A mixed plate

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Hawaiian cuisine a multicultural combination

By Greg Summers

American food has always been a melting pot. While that’s true in every region of the country, it’s especially true in Hawaii.

Its cuisine is a kaleidescope of tastes that came about from ethnic groups that immigrated there.

A fusion of cultures – American, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Polynesian and Portuguese – come together on the island state.

Many of those immigrants imported plant and food sources with them when they relocated to the volcanic island.

The Marquesans brought breadfruit and the Tahitians introduced baking bananas.

Polynesian settlers brought coconuts, sugar cane, pigs and chickens.

Chinese immigrants brought stir-fry, sweet and sour, dim sum dishes and rice.

Koreans brought kimchi (fermented cabbage), barbecue pits and marinated meats.

The Portuguese introduced their own foods, which emphasized dishes made from pork, tomatoes and chili peppers. 

While many of the vegetable seeds that Japanese immigrants brought to the islands wouldn’t grow, they did succeed in making tofu and soy sauce, said Janice Wald Henderson, author of “The New Cuisine of Hawaii: Recipes from the 12 Celebrated Chefs of Hawaiian Regional Cuisine.”

Henderson said the no-bake Japanese cooking methods of frying, steaming, broiling and simmering also popularized soups and sauces.

Then there’s the pineapple. Hawaii’s biggest export isn’t Hawaiian at all.

According to  Robert E. Paull, co-author of “The Pineapple: Botany, Production and Uses,” Spanish botanist Don Francisco de Paula Marin cultivated the pineapples there in 1813. Marin, an advisor to King Kamehameha I,  is also credited for cultivating the first grape vineyard in Hawaii. Marin also experimented with planting oranges, limes, beans, cabbages, potatoes, peaches, melons, maize and lettuce.

Together, this melting pot of people grew taro patches, yams, arrowroot and hunted game, gathered herbs and medicinal plants from lush forests and harvested fish, shellfish and seaweed from the crystal blue waters that surrounded the southernmost state in the Union.

Many of these recipes made it to the states, before Hawaii was a state.

As servicemen and servicewomen from the Pacific theater of World War II returned home, they brought many of these unique tastes home with them.

Hawaii has been a state for 51 years and will celebrate its anniversary as the 50th state this week (Aug. 21, 1959).

What better way to mark the occasion than with a couple of Hawaiian recipes?

Hawaiian Chicken I is a dish that’s sure to become a family favorite. You may want to grill the pineapple rings to add a little color and flavor. When preparing the rice, use 1 chicken bouillon cube and 1 cup of pineapple juice and 1 cup of water instead of 2 cups of water for a boost.

“You’d be surprised how much better rice tastes when you add in a little fruit juice,” said Greg Shipston, culinary arts teacher at Lancaster High School.

Very rich and delicious, Coconut (Haupia) and Chocolate Pie is definitely a recipe you want to try. It’s a coconut lover’s dream.

E ’ai kakou (let’s eat)!

Bet you didn’t know...

Hawaiians are the second largest consumers of SPAM in the world, right behind Guam. The canned meat product was brought to the islands in the rations of American servicemen. SPAM became an important source of protein for Hawaiian locals during World War II after fishing around the islands was banned. In 2005, Hawaiians ate more than 5 million cans of SPAM. 

– From “The Island Plate: 150 Years of Recipes and Food Lore” by Wanda Adams

Coconut (Haupia) and Chocolate Pie


1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust

1 cup milk

1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk

1 cup white sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup cornstarch

7/8 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/4 cup white sugar


– Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake crust for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Set aside to cool.

– In a medium saucepan, whisk together milk, coconut milk and 1 cup sugar. In a separate bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in water. Bring coconut mixture to a boil. Reduce to low heat and slowly whisk in the cornstarch. Continue stirring over until thickened (about 3 minutes).

– In a glass bowl, microwave chocolate chips for 1 minute, or until melted. Divide the coconut mixture evenly into two bowls. Mix chocolate into one portion. Spread chocolate mixture on the bottom of the pie crust. Pour the remaining portion of the mixture on top of the chocolate and spread smooth. Refrigerate for about 1 hour.

– Whip cream with 1/4 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. Layer cream on pie. If desired, garnish with chocolate shavings.

– Recipe from allrecipes.com

Hawaiian Chicken I


6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves

2 cups teriyaki sauce, divided

6 pineapple rings

2/3 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter, melted

3/4 cup soy sauce

3/4 cup unsweetened pineapple juice

6 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce


– Place the chicken breast halves in a dish with 1 1/2 cups of teriyaki sauce. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours.

– Lightly oil grill grate and preheat grill for high heat. Place chicken breasts on grill and discard the marinade. Cook for 8 minutes per side, or until juices run clear. Brush with the remaining teriyaki sauce during the last five minutes. When almost done, place 1 pineapple ring on top of each chicken breast and brush with melted butter.

– In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix the brown sugar, soy sauce, pineapple juice and Worcestershire sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Serve chicken on a bed of rice and top with sauce, or use sauce for dipping.

– Recipe from allrecipes.com