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Hale Kai Condo #203, Maui, Hawaii
Article about shopping in our Honokowai neighborhood

 

Each winter for the past twenty years, the shores of Ka’anapali have been my home away from home for a blissful ten-day vacation in a rented condomi­nium. And while I’m there, I always love to make a little ritual of pre­paring some of my favorite Island-inspired dishes using fresh, local ingredients.

I try to time my arrival so I can stop by the Honokowai Farmers’ Market as soon as possible. This vibrant little outdoor market, founded by Maui County Council­man Wayne Nishiki in 1978 and now run by his daughter, sets up outdoors in an empty parking lot across the street from the HonokowaiPark from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

My shopping begins at the pineapple table, where I choose three fragrant Maui pineapples, bursting with juice. I am not a fan of the new, low-acid Maui Gold variety, though many people now prefer them. The sellers behind the pineapple table always put out tastes of both, so you can decide for yourself. Then it’s onto the papayas, which the vendors themselves will choose for the customers. "Eat this one now,” they say. "Leave this one on the counter for one day, and this one for two.” I like fast-ripening, pink-toned, strawberry papayas with a delicate floral aroma. Finally, a bunch of fat, triangular apple-bananas—fruitier and more tart than regular bananas—com­plete my fruit purchases, the staples of my Maui kitchen.

Then I move on to the vegetables: Kula butter lettuce; big, ripe Maui tomatoes; sweet Maui onions; long, tender scallions; sweet potatoes of all hues—purple, white, yellow, gold, orange; Maui avocados; the much-coveted Maui sweet corn; young ginger; and anything else that’s marked "1oca1” and looks good. Ninety percent of the produce at the market comes directly from local farmers or is flown in from the other islands, which means that it is fresher and riper than typical supermarket fare. And over the years, the variety of Island-grown produce has increased geometrically.

After produce shopping, I can’t resist a stop at Robin Lynch’s tropical flower stand, where the tall blooms look as if they were beamed down from outer space— proteas, birds of paradise, perfumey tube-roses, sprays of orchids, gigantic tropical leaves. She arranges them into other­worldly bouquets that possess astounding staying power.

Nowadays, my next stop is The Fish Market, a two-year-old shop in a small strip mall just up the road from the farmers’ market. Owners Jim and Tricia Patch have done a superb job of sourcing local fish, with filets that gleam like jewels in the spotless white case. Depending on the fishermen’s luck, I might find ‘opakapaka, onaga, moon fish, mahimahi, yellowfin tuna, swordfish, shrimp, clams or live lobsters and crabs in tanks. Plus, the staff can offer a wealth of information about Hawaii’s lesser-known fish.

They also sell their own take-home sauces and pre­assemble packages of ingredients with recipes, so all you have to do is follow their cooking instructions in your own kitchen. For those who don’t cook, the Fish Market’s clean-flavored seafood chowder of rich fish broth and plenty of aromatic vegetables is one of the best I’ve tasted. Their bright fish salads, poke and shrimp cocktails can be the centerpiece of refreshing light meals.

Lastly, I finish up at the Star Market in the Honokowai Marketplace, simply be­cause it’s close. There, I buy all my favorite local products to use during my stay and to bring home as gifts, like the one-pound bags of orange ‘alaea sea salt—a handsome table condiment that gets its color from the Hawaiian red clay in the ponds where it’s dried. Also on my list is local Ha1eaka1a Dairy POG, or papaya-orange-guava juice, from the refrigerator case, and I look for Gouvea’s sausages from the delicatessen section. Gouvea has been making sausages in Honolulu since 1933, and both their pure pork chorizo, made with no preservatives or emulsifiers, and their chile-flecked Portuguese sausage are wonderful. Of course, I stock up on Hawaiian Whaler’s dark rum, with its dusky sugar-cane aroma, and triple sec for sunset drinks, along with toasted macadamia nuts and Maui potato chips to go with them.

With these few local staples in place, Island cooking becomes easy. I have de­veloped my own recipes, but I also cook from Rachel Laudan’s The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawai’i’s Culinary Heritage (University of Hawai’i Press), a marvelous popular anthropology of dishes and culinary customs collected from ethnic communities in Hawai’i’s multicultural society. From her book, I particularly like to make “chicken long rice” using small, intensely flavorful ‘Ewa chickens, which have the raised breast­bone of wild fowl. (See recipe.)

However, the meal most loved by the families I visit Maui with every year is a "plate lunch” I make with Gouvea sausages cut up and sauteed with wedges of onion and triangles of bell pepper, seasoned with fresh ginger and soy sauce, next to a pile of scrambled Island eggs and a scoop of hot, short grain rice.

Before we dig in, I make blender drinks, starting with two cups of cubed fresh Maui pineapple, one cup of Whaler’s Rum, one cup of POG, a big handful of ice, a splash of triple sec and a squeezed lime. Some­times I add an apple banana. I blend all this up and taste, adjusting with a little more lime, POG or rum to get a seductive sweet-and-sour balance. We call this tropical drink the Windy Palm; or The Thatched Hut; or The Plumeria; or Banana Sweepstakes, depending on the variation.

Then we have our "p1ate lunch,” though it’s really a plate breakfast served as a plate dinner. And for dessert, I must admit that our tradition is to eat Fat Boys, super-thick ice cream sandwiches sold in packages of twelve at the Star Market. I’m not sure where the Fat Boys are made, but to me they evoke the bounty of the Islands, where anything goes when it comes to a feast.

BayArea food writer Patricia Untermanis a restaurant critic for the San Francisco Examiner, author of The Food Lovers Guide to San Francisco and co-owner of the Hayes Street Grill.

Chicken Long Rice

(adapted from The Food of Paradise by Rachel Laudan)

“Long rice” is the local term for Chinese bean-thread noodles that are sold dry and turn into shimmering strands when soaked in water.

10 dried shiitake mushrooms
2
cups homemade chicken stock
1
pound boneless chicken breasts,skinned and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1
inch ginger root, crushed
1
carrot, cut in thin strips
1
cup celery, thinly sliced
1/2
medium onion, thinly sliced  ounces long rice, soaked in warm water several minutes and cut into 3-inch lengths with scissors
2
green onions, cut in 1-inch lengths

Place the mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to soak for fifteen minutes or so. Simmer chicken stock, chicken cubes and gin­ger for four minutes. Drain and slice the mushrooms, throwing out the hard stem. Add the mushrooms, carrot, cel­ery and onion to the stock and simmer for another fifteen minutes. Finally, add the long rice and the green onions. Simmer another couple of minutes until the stock is absorbed and the long rice is translucent. Yield: Six servings.

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rev 02/07/2013