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Archive for June, 2008

Continuing in my Hawaii posts…

If you’re planning a trip to Oahu and want to see what good island produce looks like as well as get an insight into the local culture, head to the Kapiolani Community College’s Saturday Farmer’s Market which is sponsored by the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation and the Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Kapiolani Community College (where my friend Adriana teaches).  Where is it?  Well, if you’re staying in Waikiki and head towards Diamond Head, you’ll see the large crowd of cars parked in a big parking lot near the entrance to the landmark.  This also has to be one of the prettiest community college’s around and all with an ocean view from most points on campus!  After you eat your way through the market, it would be a great idea to hike up the mountain and take in the sights.

This farmer’s market is great for local residents who have so long relied on so much of their food being shipped in from the mainland.  Many supermarkets I have been to in Hawaii have very sad looking produce departments – tired old carrots, wrinkly apples, moldy oranges and onions – mostly because (depending on the item) from the time it is picked in a field in California (or insert any other state), it’s probably sometimes a MONTH before it hits shelves in Hawaii.  This is truly sad.  With gorgeous volcanic soils on the islands and great year-round weather, I am glad that some people are foregoing the urge to be greedy (by selling land to real estate developers) and have decided to get back to the soil by farming in small plots – locally and most times pesticide-free or organically.  With gas prices sky-rocketing all over the world, it is also good to buy locally to save on the shipping costs (and help the environment by reducing emissions) and the produce is sooo much fresher!  What’s great is that many local chefs have gone on the local produce band wagon and have been promoting it a lot more now.

I was also so happy to see that North Shore Farms are growing juicy, sweet, multi-colored heirloom tomatoes.  It wasn’t that long ago when the only tomatoes that you could find in Hawaii were these hard red bullets and/or shipped from California.  They also sell their extremely popular tomato, mozzarella and macadamia basil pesto pizza every week.

You’ll also find locally produced honey, herbs, greens, eggs, hormone-free beef, sausages, organic drinks, pastries, bread and even sea asparagus!  A must to quench your thirst is a fresh ginger ale from Pacifikool made with locally grown ginger root.  They serve two varieties – Hawaiian and Thai variety ginger syrups with vary slightly.  I personally like the Hawaiian one because it has more spice.  The lines are very long but it’s definitely worth the wait!  Don’t forget to try the great sausages at Kukui Sausage Company.  I really liked the Kim Chee and Pastele sausages – yum!  The woman in the booth was looking at me very suspiciously when I started taking photos and wasn’t particularly friendly – did she think I was going to steal her idea?  Little did she know that I liked her sausages and wanted to write about them.  Regardless of the not-too-friendly service I got, I still think their sausages are unique and tasty.  Pomai of Tasty Island has great posts on local island cuisine and on these particular sausages.

I noticed that a few other food bloggers out in blogland have written extensive posts of this farmer’s market so I won’t go on about what I ate or what I did.  I’d rather leave you with some gorgeous photos that I took that day.  I have loved farmer’s markets since I was a kid and whenever I travel, I definitely seek out the local market and always come away with having learned or discovered something new and I hope you do too.

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My dear friend Adriana Torres Chong, originally from Mexico City, now lives in Honolulu and teaches Mexican cuisine at the University of Hawaii’s Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Kapiolani Community College (KCC) and does freelance food photography. As a fellow foodie, we often share our passion and experiences with food with each other and also joke about our experiences whenever we’ve revealed to have studied gastronomy at university (she has a BA in Gastronomy from Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana). Sure, foodies who read food blogs understand what gastronomy is but most people think that we study the stars or perform operations on stomachs and bowels so Adriana and I often don’t bother revealing it. An U.S. custom’s agent once asked me what I was studying in Australia and when I said gastronomy, he seriously asked if I drilled for oil (petrol)…and I digress.

I wanted to feature her Flan de Queso on my blog because uniquely, she adds finely grated Mexican cheese (either panela or queso fresco)* in the mixture and the result is a very tasty twist on the traditional flan that is served all over Mexico. Haven’t had a Mexican flan before? It’s a wonderfully, eggy, custardy, sweet and comforting dessert. What I also love about Adriana’s flan is that it is not very dense and super rich like some I have tasted so you can easily eat more than one piece! 🙂

*Queso fresco is made by pressing the whey from cottage cheese. It is very similar to cheeses called pot cheese and farmer cheese. It has also been compared to Indian paneer and to a mild feta and panela is also a mild, soft and crumbly cheese.

Adriana’s Flan de Queso

Makes 10 servings

4 eggs

1 14 oz (395 gm) can sweetened condensed milk

1 13 oz (375 ml) can evaporated milk

1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon

4 oz (100 gm) queso fresco or panela finely grated

1 c. white caster (granulated) sugar

10 ramekins (1/2 c. capacity) or 9″ baking pan

Directions:

Pour the sugar in a warm pan over medium heat and stir sugar until it starts to dissolve and changes into a lightly brown caramel colour. At this stage, it can tend to burn very quickly so do not leave the pan at all and stir constantly. As soon as the sugar becomes a gorgeous caramel colour, take it off the heat immediately and quickly pour approximately 1 Tbsp. of caramel into each ramekin or all of the caramel into the baking dish if not using ramekins. Let the caramel cool.

Preheat oven to 350F/175C.

Either whisking by hand or in a food processor, combine the rest of the ingredients and pour the mixture into the caramel lined ramekins (or baking pan) and cover with foil.

Place ramekins or baking pan into a roasting dish and pour enough hot water in the bottom of the roasting dish to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins (or baking pan).

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the flan is nearly set. To tell when it is ready, the flan should only move slightly when shaken gently or when you insert a knife 1/3 of the way from the edge and it comes out clean. Remove from the water and let them cool before refrigerating.

To serve, run a small sharp knife around each ramekin (or baking pan) and/or fill a bowl or sink with very hot water and dip the bottom for about 10 seconds to loosen. Place a plate over each ramekin and in one motion, flip the ramekin over so that the caramel is on the top. Enjoy!

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While I still work on composing many of the posts regarding my trip to Hawaii, I wanted to post a few photos of some beautiful winter veggies from our local Wayville Farmer’s Market. In my previous post on GIANT SPINACH, I must stress that Australia grows the biggest vegetables I’ve ever seen in my life with the top items being celery, cabbage and cauliflower. So whenever I need celery, I buy only half, a quarter of cabbage and half of a cauli.

This specimen here is not even that big. It would be considered an average-sized cabbage.

I think this cabbage is flirting with me…

If only I could show the actual size of those beetroot bunches – believe me, they are HUGE.

I know this isn’t a picture about veggies but I thought that it was so beautiful that I had to share it. A pelican at sunset in Victor Harbour with Wright Island in the background.

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My favorite place to have breakfast in Maui is at the Gazebo Restaurant at the Outrigger Napili Shores resort in Napili Bay (just above the bustling resort area of Ka’anapali). I first ate there almost 10 years ago when working for the travel industry and it is still as busy today as it was back then. According to TripAdvisor.com, the Gazebo Restaurant has been voted by travelers as #1 out of 125 restaurants in Lahaina. Wow, I am surprised that a breakfast and lunch place beat out numerous high-end dinner restaurants. What makes this place so popular? It is a combination of the oceanfront view (and a direct view of Moloka’i), generous portions, great pancakes, fast and friendly service and great prices – after all, in a place as expensive as Maui, a bargain is hard to find when it comes to dining out.

Let me warn you that no matter what time you arrive to eat, there will be a long line to get in but I’ve never waited any longer than 30 minutes (although I’ve heard some people waiting longer than an hour). If you go to Maui during whale season, you will most likely see whales and/or dolphins breaching while waiting in line. There is even a large bell that the hotel encourage that you ring to notify everyone else that you have spotted a whale. The hotel is also nice enough to provide a large urn of coffee for the hotel guests and people standing in line for the Gazebo free of charge. Hey but you’re on vacation so waiting shouldn’t be a huge deal right? If you hate waiting, bring a good book.


I love ordering the macadamia pancakes because they are so fluffy and they are very generous with the nuts. They also top the fluffy pancakes with a very light whipped butter and there are several syrups available to eat with the pancakes. This time I went to the restaurant with my mother and we decided to share a short stack of the macadamia, banana and pineapple pancakes (which is one large pancake with the three toppings placed on top) and a half-order of the fried rice and a large pineapple juice all for under $20. If we ordered full sizes, we would have been able to feed four people – not kidding. The fried rice was flavored lightly with soy sauce, onions, lots of black pepper and full of tasty meats – ham, Portuguese sausage, bacon and Spam, topped with some scrabbled egg and green onions (scallions), yum! The fried rice was very fulfilling and it was nice to have the sweet and salty together at breakfast.


Beware of the smart little sparrows though if you order the fried rice! They sit on the glass window panes above the tables and wait to attack your plate and according to the servers, the sparrows love to hone in on the eggs on top the fried rice. I was so surprised when a sparrow grabbed a large piece of egg (mid-air) and did it so quickly that I barely had time to react before the rest of the sparrow gang devoured it on the ground next to me. It was amazing! Never in my life have I seen such smart little birdies…see, even they like the breakfasts there.


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When most tourists go to Maui, they usually rent a car and go straight towards the resort areas of Ka’anapali, Wailea, Kihei or Lahaina and tend to bypass the town of Kahului – where the majority of the locals reside. I always like to stop by the Maui Mall to see what’s on offer at the farmer’s market and craft fair held from 7:00am to 4:00pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Fruit is what I usually look for as it is very fresh and locally grown. Because Maui has areas of farming that are at higher elevations than on Oahu, farmers on Maui are able to produce sweet strawberries, onions and other produce that cannot usually thrive in the steamy tropics. The first thing I do when I go home is to eat as many papayas as possible because they are cheaper than apples and far tastier to me. Papayas are so versatile – eaten ripe or green as in a Thai papaya salad. After eating the pulp, I usually keep the skins as a facial mask to soften and exfoliate using the papaya’s natural enzymes.

Lychees and longans were in season and I couldn’t resist buying a few ripe lychees. Boy was I surprised to see that the prices have shot up enormously and it cost me about 60 to 70 cents each! Long gone are those days when many people had lychee trees in their back yard and buying them didn’t cost a fortune!

I did come across two fruits that I was not that familiar with: the star apple and a yellow passionfruit of unknown variety. Star Apples are said to be originally from the West Indies, Haiti to be exact, and is a very dark purple fruit with a thin skin. When the fruit is cut crosswise, a star pattern is seen but I didn’t really realize this so when I cut the fruit to take a photo, I cut it lengthwise. The pulp is a milky lavender color and is creamy and tastes like a watered-down, less sweet version of a custard apple (cherimoya). I don’t know, I was so excited with the way it looked that I was expecting so much more with the flavor and it was a bit disappointing.

The yellow passionfruit that was sold had an almost spongy outer skin and it was full of pulp and seeds. The woman who sold it to me couldn’t even tell me what it was and until I cut it open I didn’t realize that it was a passionfruit. It had the most peculiar soapy, woody flavor yet with a passionfruit undertone. It was very floral and not something that I enjoyed immensely although I ate about three or four just to give it a chance. According to Julia F. Morton in her book Fruits of Warm Climates, she lists at least a half a dozen yellow varieties of passionfruit so I guess it could be one of these varieties. I honestly don’t have much desire to research further than this and was happy that I was able to try a new variety of tropical fruit that I had never tasted before.

This is a great stop to make while you wait for your hotel room to be ready and also it is much cheaper to buy fruit and veggies here than at any of the resort supermarkets. There are crafts and other food vendors selling other goodies. I personally always makes sure I buy Filipino sweets like suman (glutinous rice and sugar cakes) or puto (steamed cakes) to top off my market shopping there – yum!

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I’ve decided to move the Food Quiz from its own page to a regular post below:

I love food and regardless of whether I have studied it extensively or not, there is no way that I have an encyclopaedia of knowledge…therefore, I have set up this page so that I can be enlightened by people who know more than me about a particular food ingredient or process or anything else that puzzles me.

Food Quiz #1:

I saw this in an Asian grocery store recently and it said that it was packed in Thailand.

Can anyone tell me what you do with pickled Turmeric?


My friend Lia Youngs sent me an email:

I saw your quiz on pickled turmeric, and while I have never had any myself, I think I can give you some background. A few weeks ago, a friend and I took a cooking class at the Davis Food Coop on Ayurvedic Cooking. Afterwards, I was inspired to check out some books from the library, and it just so happens one of them has a recipe for pickled turmeric. Here is an except from “Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing”

All pickles and chutneys will add color, sparkle and taste to a meal. But their main role in the Ayurvedic cuisine is to stimulate agnie, raise the digestive fire and help with the digestive process. Like raitas, pickles and chutneys are eaten in small quantities.

There is also an index in the back of the book, which lists all the medicinal properties of turmeric:

Turmeric is the best medicine in Ayurveda. It cures the whole person…Turmeric helps digestion, maintains the flora of the intestine, reduces gas, has tonic properties and is an antibiotic. Turmeric can be used for a cough, a sty, diabetes, hemorrhoids, cuts, wounds, burns, and shin problems. It helps reduce anxiety and stress.

And here are just a couple of interesting applications:

  • For external hemorrhoids, apply a mixture of ½ teaspoon of turmeric and 1 teaspoon of ghee locally at bedtime.
  • For general protection from disease, carry turmeric root in your pocket or tie it on a yellow silk thread around your neck

Food Quiz #2

I was in a local Asian grocery store recently and saw this amazing jar of teeny tiny fish all lined up in a jar. It is from the Philippines and I am curious what the fish is used for and even more of a question is, how in the world do the manufacturers get the fish to all line up so perfectly?! They must employ people with little hands that can reach inside the mouth of the jar and align the fish perfectly by using chopsticks or something! Just kidding, but really, anyone have any ideas?

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I love being in Sydney’s Chinatown area because it is almost like being in Asia – after all, Australia is part of Australasia. I get to fulfill all my Asian cravings whenever I visit and this time, I discovered a bakery that specialises in Asian-style cakes. It is on George St. right in the thick of the action and according to other Aussie food bloggers, it’s been open since 2006 (how did I miss it?!)

Anyway, as much as I wanted to try more as many flavours as possible, I could only eat two cakes to take away with me and I chose the two that intrigued me the most – Calpis Cookie Cake and Mango Mochi Cake. For those of you who do not know what Calpis is, it is a tasty, sweet and milky/yoghurty drink that you dilute with water (like a cordial) or that is pre-diluted with water or soda. It has been a childhood staple in Japan since the early 20th century. What’s funny is that in the U.S. market, it is called Calpico probably because Calpis sounds too much like…yup, you guested it, COW PISS!! And no one wants to be caught dead drinking cow piss…and I digress.

All the cakes in the display were gorgeous and reminded me of Japanese-style bakeries – visually exciting. As for the taste of the cakes, I was just a little bit disappointed. The Calpis Cookie Cake didn’t taste like Calpis at all but tasted more like a non-descript mousse of some kind. The Mango Mochi cake was decent – tasted like the Mochi Ice Cream we have in the states and was filled with a lightly flavoured dense mango mousse. The outer mochi “skin” was very soft and tasty but overall, I thought it was just ok. You can read a blog that I found that raves about this shop and definitely took much better photos than I did:

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