I appreciate the green touches on Bill's new happy hour menu. Korean fried chicken, recently $6, has the chili sesame sauce on the side to give diners more control over how much heat they can take.
Bill's has introduced a new happy hour menu in keeping with its Aussie roots. For us, that means seeing a lot more greens on the plate than we're accustomed to seeing, and all the fresh fare left me feeling a lot less guilty than usual about nibbling on deep-fried pupu.
The menu encompasses five small plates and four flatbread pizzas. Some are on the regular menu, but they are priced a few dollars lower at happy hour, from 3 to 6 p.m. daily.
I love the restaurant's beachy vibe and high ceilings, which helps make this a pleasant place to spend an afternoon.
Bills is at 280 Beachwalk Ave. Call (808) 306-9241.
No, Bill Granger's not from here. You can tell by the sweet-ish poke, accented not only by sesame seeds and sea asparagus, but buckwheat, which one of my birds loves. The avocado and shimeji mushrooms on the side are a plus. Recently, $8.
I enjoyed the blanco pizza topped with caramelized fennel, sausage, ricotta and basil; recently $9.
If there is a downside to seeing more greens on the plate, it's that I felt more justified to indulge in calamari when pairing it with all that cilantro.
Happy hour cocktails include the hibiscus margarita, left, and traditional 1953 mai tai with Flor de Cana rum, pineapple, Bols orange curacao and Whaler's dark rum. Recently, $6 each.
Kyushu is known for its hot springs and Beppu shiitake that contains potassium to help lower blood pressure, vitamin D to prevent osteoporosis and bowel cancer, lentinan used in Japan as an anti-tumor medicine, and eritadenine to lower blood cholesterol and help prevent arteriosclerosis.
The Hawaii Restaurant Association welcomed "The 5th Japanese Food Trade Fair" to the Japanese Cultural Center of Honolulu on March 24, showcasing products various companies want to introduce to the local market.
The event, geared toward retailers, wholesalers and restaurants, included more than 100 products by 20 Japan vendors. I'm hoping to see some of them on store shelves in months to come, such as delicate warabi mochi from Kyoto; plum-accented furikake, and vegetable furikake that can be folded into omelettes as well as sprinkled over rice; yogurt-and-strawberry, cream cheese and other wonderful flavors of mochi; and packaged spicy tuna to speed sushi-making at home.
The event was presented with support of the Japan External Trade Organization, and included a mochi tsuki demonstration and sushi-making demonstration.
A second, public "Sunshine Market" will take place March 26 at J-Shop, during which consumers will be able to purchase the products from 10 a.m. until they are sold out. The J-Shop grocery store is at 1513 Young St.
Local boy Travis Miyamoto now works for Hidecho Suisan Co., in Uwajima City, and taught their cooks how to make poke out of the company's fish, including samples of hamachi and tai that he was serving up.
To speed food prep, silver salmon from Aichi prefecture is marinated in mirin lees and miso and packaged. At home, just grill and eat.
The packaged and finished salmon.
One of the most intriguing products is an all-natural liquid that allows caterers or food preparers to freeze sushi and preserve it for a year. Without freezing, use of the preservative will allow sushi to sit for two hours without refrigeration. The quality, when thawed, he said, would be comparable to grocery store sushi.
Sushi made from packaged spicy tuna and salmon.
Popso extra virgin olive oil is spiced with sansho pepper and contains natural rock salt comprising seven to 10 minerals. It contains no trans-fatty acid and no cholesterol. In the background is the spiced oil and popcorn shrimp sautéed in the oil.
Furikake with dehydrated vegetables and the red of plum.
Fresh mochi was made on the spot, starting with the pounding of the rice, shaping and dredging in kinako.
This cheese manju was delicate and delicious.
A guide to flavored mochi ranging from chocolate to cream cheese.
Spareribs in black bean sauce was cooking when June Tong presented a cooking demonstration for the See Dai Doo Society.
In Chinese four pillars astrology, my bazi chart is heavy on water. Water flows. Water can be as gentle as a brook or raging like a tsunami. It's one of the strongest of the elements, seeping into crevices to break rocks apart. In relation to the other elements, water douses fires, rusts metal, causes seeds to sprout from the earth, and nourishes wood.
Because water is an unstoppable force, I love freedom and hate being put in a box. I disdain authority, which is represented by metal.
There is no metal in my sign. So, the surest way to make me do something is to tell me I can't do it.
I was in Shanghai a few years ago and met a designer from Brooklyn who, after starting his business in China, became fluent in Mandarin. A disciplined sort in contrast to my free spirit, he dared me to learn the language and wanted to bet that I could not do it in a year.
Whoa, them's fighting words! So next thing you know, I started attending Mandarin classes offered by the See Dai Doo Society. Difficult, serious stuff, but it's not all about how hard work. The society's programs extend to other cultural pursuits such as Chinese cooking.
Start with three pounds of ribs that have been parboiled and lightly dredged in flour.
On March 20, the society welcomed "Popo's Kitchen" cookbook author June Tong for a demonstration of her black bean sparerib, mochi rice and dau lau recipes.
I was interested in the dau lau, or mochi balls, because it's something my mom made when I was a child and over the years, everyone got busy, moved away from home, and I forgot all about dau lau until my memory was sparked by seeing it again at a new year festival at the now-shuttered Grand Café.
It is a new year treat that can be enjoyed anytime of year. Unlike anything in Western cuisine, every element of the dau lau is symbolic, starting with the white of the mochi rice flour, representing purity, according to society member Sharlene Chun. Its spherical shape represents infinity, with no beginning and no end. The stickiness of the mochi rice also represents family cohesion, and toppings of coconut represent good health, peanuts stand for longevity because of the length of the vines and the nuts' enduring quality, sesame seeds reflect an abundance of sons and wealth, and the sweetness of brown sugar is equal to the sweetness of life.
There's a reason the "Popo's Kitchen" cookbooks have held up over time. The recipes are simple to make and delicious. For the spareribs, for example, all the ingredients went into a wok and simmered for 45 minutes, with all the magic happening while the cook rests.
Then, of course, the best part of the demo was the feast that followed. While Tong and her assistants demonstrated cooking in small batches, more work was being done in the society's kitchen, where volunteers humbly cooked up what they called a "snack," but the rest of us would call a meal, for about 50 lucky souls. Xie xie!
Leonard Kam prepares to add garlic and black beans to James Acopan's wok.
Cookbook author June Tong passes the finished dau lau to Dwayne Wong for sampling.
Dau lau in a coating of shredded coconut, peanuts and brown sugar. Each of the ingredients holds meaning.
SPARERIBS IN BLACK BEAN SAUCE
3 pounds spareribs, cut up
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 can chicken broth
1 cup water
1 cube chicken bouillon
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup water
Parboil spareribs. Rinse and drain well. Lightly dredge in flour.
Heat oil in heavy pan. Stir-fry black bean mixture. Add spareribs and brown.
Add seasonings while browning spareribs. Add broth and bring to boil. Cover with lid, lower heat and simmer 45 minutes.
Thicken with cornstarch mixture. Place on platter and garnish with green onions and Chinese parsley.
DAU LAU Flour mixture
1 pound mochi flour
16 ounces water
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup peanuts, chopped
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Combine flour mixture and mix well. Pinch dough to form approximately inch-size balls.
Boil a pot of water. Drop mochi balls into rapidly boiling water. When dough floats to the top, remove with a slotted spoon. Roll cooled balls in topping mixture.
STICKY MOCHI RICE Mochi rice mixture
4 cups mochi rice
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon hondashi
1/2 cup dry baby shrimp, washed and hard-boiled
1 cup lup cheong, cooked and diced fine
1/2 cup smoked ham or roast pork, diced fine
1 cup black mushrooms, soaked, par-boiled and diced fine
1 cup green onions, diced fine
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon five spice
Cook rice in rice cooker according to directions. Heat wok, adding 3 tablespoons of oil. Stir fry filling mixture. Combine rice and filling mixture as soon as rice cooker shifts to "warm." Mix well and let steam 30 minutes or more. Drizzle on soy sauce to taste, if desired, and mix well.
Mofongo is one of the specialties available at Coquito's Latin Cuisine in Waianae. This one is topped with a veggie sauté, but diners also have a choice of proteins.
It's not often that I visit Waianae because I have no reason to be there. One of the last times I was there was to drop off a ring-neck parakeet that flew into my life and needed a good home with a couple who love and care for hundreds of birds, from chickens to macaws.
Farrington Highway from Nanakuli to Waianae is an arid stretch and the sights include all the usual suspects popular in any local community—burger joints, poke and seafood stops, drive-ins and bake shops.
Honolulu is large enough to accommodate other outliers such as the occasion Jamaican jerk, Peruvian and Middle Eastern specialists, but in the relatively insular Waianae community, Coquito’s Latin Cuisine stands out as the one restaurant that doesn’t belong.
The setting was simply a matter of convenience for Stevina Kiyabu, who hails from Puerto Rico but married local. Trained as a pastry chef at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, cooking was in her blood, and in looking at the demographics of Waianae, she saw there is a sizable population of Puerto Ricans. So, she opened Coquito’s in 2012. Since then, it’s become a popular stop for a military personnel from her native country in search of a homey taste of the Mother Land, as well as locals from all parts of the island eager to try authentic Latin cuisine. Last year, she opened Valentina's Ristorante, serving up Italian fare about a block away from Coquito's. I'll be checking that out some other time.
The restaurant is in a charming plantation-style house along Farrington Highway. If west-bound, look for it on the left side of the road.
The menu is manageable for a small kitchen, yet manages to pay homage to specialties of Cuba, the Caribbean and Argentina. Dishes tend to be heavy, so you would have to make several return trips to fully explore the menu.
The most novel of the dishes is mofongo, an African-influenced dish of mashed fried plantains studded with bits of bacon and garlic for extra flavor. (It's their equivalent to American mashed potatoes.) Atop this mini plantain “platter” sits your choice of entrée options such as sautéed shrimp ($16), grilled steak ($14), pernil (roasted pork shoulder, $14), or stir-fried vegetables ($12) that add juiciness to the dish. The mofongo dries out quickly and is best eaten when hot and the exterior is more crispy than spongy.
Each entrée comes with a choice of two sides. These are habichuelas, a mild stew of kidney beans; tostones; white rice; gandule rice; fried yucca; sweet plantains; and potato salad or mixed green salad.
The gandule rice is one of the dishes that differentiates Kiyabu’s cooking with that of locals who grew up with black olives in their rice.
“Local Puerto Rican food is very different from food at home,” Kiyabu said. “One old lady told me that when they immigrated here, it was hard to find certain ingredients, so used what they could find. To this day, they add black olives, but I use green, the Spanish olives.”
——————— Coquito’s Latin Cuisine is at 85-773 Farrington Highway, Waianae. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays to Sundays. Call (808) 888-4082. Costs about $25 to $40 for two for lunch or dinner; BYOB.
Camarones al Ajillo, shrimp sautéed with garlic and cilantro, is served over tostones, or double-fried plantains. The shrimp is yummy, but as an appetizer, it is so very very filling because of the deep-fry component. Recently, $14.
I'm not a big fan of carbs, so even though the beef-and-potato Colombian empanadas are also delicious, they leave me too full to enjoy the entrées. It's lightened with a side of tomato salsa.
A juicy pork-filled pastele comes with two choices of sides. Here, it's gandule rice and sweet plantains.
Habichuelas is another side offering. The stewed kidney beans might be compared to a mild, sausage-less version of Portuguese bean soup.
Caribbean jerk wings are slathered with a sweet-sour sauce. I'd rather taste more jerk.
A Cuban on Italian bread with ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and plenty of mustard. This plate features a side of yucca frita.
Chuleta de cerdo sounded delicious, but the onion-topped pork chop was rather staid.
In contrast to the pork, the Argentinian flank steak served with garlicky, verdant chimichurri sauce is muy delisioso. Me gusto mucho!
Angry Korean Lady Won Nam shoots me a dirty look because my phone is in her face.
Stopped by Feb. 26 for a last supper at Ah-Lang, a k a Angry Korean Lady, as the restaurant came to be known over the years due to the fiery nature of proprietor Won Nam. I'd heard she planned to close at the end of February, but fans are in luck, as she now puts the date somewhere between March 15 and 31.
Sorry. At the risk of a slap on the head, I wasn't about to pressure her into being more precise.
The restaurant opened in 2007, and Nam, though hot-tempered, wasn't particularly angry at the time. "Stupid" customers who didn't understand food and inundated her with hundreds of basic questions, brought out her explosive temper.
When I interviewed her in 2010, she said, "I love to cook and I want people to enjoy it. I don't want people who only want to fill up their stomach. It's not worth my time. I want to tell them, 'Get out!'"
And so she did, developing a brand identity before self-branding went mainstream. Instructions on her table read, "I'm already angry...don't make me more angry." And in my review of the restaurant at the time, I said, "Those who expect four-star service from restaurants would be best advised to take their prissy, soft hands and delicate hides elsewhere. At this small restaurant in the Imperial Plaza, there is no one to greet you, no one to take your order or bring you drinks."
In this one-woman shop, it was all about self-service and BYOB, and keeping those stupid questions to a minimum. This was before the age of restrictive diets, so you can imagine what would happen if, heaven forbid, someone walked in and requested food substitutions.
Beyond the cult of personality, Won is a terrific cook, so the restaurant was not merely about gimmick. Her kalbi, seafood pancake and chicken wings will be missed. The wings are saturated with flavor from having been marinated 48 hours, fried, then finished with a spicy garlic sauce.
She may be back after taking a break from customers who vex her so much. I'm hoping the hiatus will be brief, but the bruised may be thankful for the recovery period.
We had no idea what to expect for the $50 per person meal, so didn't know how to pace ourselves, and no one was brave enough to ask what or how much food was coming. We were at Nam's mercy, and here's what she served:
Veggie and egg gimbap.
Potato and chicken stew.
Stack of kalbi.
Stuffed mushrooms served with the chili sauce below.