Monday, November 8, 2010
One thing i like about traveling is trying local cuisine. In a place like Honolulu you can never really tell if something is authentic or has become authentic because decades and decades of tourists have decided that it is authentic. I had raw coconut at the Bishop Museum that we had to bang repeatedly against the concrete sidewalk to break into pieces. It was yummy, but really hard; i prefer it pre-shredded for my convenience. Taro plays an important role not only in Hawaiian cuisine, but in their culture as well. Traditional poi is made of cooked taro ground into a purple-grey paste or liquid that is reportedly sweet and delicious when first made. I was served poi twice and both times it was a disgusting, hideous abomination. Now, i will admit that both times that i encountered poi it was in a mass produced, catered food setting, so the quality might have been lacking, but it was dreadful. Both times. Horrible. However, i didn't let that stop me from trying these hilariously purple babies: yep, taro dinner rolls. Like the reported traditional poi, and unlike the poi i was served, they were delicious and slightly sweet. Served at a luau they were quite a compliment to the pulled, roasted pork, but honestly, i could have just eaten just these for dinner they were so yummy. I wish some enterprising soul would start importing or producing them stateside. Everyone talks about the shrimp trucks at the North Shore and several different people had emphasized that i needed to get lunch at a North Shore shrimp truck, but they weren't open when i was there, what with it being after sunset and all. However, i did spot this one parked in an empty lot at the edge of Waikiki. Since i hadn't been able to secure a plate lunch (traditional workday lunch that is heaped with meat, rice and mac-n-cheese) as planned that day i opted to stop at the shrimp truck even though it wasn't at the North Shore. Walking around to the non-street side you could tell that it was semi-permanent what with the folding tables and all, but it was as close as i was gonna find. The menu gave me plenty of options, but didn't really communicate how much food was included in my combo: grilled steak, garlic shrimp, salad, corn, bread and two -count them, two- mounds of rice. Great googley moogley is that a lot of food; all of it delicious and a steal at $10. If i hadn't been so overwhelmed and full, i might have considered trying something from the mexican truck parked 20 feet away! Now I realize that McDonald's owns a large portion of the world, but for some reason i was still surprised to see them when i first got to Oahu. I think that it was because i had just gotten off of the plane after a long, long journey, changing six time zones and had eaten 3 times, but it was breakfast each time and i was absorbing as much Hawaii as my senses could get a hold of as the cool local shuttle driver rattled off information about driving in Honolulu and Sunday school; to say that i was a bit off balance is an understatement. So for one reason or another i made some sound when i saw the McDonald's and asked if there was any specifically local items on the menu, which is when he told me that there was Portuguese sausage on the menu and Spam. Yes, that Spam. Hawaii is the number one consumer of Spam; my colorful driver referred to it as Hawaiian steak. Soooooo, on that fateful last morning when all of my plans lay in the trash i swung through a McD's drive-thru and ordered the Local Deluxe Breakfast: Let's seeeeee... eggs, fried Spam, Portuguese sausage, soy sauce and -again- enough rice to feed me for 3 days. Wow. Really, who eats that much rice at one sitting? The Spam wasn't terrible, though i wouldn't call it great either, and the sausage was really good. It was an interesting experience. Finally, the one local(ish) food(ish) that i really wanted to try was a Blue Hawaii in Waikiki, since it was invented there back in the 50's. Yes, i am a terrible touristy sucker, but people, this drink was to die for. Did i eat the pineapple right off of the glass? Did i stick that umbrella in my hair at a jaunty angle behind my ear? Did i drink it double-barrelled through those two straws? Did my obviously-a-surfer-who-has-to-have-some-job-to-pay-for-board-wax laugh out loud when he came back to see if i was enjoying my cocktail? I think we all know the answer to those questions. Blue and delightful, i had to control myself from ordering another. [It reminded me of the infamous Fruit of the Millennium that Chris got several of us shamefully drunk with on New Year's 2000.] And remember, the proper name is Blue Hawaii, people, not Blue Hawaiian. There are a plethora of steakhouses in Waikiki, most of which serve the Blue Hawaii and though i considered going to the Hilton in order one at the actual bar where it was invented, i opted for Vit's because of its convenient location to my hotel (that would be off of the lobby) as i fully intended to have several fruity drinks with umbrellas. Besides the Blue Hawaii i also enjoyed a main dish called Hawaiian Ono steak, which is marinated in a bunch of stuff that resembles a teriyaki recipe for 24 hours before it is grilled. I don't know if it is actually Hawaiian or touristy Hawaiian, but it was totally delicious. In conclusion; yes taro rolls, meh coconut in the shell, yes shrimp truck, yes Portuguese sausage, meh Spam, yes Blue Hawaii, yes Ono steak, and no, no, no, for-the-love-of-god no poi.