source your ingredients

Day 2 - Debone the ti leaves, make soffrito and simmer the pork.

Day 3 - Stuff, wrap and cook the pasteles.

Course Main Dish
Keyword local style, puerto rican pasteles
Servings 18 pasteles

Ingredients

  • 18 each ti leaves deboned

Sofrito

  • 1 each chile chopped
  • 1/4 each green bell pepper chopped
  • 1/4 each red bell pepper chopped
  • 1/4 each yellow onion chopped
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro chopped

Filling

  • 2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 2 lbs pork shoulder diced into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup soffrito see here
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 tsp oregano dried
  • 1 tsp cumin ground
  • 1/4 cup achiote paste
  • 12 oz tomato puree
  • 3 sprigs cilantro chopped
  • TT salt and pepper
  • 1 cup pimiento stuffed green olives sliced

Masa

  • 4 lbs plantains peeled
  • 1/2 lb russet potato peeled
  • 1/2 lb taro root peeled
  • 1/4 each kabocha squash peeled
  • 1/2 cup achiote oil
  • TT salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Watch the video below to learn how to debone a ti leaf.

Soffrito

  1. Place all of the ingredients in a blender with just enough water to get the motor running. Puree until finely chopped.

Filling

  1. Season the pork liberally with salt and pepper.

  2. In a large skillet heat the canola oil over high heat. Add the pork, and let sear until brown on one side before stirring. Stir and brown on each side. This may need to be done in a few batches depending on the size of your pan. Do not overcrowd your pan. This will cause the meat to steam rather than brown. Remove the meat and place onto a paper towel lined plate.

  3. Lower the heat to medium. Add the soffrito, garlic, oregano and cumin. Season with salt and pepper and saute for 2 minutes until fragrant.

  4. Add the achiote paste, tomato puree, cilantro and seared pork. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer uncovered on medium-low heat for about 1-1 1/2 hours until tender.

Masa

  1. Grate the ingredients and combine in a bowl.

  2. In a food processor combine half of the grated ingredients, 1/4 cup achiote oil and salt and pepper. Puree until chopped fine. Repeat once more with the remaining grated ingredients, oil and more salt and pepper. Afterward mix both batches together in a bowl adding more oil if necessary to ensure a cohesive "dough." It should stick together, but not be wet.

Assemble the pasteles

  1. Warm an electric burner on medium-high heat. Run the ti leaves quickly over it one by one to soften the leaves. Do not burn the leaves.

  2. Lay a ti leaf, horizontally and shiny side down on the counter. Brush the center where you will lay the masa with achiote oil. Slather a 1/2 cup of masa over the oil in a rectangle shape, spreading it evenly with the back of a spoon. Place 2-3 tablespoons of the braised pork in the middle of the masa and top with sliced olives. Fold the top of the leaf down, so that the masa folds over the filling. Fold the bottom of the leaf up to fully enclose the filling. Fold the right side of the leaf over, followed by the left side of the leaf to form an oblong packet. Reapeat with the rest of the ingredients.

  3. Cut the butcherʻs twine into 18 pieces about 2 feet long.

  4. Cut 18 pieces of parchment paper roughly 12 inches by 12 inches.

  5. Lay out a sheet of parchemnent and place a pastele in the center. Fold the top part of the paper over and scoot the pastele down until both ends of the paper meet. Fold both pieces of paper up 3 times to create a seal, then fold the rest of the paper back over the pastele. Fold each side of the paper in to create an oblong packet.

    Fold the string in half. Place it lengthwise on the counter in front of you with the loop side at the top. Place the packet in the center horizontally. Bring the bottom ends of the string up over the packet and through the loop of the top of the string and pull tight. Pull each strand of string to the middle of the packet and then pull outwards, one to the left, one to the right to tighten. Flip the packet over. Bring the strings around each side and tie them together at the center. (See link in the notes for a demo)

  6. Boil or steam the pasteles for one hour. Unwrap and enjoy while still warm with hot sauce and whatever other condiments you enjoy. I like making a fresh slaw with lime juice to go with. This is probably not traditional, but I also enjoy sour cream on the side too!

Recipe Notes

How to debone a ti leaf.

Skip to minute 6:34 of this video for a demo on how to wrap and tie your pasteles. 

You can purchase achiote paste here.

You can purchase achiote oil here. 

I sourced my achiote oil and ti leaves on Oʻahu from Kahumana Organic Farms

The pork shoulder I used is from Mountain View Dairy in Waiʻanae, purchased from Pono Pork.

Vegan Sweet Potato Chowder

vegan sweet potato chowder
vegan sweet potato chowder
Photo by Ketino photography

Want a comforting, hot soup that will make you feel amazing afterward? One that won’t weigh you down? This vegan sweet potato chowder is a favorite at the yoga retreats I cook for. And after many requests for the recipe I’m finally getting it up on the blog.

Feel free to play around with adding different types of vegetables and spices to this recipe. You can swap lemon for lime too, which is just as tasty. One thing I recommend however, is to use Arroy-D brand coconut milk. It is 100% pure and does not separate like other coconut milks can when brought to a simmer.

I use local Okinawa purple sweet potatoes here, but I have also made this soup with a variety of other types of sweet potatoes and they all work well.

Vegan Sweet Potato Chowder

*Use local and organic ingredients whenever possible. 

Cuisine vegan
Keyword vegan sweet potato chowder
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 5 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil unrefined
  • .5 each yellow onion diced small
  • 2 ribs celery diced small
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic peeled and minced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger peeled and minced
  • 2 cups sweet potatoes peeled and diced large
  • 2 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 pinch chile flakes
  • 1.5 cups water roughly
  • TT salt & black pepper
  • 1 can coconut milk Arroy-D brand (14oz)
  • .5 head broccoli cut into tiny florets
  • 2 each scallions sliced thin
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley chopped
  • .5 each lemon juiced

Instructions

  1. Melt the coconut oil in a large pot over medium-low heat.

  2. Add the yellow onion and celery, season with salt and pepper and cook on medium-low heat stirring occasionally until soft. 

  3. Add the garlic and ginger and cook 2 minutes more. 

  4. Add the sweet potatoes, nutritional yeast, chile flake and water (enough water to barely cover the vegetables). Season with more salt and pepper, bring to a boil over high heat and then lower to a simmer. Simmer until the potatoes are tender. 

  5. Add the coconut milk and broccoli, bring back up to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook until the broccoli is tender. 

  6. Turn off heat, add scallion, parsley and lemon juice. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper as needed. 

Recipe Notes

Purchase Arroy-D coconut milk here

Purchase nutritional yeast here

Ulu-Kiawe Cornbread

ulu-kiawe cornbread

ulu-kiawe cornbread

I developed this ulu-kiawe cornbread recipe for my last Pupus With A Purpose  event to highlight ingredients that are both local and invasive to Hawaiʻi. To make a gluten-free cornbread (or any kind of gluten-free bread for that matter) takes a bit of tinkering. AP flour brings a lightness to breads and pastries that gluten-free flours can’t. To avoid creating a dry hockey puck I treated this bread like a cake. How do you create a super moist cake? You add fat.

So, in addition to high quality ulu and kiawe flours, and locally grown and milled cornmeal, I incorporate a good amount of coconut oil into this recipe. I also use a lower glycemic monkfruit sugar instead of refined sugar to make it even healthier.

Lastly, I bake this bread in a well seasoned cast iron dutch oven passed down from my aunt who used it for years before me. This helps steam the bread a bit while giving it a nice crust. Plus, everything tastes better coming out of a family heirloom.

This may be a difficult recipe to make if you don’t live on Oʻahu because the ingredients may be tough to source. But, if you are lucky enough to live here I invite you to please indulge.

Ulu-Kiawe Cornbread

Use organic, local ingredients whenever possible. 

Cuisine Gluten free
Keyword cornbread, cornmeal, gluten free, kiawe, ulu
Servings 16 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cornmeal Counter Culture Organic Farms' 'Nalo Orange Cornmeal
  • 2 cups milk whole
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 1.5 ounces kiawe flour Waiʻanae Gold
  • 5 ounces ulu flour Manaʻe Farm or Kahumana Farms brand
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 3/4 cup monkfruit sugar
  • 2 each eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil plus more for greasing your pan

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven 400 degrees.

  2. In a small bowl combine cornmeal, creamed corn and milk; let stand for 15 minutes. 

  3. Grease a cast iron pan with 1-2 tablespoons coconut oil and place in the  oven while it's pre-heating. 

  4. In a large bowl whisk together flours, baking powder, salt and monkfruit sugar. 

  5. Whisk in cornmeal mixture.

  6. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs and coconut oil until well incorporated, and then whisk this into the rest of the cornbread batter. 

  7. Remove the cast iron pan from the oven, pour in the batter, level it out with a spatula and place back in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean.

  8. Let the bread cool in the cast iron pan for at least 30 minutes. Invert the pan on to a cutting board to remove the bread, continue to let it cool on the cutting board for another 30 minutes, and then slice into 16 pieces or as desired. 

  9. Serve with soft butter, honey and jam or all on its own. 

How To Make An Omelette

how to make an omelette

how to make an omelette

Do you want to know how to make an omelette? You should!

From Escoffier to James Beard there is probably no ingredient, more highly revered by chefs, than the humble egg. Back in the day, Chefs had aspiring cooks prepare them an omelette to test their capabilities in the kitchen. If they passed the test, it meant they had that “chef’s intuition,” deeming them teachable.  At least that was the case back when I was in culinary school and apprenticing.

The heat of the pan, the amount of butter used and the technique of rolling and folding a true omelette takes finesse. It’s simple and difficult at the same time.

First, you have to have the right pan. I use an 8” non-stick classic fry pan. If you want something a little sexier you can use a seasoned French skillet made of carbon steel. Something with rounded sides…you’ll need that for the folding part.

James Beard will tell you to use two and a half eggs per omelette. I don’t know anyone who has a half an egg lying around, so I recommend three. I often eat breakfast alone, so I’m working with a single portion recipe here. Whisk your eggs with some fresh herbs (I like chopped thyme and parsley), a couple cracks of fresh black peppercorns and a hefty pinch of kosher salt (Diamond Crystal brand if you want to look like a pro).

You’ll need butter…real butter of course…the good stuff. A tablespoon will seem like too much, until you use less and wish you had used more. Your pan must be hot, but not too hot. When the butter touches the surface, a bubbly sea type foam is what you desire, being careful not to let it brown. Just when you fear your butter may turn on you, pour in the eggs. This is where living in Hawaii has come in handy…I always have wooden chopsticks lying around. I grab a pair and whisk, whisk, whisk like the devil is chasing me, shaking my pan back and forth to create frantically fine ribbons. Once the eggs take on an appearance that looks less like something I’d sneeze into a tissue and more like a soft, creamy scramble, I take my chopsticks and draw a circle around the circumference of the pan, peeling the omelette away from the sides. Thin wispy edges reveal themselves and I know it’s time to start rolling.

Quickly, I grab a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano (I know….NOT so French of me. I have a thing for Italians…) and a microplane and make it rain all over the surface of the eggs. Drop that, pick the chopsticks back up and tilt my pan towards me while I lovingly encourage the edge of the omelette that’s closest to me to make its way over to the other side in the form of a burrito.

This is the test––when you find out if your pan was too hot or not hot enough, and whether or not your pan has been properly cared for. If the omelette rolls without sticking, you exhale for the first time since dropping your eggs in the pan, and continue to roll it right out of the pan on to a plate where I like to finish it with a dash of Aleppo Pepper for spice and smokiness. Grab a fork, and a glass of champagne, if you got it on hand, and sit back and savor one of the most simple and refined dishes on earth.

 

Ever attempt an omelette? What has your experience been? Tell us about it in the comments section. And if you liked this post 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.

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  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.

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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

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  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. 

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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

Fish

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.

Salt

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

Equipment

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

See method described above.

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Coconut Chia Seed Pudding With Savory Granola And Tropical Fruit

coconut chia seed pudding

 

coconut chia seed pudding

Chia seed pudding has become as popular to eat for breakfast as yogurt parfaits these days. Like yogurt, the simple base for this pudding is very versatile and can be flavored and topped with almost anything.

Living in Hawaii I’m partial to topping it with tropical fruit myself but you could also use fresh berries, diced stone fruit, apples, pears and pomegranate seeds. Really any kind of fruit you can think of.

This is a handy go-to breakfast for a few reasons: 

  1. It’s fast. You make it the evening before so it is ready to eat the next morning. All you have to do is sprinkle on your toppings and grab a spoon.
  2. It’s easy to make. The pudding literally takes 1-2 minutes to put together. You don’t have to make your own granola like I do, store bought is fine and much simpler. If you use fruit like frozen berries there is not even any fruit prep to do.
  3. The ingredients are non-perishable. Keep some cans of coconut milk and toppings like granola and cacao nibs in the cupboard so you have them whenever you need them. If you store toppings like nuts, seeds and shredded coconut in the refrigerator they will stay fresh for months. You can even keep frozen berries on hand in the freezer .You never have to run the risk of any of the ingredients for this dish going bad before you get to them

Coconut Chia Seed Pudding With Savory Granola And Tropical Fruit

This is a very basic coconut chia seed pudding recipe. You do not have to use the suggested toppings to garnish it with. You can use any fruit or toppings you desire or even just eat it plain. The tropical fruit I used in the photo shown was lilikoi, red dragonfruit and papaya from Hawaii.

Course Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine Dairy free, Gluten free
Servings 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 14 fl oz Coconut Milk 1 can, unsweetened
  • 1 Tbsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Raw Honey
  • 5 Tbsp Chia Seeds

Garnishes:

  • 1/2 cup Savory Granola store bought or see link below to make your own
  • 1 Tbsp Cacao Nibs
  • 2 Tbsp Shredded Coconut
  • 2 tsp Hemp Seeds
  • 1/2 cup Tropical fruit diced

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl whisk together the coconut milk, vanilla extract, sea salt and honey. Whisk the chia seeds in last. 

  2. Ladle the pudding into 4 ramekins or coffee cups, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 

  3. The next day, unwrap your puddings right before serving and garnish each one with granola, cacao nibs, shredded coconut and tropical fruit. 

  4. Chia puddings (without garnishes) will stay fresh in the refrigerator up to 5 days. 

Recipe Notes

I recommend using Organic Aroy-D coconut milk for this recipe. It comes out nice and creamy and thick. Other coconut milks may result in a thinner pudding. 

The recipe for my savory granola is right here.

Need shredded coconut? - Use this

Need cacao nibs? - Use this

Need hemp seeds? - Use this

Cold Asian Noodle Salad

Cold Asian Noodle Salad
Cold Asian Noodle Salad
Photo by Ketino Photography

There is nothing more satisfying on a hot night than a grilled piece of meat and a cold Asian noodle salad. There is something about the smokiness of the meat that pairs perfectly with the vinegar and the cold crunchy vegetables in this salad.

This salad can be made ahead of time to eat all throughout the week. It is perfect for picnics and a great meal to take with you to work for lunch.

Too busy to prep all of these veggies? Do your knife skills sorta suck? Many grocery stores now sell vegetables pre-sliced in the produce section. Using these will cut your prep time on this dish way down and take some of the stress out of getting dinner on the table.

Cold Asian Noodle Salad
Photo by Ketino Photography

Cold Asian Noodle Salad

* Use organic ingredients whenever possible.

Servings 2 Servings

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces Rice noodles
  • 3 sprigs Cilantro whole leaves
  • 3 sprigs Mint whole leaves
  • 3 sprigs Basil whole leaves
  • 1 each Scallion sliced thin
  • 2 inches English cucumber sliced into half moons
  • 1 each Radish sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup Carrot julienned
  • 1/2 cup Red bell pepper julienned
  • 10 each Snap peas julienned
  • 1 Tbsp Sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp Rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp Bragg Liquid Aminos
  • TT Sea salt and black pepper

Instructions

  1. Follow the cooking directions on the package of rice noodles. After they are cooked, rinse well under cold water and strain. 

  2. Toss the cooked, cold noodles with the rest of the ingredients and serve. 

Recipe Notes

Need Sesame oil? - Buy it here

Need Rice vinegar? - Buy it here

Need Bragg Liquid Aminos? - Buy it here

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