Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

A show of Hawaiian hospitality

November 25th, 2011

Nadine Kam photos

Malcolm Nāea Chun signed copies of his newly released book, “No Nā Mamo,” at the University Lab School on Nov. 10.

To celebrate the release of Malcolm Nāea Chun’s book, “No Nā Mamo,” the Curriculum Research & Development Group and the University of Hawai‘i Press hosted a lū‘au on Nov. 10th, to which Chun invited me with the note, “If you want rice, Nadine, you have to bring it yourself. It’s not that kind of luau.”

I’ve known Malcolm as a foodie for a long time, one who doesn’t particularly like divulging his secret haunts. Considering his Chinese surname, he shouldn’t be such a stickler for pre-contact fare, but it was fitting, considering the material in his book, which offers insights into the philosophy and way of life of Native Hawaiian culture.

The book represents an updated and enlarged compilation of books in the “Ka Wana” series, published in 2005–10. The earlier books have been revised and are presented here as 12 individual chapters that cover such topics as “Pono (the right way of living),” “Ola (health and healing), “A’o (education), “Ho’omana (the sacred and spiritual), “Alaka’i (leadership), and more.

He drew on first-hand accounts from early Hawaiian historians, explorers and missionaries, and 19th-century Hawaiian language publications for the project.

For the sake of this blog, what was fitting was the chapter “Welina,” covering the topic of welcome and hospitality.

Students serve up kalua pig, and below, limu poke and lomilomi salmon.

Here is one of the food-related passages in the book:

“Captain Clerke of the Discovery had been sick when the ships arrived at Kealakekua Bay on the island of Hawai’i and went ashore later than the rest of the party. His welcome was still a chiefly one, for he is presented with a feather cloak and draped with kapa. Salmond (The Trial) provides a bit more detail.

‘When they [Captain Clerke and Dr. Samwell] arrived at the chiefs’ settlement, Palea hurried out to meet them. He was accompanied by an attendant carrying a pig, a chicken and a coconut, and as he greeted them he draped a piece of red cloth around Captain Clerke’s neck, and put a piece of white cloth around Samwell’s shoulders. While his attendant slaughtered two pigs and cooked them for their breakfast, Palea went off and soon returned with a splendid red and yellow feather cloak which he put around Clerke’s shoulders, tying a piece of red cloth around his waist. He set the table himself, spreading plantain leaves on the ground and a piece of fresh white bark-cloth, with five coconuts stripped of their rind, two wooden dishes filled with pork and two platters of cold sweet potatoes. He tore the pork to pieces, chewing it and offering to feed them by hand …’

What was shown, without the fine presentations of gifts to Clerke, is very similar to the later accounts of the missionaries, who came as settlers rather than as tourists. Their curiosity and desire to know more about native culture and behavior, for various reasons including their own surprise, led to some of the most detailed descriptions of traditional hospitality, and it all verifies how commonplace hospitality was.”

Chun also wrote:

“Why is hospitality valued so much among Hawaiians? The most obvious reason is that people traveled long distances and could not carry heavy loads of food and water with them, especially when traveling on foot through hot and arid places such as Nānākuli. One of the most familiar calls in the Hawaiian language, still retained today, is ‘Mai! Hele mai! E ‘ai!’ ‘Come. Come here and eat!’ or ‘E komo mai e ‘ai!’ ‘Come inside and eat!’ ”

Haili’s Hawaiian Foods catered the event, and to show their own hospitality, they brought rice after all, because it’s what everyone expects in 21st century Hawaii!

The book is $40, available at the UH Press website:

Haili’s Hawaiian Foods catered the event, which also included huge opihi.

You can see how big the opihi is, about an inch in diameter, when its compared—in the foreground—against everything else on my plate.

‘Kau Kau’ tells tale of Hawaii’s mixed plate

December 24th, 2009

arnold book
Nadine Kam photos
Arnold Hiura spent years of research to write “Kau Kau: Cuisine & Culture in the Hawaiian Islands.” His book launch took place Dec. 16 in one of the most local of hangouts, Zippy’s Vineyard.

Friends from the literary and culinary worlds came together Dec. 16 at Charlie’s Bar at Zippy’s Vineyard to celebrate the debut of Arnold Hiura’s book, “Kau Kau: Cuisine & Culture in the Hawaiian Islands.” (Watermark Publishing, $32.95)

The hardcover book offers a study of the roots of Hawaii’s chop suey cuisine, a stew of the many ethnic groups who contributed to today’s culinary diversity. Many dishes are presented in color on heavy coated stock, along with recipes. These include such classics as Portuguese bean soup, Kahua Ranch beef stew, and chicken or pork adobo.

Hiura is a respected writer, a longtime editor of the Hawaii Herald and curator  for the Japanese American National Museum, who is currently a partner in MBFT Media.

Included in the book is Hiura’s essential guide to 100 ethnic foods comprising his “Kau Kau 100 Ethnic Potluck Primer,” foods like hekka, pipikaula, kalbi, pao doce, kochu jang, etc., that anyone who considers him/herself local, should know.

Hiura’s wife Eloise was tasked with testing the 70 or so recipes included in the book, and told me the story (page 41 in the book) of trying to learn to cook from her father, Larry Nakama, who she considered to be a good cook. She said it was hard to keep up with him because he moved so fast and never used formal measurements. He made his all-purpose teriyaki sauce in a gallon jar, from which he would draw what he needed over time to cook all kinds of dishes, from beef tomato to hekkas, the latter required watering down the basic sauce. He adjusted the sauce to fit the dishes, adding sherry, sugar, more soy sauce or garlic as needed.

That is not typically the way people cook today as many grew up learning to follow written recipes culled from newspapers, magazines, books and Web sites.


Hiura with Dawn Sakamoto of Watermark Publishing, and photographer Shuzo Uemoto, whose work graces the jacket for Hiura’s book.

Some of the folkway practices might also seem unsanitary by today’s squeamish standards. I remember my mom used to preserve lemons in that familiar gallon jar, filling it up with water and salt, and leaving it soaking, heating and dehydrating in the sun for days. I always thought that was kind of gross, but the dried lemon is what she gave us with hot tea and honey when we had sore throats. I might have to try that someday. I’d have to do more research, but I think that a similar preserved lemon is the basis for Algerian lemon chicken that the late Toufik Hacid used to make at Ghita’s, before moving downtown and opening the smaller Mediterranean Cafe. I miss both the man and his special dish.

Meet Hiura during signings for the book as follows:

Dec. 29: KTA SuperStores Puainako location (50 E. Puainako St., Hilo), 4 to 6 p.m.
Jan. 9: Borders Ward Centre, , 2 to 3 p.m.
Jan. 16: Barnes & Noble, Kahala Mall, , 1 to 2 p.m.


Hiura and his wife Eloise, pictured above, led a trivia game that called for guests—including chefs like Alan Wong and  Kevin Chong—to provide their answers for the following categories:

Hawaiian food trivia
1.”Numbah 1″ local dish: Loco moco/Spam musubi (tie)
2. First place to eat after being away: Zippy’s
3. Omiyage for mainland friends: Big Island Candies
4. Most “exotic” dish: Squid luau
5. Favorite way to eat Saloon Pilots: Butter and guava jelly (together, not a tie)
6. Least fave canned food: Deviled ham
7. White rice, brown rice or hapa? White
8. Fave thing in egg omelet? Portuguese sausage
9. Fave comfort food: Chazuke/malassadas/natto (tie, not together)