|Sweet chili chicken with Spam fried rice - ono kine grindz! - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
It wasn't until I started a food blog that I realized how strong an influence Hawaii has on me -- and I'm not even originally from there! But the rest of my family is, and once my parents moved back and I was making regular visits to the islands, I was reminded how strong that spiritual sense of Home meant. For all the gourmet selections in the world, I always find myself returning to the foods my mother cooked. I'll give up a meal of fine dining any day to sit for a meal my family cooked up. Simple, Japanese-style farmer food, with a lot of that pidgin-style local cuisine that throws in kimchee from Korea, dumplings from China and baked goods from Portugal. The meals are flavorful, maybe even exotic to some, but never boring.
Wasabi Mom is always saving me news clippings, and she saved one piece from the Honolulu Star Advertiser about a Los Angeles chef with Hawaii ties, Roy Choi, whose love for Spam became vindicated when he visited Hawaii as a teenager. Spam wasn't a mystery meat of shame on the Islands, it was enjoyed, revered and about as common as a side of bacon on most menus. It wasn't about coming to terms with a guilty pleasure food, it was a confirmation of cultural identity, that you can take something that maybe others may not understand, and make it wonderful. Roy Choi has been developing recipes for Spam's parent company, Hormel, which has all his recipes on their site. The recipe I had been keen on trying was his Black Pepper Spam Fried Rice, which featured the new black pepper Spam (yes, they come in flavors!), and I was very pleased with the result. The Spam does indeed have a strong black pepper flavor, which works well mixed up in a fried rice. I think it might be a little strong to have it on its own, even in a Spam musubi, but mixed with garlic, ginger and green onion, tossed with rice, it's perfect. My version used brown rice, but any day-old, cold rice would do. Fried rice is perfect to make when you're stuck with a bunch of plain white rice from Chinese takeout.
|Spiced-up Spam and some sweet-savory chicken -- DIY Aloha - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
And who says you can't make Spam fried rice into a classy meal? I was chatting with wine blogger and podcaster Jameson Fink of Wine Without Worry fame, and he was nice enough to suggest a wine pairing to go with Spam fried rice -- a Riesling with a little sweetness. A brilliant choice, as a nice, crisp wine with some acidity and a touch of fruit sugar would stand up to the saltiness of the Spam and all the spices. I think a Riesling would go well with these chicken wings, too, if no one minded my greasy fingerprints all over the wine glass. Party foul!
I had a nice food flashback moment from this meal, sprinkled with a little sadness, a reminder of how far my family is, and how limited my visits are. My last trip felt like it zipped by in a flash. The first couple of days feel like time stretches thin, like a rubber band, and then it suddenly snaps back for the remainder of the days, and before I know it, I'm back in Washington, looking through my photos on my phone -- just like I'm doing this very moment!
|Local sights and beauty... and majestic lawn ornaments - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
|Home cookin' and picklin' - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
|Local eats in Hilo-town, along with home-made feasts - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
|Big doings in Hilo-town - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
|Hilo Farmers Market browse - photos by Wasabi Prime|
|Visiting the local flora, fauna and geckos - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
|Bringing weird stuff home and the last Aloha cocktail hour - Photos by Wasabi Prime|