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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Hawaii food bloggers contribute to "1000 Recipes"

In this age of the Internet, blogs and podcasting, you'd think that bound paper cookbooks could be an endangered species. After all, with a Google search or by visiting any of several recipe sites on the Web, you can find a recipe for practically anything.

Instead, bloggers are writing cookbooks! There is an interesting project called 1000 Recipes that is circulating blank books to food bloggers to be filled in. Details of the project are here.

Two of Hawaii's best food bloggers, Alan from ma`ona, and Reid from `Ono Kine Grindz are contributing.

Alan has posted his effort on their website, and you can see the pages here. I shouldn't read food blogs at lunch time, I'm drooling over his recipes for homemade lasagna, Ban Xeo, and ginger and pineapple sorbet.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

E&O Trading Company - A bit far from Burma

We eagerly soaked up the decor as we were led to our table this afternoon for our first visit to E & O Trading Company in Ward Center. There's an attractive bar, and the entire space is filled with baskets, bird cages, 4-tiered Burmese lacquer boxes, fabrics, umbrellas and woodwork. Well done. There's a glass door through which one can see into the kitchen, and a shelf with the right kind of nampla (Thai fermented fish sauce), Shao Hsing Chinese rice wine, and other very proper ingredients on display facing the dining area. Nanette and I noted that the lighting above our table was carefully framed to illuminate the tabletop only and did not glare in our eyes. It was a cool, low-glare, comfortable dining space. The wait staff was courteous, friendly, knowledgeable and attentive.

Now on to the food.

Wanda Adams' review of chef Barney Brown's version of the Burmese ginger salad, lap pat dok (authentically made with fermented tea leaves) indicates that Brown adapted it from a version he tasted at San Francisco's Burma Superstar restaurant. On the road to Honolulu, the salad lost its tea leaves (Burma Superstar hand carries them from Burma, I understand). That's ok, it's a variation. But we found that the salad also lost its ginger. Both ginger and garlic flavors were so subdued that this salad was no superstar at all.

Nanette has a clear memory of the ginger salad we enjoyed in Pagan. Of course, that was the genuine unadapted article, prepared for us by people who enjoy it all the time. That meal, along with our tour of the ancient ruins (before the devastating earthquake damaged many of the pagodas), will remain among the peak experiences of our lives.

There's no point comparing this salad with the Burmese original, which it does not resemble. It really isn't lap pat dok without the mound of fragrant tea leaves, the centerpiece of the dish. It has to be considered on its own. Adams notes that this salad adds green papaya and substitutes garlic oil for labor-intensive fried garlic slices, and includes Napa cabbage for body. We were simply disappointed -- without detectable ginger, and without the pungent garlic, it was a good enough cabbage salad, no more.

At E&O one is supposed to try several small dishes. Our second was Indonesian Corn Fritters. This seemed promising, but the corn wasn't sweet and may not have been fresh. Corn is not exactly in season, but that's no excuse. Instead of serving a second-rate dish if ingredients can't be obtained, it might have been temporarily retired from the menu. This looks like a simple dish I might like to prepare at home when sweet corn appears again at the KCC Farmers' Market. I Googled for a recipe and found several out there on the 'net.

We also had Panir Naan. No resemblance to the Indian bread which is best baked stuck against the side wall of a Tandoor oven, this was more like a white-flour pita and was a bit doughy and undercooked. We mentioned that to the waiter because at least here was something that might be corrected in the future. The panir was there, but just barely.

Our final dish was the winner. We tried the Smoked Mero (sea bass), which was soft and flaky and served with bok choi and Japanese pickles: daikon, ginger, and cucumber. It was smoked char siu-style, bright red, and was attractively served and simply prepared, very appropriate to this tender white meat fish with a mild flavor.

Bottom line: for the $40+ meal (no drinks), we could have fared better elsewhere.

E&O Trading Company Honolulu
1200 Ala Moana Boulevard
Ward Centre Building 4
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 591-9555
Sunday-Wednesday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Thursday-Saturdays 11 a.m.-2 a.m.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Learning good knife skills from the web -- a guy thing?

I'm often in the kitchen alone, and I've wondered why. Could it be... (shudder!) ... I wonder... my poor knife skills??

There are so many things I need to do... when does one get to the really important things in life, like learning to use a knife properly in the kitchen? Nanette has cautioned me many times that I'm about to chop the end off one of my fingers, that I should learn good knife skills. Maybe she can't stand to work next to such an amateur.

In the interest of peaceful coexistence in the kitchen, then, I began my search on the Internet. And here is what I found:

How to Cut

This is part of Peter Hertzmann's beautifully designed website.

There appears to be no substitute for practice, according to the article. If I want to learn to cut basil, I'm going to have to find some basil and practice cutting it according to the directions given. Oh -- you've just got to visit this web page -- if just to see that Hertzmann gives illustrations for both left- and right-hand cutting. Yes.

Of course, I guess I could just have asked Nanette, "could you show me how to cut this basil properly", but I didn't. Most likely it's a guy thing.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

There's gold on the streets of Honolulu

Yes, I've discovered gold right here on our city streets -- in the Downtown Planet newspaper boxes. Joan Namkoong's page now appears every week. It's a gold mine of mouth-watering information.

There's inside information on chefs, restaurant and farmers' markets, a comprehensive list of food-related events for the week, and a topical feature article. Joan takes us behind the swinging doors to reveal the doings of our star superchefs, their projects, travels, and plans.

The issue I've clipped mentions two new restaurant openings in my own neighborhood with a preview of what they'll be serving, and another at Ward Center that I'll be beating a path to as soon as the doors open.

There's also a stop at Fort Street Bar and Grill for some chicken (Joan mentions mochiko, spicy, chili orange, oyster sauce, shoyu, mushroom, miso and teri, hoisin, lilikoi barbeque, marinara and katsu). This is also close by, so I need to check it out. Soon.

I think this is the best food writing you'll find in Honolulu. Now it's weekly, and available for free! Just find a Downtown Planet newspaper box or rack and grab one. Check it out and see if you don't agree with me. Yum!

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Slow Food

You've read about the world-wide slow food movement. Hawaii has an active Slow Food group. Learn about or join Slow Food USA at the Slow Food USA website.

Where we're Eating

Nico's at Pier 38
Da Spot
Olive Tree Cafe
It's A Beautiful Day Kafe
Sogongdong Restaurant

More Links

eGullet Hawaii discussion group
Simple Cooking
Reg Barber Coffee Tampers


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