kruizing with kikukat

Monday, October 31, 2011

Short Ribs: Thank You, Barefoot Contessa

Happy Halloween!  The weather here (yes, even in Hawaii) is definitely turning cooler.  This is when I change the bedding and re-think menus.  Cold weather foods are definitely what I'm wanting to eat now, especially since we've had illness in our house recently (cold virus, walking pneumonia).  Knock on wood, I have yet to get sick this season, and I hope the pain I endured with a flu shot this week (thank you, KTA pharmacy) will hold off the seasonal bug for me.  Moving past the gai jow (Chinese ginger chicken soup guaranteed to make you feel better), I'm going to be looking at hearty fare to get us through these cooler months.

The local supermarket, KTA (yes, they have a pharmacy too, did I mention that?), sells boneless short ribs that are marinated in a variety of sauces.  They are sold by-the-pound, with the intention that buyers will appreciate the convenience of having them ready-to-grill.  I have never enjoyed buying these ribs, and I've always felt they were inferior to the 3-bone short ribs.  But thanks to Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa), boneless short ribs have been redeemed with this recipe.

Although included in her book, "Barefoot Contessa Family Style", this recipe actually came from Scott Bieber, a chef at a well-known Manhattan restaurant.  Scott's Short Ribs can also be found on the Food Network website.  Unfortunately, there are no pictures in the book of this recipe.

I'm always a little unsure of what "short ribs" mean to people outside of Hawaii.  In Hawaii, what we normally call short ribs are usually flat pieces of meat, about 1/2" thick, with 3 oval bones in a row at the top.  Its the cut of beef normally used for kal bi.  Outside of Hawaii, I've heard the terms "English cut" and "flanken style" used to denote specific cuts of short ribs.  I believe the kal bi cut is called "flanken style".  Boneless short ribs are  likely taken from thicker flanken style pieces where the top bones have been removed.  But we all know the meat tastes better when the bones are attached.
fennel lends an anise-like smell to the mirepoix
Don't be alarmed at the amount of wine called for in the recipe.  The alcohol burns off, and the end result is far from wine-y.  I used a very inexpensive cabernet (Rex Goliath from Target, on sale for under $6).  I actually made this ahead of time and reheated it a few days later.  I ended up serving this with mashed potatoes, and it was fabulous.
 This part is for the relatives who always ask me what kinds of treats the Ds passed out this year. . .I was lazy and took the path of least resistance.  D2 took mini bags of popcorn to distribute to her classmates.  D1 took a variety of candy, including Sees Candy Lollipops.  Earlier this month, D2 and I did do the traditional sugar cookie w/icing, but I decided not to post pics because I mistakenly bought purple gel food coloring instead of black.  Ever the trooper, D2 began to decorate the bat cookies, but she handed over the job when her ride arrived.  When she got home, she was somewhat less-than-impressed with the job The Help and I had done to finish the cookies, especially the bat ones (I'm not saying who finished the bat cookies).  Next year, our cats and bats will be black instead of pastel purple, and D2 will make sure she is around to do the decorating herself.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Stuffed Bell Peppers

I can still recall the moment when bell peppers ceased being "the dreaded food".  I was at a birthday party for my nephew and some kind of wraps were served.  Although I was tempted, it would've been rude of me to open up the wrap and remove the bell pepper slivers.  My plan was to eat the wrap and swallow fast.  I was shocked to discover that I enjoyed the wraps, and my original plan to swallow quickly just did not happen.  From that moment, a door to many wonderful recipes using bell peppers was opened.

One of my favorite ways (D1 loves this too) to eat bell peppers is stuffed with shrimp paste.  Legend Seafood Restaurant in Honolulu's Chinatown offers this from one of their carts, but homemade is better (not as much "fillers" in the shrimp paste).  This makes a great pupu (appetizer) or a main dish.  Its very convenient because the filling can be made ahead of time.  Just be sure to let the filling sit out for 15 minutes before using, and stir it up well several times.  Another trick is to keep the inside of the bell peppers dry.  This will help the filling adhere.

The filling (or any leftover filling) can also be formed into small patties and pan-fried as well.

click on recipe title for printable recipe
Stuffed Bell Peppers

     4 bell peppers in assorted colors
     1 lb shrimp, peeled, de-veined & coarsely chopped
     1/4 c coarsely chopped bamboo shoots
     2 tbsp chopped water chestnuts
     2 tbsp rice wine
     2 tsp sesame oil
     1 tsp salt
     2 tbsp cornstarch
     1 egg white
     oil for pan frying

Combine shrimp, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts in work bowl of a food processor until shrimp is chopped fine.  Transfer to a bowl and add rice wine, sesame oil, salt, cornstarch, and egg white.  At this point, mixture can be refrigerated and removed from refrigerator 15 minutes before assembly, stirring several times.  Quarter each bell pepper.  Remove seeds.  Cut each quarter into 2 or 3 pieces.  Press a layer of filling (1/4"-1/2" thick) onto inner surface of bell pepper.  Heat oil in skillet.  Pan fry each piece, shrimp-side down only.  Do not fry bell pepper side.  Remove from pan when filling is golden brown and cooked through.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Restaurant Chatter: Miyo's

entry way with kissing fish
Work sucks.  Anyone else feel the same way?  Maybe the problem for us is that we actually care about doing a good job.  We care what others think.  We get frustrated when others make the shittiest, bone-headed decisions.  Thats why I'm very grateful for my weekends.  Weekends give me the break I need to recharge and be strong enough for the bullshit of the week.  Weekends are also the time to go out for leisurely meals.  One of my favorite places in Hilo which has withstood the test of time is Miyo's.

The Hilo I know has a reputation as a business deathbed.  With the exception of anchors Macy's and Sears, the stores in Prince Kuhio Plaza change often.   Restaurants, both locally owned and national restaurant chains, have often met the same sad fate.  But one local restaurant, in spite of a bucket load of odds against it, has managed to survive while others have failed.  Miyo's Restaurant, located in the Waiakea Villas complex, just five minutes away from General Lyman Field (Hilo Airport), seems to have cheated death in Hilo.  So how did this hole-in-the-wall manage to brave tough times in such a hick little town?

For starters, lets look at why Miyo's should not have survived.  The location, while seemingly convenient, has had a history of economic failure.  What began as a Sheraton property has deterioriated to something resembling tenement housing.  It is on the edge of this complex that Miyo's took up shop on the second floor of a dark, dimly lit building without handicap access.  Bathrooms are located downstairs, which means diners will need to descend a steep staircase and go further into the bowels of the building.  Local talk is that the bathrooms are haunted by spirits, no doubt casualties from the tsunamis which have inundated the area.  Miyo's is also understaffed and hopelessly crowded.  On a Friday evening, be prepared to be bumped by other diners making their way to their tables.  And if you are like me and have a major gecko phobia, going to Miyo's at night is out of the question.

tonkatsu & tempura
In spite of all this stacked against them, Miyo's has thrived for at least 15 years.  Perhaps Miyo's hit upon a timeless formula for staying afloat:  know your clientele.  Hilo is as "old school" as it gets.  Hilo people love consistency.  They like going to places where they know the menu will not change drastically, both in offerings and in prices.  The menu at Miyo's has expanded over the past two decades, however the same items on the menu in 1995 are still on the menu today.  While the prices are different, Miyo's has raised prices gradually over the course of time, masking any price gouging.

When Miyo's opened, the signature dish was sesame chicken.  Its still on the menu, and it is impossible to recreate at home, as the ingredients in the sesame sauce are indistinguishable.  I ate it all the time, until I decided to try other things.  I like the fried oysters, sauteed salmon, broiled saba, tonkatsu and sauteed eggplant.  Most of the plates come with a mound of fresh veggies, and if you request it, you can get the mayonnaise-based sesame dressing (on my to-do list of things to try and recreate at home).  Kids eat the same thing all the time:  miso soup (wakame only) and rice and tempura udon. 
Every diner receives a dish of pickled vegetables.
Salads at Miyo's are beautiful and have a variety of vegetables.
vegetable curry
sauteed salmon & vegetable tempura
sauteed eggplant
a happy diner
Recently, there have been rumours about Miyo's closing and relocating.  While those rumours may actually have been true at one time, a source close to the restaurant tells me they have decided to stay put, until they actually have somewhere to move. Whew!

And a final word of warning to those who are like me (gecko-phobic):  add Miyo's to your list of places to avoid at night (yup, add it right next to Seaside).  There are fricking disgusting lizards everywhere!  So if you find yourself ono for Miyo's on a Friday or Saturday night and don't have any reservations, consider yourself lucky and don't despair.  Miyo's will happily do take-out.  No having to wait (even if you have a reservations), no having to wind your way through a maze of chairs and tables, no having to share your table with diners you don't even know, and best of all, no lizards running over your foot or across your arm!

January 2013 Update:  Miyo's has reopened in a different location.  They are no longer gecko-infested, but going there requires much patience on the part of diners.  The new restaurant is much larger than the previous location, although diners are still cramped in there like sardines.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Stinky Food: Ulu and Bacalau Salad

I'm dedicating this post to two of the nicest Oregonians I know, Dawn and Mardale.  Dawn and Mardale make up the fantastic School Synergy team.  They have been on the Big Island for several months, assisting schools in KKP with a school audit.  Dawn and Mardale are not just "two haoles who fell off a turnip truck in Puna".  They are honorary kama`aina who have developed quite a penchant for local foods.  In fact, they even brought a bag of seasoned edamame to an audit.

One of the birdwalking conversations at a recent school audit was about breadfruit.  Dawn and Mardale had been very intrigued with breadfruit and were eager to try some.  I'm not sure what they did, but they said it was horrible.  Then Anne gave them an idea of making breadfruit salmon hash.  Dawn said it was out-of-this-world fantastic.  Well, Dawn, I've got something else you can do with breadfruit.  But be warned. . .if the smell of the fried squid made you weak, this breadfruit dish might be something you just enjoy in 2-dimensional form!

There are a few things that I cook which cause the Ds to clear out of the house.  D2 cannot stand the smell of vinegar on the stove.  When I made the sauce for kama (about a month ago), she kept her nose pinched.  But both kids will run out of the house when I cook bacalau.  I think even Desi & Kenni take cover.

I love bacalau.  Growing up, Dad used to soak it in water, cut it into cubes, and deep fry it.  It was great with rice.  Carol & David brought bacalau hash patties to a tennis potluck once, and I thought it was better than corned beef hash patties (except for Aunty Betty's version).  I use bacalau in a potato salad:  bacalau, potato, shoyu & oil.  But when I'm lucky enough to be given ulu (breadfruit), I make spicy, tangy salad with the ulu and bacalau.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 piece bacalau   
     1 firm ulu, peeled, cored & cut into chunks
     2 cloves garlic, smashed
     1 1/2 tbsp rock salt
     1/4 c olive oil
     1/4 c apple cider vinegar
     1 tsp sugar
     1 chili pepper, seeded
     1/4 onion, thinly sliced

Cut bacalau into pieces that will fit into a medium saucepan.  Add water to cover.  Bring to a boil.  Discard water.  Repeat boiling and discarding water 5 more times.  Bacalau should still taste salty.  Pick off bones and shred meat.  Set aside. In a large pot, place ulu, garlic and rock salt.  Add water to cover.  Bring to a boil and cook 15 minutes or until ulu is tender.  Drain water and discard garlic.  Set aside.  Combine olive oil, cider vinegar, sugar, and chili pepper.  Stir until sugar is dissolved.  Smash chili pepper against side ofbowl.  Let sit.  Cut cooked ulu chunks into 3/4" pieces.  Combine with with sliced onions and shredded bacalau.  Remove chili pepper from oil mixture and pour oil mixture over ulu.  Toss gently.  Chill until ready to serve.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Taro Cake

I have been extremely busy with work this year.  I was bombarded at the beginning of the year by calls from irate parents, nervous teachers & administrators, and a laundry list of trainings I had to do.  On top of that, our complex area is going through an On-Site School Review (OSSR) for all schools.  This entails a team of ragamuffin DOE employees be at the school from 7:30 am til 5:00 pm daily (except for Monday, when re-con time is 7:00).  And I almost forgot to mention the "optional" evening meeting on the Wednesday of the OSSR week.  The purpose of the meeting is to allow families to ask OSSR members questions about the review process.  But all of this bitching translates to a very late week.

When I have a late week, dinners become challenging.  Thats when I rely on food from my freezer to get us through dinners.  During my OSSR week, I raided the freezer and found a slab of taro cake.  I popped the slab in the microwave, then cut it into pieces.  Pan-frying the bottom of the pieces creates a crispy crust which is great dipped in shoyu.

For you people living in Honolulu or any large city, there is a good chance you can head to your nearby dimsum place and buy a few pieces of taro cake. . . no need to buss out the steamer.  But I live in Hilo, and there is nowhere to buy taro cake.  For us, taro cake is one of those things you buy from Honolulu as moonyagi*. Actually, I think my version is better than what you'd  get, and because you're making it yourself, you can use the "healthier" lup cheong that has chicken in it.  Even better . . . you can eat the whole dang pan yourself like I end up doing.

*Moonyagi is Weezee's word for omiyage (gifts in Japanese).

click on recipe title for printable recipe
Taro Cake

Meat Filling:
     1 tbsp oil
     2 lup cheong, diced
     2 tbsp chung choi, chopped fine
     1 tbsp rice wine

Taro Filling:
     1 tbsp oil
     2 c diced taro
     1/2 tsp chicken bouillon powder + enough water to 
          make 1/2 c

     1 c cake flour, sifted
     1/4 c tapioca starch
     1 tsp chicken bouillon powder + enough water to 
          make 1 1/2 c

     1/4 c chopped green onions
     1 tbsp roasted sesame seeds

For meat filling, heat oil in wok and saute lup cheong until heated.  Add remaining meat filling ingredients and cook until liquid is reduced.  Set aside.  For taro filling, heat oil and stir-fry taro for 1 minute.  Add bouillon mixture and cook for 5 minutes or more until liquid is reduced.  Set aside.  Prepare a steamer.  Combine cake ingredients, whisking until smooth.  Grease a 9" round or square pan.  Scatter half of taro cubes evenly in pan.  Top with half of meat filling.  Pour all of cake mixture over.  Repeat taro and meat layers.  Steam for 30 minutes.  Remove from steamer and scatter garnishes.  Allow cake to cook before slicing.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

HHS Key Club Friendship Visit to Sumoto

This weeks post is a slideshow of D1's recent trip to Japan with the Hilo High Key Club (some members).  Although I'm poorer now, I'm glad she was given this opportunity to go.  And since they traveled on Hawaiian Airlines, D1 now has tons of miles in her hawaiianmiles account.  Perhaps she can share some with me so I can indulge in some Goma Tei.

Please be sure your sound is turned on.  There are three different j-pop songs (thanks to Gu) with ultra-catchy beats.  Also, please be sure there is a noodle shop close by.  Trust me, after you see the slide show, you will feel a strong urge to go out and eat some kind of ramen or udon with tempura!

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Personalize your own photo slideshow

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ume Pork

What began as a simple question from Weezee turned into a lab experiment.  A few weeks ago, Weezee asked me how to make miso pork.  At that time, I had no clue what miso pork was.  According to Weezee & Kevo, there are places on Maui that offer this on a menu.  Then Andrea posted a link on fb for some bento site with instructions on how to make this.  I thought I had wrapped my brain around this when Weezee posted a picture of her miso pork.  It looked so different from the bento link.  I knew I HAD to do my own investigation.

The recipes for miso pork I came across seemed to be very similar to what I call "shoyu pork".  My experience with shoyu pork is limited, as it wasn't something Mom made very often.  In fact, I think I know it from something Grandma may have made.  In the process of poring through tons of cookbooks, I came across several recipes for ume spareribs.  With the exception of ume, the ingredients were very similar to what Weezee told me.  The recipes were all  basically the same, but a few of them had crock pot directions.  I decided this was where I would begin the lab work.

While "ume" was in the recipe title, I was disappointed to find that the only ume in the recipe was the ume juice.  Wanting to incorporate more ume into the recipe (I felt a little bit deceived by the recipe titles at that point), I removed the seeds from 3 ume and then forced the flesh through  garlic press.  I added this to the sauce and poured a little of it into the crock pot.  Then I added the boneless pork (shoulder/butt) and poured the remaining sauce over.  The pork took about 8 hours to cook.  Because I had something else to eat that night, I removed the pork from the sauce and placed it in a container in the refrigerator.  I poured the sauce into a different container and stuck that in the fridge as well.

Having the pork cold and out of the sauce made it easy to slice thinly.  I removed the hardened fat from the sauce (there wasn't too much because I had removed fat the day it was cooked by placing some of the liquid in a gravy separator) and heated the sauce. 

I'm sure some of you are thinking that ume pork is NOT the same as miso pork.  And, well, you might be right.  But after tasting the pork, it is very close to what I know as shoyu pork (like the one sold at Kawamoto's Okazuya in Hilo).  Until I get to Maui to actually eat the Maui Miso Pork, this recipe will have to suffice.  And to answer Weezee, yes, this recipe does have miso in it, so it could also be called Miso Pork.

click on recipe title for printable recipe
    4 lb boneless pork shoulder/butt

Sauce:  2 c brown sugar
             1 c catsup
             1/2 c shoyu
             1/2 c oyster sauce
             1 tbsp sesame seeds
             2 1/2 tbsp ume juice
             3 ume, seeds removed & forced through a 
                  garlic press or mashed
             2 cloves garlic, grated
             1 piece ginger, grated
             1/2 c miso

Mix sauce ingredient thoroughly.  Pour a layer of sauce in the bottom of a crock pot.  Place pork on sauce.  Add remainder of sauce, or as much will fit in crock pot.  Cook on low 8 hours.  Remove pork from sauce and chill in a covered container.  Chill sauce separately.  Remove hardened fat from sauce and boil in a saucepan until thick.  Slice pork thinly.  Heat in microwave or fry slices in pan.  Serve with sauce.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cool (Sweet) Beans!

 One of my favorite restaurants in Kona is Manago Hotel.  While the pork chops cannot be beat, I usually end up eating the fried butterfish.  But the real treat in dining at the Manago Hotel is the side dishes which accompany the meal.  There is always a bowl of potato-macaroni salad, but the other three or four dishes are a surprise every time.  A few years ago, one of the side dishes I had was a plate of sweet kidney beans.

Sweet, cooked beans is a traditional japanese side dish.  While it doesn't call for a lot of ingredients, it does take a long time to prepare, especially if you count the soaking time.  I prefer this made with pinto beans, as kidney beans are not my favorite.  You could always use lima beans or cranberry beans too.

This is a great accompaniment to practically any Asian meal, but it also makes a nice addition to a green vegetable salad.

 click on recipe title for printable recipe
Sweet Beans

     3 c dried beans
     10 c water, divided
     3 c sugar, divided
     1 1/2 tsp salt
Rinse dried beans and soak overnight in 9 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, add 1 cup of water.  Skim scum as necessary.  Cook for 1-2 hours over medium-low heat until beans are tender.  Once beans are tender, add 1 cup sugar.  Cook for 10 minutes.  Add another cup of sugar.  Cook for 10 minutes.  Add last cup of sugar.  Cook for 1 hour.  Add salt and cook for 10 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove beans from liquid and place in a large, heat-proof bowl.  Set aside.  Boil sauce for 15 minutes.  Pour over beans.  Pack into containers and refrigerate.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Restaurant Chatter: Cham Cham is Back

Today is the first day of Fall Intersession, and unlike this time last year, I am going to try and be a couch potato instead of iron chef.  I've purchased all but season 5 of Criminal Minds (I have a bid on the season 5 dvd set) and my goal is to watch as many episodes of Criminal Minds as possible.  Cooking will likely interfere with my plans so I'll be doing a lot of takeout meals.

I'm really glad that my favorite Korean restaurant in Hilo is open again.  The Cham Cham Restaurant (421 Kalanikoa Street, Suite 102) serves the best Korean food in Hilo.  Some of you might be familiar with it as the old Snappy's Pizza location.  I like that the facilities are clean, there is ample parking for dinner, and the main waiter speaks English.  The little dishes of pickled vegetables are nice too.  But what I love most is the taste of the food.  Everything I have ever eaten at Cham Cham has been delicious.

Hilo almost lost Cham Cham.  In early June, I went to the Cham Cham for dinner and was shocked to see the place dark and a note on the door explaining that they were closed due to unforeseen circumstances beyond their control.  I thought perhaps someone was ill (turns out nobody was ill), so I went back the following week.  Same sign, same dark restaurant.  I was devastated.  It was back to XX for my bi bim bap fix.  Don't get me wrong. XX makes a decent bi bim bap, but unlike Cham Cham, XX is not the "total package".

A few weeks ago, I heard a rumor that Cham Cham was going to reopen.  I went to see for myself yesterday, and sure enough, it was open!  I had dinner there Friday night and Saturday night (yes, its THAT good. . . I couldn't stay away).  In case you're wondering, I didn't have dinner there last night; the Cham Cham is closed on Sundays.

I love the assortment of little dishes.
garlic shoots
 My all-time favorite dish there is the bi bim bap.  It comes in a classy brass bowl, and you can select either bbq beef or bbq chicken as a topping.
The Korean chicken is another favorite.  This is NOT the same kind of Korean chicken your mom made (if your mom made Korean chicken).  Homestyle, Hawaii-style Korean chicken is usually some wing part which has been fried then dipped into a slightly-sweet soy, green onion & sesame oil sauce.  I enjoy Mom's Korean chicken, but Cham Cham Korean chicken is an entirely different dish altogether.  Instead of a teriyaki-like sauce, the sauce is clear with a definite vinegar taste.  It is neither overpowering nor cloying, but it takes the crispy chicken to a new level.
 If spice is your passion, try the Spicy Seafood Noodle Soup.  Laden with calamari pieces, shrimp, and a mussel, the hearty broth will definitely warm you to the bone on a cold, wet Hilo night.

This is a dish which competes with bi bim bap as my all-time favorite.  Its a seafood pancake that is as large as the size of a dinner plate.  Its served with a sesame dipping sauce.  Ask for the pancake to be cooked extra crispy.

If you don't mind the heat and are looking for a very filling meal, consider the kim chee fried rice.  You get a choice of meat (bbq chicken or some other kind of bbq meat), and it comes with a nicely fried egg sitting on top.

Cham Cham also does takeout plates and bentos (currently $6 for a combination bento).  Call (808-961-4741) at least 15 minutes in advance.  I took out a kal bi & mean juhn combination.  It came with 2 mandoo, a generous bed of rice and 4 different sides:  taegu, daikon kim chee, won bok kim chee, and namul.
chicken katsu & spicy pork bento
Kal bi & meat juhn combination plate (take out)