Saturday, September 18, 2010

Loco Moco Drive Inn-Moanalua

My friend's, Onna's, son recently became the co-owner of the Loco Moco Drive Inn at Moanalua Shopping Center. Onna's definitely passed her cooking skills to her son. Several blog entries ago I wrote about Onna's fabulous green onion chicken demo at Elsie's home.

We had lunch at Loco Moco at Onna's invitation. Right off it is clear that it is the only truly local eating establishment in the area. The rest of the places are franchises from the Big, Big Island. Loco Moco Drive Inn has the usual plate lunch favorites (Chicken Cutlet, Beef Stew, Pork Chops, e.g., even Oxtail Soup) but these are executed with care. A flavorful Pork Adobo was featured as a special on the day we were there.

Onna is one proud mama and for good reason. Everyone we met was friendly and helpful. This place has that perfect combination of what I call fast slow food. What's that? Well it has fast service but it's also the kind of slow comfort-food cooking you would expect from home. Fast, fresh, LOTS and reasonable.

Case in point, the mini-sized ($5.25) mochiko chicken. Each mini plate is heaped with the entree and a generous scoop of rice and either potato or toss salad. The mochiko chicken was about as perfect as they come. Hot from the fresh oil. Crispy, thin coating surrounding well-seasoned, slightly sweet and moist chicken. I think a mini plate would generously satisfy most people unless you are plain starving.

Word has gotten around because it was constantly busy while we were there. One sure sign of a good pick-policemen on break chowing down on the 'ono kaukau! Have you ever been stuck near the airport waiting for a flight or hungry after leaving Target nearby? Now there's a great little place to grab some grindz.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Brownies From Heaven

"Taste of Heaven Brownies" article from the Honolulu Advertiser, November 11, 2009 by Wanda Adams

This brownie dish is perfect for sharing
By Wanda A. Adams

Had a taste of heaven the other day.My friend Marylene Chun (who, at this point, ought to be named associate food editor, since she helps me so much) was dropping off something I'd forgotten at a cooking demo, and as a bonus, left us some brownies.I, unfortunately, am starting to put on pounds, so I only had a bite, but they were perfect: crisp on the outside, meltingly tender on the inside. My husband had them for dessert several nights in a row. (Actually, one night, I think he had them for dinner!)The recipe comes from the Web site This recipe makes a large pan, so it would be perfect for family gatherings, school events, sports potlucks and such. (Most brownie recipes only make an 8-by-8-inch panful.)One important rule with brownies is not to overbake them. Be sure to keep track of time and check them.

Brownies from Heaven

1 cup butter• 2 cups sugar• 2 eggs• 1 teaspoon vanilla• 2 cups flour• 1/2 cup baking cocoa• 1 cup chopped walnuts.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Combine flour and cocoa, add to creamed mixture just until combined. Stir in walnuts.Spread in ungreased 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 23 to 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.Makes 2 dozen brownies.

from Marylene-
I've made this recipe at least a dozen times and I can report that it is foolproof. Some personal Notes:

Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature.

I line the pan with foil which makes for easier cleanup and removal. You can place the pan on top of a sheet of foil, mold the foil around the outside of the pan and then you can easily fit the foil inside of the pan. No need to grease.

Use good quality cocoa powder like Callebaut, Sharffen Berger or an Extra Dark Dutch-processed cocoa.

For my oven, baking it the full 28 minutes gives me a sturdy brownie that is easy to cut with a pizza cutter or a long serrated knife. Brownies baked for 28 minutes and then cooled are also easy to cut into hearts or other shapes using a large cookie cutter, as in the photo to the left of this blog post.

At 23 minutes, you get a more fragile but fudgier brownie.

I put half the walnuts in the batter and 1/2 on top before baking, gently pressing down so that they won't fall off after baking.

-the foodiewahine

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Small favor

I've heard many complaints from friends and family about the closing of the Honolulu Advertiser but especially about the fact that the new paper, the Star-Advertiser, did not pick up Wanda Adams as a columnist. I think we all felt it deeply, and with a sense of loss and shock, when we opened the Food section on Wednesday and there were no bylines by Wanda.

A possible remedy. You can write to a Vice President and editor of the Star-Advertiser, Frank Bridgewater, and make a case for Wanda based on how you feel about her and her writing. Mr. Bridgewater REQUESTED feedback on future columnists in the first issue of the new paper. His email address is

Many thanks. I figure it's the very least we can do for Wanda after all the excellent and enjoyable articles and recipes she's blessed us with all these years. Do you want to see more?

UPDATE: June 14, 2010
Keep those comments coming to the Star-Advertiser. Wanda's been offered a monthly column in the new paper's Wed. Food Section. And if it proves popular and people are VOCAL about it (hint) then they may give her a bi-monthly or weekly column. Thanks for the support!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Big Island Retreat

Maybe I should start calling this blog anythingtoeatonthebigisland. I'm so caught up with the BI's great eating places. Earlier last month I had one day's notice to join our church's, Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay's, Timesetters' retreat to the BI. Of course I said YES.

We were advised to bring one carry-on for the weekend which proved to be challenging but ultimately quite doable. I went with these time-honored packing tips: making sure every bottom went with several tops, bringing the smallest possible amount of each cosmetic or lotion, bringing clothing that could serve dual purposes like a windbreaker that is also water repellent.

We had a wonderful time staying at the Kilauea Military Camp which is quite comfortable with it's own dining room, coffee cafe and a sundries and souvenirs store. Not to mention their bowling alley, tennis courts, etc. It's right in the Volcano National Park so we spent one evening at the Glow (the orange glow reflected onto a large fume above Halema'uma'u Crater). Jaggar Museum Lookout, where we shivered as we watched the Glow, is just 10 min. from KMC. It was great to be able to wake up early and walk through the park listening to birdsong before all the buses arrived.

I digress. We hit the two most important can't-miss Hilo places on my list: Ken's for grilled mahi and Kuhio Grill for locomoco. At KG's we were stuffed from a huge lunch when Iris in our group innocently asked just to "see" the dessert menu. Well, the people at KG's are no dummies! They brought out their dessert TRAY. And it worked well on us, we ordered 5 desserts between the 6 of us.

Omiyage stops: Two Ladies Kitchen for the best mochi and the KTA at Puainako for locally made cookies and jam. It happens that I'm working with the owner of Two Ladies, Nora, to develop some cream-based mochi. We also picked up heavy duty bentos at Hiro's Place, just down from KTA in the strip mall, to eat at Lapahoehoe Point.

I enjoyed being in a spacious van and not having to drive for a change. I went with the flow and did several things I'd never done before like going up to the Onizuka Visitor's Center on the flank of Mauna Kea.

Even more important than the food was the fact that while I already knew 10 of the retreatgoers I ended up making 20 new friends. God is Good.

Note: Wanda Adams is starting a new food blog. Find her at

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Onna's Cold Ginger Chicken

Chicken on the left simmered for 45 min. (well-done) Chicken on the right, 30 min. (pinkish and a bit underdone, the way most Chinese eat it)

My friend, Elsie, hosted a Chinese New Year's gathering last week which included a demo of four Chinese dishes by her housekeeper/cook Onna Liang. Onna is from Guandong with solid cooking cred. Her son cooks for and owns Aloha Barbecue on Kapahulu Ave. and her husband works at a restaurant as well. We were fascinated as we watched her whip up Cold Ginger Chicken, Eggplant and Tofu in Black Bean Sauce, Chao'd Pumpkin and Fried Rice for 20 people in under 2 hours.

The Cold Ginger Chicken is an ubiquitous dish on Chinese restaurant menus but Onna's was truly outstanding. I always knew that the restaurants must either have access to exceptional ingredients (super tender, fresh chicken from a farm?) or specialized techniques to make the chicken so meltingly tender and with so much flavor. Turns out it's the latter.

Use the HECO recipe(from the Hawaiian Electric Company's website) below but add these tips.

This is what we learned from Onna:
1.) Simmer the chicken (instead of turning off the heat) in 1/4 c. of Hawaiian salt, and a stockpot 2/3 full of water for 45 min. This Hot Brine plumps the chicken and flavors it perfectly.
2.) Whiz the ingredients in a Cuisinart until it is a fine puree. I'd always chopped it up fine but the puree is much better. Optional: Im sai, Chinese parsley and sesame seed oil for the sauce.
3.) Pour 1/4 c. of oil in a saucepan and heat the sauce on Med., stirring constantly for 2 min. before serving.
The chicken was delicious warm with the hot sauce.

These tips together produced the best Ginger Chicken I'd ever had from a home kitchen. It was indistinguishable from chicken from a good Chinese restaurant. I was very pleased at my first try at duplicating Onna's dish. However, still tinkering with the amount of Hawaiian salt because while I do want the advantages of what I call a Hot Brine, I also want a stock leftover that is not rendered inedible by the salt.

Cold Ginger Chicken
Demonstrated by: 2002 2nd Princess Sherri Seto
1 whole (3 to 5 lb) chicken fryer, Water, 1 cup cubed ginger root, 4 to 5 green onions, cut into 2-inch lengths, 3/4 cup salad oil, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon white pepper
Clean and trim excess fat from chicken. Fill a large stockpot 1/2 full of water; bring water to a boil. Add chicken and additional water, if necessary, to completely cover the chicken. Cover and bring water to a boil again. Turn off heat and let stand for 1 hour. Remove chicken from pot and drain. Cover chicken and refrigerate until chilled. Cut chicken into 2 x 1-inch pieces; place in serving dish. Combine ginger and green onions in a food processor; process until finely chopped. Add oil, salt, and pepper; chill. To serve, pour ginger mixture over chicken or serve ginger mixture in a separate bowl. Makes 4 to 6 servings.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Simple Soothing Chicken Soup

Sometimes nothing is more satisfying than a bowl of homemade, from scratch soup. Last week I was down with the flu and my stomach still was not 100% up to par. I'd been given gai choy (mustard cabbage) that had been picked from my friend, Elsie's, garden just hours before. The gift of gai choy immediately made me think of local oxtail soup with its rich steaming broth, the mustard cabbage and the dried peanuts. But, too rich. So my fall back plan turned out perfect- a simple chicken soup with gai choy. Locavore fare. And as a bonus, Science has proven Mother right. Chicken soup has antibiotic qualities.

I think, I know, what elevated this soup was using Edna Lewis' technique of gently coddling the chicken, coaxing the juices out. Her technique is in her book "In Pursuit of Flavor" It's faster, simpler and way more flavorful than boiling chicken for hours.

This is how I did it and I included brands because I believe they make a difference. Mostly I've been cooking with a dry Sherry but when I tried making a chao'd dish with whiskey in the marinade I instantly knew that that was the distinctive ingredient that my Mom and Aunties used. I made this Soup a bit more Asian than Edna's original version, although I used her technique. If you read the recipe through once you will see it is quite simple and endlessly adaptable to whatever soup vegetable is available. On the second try you won't even need to reread the recipe.

Simple Soothing Chicken Soup with Gai Choy

Thaw 2 pounds of chicken thighs in water with 1/4 c. of Hawaiian salt. If using fresh chicken, use the same water-salt mixture (brine) and leave in the fridge for 1/2 hour. Drain and rinse chicken. Discard water-salt mixture. Marinate the chicken in 1/4 c. Kikkoman or Yamasa shoyu and 2 T. of Seagram's 7 whiskey for at least 1/2 hour. Pat the chicken dry but reserve the marinating liquids.

Brown the chicken and 2 slices, pounded, of ginger in a soup pot with 2 T. of oil. Stir briskly with a wooden spoon for 5 min. on Med-High. Turn down to a high simmer and cover pot. Let it simmer for 15 min. Check to see if the juices from the chicken have started to come halfway up the sides of the chicken pieces. If not, turn the heat up a notch. Add 2 c. of water and the marinating liquids. Let this simmer for another 15-20 min. Check to see if the chicken if fully cooked, if not, simmer for another couple of minutes. Remove the chicken and debone. Chop the chicken into large 2" pieces.

At this point, you can make the Soup right away or you can keep the stock and chicken in separate plastic containers in the fridge or freeze them so that you have both deboned chicken and stock on hand. The stock will be so concentrated that you may want to add more water when you use it.

To make the Soup, add the deboned chicken back into the stock and heat. Chop the gai choy into 1" widths. Add the green stalks first, let that cook for 1 min., add the leaves. Let that cook for another minute and the soup is ready to savor.

You can use most any type of soup vegetables, instead of or in addition to the gai choy-bok choy, wong bok, watercress, sauteed carrots or mushrooms.



Chinese New Year falls on Valentine's Day this year. There will be a number of events revolving around Chinese food that I'll be blogging on this month. Gung Hee Fat Choy!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Mahalo, Wanda!

My buddy, Wanda Adams', food blog, sponsored by the Honolulu Advertiser, is called My Island Plate. Her posting today, Feb. 1, is all about becoming a better baker. She graciously included some of my favorite baking/freezing tips and a number from my friend, Tina Ho Wing. Tina is a culinary arts instructor at Glendale High School in California. Thank you, too, Tina, for generously sharing all your top secret tips with me all these years!

Last week, Wanda innocently asked me "What's up?" I went into a big discussion about my passion, baking, because of the Tea we'd recently had. There's lots of food events on the horizon. I recently baked a mess of brownies for a fundraiser for my Kalamas' church group from Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay. Punahou Carnival is this weekend and bonus! both Chinese New Year's (two banquets) and Valentine's are on the same day this year, Feb. 14. Also, two Chinese New Year's food demos are in the works. Our talk turned from events to baking technique and tips. Hence, the blog.

I really appreciated that Wanda gave me a nod for my baking and freezing tips and mentioned this blog. Those are the tips that have greatly assisted me in my baking.

Photos above
On the left are Brownies I decorated for the fundraiser with a chocolate glaze.
On the right is the latest iteration of my "Heart to Heart" dessert. I described it in the previous blog. It has a brownie base, liliko'i curd, pound cake heart, more curd, whipped cream and sprinkles.

My Island Plate My Island Plate blog, ...
Musings, tips, recipes and ideas from Advertiser food editor Wanda Adams, and a chance to share your own
Another way: To find Wanda's blog, go to the Hnl. Advertiser website. Hit the Forum/Blogs icon at the top. It will take you to the Lifestyles blogs and hers, My Island Plate.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Elsie's Excellent Tea

Nothing like a party for a little lift during these days of earthquakes, the Haiti relief effort, aftershocks. severe weather everywhere... My friends, Elsie and Cathy, and I threw together a little Tea yesterday at Elsie's home. Cathy brought a yummy, flaky, warm!, cinnamony, raisin-apple coffee cake. Elsie made a fresh, coconutty and chewy gau. I made a pound cake heart-brownie-liliko'i curd tower. It was good to sit with friends and sip some of Elsie's amazing jasmine tea from China. We talked old-old recipes, Hawaiian Electric cooking classes and technique the whole time.

Elsie's wonderful housekeeper from China, Onna, spontaneously showed us how to make black bean bittermelon with pork and a glazed pumpkin dish in a wok. AND we got to take home samples, enough for a large lunch the next day. In about 20 minutes Onna had three heaping plates of food ready. It was amazing to watch her stir fry two-handed with spatulas: toss and turn, toss and turn.

Elsie generously shared a box of community and school cookbooks with us. Cathy and I happily plopped on the floor like kids and pored through the bin. Many treasures there, but my absolute favorite was finding the last Maili Yardley (beloved longtime food editor at the Honolulu Advertiser) cookbook out of five that she wrote. All of these are out of print. This was the one that I've looked for for years. Elsie is a force of nature and willing to give you the shirt off her back. Once we discovered these wonderful titles she kidded that she'd sell it to us for a million dollars. We said we'd exchange our labor for the price.

This is Hawai'i: On the leisurely drive back from Elsie's home, my tummy and car filled with goodies, I drove the Waimanalo way. That is, past the Lookout where you can watch whales leap, past Makapu'u and Waimanalo. One chocolate and one cream colored horse with their teenage riders ambling on the side of the road. The Mary Bonita Mexican lunchwagon advertising Garlic Shrimp along with their tamales. Only in Hawai'i.