Saturday, April 16, 2011

NaPoWriMo Day 9: Picture Bride Blues

Japanese style kitchen safe, Hawaii Plantation Village

Promised to a man
Across the deep blue sea
I carry his picture
And hope it's not a lie my mother fed to me

'Cause I'm so far from home
And there's no turning back for me

I get to Honolulu
All these faces staring at me
Someone calls my name
Aiya this old man is my husband

And I'm so far from home
And there's no turning back for me

My mother's chawan
in my kitchen safe
is the only comfort
in this foreign, dusty land

And I've got nowhere to go
This is home for me now.

I went on an excursion for my graduate class to the Hawaii Plantation Village in Waipahu, Hawaii. Their intent at the village is to preserve Hawaii's plantation history from about 1850 - 1950. The houses represent different ethnic groups that came to Hawaii to work in the plantations and the houses are furnished with replicas of items taht would have been in a typical house. They also have other buildings like a community bathhouse, a barber shop, plantation store an Japanese sumo ring.

I found that while we were touring the houses, I kept focusing on the kitchens. The different kitchens just brought the history alive. I focused on this kitchen safe that used to be used to store food so that the flies wouldn't get to it, and it also housed dishes sometimes. My great grandfather was a master carpenter brought from Japan to work on the Pioneer Mill plantation manager's house. He made a tabletop safe that my grandfather still had when I was growing up. It was like a magic box to me even if when I was growing up they only used it to store pantry items and papergoods.

Friday, April 15, 2011

NaPoWriMo Day 8: Chazuke

Win or Lose

Hot rice or cold rice,
doesn't matter,
hojicha, genmai cha, Lipton black tea, even hot tap water
ume paste,
large ume, wrinkled, puckered unseeing eyeballs,
ochazuke nori packets with trading card pictures
of famous Mt. Fuji scenes,
pickled mustard eggplant,
sanbai zuke,
shiso seeds floating like bright green flower buds
grilled salmon
misoyaki butterfish
day old sashimi soaked in ginger and shoyu,
slivers of rare steak.
My father-in-law wasn't really back from his
almost monthly Vegas trips
until he sat down with his large chawan
of chazuke
win or lose
a Vegas tradition.  

Thursday, April 14, 2011

NaPoWriMo Day 7: Canned Corned Beef and Onion

Serving Up Dog Food

The neighbor boy comes over
as I'm cooking my half an hour
start to finish
weeknight special of canned goods and rice.
Tonight it is canned corned beef
and onions
little oyster sauce kicker
and hot hot rice,
an end of the month special
when we're trying to live out of the pantry
until the next paycheck.

"What's that SMELL? Smells like dog food,"
the neighbor boy exclaims.
My son sniffs the air,
"That's not dog food,
that's corned beef and onion! My favorite."

I pop open another can of "dog food"
for my favorite boy.
Slow Foods is a grass roots movement that encourages people to eat foods that are local, seasonal and sustainable. This is a way to be kind to the planet by cutting down on the petroleum needed to transport our food, but also to support local farmers and encourage sustainable living.

However, since we live in the middle of the Pacific, seasonal is relative. We have mango season, which is also lychee season, and not mango season, which is the rest of the year. Canned foods like corned beef and spam were luxury items in the plantation camps and we hold on to those ways of living and surviving on this island. Unless we are able to catch fish for our families, grow our own vegetables, hunt for our meat, our carbon footprint will always be a little larger because of our isolation. That's why when there's an imminent danger like a tsunami or a hurricane, island people rush the stores for the one item that will help them survive: ricetoiletpaperspamwater.

It is our own kind of sustainability.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

NaPoWriMo Day 6: Takoyaki

E-to ne (this is just to say)
I've eaten one of your plump,
steaming takoyaki balls
covered with seaweed and
takoyaki sauce with airy wisps
of bonito strips
that floated into my mouth
and melted on my tongue.
Umai deshita,
so nostalgic,
so good.
- CKI 4/11/11
Takoyaki (fried octopus) is classic Kansai street food that we often ate when we went into Osaka. The fact that I can find it in a strip mall near the Honolulu airport (Ninja Sushi) is hisashiburi, makes me nostalgic, and I can have hot takoyaki without those indescribably unique smells of Osaka city. It has become a ritual for us to stop for sushi and takoyaki there before someone leaves Honolulu.

1. You need the pan. It's on sale at Marukai right now and I'm still thinking about getting it.
The takoyaki pan is usually made of heavy cast iron, but leave it to the Japanese, there are electric versions now, but we own several cast iron pots that are older than we are, and cast iron can't be beat.
2. Ingredients:

  • 1 2/3 cup flour
  • 2 1/2 cup dashi soup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 lb. boiled octopus, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped pickled red ginger
  • 1/4 cup dried sakura ebi (red shrimp) *optional
  • *For toppings:
  • katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)
  • aonori (green seaweed powder)
  • Worcestershire sauce or takoyaki sauce (also on sale at Marukai right now)
  • mayonnaise (the ONLY time to not use Best Foods mayo is with this - the Osaka style uses the Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise - it just tastes more authentic, but we don't use it for anything that we use Best Foods for)
3. Directions:
  • Mix flour, dashi soup, and eggs in a bowl to make batter. 
  • Preheat a takoyaki pan and grease the molds. 
  • Pour batter into the molds to the full. 
  • Put octopus, red ginger, green onion, and dried red shrimp in each mold. 
  • Grill takoyaki balls, flipping with a pick to make balls. 
  • When browned, remove takoyaki from the pan and place on a plate. 
  • Put sauce and mayonnaise on top and sprinkle bonito flakes and aonori over.
**This needs to be served hot, so hot that you're rolling the ball around in your mouth to try and let out the steam from the inside, otherwise it's just not authentic. They also sell the batter as a packaged mix at Marukai.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

NaPoWriMo Day 5: Concoction

My maddah is one Lahaina titah,
no get her mad cuz
she not going tink twice about giving you
two cracks
befoa she hug you.
Whatevah I know about cooking
I wen learn from her
cuz she no need recipe
she just look in da refrigerator
and pull stuff out
like Rachel Ray
on 30-minute meals.
No matter if da stuff look kinda
no match,
she just make da kine
and in da end,
come out some ono,
I no kid you.

My boy he tell,
"ma, what you cooking?"
I say,
and you know what?
Da buggah, he just say ok
and wait foa dinner, cuz
like I always tell him,
"not like I going feed you poison, eh?"

Concoction Mini Meatloaf
1-2 lbs. ground beef, chicken or turkey
1 cup water (approximately - to moisten meat without drowning it)
1 box of seasoned stuffing mix (any flavor seems to work - and generic is just as good as name brand)
1-2 eggs for binding
about 1/2 - 3/4 cup sauce of your choice (I've used leftover salsa, spaghetti sauce, barbeque sauce, teriyaki sauce)
You can also add veggies like chopped onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, etc. If I don't have anything else, I just use the pre-minced garlic because I always have a big bottle.

Preheat the oven to 400 and foil a 13x9 pan, then make 2 mini loaves (cooks faster). I put half the loaves down, then put in cheese like bleu chesse, shredded mixed cheese, cheddar. Put the rest of the meat on top, seal the edges and if you have extra sauce, put it on top. Bake for 30 minutes or until loaves are cooked through.

The box of stuffing mix makes it ono, so I always look for sales and stock up.

NaPoWriMo Day 4: What This Wahine Like

This wahine,
she no need the new Coach bag,
she no need the chocolate Tahitian pearl
bambucha ring,
she no even like the extra wide
Hawaiian bracelet,
the one that take up half her arm.

Give her one bowl luau stew
side of day old poi
side of mac salad
rice to soak up all the salty juice.

Guarenz ballbarenz, brah
she going love you forevah.

Mililani's Luau Stew
  • Season stew meat or brisket with Hawaiian salt and pepper
  • Heat a heavy pot with oil (I like to use my big Guardian Ware pot because it holds heat like a champ)
  • Sear the meat in the pot until you start to get the scrapings on the bottom of the pot
  • Add chopped round onion until the onion is translucent
  • Add enough water to just cover the meat and 2 bay leaves.
  • Bring the pot to a soft boil and cook it for about 45 minutes. Taste, adjust, then
  • Add frozen luau leaves (precooked) OR 2 or 3 laulau
  • Let it simmer for about 30 minutes
  • Right before serving, add one packet of beef stew mix and cook for another 15 minutes.
  • Enjoy
*If you have access to fresh leaves, clean the leaves, then roll and cut the leaves into strips.  Boil water in a pot and put the leaves in to cook for 30 minutes. Dump the water out, let the leaves drain, then start a clean pot of water and continue this boil, rinse and reboil for 3 times in order to get the "aku out." In other words, to keep from getting itchy when you eat the leaves.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

NaPoWriMo Day 3: Ozōni

The phone starts ringing at 6 am,
never mind that we've been sleeping for two hours,
never mind that we're thick headed with dreams,
groggy from days of food preparation for New Year's eve,
lightheaded from the sulfuric pungency of the firecracker showers,
the phone will keep ringing until we pick up.
"Soup's ready,"
my mother-in-law's voice on the other side
chipper and alert in that way that people that are retired
can be alert at 6 in the morning.
"Take your time. . .come when the kids get up,"
that's what she always says,
that's never what she means.
We urge each other out of the cocoon of blankets,
knowing that if we wait too long,
say 7 am,
the phone will start ringing again.
Eyes thick with maka pia pia,
ears still ringing from the fireworks,
the five of us obediently arrive
for our bowl of ozōni,
clear broth soup
with a soft mochi sunken under
bright green mizuna
and floating hokkigai,
a New Year's tradition,
a luxury of simplicity,
a samurai's sustenance on the battlefield.
We sip unconsciously,
let the hot saltiness of the broth
clean the residual sulfur in our throats,
nibble at the crisp mizuna stallks
that taste like lazy summer afternoons
and pull long taffy like pieces of mochi
into our mouth
feel the glutinous melting,
the satisfaction of stickiness.
Another year begins,
started with clear broth, water to purify,
greens to cleanse,
mochi to hold us together,
a familiar first step.
- 4/7/11

Grandma Ikeda's Ozōni (New Year's Mochi Soup)
5 cans chicken broth
1 can hokkigai (Japanese surf clams)
Mizuna (Japanese water greens) chopped and kept uncooked on the side

Heat the chicken broth and put in the hokkigai. Put the raw mizuna on the bottom of the bowl, the soft mochi on top and pour the hot broth over it. 

Note: if using fresh pounded mochi, just put it in. If you're using frozen mochi, cook it in a separate water bath until the mochi is soft but not disintegrating, so don't do this until everyone is up and ready to eat or you'll have mochi water. 

*This challenge is for me to write a poem a day on food in honor of April's national poetry month, so if you want more info, go to the NaPoWriMo site. It's only day 3 but I'm going to run out of recipes, so time to call the real cooks in this family for some assistance.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

NaPoWriMo Day 2: A Woman In Love

Yes, I know it's April 6, but I'm a slow starter, so food poem 2 for National Poetry Month.

A Woman in Love
What makes the earth move?
What makes you catch your breath?
Flutter your eyes?
What does he do to woo you?
Some women like private concerts,
muscle cars
unexpected flowers,
a hand held out,
a long kiss. . .
I like the singing of the line pulling off the reel,
the dance of concentration
as the boat slowly drifts on the tide
oblivious to this life battle,
this firm but gentle give and take,
the flash of blue and silver near the surface
the danger of being close,
he gingerly stalks the prize with the net,
aware that even now, at arms reach, he still could lose,
the heaviness of the papio in the net,
the arched, muscled gasp for breath,
the pig grunting in the alien air of the cooler,
and then the quiet sacrifice
of papio,
pan-sized whole or
filleted chunks
dredged in salt and flour
sizzling in the cast-iron pan
skin, crispy
flesh moist and hearty
white meat on white rice,
a meticulous drizzle of shoyu
the moment of ecstasy when the salt sea,
the supple fish and the soft of  my palette
share a memory of freedom and dancing,
the giddiness of patience rewarded
and this man's love for me captured
in a blue porcelain bowl.

Ken's papio recipe
One fish, cleaned
Mix salt and pepper in with the cornstarch
Score skin side of the fish so it doesn't curl
Dredge it in seasoned cornstarch
Fry in oil (canola or vegetable) until crispy and cooked through
* the skin will get crispy, but he knows it's done by feel
Serve with slices of lemon, shoyu and LOTS of hot rice

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

NaPoWriMo Day 1: Lau Lau Love

Grandma's love came wrapped like bear hugs
in shiny ti leaf
holding together her gifts for us
dark green steamed lūʻau leaves
harvested from the taro fields outside of Hana,
kisses of pork fat
that melted smooth in our mouth
soft as butter and lazy Sundays in the shade,
salted butterfish, generous chunks of beef
tender as Grandma's cool cheeks when she holds our faces
close to hers,
"love you," she'd whisper before she let us go
to dig into her large one-pound lau lau
generous as her large hands
each bite an affirmation
a love poem wrapped in ti leaf.
- 4/5/11

This is my gram, Mary Uilani Kaumeheiwa Sodetani, alumni, Kamehameha School for Girls '36. She was the best cook but never wrote anything down, so when she passed, many of our favorite recipes went with her. But her secret to laulau is simple:
  • Be generous in all you do
  • Don't be afraid of fat, it is a valuable tenderizer and flavor enhancer
  • Cook with love, never anger

National Poetry Month challenge

April is National Poetry month so while frantically searching for a sonnet for dummies site for my Romeo and Juliet lesson, I found the NaPoWriMo site. It's similar to the national novel writing movement with the idea that you challenge yourself to write a poem a day. I'm starting late, but I feel like a challenge, so I'm in.

To make it relevant to this blog, though, I will try to write a food poem a day. Crossing my fingers and hoping for some foodie muse to whack me on my head.

Simple Mabo Tofu

Mabo tofu (or mapo tofu, mabo dofu) is a Szechuan dish served spicy with pickled pork. This is not that recipe. My oldest boy loves Grandma Ikeda's mild mabo tofu, so since I didn't have the recipe, I decided to go to Marukai and buy the box mix. WRONG!! He actually had my mother-in-law write the recipe down for me as soon as he was in Hilo.

According to Isaac, do not bother with anything that claims to make mabo tofu from a box or foil package.

Grandma Shigeko Ikeda's recipe
Chop and fry green onion, ginger and garlic (to preference)
Add a tray of ground pork, fry and drain
Add about 3/4 cup chicken broth

Mix on the side then add to the pan:
2 t. miso
2 t. sugar
2 T. shoyu (it depends on how much pork you use, but keep the same ratio and experiment)

Meanwhile, cube one block of firm tofu, put in a colander and pour hot water over it to make it a little more firm. When tofu is drained and the pork is no longer pink, add tofu.

Thicken the sauce with about 2 t. cornstarch (made into a paste first with some of the cooking liquid).

*Note: if you want it spicy, I've put in a couple dried Hawaiian chili peppers from the freezer sliced up, or you can use the Chinese spicy paste.