Thursday, September 29, 2011

Kauai Calls: Let's Get Local

top to bottom: starfruit, santol, longan
I'm just about as excited as one can be right now. Last week my family and I relocated to the island of Kauai for two months. We're staying on the east side of the island in Kapaa - a slightly sleepy yet inviting beach town that is home to the best Ahi Nori Wraps in the world from Mermaid's Cafe.

My immediate plan was to take up spearfishing, but the more I talk to the locals and research the topic, all the suggestions are the same: "learn to crawl before you can walk." This is good advice, so to "crawl" I purchased a 7-foot polespear so I can learn the basics. The basics include how to approach fish without scaring them off, exploring where they hide, managing your breath and getting close enough to safely identify what you're aiming at. I have faith that my patience will pay off and soon I'll be posting delicious recipes for parrotfish (uhu) poke, grilled kala (unicornfish) and pan seared moana (goatfish). What is interesting to find out since being here is that nearly all the reef fish are edible, which delightfully increases my odds for success.

Before I nab some saltwater protein, however, I have turned my focus to what grows on this beautiful island. And everything grows on this island. It is, of course, the island where baby dinosaurs grew up to eat people (See Jurassic Park? It was filmed here.). The trick to getting to know what grows on Kauai is to visit one of their plentiful farmer's markets and talk to the people who grow the bountiful fruits and vegetables. On Kauai, there is at least one farmer's market every day of the week. Shopping at Kauai's farmer's markets is also the cheapest way to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. On my last trip, I scored three fruit I had never tried before: starfruit, santol and longan (maybe I had starfruit as a kid. I don't remember). Each is unique, and with the melting pot of cuisines on the island (native Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, Thai, etc.) one can find enough exotic edibles to experiment with all week long. And so I did. Here I give three recipes, one for each of my finds. I hope you enjoy.

Starfruit (Carambola) Steak Marinade
-1.5 pounds of choice cut steaks or venison
-one starfruit sliced into 1/3" slices (here's how to cut/eat starfruit)
-1/3 c. Worcestershire sauce
-1 tsp. seasoning salt
-1 tsp. ground black pepper

Place the steaks in a shallow dish and tenderize with this. Cover each side with seasoning salt, black pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Then place slices of starfruit on and around the steak. Cover and let marinate for about six hours or overnight, turning once.

Grill steaks outdoors on a lightly oiled grate, 3-5 minutes per side or until desired "doneness" reached.

Here's what mine looked like before going into the fridge to sit all day.

Longan and Red Date Drink
-six dried longan
-three red dates
-1/3 oz. honey
-2 c. hot water

Put longan and red dates in a cup, cover with one cup of hot water, wash fruit and then dispose of water. Add honey to cup with fruit and cover with another cup of hot water. Cover cup and let sit for five minutes before serving.

Note: This drink is believed to relax the body and help with insomnia. I'll be trying this remedy for pre-opening day jitters when I can't sleep and all I can think about is getting up at 4 a.m. 

Santol with Pork
-Ten pieces of santol, peeled and shredded
-8 oz. pork, cubed
-1/2 onion, sliced thin
-handful of slices of red chili pepper (or red bell pepper)
-one can of coconut milk
-1 T. fresh garlic, minced

First soak the santol in water for about 30 minutes. Drain off water and squeeze santol. Saute onion and garlic with a little oil. Add pork and cook until tender. Add santol. Pour in coconut milk and boil for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the pepper right before the dish is done. Serve immediately.