Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hawaiian treats and more

I am so glad this trip involves a moderate amount of swimming and walking. I'm pretty sure though at the end of the five stay here I will have gained some weight.

On my flight to Hawaii we had the option of some food items that are only available for purchase to/from Hawaii, including some Hawaiian breakfast meal and a combo meal which you would find in a typical Hawaiian cafe. Alaska Airlines also served mai tai to all passengers over age 21 who wanted one before we landed, free of charge. Nice, huh? I discovered the Kona Longboard beer on the flight to Honolulu as the passenger next to me downed two bottles, so I figured it must be good! I tried it during my trip at the Luau and I like it. Not too strong and not too filling since it's a lager.

The first night we got there, I wasn't very hungry but my friends who picked me up at the airport had not yet eaten dinner at 10pm! I found out that they didn't eat because their rental car keys were locked inside the trunk and it took about 2 hours for Pop-A-Lock to come by and unlock the car doors. The new Ford Fiesta has the unlock buttons in the center of the car so the coat hanger method is a bit more tricky. Anyways, we ventured over to a ramen shop in Waikiki. Ramen Nakamura turned out to be very authentic - workers spoke Japanese, accepted cash only, including Yen!!!  Because I wasn't very hungry, I just tried some udon and had a gyoza from the "mini-meal" as shown below.

The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel. Well, actually we grabbed breakfast to go being toast for me, and bacon for Jaenice since our snorkeling tour picked us up at 7am. For lunch, we decided to visit Marukume Udon which turned out to be a short walk from our hotel. Our friend, Grace, had told us to try this place. Also accepts cash only. I was glad they had signs posted to explain to us how to order our udon since it was assembly line style and lines can be long. We were lucky though that we got there early so it wasn't quite busy yet.
Grabbing my cold udon (at Marakume Udon)

Making my Cold Ontama Udon with soft egg

My lunch. Udon, tempura eggplant, musubi.
After lunch we headed to the Dole plantation. I learned on the Pineapple Express train tour that pineapples aren't even native to Hawaii; they are originally from Brazil. But Hawaii's tropical climate makes it a good place for fruit. A friend had told me before I visited that at Dole you can find pineapple infused teas, candies, coffee, etc. I wasn't adventurous to try those combinations - I think I will stick to 菠蘿包 and the plain fruit on its own, and as a pizza topping. I did notice a huge line though at the cafe and people walking around with cones and bowls of what appeared to be pineapple ice cream! We were pretty hot outside under the sun so ice cream sounded good. Was it delicious!
Crushed pineapple on top of pineapple ice cream

Dole Pineapple Ice Cream, so yummy!
It's a good thing we shared that bowl of ice cream, because next stop was Matsumoto Shave Ice. My friend, Bryant, had told me that this was a must try during my visit to Hawaii, especially when I visit Northshore. I had asked him it were different from Taiwanese shaved ice which my family eats even when it's cold outside, and he said yes. So I was curious. It's basically just azuki beans at the bottom and ice on top in a cone. To be honest, I was disappointed. You can choose other toppings, but they don't mix them together and being in a cone it's rather difficult to do so. Nevertheless, it was still a wait for our shave ice.
Matsumoto Shaved Ice at Northshore, HI. Famous for its Hawaiian shaved ice. Long line outside.

Matsumoto Shaved Ice menu at Northshore

Shaving the ice. So much faster than my hand crank machine at home.

A lot of ice!

Adding flavors

Matsumoto rainbow shaved ice at Northshore. There are azuki beans underneath all the ice.
For dinner, we had Gyu-Kaku. This is a chain, and I've been to one in California and I've heard friends rave about the one at Vancouver, BC. Jaenice had brought her Hawaii Entertainment book, and we noticed that we had a coupon for buy one get one free. It was also just a few blocks from our hotel. I was originally thinking of eating sushi that night but we were so tired. Our server was Caucasian but he spoke fluent Japanese with the tourists. I wish I had not forgotten almost everything I learned in my two quarters of Japanese class. The grill was yummy and we ordered more than enough for two hungry people. Who would have thought we would order dessert too? The dessert we shared though which was green tea ice cream served with mochi strips. Our server told us to put the mochi on the grill and the warm temperature made it poofy and harder, like the texture of rice cracker chips, almost. Gyu-Kaku also has a happy hour but we never did manage to go back. I'm glad they have many locations in California and Vancouver.
At Gyu-kaku, fish and tongue and ribs

Day 3 included a drive to Northshore again to visit Waimea Valley and to Giovanni's Original White Shrimp Truck. Bryant also told me about this place. The line was busy here, but it moved pretty quickly. The people working in the truck were great singers (maybe a job requirement) and entertained us with their Hawaiian songs. If you had a marker, you could leave your mark on the truck. During our wait, the people who shared the picnic table next to us suggested we try out some island style corn at a nearby vendor. What exactly is island style corn? Lots of seasoning salt and cumin, pepper and butter.
Buttering the corn. I asked the vendor to split to corn in half so both Jaenice and I could share one cob.

Seasoning the corn

Corn on the cob island style, tastes good while waiting for our Giovanni shrimp. This cost $3.

Giovanni's Original White Shrimp Truck

So much garlic. The shrimp isn't even from Hawaii. It's from Indonesia shipped to Los Angeles and then shipped to Honolulu. This dish cost me $13.
Dinner for Day 3 was a luau feast. Our ticket included 3 drinks which I found to be watered down. The only drink that wasn't so watered down was the beer because it was on tap. We got there a little late, so we didn't catch the entire roasting of the pig.
The meal was rather decent. They had a taro paste and a taro bun. I had no idea taro was such a staple for a Hawaiian diet.
Day 4 we began the day with a breakfast sail. Since working at a company that starts super early, or maybe it was the timezone change, we woke up and had a light breakfast of cereal at the hotel. I'm glad I ate my cereal because the breakfast on the catamaran really was just doughnuts and fruit. Perhaps it was because all the passengers had Go Oahu cards. I was famished and convinced Jaenice to eat with me at Rainbow Drive-In. She had the loco moco there before I had arrived and said that the runny egg made her tummy uneasy. So I decided to check the tips for the place on Foursquare and many people suggested to order the Mixed Plate of BBQ meat, boneless chicken and ahi katsu. I am glad that this place took credit card as I was beginning to run low on cash again. Another suggestion on Foursquare was to order the chili which Jaenice ordered.
We spent the evening at Kualoa Ranch, and one of the tours included visiting the Moli'i Fish Ponds. On the way to the fish pond, we passed by a number of fruit trees. One tree grew Macadamia nuts, and our tour guide stopped the bus so that we could collect some. I only found 3 with the shell intact, but it turned out we could have also gotten other nuts without the shell as long as there were no holes to show that insects were inside. Jaenice who is allergic to nuts, ended up collecting a bunch. I used rocks to crack open the shell and fresh nuts without any seasoning definitely have a different taste.

Our dinner at the Ranch included a cultural show and dinner on a patio with the ocean view. Dinner was served at 6pm so it was also around the time of sunset. While we were waiting for the dinner, we also got to try our hand at making corsages with real flowers. I had taken a flower arrangement class in the past to put cut flowers in a vase, but this was much harder. I'm not very crafty and the flowers kept coming undone with the rope I used to wrap them. I finally finished and it looked alright. I have a new appreciation for florists.
sunset of the beach, view from my dinner chair

Buffet style dinner. I should add that this meal also included fried fish topped with coconut sauce. I liked the fish more at the ranch than at the luau; I think it was crispier (panko flakes instead of breadcrumb).

Day 4 was another day at the ranch. We visited a beach and I enjoyed paddleboarding and kayaking. We packed a picnic lunch which was a trip to the grocery store. Food at grocery stores at Hawaii are expensive! There was no price tag for a fruit bowl and it turned out to be more than $10! The poke we bought was pretty yummy. I ate almost all of it. Hehe. We also bought some spam musubi and of course Jaenice ate the spam and I was left with the rice and seaweed! ;P

For dinner, the first Japanese restaurant we stopped at was closed because it was Columbus Day. The owners actually took the entire week off to go back to Japan. Just down the street was another restaurant and there were a lot of cars, so it appeared to be a good sign. At Hinone Mizunone we noticed many Japanese people. I was glad I had my smartphone so I could wiki the Japanese terms to figure out what was inside. I ended up getting a side of hamburger steak. I wasn't that hungry from a big lunch.
Sizzling hamburger steak with demi glaze sauce at Hinone Mizunone
Jaenice ordered an entire combination set. I don't know how that girl is so skinny for someone who doesn't exercise!
Jaenice's meal
On my last day there after our Diamondhead Hike, I told Jaenice that I wanted to eat some Hawaiian food. We ended up going to a food court at Waikiki so I could order what I wanted and she could order what she wanted. I got loco moco and a search on yelp of the restaurant gave good ratings.
Loco Moco at Pearl's Korean & Hawaiian BBQ - my brunch after the hike
It wasn't a bad price either, at about $8. In the afternoon we had some Taiwanese shaved ice. It just happened to be near pearl harbor and I did a search on Yelp for ice cream. That landed us at Ice Garden and again a search on Yelp told us to order #7. The shopkeepers were two older women jabbering in Taiwanese. It reminded me of my aunts back in Taiwan. It was pretty good but at a whopping $5.50 I can find much bigger, more toppings with condensed milk for Taiwanese shave ice in the LA area for the same price, if not cheaper. There was a line though and it was a good end to the trip.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Tiramisu not only takes forever to make from scratch, but it is also very very tricky! The first time we made the cake, it didn't rise. The second time I made it, I tried taking it out of the baking pan before it had fully cooled and it broke into pieces. I made the cake a third time, but never quite mastered cutting the cake into layers. So with this third batch, I made two thinner cakes so I wouldn't have to cut layers. Cheater, I know!
The cake was a bit too dry for my liking, but the rum and mascarpone compensated by making the cake rich.
You don't want the mascarpone and heavy cream when whipped to sit too long as it will fall and not be so airy. At the same time, you don't want to over-whip. Next time I will try making lady fingers as the base.


This restaurant, Pie, in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle opened almost a year ago. Earlier this summer, after dropping off a friend who lives in the area we decided to grab a late night snack. The menu changes slightly daily,  and I decided to get an English meat pie. It was warmed up and very tasty. Some other friends have visited Pie as well during the past few months and general consensus is that is the flavor to get.

Bizarro Clam Linguine

A group of my friends had wanted to go out to eat and we just searched online for a nearby restaurant with good ratings. After checking out the website I realized that it was even featured on Food Network! The dinner ended up being canceled but I noticed that there were recipes on its website for two of the signature dishes, one of then being the clam linguine. It was actually rather easy to make. I wasn't able to find fresh linguine and used the store bought in a box Barillo brand. I didn't realize how expensive pancetta is so for the second batch I substituted with bacon. Anything with bacon tastes good right? And using the thinly sliced bacon one can hardly taste the difference when cut into small pieces. For the white wine, I chose to use sauvignon blanc as it is dry and pairs well with the clams.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Chinese egg rolls

I'm not quite sure why they call them egg rolls, the recipe doesn't call for any egg ingredients inside. So I guess you can call them spring rolls? I made these for a church potluck lunch. The filling is ground pork with shredded cabbage, carrot, seasoned with a bit of peanut butter and sesame oil. The first few I fried using my wok, but since I was planning to fry another 50 more, I decided to use a friend's deep fryer so that it would be faster, cleaner and wouldn't get my home smelling like a fast food restaurant. They were simple to make, and very popular since I only had 4 rolls left after the lunch. I was lazy and didn't seal each rice wrapper with the egg and flour mixture before frying so some wrappers opened slightly but never fully came apart. Probably something I'll do next time.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Zucchini-Ricotta Fritters

The most recent (August 2011) issue of the Food & Wine magazine features a seemingly easy and healthy recipe to make zucchini-ricotta fritters. Zucchini is in season so I thought I'd give it a try. The only ingredient that I had to get other than zucchini was ricotta cheese. The recipe called for fresh sheep ricotta cheese. How troublesome to find! So I just substituted low-fat ricotta cheese and it tasted fine to me.

I ate three pieces in the making. :O I read that fritters should be runny so I probably overcooked them. Plenty of ricotta cheese left so maybe I'll try next week after I come back from my retreat this weekend.

Zuchinni, cheese, eggs, flour, salt, pepper, lemon zest
The fritters, take 1. Still pretty yummy!