Archive for May, 2016

Titus Chan still a booster for Chinese cuisine

May 23rd, 2016


Lobster with mochi rice steamed a lotus leaf bowl was among the highlights of a dinner presented at Jade Dynasty by hosts Titus Chan and Kimo Wong.

Once an educator, always an educator. People 40 and older may remember Titus Chan as one of the original television chefs, right up there with "The French Chef" Julia Child, and "The Galloping Gourmet" Graham Kerr.

But few know Chan was a math instructor before finding TV stardom in 1972, when "Cooking the Chan-ese Way" debuted on KHET, followed by a national PBS release in 1973, introducing the art of Chinese cooking to 200 public television stations across the United States.

It was a combination of ease with instruction and being in front of the cameras, as well as his knowledge of Chinese cooking that got him the gig, and more than 40 years after starting to educate people in the "Chan-ese" way of cooking, he's still a proponent of learning more about Chinese cuisine.

One of the origiinal celebrity TV chefs, Titus Chan.

A frequenter of Chinese restaurants, he says he feels he hasn't done his job when he sees people going to the restaurants and ordering the same old, like beef broccoli and sweet-sour pork, when Chinese fare has evolved so much over the decades.

To prove his point, he teamed up with Kimo Wong to host a nine-course dinner at Jade Dynasty Restaurant, showcasing options beyond beef broccoli, in hope that of encouraging people to step outside their comfort zone and perhaps try one new dish at a time.

Now that it's graduation season, most of these festive dishes can be prepared with 24 hours notice.

In addition, the restaurant in the fourth-level Ho'okipa Terrace offers dim sum offerings during the day, mirroring the latest innovations in Hong Kong and China. Call 947-8818 for reservations or information.

The big reveal for the the lobster on mochi rice:

Jade Dynasty owners Alan and Sylvia Ho with Bank of Hawaii VP Kimo Wong and Titus Chan.

The first course of crisp, juicy pork in egg crepes, and garlic-marinated cucumbers (also plated below), arrived on this lighted vessel.

jade start

Steamed whole wintermelon soup arrived looking like a flower in bloom or burst of fireworks, with the rim of the melon lined with crab meat.

A baked Pacific oyster was topped with shrimp, scallop, spinach and a Portuguese-style curry sauce.

Peking duck and bun.

Crispy Peking duck skin and bun.

The duck meat was presented in lettuce cups.

Sweet, tea-smoked tiger prawns was one of my favorite dishes of the evening.

Braised pork ribs were presented for viewing before being taken back to the kitchen for shredding for individually portioned buns, below.

jade pork bun

Housemade silken tofu was ladled into bowls with ginger nectar for dessert.

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Eating Dubai 4: Just like Vegas, dinner + dancing fountains

May 20th, 2016


The Dubai Fountains were among elements that reminded me of Las Vegas. I loved the regional music that accompanied the dancing waters. Those who dine at Dubai Mall's Wafi Gourmet or Karam Beirut have a ringside seat.

DUBAI, U.A.E. — Before leaving on a trip to unlikely destinations, there's always the question, "Why?"

"Why Dubai?"

Twelve years ago it was, "Why Portland (Ore.)?" It's pretty clear now it's a fantastic place to be, right?

The other question is, "What's Dubai like?"

I had to go to see for sure, but my stock answer at that time was, "It's the Las Vegas of the Middle East."

And so it was, minus the gambling.

Sited on the Eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, Dubai was initially a fishing village also sustained by a bounty of pearls. It wasn't until 1966 that oil was discovered there, and the wealth that came with that led to modernization.

With the last remaining oil deposits in the United Arab Emirates expected to run out in 2029, there's been a push for economic diversification beyond oil, and for Dubai that has meant a rapid boost in finance, real estate and tourism sectors so that today, only about 5 percent of its economy is based in oil.

It wasn't until a visit to the tallest building in the world, Dubai's Burj Khalifa, that it became visually obvious how new the desert city is. Construction on the building started in 2004, and pictures from the top levels in 2009, before it opened in 2010, showed mostly desert in the background. Most of the city sprung up in the last six years, and there are hundreds of cranes throughout the city as it is poised for more growth leading up to its hosting of the 2020 World Expo.

The view from the 125th floor of the Burj Khalifa shows Dubai's natural landscape. Below, development surrounding the tallest building in the world came up within the last 10 years, and where Honolulu might have 10 building cranes around town, there are hundreds here.

It took 10,000 workers six years to complete the 2,722 foot structure. To compare, the original twin towers of New York's World Trade Center stood 1,368 feet tall. In addition to freeways, they're building a 90-mile rail to Abu Dhabi.

Developments will include more man-made islands like the palm tree-shaped Palm Jumeirah, including retreats awaiting personalization by the wealthy. (Now there's an idea for Hawaii, if we could ever build anything on time, because most people would prefer to live off our shores.)

Dubai Mall is the largest in the world by area, covering 5,400,000 square feet, with 1,200 shops. In this part of the world, where a "mine is bigger than yours" mentality prevails, the mall may one day be eclipsed by another project in the works, The Mall of the World, envisioned as a fully air-conditioned city comprising more than 48 million square feet.

And, what really made it feel like Las Vegas was dining at Dubai Mall's Karam Beirut restaurant, where we could watch the Dubai Fountains, like those at the Bellagio, as well as people zip-lining over the fountains toward the mall from the Burj Khalifa's residential towers.

Here's a look at dinner:

At Karam Beirut, almonds were an amuse served on ice. It's supposed to moisten the skin, making them easy to peel. Why would anyone want to get rid of the extra fiber? I didn't get it, but because the peels became wet, soggy and chewy on ice, we had to peel them to get the crunch.

Lamb is the specialty at the Lebanese restaurant Karam Beirut. You can get any number of raw lamb dishes, plus lamb's liver for $39 dirhams (about $11 USD), lamb's brain ($32 dirham) or lamb's tongue ($32 dirham), which I found rather squishy. This is the basic, grilled lamb topped with cilantro-coated flatbread.

Hammour, a kind of grouper, is a favorite fish here because it's meaty, moist and is well suited to the barbecue grill. This was very yummy.

Desserts included ashta, a Lebanese clotted cream topped with honey and almonds, and below, halawet el jibn, a semolina pancake willed with clotted cream and sweet cheese.

db dessert

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

First course: Mahina & Sun's

May 18th, 2016


Deep-fried whole snapper, and salads of root vegetables and pohole ferns are part of the Family Feast at Mahina & Sun's.

Following a zombie apocalypse and cut off from the rest of the world, what would we eat?

If you envision such a future, sustainability makes perfect sense. I'm not saying Ed Kenney and Dave Caldiero are thinking in those bleak terms, but with their latest restaurant, Mahina & Sun's, I think they have the opposite in mind—a bright sunny future in which people awaken to caring for the planet and nurturing their bodies in a single move, by choosing foods both healthful and sustainable.

The two have been preaching this concept for about a decade, but takes it even further with Mahina & Sun's, making sustainable seem more palatable than ever.

A "snack" of Sweet Land Farms goat cheese beignets with beet ketchup and arugula.

It all starts with teaching us to love such basics as 'ulu and ugly root vegetables, hairy roots, green tops and all. There was a time I would have lopped off these unsightly ends, but here, they're a joy to pop whole into the mouth, and I was surprised to see my meat-loving friends reaching continuously for the bowls of vegetables and 'ulu.

Kenney would be the first to tell you he could do more, noting that it is still difficult to go without imported oils, beans, grains, Japanese products, pastas and spices, as well as most bar content.

Satisfying kahala (amberjack) crudo with preserved lemon, toasted inamona, purslane and brown butter vinaigrette.

But moreso than most outlets, I see a commitment, not only to the locally grown, but foods basic to the earliest Hawaii settlers. Most chefs, and diners, would find that limiting, but Mahina & Sun's is doing its best to win over a 21st century audience accustomed to getting any foodstuff they want, sourced from all parts of the planet.

It won't be an easy feat bringing diners back to the homestead, but they're committed to trying.

The setting, poolside at the equally new Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club.

Mahina & Sun's is in the new Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club at 412 Lewers St. Call 924-5810.

Mild, clean-tasting Kualoa Ranch oysters are simply graced with chili pepper water, succulents and slices of kalamansi.

It doesn't get much more local than pa'i 'ai topped with akule. Not for those who don't like fishy fish.

Usually, I would love the Shinsato pork paté, but having so many other good things to eat made it seem less interesting than the alternatives.

The grilled he'e is my favorite dish.

Rigatoni with local wild boar ragu. I don't know how they are able to secure a steady supply of local boar for making this dish.

A pour of smoky bacon broth over swordfish and savoy cabbage. The restaurant is committed to using sustainable seafood based on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, but swordfish has a tendency to be dry and is still not one of my favorites. A dish of monchong, however, was perfection.

A pan-roasted half chicken is tasty, but has been inconsistent, moist one day, dry the next. But I love the coriander chutney on top.

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage is in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Eating Dubai 3: To the markets, a trek to Abu Dhabi's food souks

May 17th, 2016


Giant prawns are among the fresh catch offered up at the Mina Fish Market at Mina Zayed Port in Abu Dhabi, where you can also get your seafood cooked up at adjoining kitchens on the spot.

ABU DHABI, U.A.E. — There comes a time on every trip when one must part from the gang, and a 90-mile day trip to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, was that occasion.

Some wanted to go to Yas Mall and some wanted to head to Ferrari World to ride the world's fastest roller coaster, the Formula Rossa, which attains a speed of 152 miles in 5 seconds, approximating the speed of an F1 racer.

I wanted no part of that, so Melissa Chang and I headed instead for the various markets, starting with the Mina Fish Market at the Mina Zayed Port. It would be like getting dropped off a couple of piers away from Honolulu's Pier 39 and having to walk to Nico's. In the hot, isolated area, I asked the cab driver how we were going to get back to civilization. He said to wait for a taxi. I was like, "Really?" And shrugged, if you say so, taking his word at faith as I got out of the car.

It was a really hot day as we made our way across asphalt on foot after being dropped off by taxi to reach the Mina Fish Market and a nearby fruit and vegetable market. People had a hard time directing us from place to place because given the desert climate, apparently, nobody walks in Abu Dhabi.

Luckily, with all the seafood on ice, the fish market was the coolest place to be as we got a look at area favorites such as hammour, a grouper, and sheri, a spangled emperor or reef snapper.

If I were hungry and thinking straight, I would have bought something to have cooked up on the spot. I'm sure it would have been delicious.

The waters of the Persian Gulf are home to many species of crab. These crabs look like Maryland blue crabs.

Posters remind shoppers to make sustainable choices. Sound familiar? I like the names of their fish, like Sultan Ibrahim (thread fin bream) and Disco (another grouper).

Next, we walked over to a fruit market, but it was something of a bust because all the fruit they sold is imported. It is what they prize in the desert where an apple or orange is something of a miracle, but isn't what we wanted to see at all.

I was really thirsty that day, but they aren't so commercialized that they have cafe spaces or vendors selling fresh juices or smoothies. (I smell business opportunity!) So, the only thing I could drink was coconut water from an imported Thai coconut, which I have to say is not as good as our own.

In between the fish and produce souks, there were garden shops where people could pull up, park and pick up all manner of plants. But some of the lawn ornaments had us baffled.

They could use a better artist for their lawn deer.

At a vegetable souk, this gentleman from Kerala, India, was happy to be photographed with his produce.

I had a little bit of a gross-out moment when I wanted to eat the coconut and had the vendor hack it open, which he did with a machete on his open palm! That was crazy. But then, he proceeded to scoop out the meat with said machete, which I don't how was used before or how long was left sitting attracting flies.

Even though I was sick and my immune system was weak, I didn't want it to go to waste so I ate it. Of course I couldn't eat the whole thing on the spot, so I asked for a bag. Then, he proceeded to pick up a piece of the cut meat with his fingers and drop it into the bag! I was like, "No, whole shell." That later turned out to be my lunch, but I threw out the meat that was touched.

Across the way, there was a row of date vendors, all inviting us to taste. I didn't have much of an appetite and could see how these sugar-, fiber-, vitamin-, calorie- and carb-rich fruits could sustain desert tribes over long periods. If I were healthier I would have compared the dozens of varieties offered to find the best.

Just as one of the vendors handed a date to me with his fingers, I remembered the news that 30 percent of American men don't wash their hands after using the restroom, and thought that figure must be much lower in this part of the world. Again, I was grossed out but ate it anyway to avoid appearing rude.

Overall, these markets are more for locals than tourists because access is difficult. When we reached the end of the line and actually had to get back, another westerner in a cab pulled up and I said, "Thank you for coming!" I was so grateful.

So far, I've been lucky. In all my recent international travels to Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, China and Japan, I haven't been sickened by the food, not even street food in a dusty environment. (In Shanghai I was slightly sickened by the water from brushing my teeth because I forgot there's a reason every hotel offers bottled water.) My body actually has a harder time adjusting to coming back to hormone-pumped meats and other processed aspects of the American diet.

A building behind the fresh produce market featured about a dozen date vendors.

Accepting a date from a stranger. Shoppers are welcome to taste before they buy.

Dozens of varieties of dates.

If I were feeling better, I could have told you the difference between these dates, but I couldn't eat much.

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage is in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Eating Dubai part 2: Call me nomad, dining like the Bedouin

May 16th, 2016


There's a reason I stayed covered up in the desert. The fine sand gets everywhere.

As a wayward Sagittarian, I often leap before I look, and in signing up for a desert safari in Dubai, I didn't quite know what I was getting into, as in, "How we gonna get there?"

I knew we were in trouble when our driver picked us up in a Toyota Land Cruiser fitted with roll bars, and I noticed that all of the overhead grips (the ones that help passengers lift themselves into tall vehicles) in the cruiser were broken, except the driver's. I guessed that the damage came via previous passengers holding on for dear life.

It was all going fine as long as we were on asphalt, and not knowing the desert terrain, I just assumed it might be a bumpy ride. Pretty soon we came to the end of the paved road, and what ensued was a sport called dune bashing, off-roading on sand dunes that involved drifting, sliding down and surfing the slopes in our oversized vehicles as we screamed our way through the desert. Pictures and video don't do the natural roller coaster experience justice.

Camels are quite goofy looking. A bunch of them were roaming the Lahbab desert.

Camels are quite goofy looking. A bunch of them were roaming the Lahbab desert, and for some reason, my travel companions thought we were going to eat camel for dinner.

There was order to the huge caravan of Land Cruisers because everyone had to be going in the same direction. What we didn't want was someone coming in from the opposite direction, rising to top of the same blind peaks, with the potential for a head-on collisions. Check out the video walkthrough on this dune-bashing game link for an idea of what it feels like: Obviously I could not shoot my own video or photos because I was hanging on for dear life.

Check out our experience here:

I checked out other YouTube videos and note that the screams are the same in any language:



Depending on which company you choose, the cost of the desert safari ranges from about $40 USD for the dune-bashing experience, to about $54 for the ride plus dinner.

I felt so much better when the ride was over and we could relax on the Persian rugs that lined the ground of a Bedouin-style camp, with low tables for dining.

The English word "Bedouin" is the derived from the Arabic words "bedu," referring to those who live in the open desert, and "Badawiyin," a generic name for a desert dweller.

Although the Bedouin population—from the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt to the Sahara Desert of North Africa—numbers about 4 million today, only about 5 percent of Bedouins still live as nomads in all of the Middle East because it is becoming increasingly dangerous to do so.

In that moment, it was so beautiful being under the open sky, that I could easily see the attraction to the desert lifestyle. I would have loved to spend the night there. Throughout Dubai, I could see a fascination with the night sky in the architecture and murals. Even on our Emirates flight, there was enough empty seats on the way over so that I could lie down and stretch out, and looking up, the ceiling was full of tiny twinkling lights, like the night sky.


The Dubai desert safari is their equivalent to our luau. Once we got to our destination, there were camel rides and we could take a photo with this baby falcon, Rayna. I already loved raptors, but now I really wish I could have a falcon. This bird was so sweet and much heavier than she looks.

Sun setting over desert sand.

It was easy to see the attraction to the Bedouin lifestyle at night, while dining at low tables, being entertained by dancers and relaxing on comfortable cushions.

A buffet dinner was set up in tents, and options included plenty of salads and grilled meats.

For some reason, my traveling companions were convinced that camel would be on the menu that night. Nope, we were just eating the traditional Middle Eastern combo of beef, chicken and lamb.

In a normal time, I would have been game to taste camel, but I was sick before I left Hawaii and was sick the entire trip. I was alarmed when a sign before boarding the flight to Dubai warned of MERS, or Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome that was killing people, because my immune system was already weak.

It was only after returning from the desert—and being exposed to camels—that I looked up the risk factors for MERS, and they include exposure to camels and eating camel meat!

More than 90 percent of dromedary camels tested positive for MERS antibodies, suggesting that MERS or a related virus had infected dromedary camels. Other animals tested, water buffalo, pigs, cows, sheep and goats, did not have the antibodies.

Which meant a visit to Local House restaurant in the Al Bastakiya region, was also out of the question. It's the only restaurant in Dubai that serves camel burgers.

And that meant camel milk chocolate as omiyage was also out of the question. I wouldn't give my friends something I wouldn't eat.

Following are a couple of snippets from the evening's performances, including a whirling dervish. I don't know how he does it without getting dizzy. Afterward, he invited one of the audience members on stage to give the dance a whirl, and she fell to the ground after about three spins.

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage is in print in Wednesdays Crave section. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

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