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Cooking with Aloha

Shimeji mushrooms, corn shoots, and rambutans from the market

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One of the great things about living on the West Coast is that it’s really easy to get to Hawaii. My boyfriend Tyler happens to live on Oahu, which means I visit pretty regularly, and it’s where I’ve been for the past week.

I always like to visit markets when I’m traveling, but having access to Tyler’s kitchen means I can take full advantage of the Saturday farmer’s market. So whenever I’m here, a visit to the market at Honolulu’s Kapiolani Community College is always on the to-do list.

When we showed up this past Saturday at 8 a.m., the place was already bustling. We had planned on eating breakfast at the market, so that was the first order of business (who can shop on an empty stomach, anyway?). The prepared foods were as diverse as the island itself, including Portuguese sausage, Thai curries, fried green tomatoes, risotto balls, and the ubiquitous plate lunch. Unable to choose just one thing, I started with an Okinawan doughnut, which is a lemon-sized ball of lightly sweetened fried dough, and then moved on to a kimchi-filled sausage, grilled and served on a bun with sauerkraut and pickled jalapeno peppers. That, and a cup of local Wailua coffee, was the perfect way to greet the day.

With a full belly, I turned my attention to produce. There were tons of decidedly tropical fruits like papayas, bananas, and rambutans, along with vibrantly colored orchids, birds of paradise, and sprays of pink ginger flowers. But of all the things for sale at the market, the most interesting items were ones I didn’t recognize. There was sea asparagus, a succulent, sprouty vegetable that had the briny flavor of the Pacific. Another stall had corn sprouts, little yellow shoots with an unmistakable corny flavor and and intense sweetness, and Okinawan spinach with deep green and purple leaves. I couldn’t resist picking up some of each, and before I knew it my shopping bag was full.

Back at the apartment, I faced the real challenge: what to do with all this stuff? I wanted to keep the sea asparagus somewhat undoctored, so I blanched them and tossed them with thinly sliced fresh palm hearts and a little rice vinegar for a salad. For the entree, I seared meaty hunks of ono (wahoo), set them on a bed of the corn sprouts, and nestled in a mound of sauteed shimeji mushrooms and the spinach. Smashed-and-fried potatoes rounded it all out, and aromatic papaya cubes served as dessert.

I was pretty happy with the results, especially since so many of the ingredients were new to me. Tyler even taught me a pidgin phrase to describe the meal: “broke da mouf”, which literally means “broke the mouth” – it’s used to describe something that, well, tastes so good it hurts. While no mouths were harmed in the making of that meal, it was still nice to get a local boy’s seal of approval.

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  • MarieRoseHI | 05/06/2009

    Next time you are on O'ahu take a drive to the North Shore to the new completely organic Haleiwa Farmer's Market held on Sundays from 9a to 1p. you can stop off at Coffee Gallery for a sold cup of joe and yummy treats or have some fresh brewed Wailua coffee and made on the spot grilled pizza at the market. Lucky we live Hawaii!

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    Tyler_M | 03/30/2009

    And best of all, the market is year round and it (almost) never gets rained out!

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