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.