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Hale Pai
Pacific American-News Journal

`Aukake - August 1996 Volume 2 Issue 8

 Hawaiian Cuisine - My, How it's Changed

by Kaui Philpotts

Until recently, Hawaii's claim to culinary fame was its amazing capacity to consume Spam. As the country's leading purchaser of the product, island cooks stretched their imaginations to limits which included creations ranging from Spam Tacos to something called a Depression Party Dish.

Then in the last few years a new cuisine began to emerge. Fired by the influences of fresh regional products on the West Coast and the complex, exotic seasonings of the East, young chefs in Hawaii's restaurants and hotels began flexing their creative muscles.

Until then Hawaii restaurant food consisted of either grilled mahimahi or chicken or meat in a teriyaki sauce garnished with pineapple and an orchid, or transplanted continental cuisine.

The new Hawaiian Regional Cuisine, as it is called (there is even an association of the new chefs), bears little resemblance to what is commonly referred to as “local food,” served in diners and plate lunch stands. Neither is it Hawaiian food, or the variety served at luaus, which owes its existence to the native Hawaiians of An earlier time.

Each Hawaiian Regional chef brings his own personal slant to the food he creates, but two things are constant, a dedication to fresh, locally produced ingredients wherever possible, and foundations in classic cooking disciplines.

Alan Wong, chef at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel's Canoe House restaurant on the island of Hawaii loves the combination of sweet and sour flavors basic to Oriental cuisine. “There has to be a balance on the plate, like yin and yang,” says Wong.

At the annual “Cuisines of the Sun” event held at the hotel each summer, Wong described the new cooking as a style that relied on local products, melding ethnic influences in a totally contemporary way.

The food is bold, colorful and always adventurous. Expect scallops topped with a spicy guava sauce, ravioli stuffed with taro leaves, or crab hash sitting in a pool of pungent black bean sauce. Mango and lychee are chopped into a chutney to accompany fresh island fish bought of a local fisherman that morning. The dessert can be fresh strawberries grown on the slopes of Maui's Haleakala Crater, or a puree of passion fruit with homemade ice cream.

Chefs Like Peter Merriman of Merriman's, Roy Yamaguchi of Roy's, Amy Ferguson-Ota of the Grill at the Ritz Carlton, Jean Marie Josselin of A Pacific Cafe, Roger Dikon and Gary Strehl of the Maui Prince and Hawaii Prince, Mark Ellman of Avalon, George Mavrothalassitis of La Mer at the Halekulani, and Sam Choy of Sam's in Kailua-Kona, have influenced local farms and state fisheries to produce the ingredients for their cuisine.

To sample the new cuisine you can visit their restaurants located throughout the islands, try recipes in your own kitchen (Sam Choy's “Cuisine Hawaii,” Jean Marie Josselin's “A Taste of Hawaii”) or attend one of the following annual events: Taste of Honolulu (Sept.) Cuisines of the Sun on the Big Island (July), the Kapalua Wine Symposium (July) and A Taste of Lahaina on Maui (Sept).

Hawaii's new regional cuisine, while still in its infancy, appears to be here to stay. What direction it will take is hard to predict, but it will surely be exciting. It's like a local girl who started out simply pretty and in now on her way to international stardom.

Pork and Slipper Lobster Patty On Lilikoi Chardonnay Sauce


8oz. Coarse ground boneless porkloin
8oz. Ground slipper lobster meat
2oz. Chopped watercress
4oz. Chopped water chestnuts
1oz. Chopped fresh ginger
Salt and pepper
Sesame oil

Combine all ingredients together and make 24 patties and cook.

Lilikoi-Chardonnay Sauce:

4oz. Lilikoi (passion fruit) Juice
2oz. Chardonnay
2pcs. Shallots
1pc. Bay leaf
4oz. Unsalted butter
2oz. Heavy cream
Salt and pepper

In a small pot reduce Lilikoi juice, wine, shallots and bay leaf to 1/2 of the original liquid. Add cream and reduce. Incorporate cold butter. Season appropriately.

Klaus Mayr

Mauna Kea Beach Resort

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Copyright 1996 Hale Pai Pacific American-News Journal
Last modified: February 28, 1998

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