Discovering Wild And Invasive Ingredients With Sunny Savage: Pupus With A Purpose | March 2019

pupus with a purpose

pupus with a purpose

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.

pupus with a purpose
The Healthy Locavore (Sarah Burchard), Forage Hawaii (Jess Rohr) & Savage Kitchen (Sunny Savage) host Pupus With A Purpose 2: Wild & Invasive Ingredients

pupus with a purpose

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 .

pupus with a purpose

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.

pupus with a purpose

pupus with a purpose
Jess greets Vince Dodge, owner of Waianae Gold Kiawe Flour

pupus with a purpose

pupus with a purpose

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…..

pupus with a purpose

pupus with a purpose

…I manage to pull it together enough to introduce myself, my inspiration for the menu and score a couple laughs.

pupus with a purpose

pupus with a purpose

Nothing gets me more excited than talking about local ingredients and the  people who grow them.

pupus with a purpose

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.

pupus with a purpose

pupus with a purpose

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.

pupus with a purpose

She explains that “smoke medicine” increases our awareness and signals the body to pay attention.

pupus with a purpose

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.

pupus with a purpose
The famous Merriman’s Mai Tais
pupus with a purpose
Wild, invasive Venison and Kahili Ginger Thai Laap

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.

pupus with a purpose

Sunny sprays her wild kahili ginger hydrosol for guests to enhance the dish with its beautiful aroma.

pupus with a purpose

pupus with a purpose

pupus with a purpose

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.

pupus with a purpose
Jess helping out in the kitchen. Always welcomed.
pupus with a purpose
Wild greens “poke”

Wild Greens 

Wild, foraged greens*** / sweet onion / Java plum***-haole koa seed miso*** vinaigrette / ogo / housemade inamona* / Alaea sea salt / butter lettuce wrap 

pupus with a purpose

pupus with a purpose

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.

pupus with a purpose
Vietname La Lot Rolls with Wild Antelope & Boar

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.

pupus with a purpose

pupus with a purpose
Wild, invasive kiawe beans | Kiawe-Ulu Cornbread with java plum jam and kiawe honey

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.

pupus with a purpose
General Manager of Moku Kitchen, Mason Hundhausen passes out wild kiawe and allspice tea to end the meal.

pupus with a purpose

It was a magical evening blending story, education, friends and wild flavors. A huge thank you to everyone who came out to support local.

pupus with a purpose
Greeting Jacey Joern, owner Roots and Remedies farm in Waimanalo

*wild & local   

**wild, local & invasive   

***foraged on Maui or Oahu by Sunny

Ingredient Sources:

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

Procured locally:

Kahumana Farms (Waiʻanae, Oʻahu):

Coriander seeds 



Garlic chives


Counter Culture Organic Farms (Waialua, Oʻahu):

Nalo orange cornmeal




Lokoea Farms (Haleʻiwa, Oʻahu):


Makrut lime leaf

De La Mesa Farm (Waimānalo, Oʻahu):

Purple Daikon

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 

pupus with a purpose
Wild Food Plants of Hawaiʻi by Sunny Savage

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.

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