Comfort food, Hawai‘i-style

FROM KAU KAU TO CUISINE: AN ISLAND COOKBOOK, THEN AND NOW

FROM KAU KAU TO CUISINE: AN ISLAND COOKBOOK, THEN AND NOW

FROM KAU KAU TO CUISINE: AN ISLAND COOKBOOK, THEN AND NOW
By Arnold Hiura; featuring Derek Kurisu and Jason Takemura (Honolulu: Watermark Publishing, 2013, 196 pp., $29.95, hardcover)

“From Kau Kau to Cuisine” is a cookbook that alternates recipes representing two variations of the same dish, a “Then” version and a “Now” version. The styles between the “thens” and the “nows” widely vary, as you might imagine, and capture a food culture in Hawai‘i that is rooted in resourcefulness, creativity and a diversity of different traditions brought together over time.

Derek Kurisu represents a generation of Hawaiian culture that’s a Hawai‘i of the past, but still much beloved. Kurisu’s food comes from the nostalgic Hawai‘i of sugar and pineapple plantations and mom and pop stores, and is referred to affectionately by locals as “beforetime,” but also includes the struggles of an era of children who lived through the Great Depression and World War II. Kurisu’s recipes are homestyle, stick-to-your-ribs comfort food, a mainstay of Hawaiian food culture, and a reminder of these times, with classics such as Shoyu (soy sauce) Pork and Teriyaki Beef (broiled meat marinated in soy sauce).

Jason Takemura, the executive chef of the Hukilau Honolulu and Pagoda Floating Restaurant on O‘ahu, writes the “Now” recipes, which represents the post-plantation generation of Hawai‘i that is propelling the state’s food culture forward. Innovating new flavors and techniques and refocusing its attention and importance on fresh, local ingredients, Takemura’s recipes are all creative takes on Kurisu’s “beforetime” recipes, and focus on bringing out flavors of fresh ingredients.

Kurisu writes recipes for Hawaiian classics such as Loco Moco (hamburger patty, white rice, an egg and gravy) with Portuguese Sausage-Hamburger patty, which then is followed with a new take by Takemura, with recipes such as Sake (rice wine)-Soy-Braised Short Rib Loco Moco. Some recipes seem identical from the name, such as Corned Beef Hash Patties, which both use corned beef and potatoes, but are vastly different in style. Some pairings change form altogether and are more of a nod to the main ingredient or base flavors, such as Kurisu’s Oxtail Stew and Takemura’s Kimchee Oxtail Fried Rice. Other recipes stay closer to each other in main ingredients, but switch up flavors or textures, such as the Korean Chicken (which, despite its name, is actually not exactly Korean) which Takemura reinterprets as Garlic Shichimi (a blend of seven spices) Chicken.

The recipes vary in degrees of difficulty, ranging from three ingredients or less, no-cook or almost-no-cook recipes such as Spam Musubi (rice ball), or Pork and beans with Vienna Sausage, to more involved, multi-step recipes such as Kalua pig and Shrimp Spring rolls with Mandarin Chili sauce made from scratch, or Roasted Kabocha (squash) Risotto. All recipes are accompanied by a full-color photo, displaying each dish plated simply.

“From Kau Kau to Cuisine” is a cookbook that celebrates the traditions of the past while looking ahead at recipes that have evolved for modern day tastes, connecting people to both styles in a way that brings everyone together.

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