Category: Hawaii

Chuy’s Rainforest BBQ

I might have mentioned that I love to go to Maui, a lot. Usually, my vacation routine is: wake-up, favorite tropical granola for breakfast (and Portuguese sausage), plop on beach, fruit plate or chips & salsa by pool for lunch, nap, fantastic dinner at amazing local restaurant, go to bed and hit repeat. I’ve been doing it that way for nearly 20 years and it works. Occasionally, I will throw in a horseback ride or snorkeling. Once, I even went to Haleakala for sunrise. But I try to stay true to my routine.

This year my trip was not with my husband or family, but with my great friend Mariana. We decided to make this trip more adventurous than my usual. The highlight of this adventure was our almost trip to Hana.

Our Road to Hana was abbreviated, gladly. We started out on the same road as everyone does. The road was a simple two-way black top. The air was perfumed with flowers like pikae and plumeria, but it hung heavy with the humidity. The aroma of the water, flowers and highway mixed was inviting us to keep driving. We saw lots of fruit and smoothie stands, we saw the Painted Eucalyptus, which was very cool, and we got lots of bug bites. The highlight of our drive was meeting Chuy at Ka Haku Smokeshack. Let me say that by shack, I mean a lean-to in the middle of a rainforest. Oh sure there were grates for a BBQ and a corrugated tin roof to protect from the rain. There were two picnic tables fashioned out of trees and Chuy had set up a cooler with water and some cups. But that was the extent of our lunch restaurant.

The menu consisted of one $20 plate. “Plates” are big in Hawaii. The meal was marinated BBQ chicken and pork belly served with Fern Pohole Salad, white sticky rice and grilled bananas sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon with a generous dollop of whipped cream. You could buy a beer or bottle of water. If there were coconuts available, there was guy that would open them up, with his machete, for you to drink. We got really lucky and a crazy lady picked up the machete herself and started hacking away at a coconut. She said this was okay because they “do it at Whole Foods”. YIKES! But I digress.

Chuy had a marinade that he used on everything and even sprayed on the salad and rice right before serving. I can’t say for sure what was in the marinade but I know there was soy sauce, ginger and a little sugar in it. It created such a nice caramelized, crispy skin on the chicken and pork belly. It was exactly the right acid and sweetness to cut the fat too. Chuy promises to share his recipe when he finishes moving but I found a recipe for pork belly and another for the salad that I think come close, minus the rainforest.

Kalua Pork Belly
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Servings
8-10 servings
Servings
8-10 servings
Kalua Pork Belly
Print Recipe
Servings
8-10 servings
Servings
8-10 servings
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, over a medium heat, combine the first 9 ingredients ending with liquid smoke
  2. Bring to a simmer and then cook for 3-5 minutes
  3. Remove from heat and stir into chilled chicken stock. This is your marinade.
  4. Place the pork belly into a deep roasting dish and pour marinade over it. Cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.
  5. Remove pork belly from fridge one hour before cooking. You want it to come back to room temperature.
  6. Preheat oven to 350°.
  7. Cover roasting dish with foil and braise, in oven, until pork belly is tender, about 4-5 hours.
  8. Remove from oven, but DO NOT turn oven of.
  9. Transfer pork belly to a parchment lined, rimmed baking sheet and st aside.
  10. Strain your marinade through a fine mesh sieve, into a saucepan and skim the fat.
  11. Over a medium his heat, cook the marinade liquid ad reduce until you have about 3 cups of a thick glaze. Watch it but this should take about 25 minutes.
  12. Brush the glaze, generously, all over the pork belly and return to oven for another 25-30 minutes.
  13. When it comes out of the oven, let pork rest for a few minutes then slice into desired sized pieces. I like to cut in strips , but bit-sized is great too.
  14. Serve over rice, and garnish with sesame seeds and scallions. Don't forget about the Pohole salad.
Recipe Notes
  • The marinade and pork belly can both be made a day ahead of time. Just bring back to room temperature, glaze the pork belly and heat through at 350° for 25 minutes.
  • If you can't find a dark chicken stock, try making it yourself or you can use beef stock. Just make sure the store bought ones are rich.
  • You can also do the last part of cooking on a BBQ instead of finishing in oven, just watch it.
  • The marinade can be used for chicken too.
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Pohole Fern Salad
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Pohole Fern Salad
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Wash the hairs off the fiddlehead fern. Start breaking pieces off. Use only the ones that break off easy.
  2. Blanch the Pohole pieces in boiling water, until color pops (about 3 minutes).
  3. Plunge into cold iced water to stop cooking
  4. Whisk all dressing ingredients together.
  5. Toss salad ingredients into dressing. Season with salt & pepper.
  6. Serve chilled.
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Always Mama’s!

Mama’s Fish house was officially opened in 1973, in Pa’ia, Maui. I went to Maui for the first time in 1974. So we practically grew up together. I was on the Kannapali side of the island and Mama’s was on the Wailea side. I was hitchhiking from our apartment in Napili to Lahaina, while over at Mama’s, fisherman were pulling their boats up onto the beach to sell their fresh fish. If you look on a map of Maui there is a natural divide and back then, and even kind of today, that divide was very real. As a resident of the Westside I very rarely ventured to the North. If I did, it was probably to go to the airport and if we were eating, it was at Chuck’s Steakhouse. Steakhouses were big in the 70’s & 80’s, on the island.

Throughout the 80’s I would go back to Maui again and again, but it was always back to the Kannapali side and it was mostly to “party”, lay in the sun and repeat. In the mid-nineties, I was invited back by my soon to be fiancé and we stayed on the North side, in Wailea. It was 1997 and this would be my first trip to Mama’s.

Even in 1997, 24 years after it opened, Mama’s was still more a hidden treasure for locals than an in demand tourist destination. The restaurant was way bigger than the shack it started out as, but I bet it still only sat maybe 50 people. The, always missed the first time, driveway was now marked by the very boat they used to catch their fish on. The menu had not changed very much. They still told you who caught the fish and where, on the menu. Their signature dish of Macadamia Nut Encrusted Mahi-Mahi, stuffed with crab was still their best seller and you still got sand in your shoes walking to your table.

After that 1997 trip to Maui, going to Mama’s became a tradition every trip. From 1997, when we got engaged, to 1999 the birth of our first child and beyond; we went every year until 2013. Each year as our children got bigger, so did Mama’s. Now you walk in and go down some stairs to get to the hostess stand. They have valet parking and postcards to send back to the mainland. But they have always remained true to their roots.

When Mama’s opened in 1973, they wanted to showcase the fish and foods of Polynesia. Even in 2000, that remained their driving force. That was the year they re-introduced the long neglected, breadfruit, a fruit similar in texture to a potato but sweetens when cooked, and other Polynesian foods. They began working with local Farmers to grow the best organic produce and they continue to put the name of the fisherman, his catch, and where it was caught on the menu.

Today, Mama’s stays true to itself, even in a restaurant big enough for a convention, that might be held at the new Mama’s Inn, on property. The mahi-mahi is still the signature entrée. Through the years they also became famous for their Ceviche and Maui Banana Macadamia Crisp. This was my first trip there in four years, but it was just as fantastic as it has ever been. They keep their recipes pretty close, so I was unable to get the recipe for the mahi-mahi I had this year. This year it was served with a pineapple beurre blanc. However, I think I’ve come pretty close in re-creating it. I hope when you bite into the tender and mild white fish, the salty taste of the crab and the sweetness of the pineapple beurre blanc, you will be transported to a shack on the beach in Maui.

 

Macadamia Nut Encrusted, Crab Stuffed Mahi-Mahi with a Pineapple Beurre Blanc
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Macadamia Nut Encrusted, Crab Stuffed Mahi-Mahi with a Pineapple Beurre Blanc
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Ingredients
Fish
Stuffing
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Make a horizontal cut in one edge of each fillet, creating a pocket, but leaving the other sides in tact.
  2. Lightly dust the fish fillets with the seasoned flour.
  3. Toss together the macadamia nuts and bread crumbs. Saute the nuts and breadcrumbs in 1 T. butter until just toasted and golden brown.
  4. Mix together the crabmeat, mayonnaise, parsley and old bay. Set aside.
  5. Fill each fillet with about an ounce of stuffing. You can eyeball it. Just make sure it is even among the fillets.
  6. Heat remaining butter and oil in a large sauté pan.
  7. Dip stuffed fillets in egg. I like to do one side at a time and let the excess drip off. Then repeat on other side.
  8. Press the fillet firmly into the topping.
  9. Make sure the sauté pan is hot before placing the fillet and cooking until golden brown, about 1 ½ minutes. Turn and repeat. Be sure to watch closely. Macadamias have a lot of natural oil and can burn quickly.
  10. Remove from pan and keep warm.
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ALOHA!

Aloooooha! I am back from my happy place. It really doesn’t matter all the wonderful places that I am able to travel to, Maui, the Valley Isle, will always be my favorite. As you fly in you can see the lush green valleys and black lava peaks, formed from years of volcanic activity. I imagine that I can smell the sweet and salty water filled air and a smile spreads across my face. When I return to Maui, there are specific food rituals that I must do or I feel incomplete.

I usually start with an obligatory shave ice. Each time I am in Maui, I search for the perfect shave ice.  I try to find just the right  incarnation. Shave Ice is exactly what it says it is; a huge block of ice is put in a machine and finely shaved flakes of ice, fall into a cup ready to be adorned with sweet syrup. That is how most mainlanders enjoy it. Hawaiians add vanilla ice cream on the bottom and a drizzle of sweetened condensed cream, on top. This trip I found Tobi’s Shave Ice in Pa’ia. Like other shave ice shacks there is a myriad of syrup flavors and the ice is shaved to perfection. What I love is how they burrow the ice cream in the middle of the shave ice. This is assures that you get a little bite of creaminess with every bit of shave ice. And you can still get the drizzle of condensed cream. I have to say that Tobi’s rocked!

There is also the ritual of Hawaiian Breakfast. I love Hawaiian French Toast. I like it with bananas, macadamia nuts and coconut syrup. I’ve had the pancake version of this but they always seem heavy. There are so many great Hawaiian breakfast items. Things like Portuguese sausage, Spam and Pork Fried Rice with Eggs are traditional. I love macadamia nut sticky buns!

This trip I tried Kihei Caffe’s french toast. They use Portuguese bread; think Kings Hawaiian bread in a loaf. The bread is made with milk, sugar, eggs, honey and lemon zest. It has a sweet flavor and is really light in texture. You can use brioche if you can’t find Portuguese or Hawaiian Bread. The bread is soaked in an egg mixture, like traditional French toast but it is cooked in a sauté pan and then baked. This locks in the creamy texture in the center and a caramelized crunch on top. Once it’s baked slice some fresh or caramelized bananas and some chopped macadamia nuts over the top. I drizzle the toast with a little maple syrup and some coconut syrup. The combination of sweet and salty with just a little bit of crunch is phenomenal! I can smell the coconut syrup and ocean breeze and am ready for breakfast.

I have been going to Maui since 1974. I have witnessed so many changes. While I still long for the quiet uninhabited island that it once was, I love the new food and beverage scene that the growth has brought. Here is a recipe for Hawaiian French Toast that comes close to the one I had at Kihei Caffe. Enjoy!

Hawaiian French Toast
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Hawaiian French Toast
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. In a large bowl whisk together eggs, milk vanilla, honey and salt. Soak bread slices in egg mixture for 2 minutes each side.
  3. Melt 1 Tbsp. of butter in a large skillet and add half of the soaked bread. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until it is just golden brown. Repeat with remaining bread and butter.
  4. Place cooked bread on a baking sheet and cook in preheated oven for 5 minutes.
  5. Serve hot with whatever toppings you like. I like butter, and a mixture of bananas and chopped macadamia nuts with a drizzle of maple and coconut syrups.
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