Hawaiian dishes are new arrivals on the local dining scene
Hawaiian doesn't often feature among the different cuisines available here, but a hotel promotion, and the opening of a new restaurant, is bringing us a taste of the Pacific islands.
Chef Bryan Nagao of new restaurant Town says that Hawaii has a reputation as "the melting pot of the Pacific." Typical dishes are Korean kalbi ribs, US Spam and locomoco, Filipino adobo, Portuguese sausage and Japanese teriyaki burgers.
Locomoco is a hamburger patty topped with a fried egg served on white rice and gravy.
Another way of getting a grip on the many influences that make up Hawaiian food is to think about the local potluck tradition, to which everyone brings a dish or two and drinks, says executive chef, Guy Higa of Kaua'i Marriott Resort.
Higa, a Hawaiian of Japanese extraction, says you are likely to see Japanese sushi or musubi, sashimi and tempura alongside Filipino lumpia, stir-fried noodles, roast whole pig and adobo. There will also be Chinese chicken and rice dishes, dim sum, steamed whole fish, and char siu.
Nagao makes food with a Hawaiian touch at Town, equally influenced by the ingredients and cooking of Italy, France and Japan.
To this Hawaiian, the islands' food means pork and fish, sometimes cooked together as in the dish lau lau. Fat pork pieces, salty fish and sweet potato are wrapped in banana leaves and baked. In the old days, it would have been over an underground fire. "It's the way the old Hawaiians ate, marinated and cooked their food," says Nagao.
Nagao's suckling pig at Town comes with clams, pancetta, baby spinach and miso broth and takes two days to prepare.
Higa will shortly be coming here to cook at the JW Marriott and he's promising to produce more than the tropical island's iconic dishes.
"There are many other delicious Hawaiian specialties other than locomoco and Spam. I'll present a selection of Hawaiian signature dishes, for example lomi lomi salmon, kalua pork, Hawaiian sustainable snapper and poke," says the chef.
Lomi lomi salmon is a tomato and fish salad, while kalua pork is slow-cooked and poke is a salad often made with ahi tuna.
Higa has worked in European kitchens for 10 years and Japanese for four years, but he hasn't strayed too far from his roots. "I still make dishes that my grandma used to cook in Okinawa. Japanese cuisine is what makes Hawaiian food today," he says.
What Hawaii is perhaps best known for is its coffee, pineapples and love affair with the pork product Spam.
"Yes, generally Hawaiians do love Spam," says Higa, who will not be using the product during the Marriot's promotion.
He will be using the island's coffee in a rub for a rack of lamb, saying that it's an ingredient he likes to "play around with."
"I try to keep food ethnic and authentic, fresh, in season and available, which is the important principle in Hawaiian cuisine," says Higa.
Town, 10/F Cubus, 1 Hoi Ping Rd, Causeway Bay, tel: 2568 8708;
JW Marriott Hong Kong, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, tel: 2810 8366. Higa will be serving supper and Sunday brunch Nov 13-23 at The Lounge and a five-course dinner at Flint Grill & Bar, Nov 19