Review of From Kau Kau to Cuisine: An Island Cookbook, Then and Now by Arnold Hiura + Recipe

The cookbook in this post was provided by Derek Kurisu and produce in this post was provided by Melissa’s Produce but the opinions expressed here are my own.

Credit: Watermark Publishing
I am very proud of my heritage, born in Hilo and growing up on the cuisine that is now known as Hawai’i Regional Cuisine (HRC). HRC is a melting pot of cuisines from the different ethnic groups that settled in Hawaii (Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, etc.), along with the sustainable Hawaiian ways of life and cooking, and historic events that changed the face of the cuisine (World War II and Spam). When most haoles think of Hawaii, they think of young women in grass skirts and leis, tropical trees and flowers, and beaches. But it’s much more than that… It is a way life. It is a way of being. It is ohana. What better way to celebrate each day, than with food! The food can be fast like spam musubi or it can be slow like kalua pig cooking for hours in an imu. The time it takes is inconsequential, as it is the love that goes into each dish that makes it so onolicious.

On my last trip to Hilo, Derek gave me a tour of KTA Puainako - talking about the local vendors and farmers on the Big Island, and gave me this cookbook, From Kau Kau to Cuisine: An Island Cookbook, Then and Now. He collaborated with Jason Takemura (Executive Chef, Pagoda Floating Restaurant in Honolulu) and Arnold Hiura on this “evolutionary” look at Hawai’i Regional Cuisine. Just like my dad, Derek experienced the plantation life on the Big Island. My dad grew up on a farm in Kurtistown (20-minutes outside of Hilo). His grandfather rode a horse to work and to run errands, tending to their livestock, and had a sugar cane field in the backyard. His grandmother also had a beautiful anthurium field in the side yard that had tall trees to provide a “natural” canopy while they grew in the volcanic soil. The whole “farm-to-table” culture has been happening long before it became “chic” in recent years along with preserving foods by fermentation, drying, and salting from fish and seafood to fruits and vegetables. This cookbook has a LOT of great recipes and delves into the history of these generational family favorite dishes.

In the Part Three: Island Cooking Then and Now – Meats chapter, Derek talks about making Korean Chicken on a TV show while cooking with a Korean chef. The funny thing, on the mainland, Korean Fried Chicken (KFC) is a huge craze right now. And these “KFC” stores are popping up all over South Korea. Derek is right, this is driving up the cost of the chicken wings. This recipe is super easy to make. Most of the time is taken up by frying the chicken. The flour coating on the outside provides a crispy exterior as well as nooks and crannies for the sauce to soak into. If you are making this for a party, you might want to double or even quadruple the recipe, because it will be gone before you know it. So ono! Rating: 5/5

In the Part Three: Island Cooking Then and Now – Seafood chapter, Jason talks about the love of head-on shrimp. I know exactly what he’s talking about. The best flavor of any crustacean is in the head! The Garlic Salt-and-Pepper Shrimp is a dish where you can eat the entire shrimp from head to tail. It is fried and coated with a seasoning that will have you licking your fingers too. So addictive! See the recipe below so you can make it too! Rating: 5/5

Garlic Salt-and-Pepper Shrimp 
by Chef Jason Takemura, From Kau Kau to Cuisine: An Island Cookbook, Then and Now

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ cup chopped garlic
2 red jalapeño peppers, seeds removed and julienned (optional)
¼ cup sliced green onion 
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 pound fresh Kaua‘i head-on shrimp
2 tablespoons of Garlic Seasoning (recipe follows)

Garlic Seasoning
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon white pepper

Preheat fryer to 360˚F. In a wok or large sauté pan, over medium-high heat, add vegetable oil. Add garlic and sauté until golden-brown and it begins to slightly crisp. Add the red jalapeños and green onion. Sauté for about another 30 seconds. 

Combine flour and cornstarch in a bowl. Dredge the shrimp in the flour mixture. Shake off all the excess flour and deep-fry for about 2 minutes until crispy and golden-brown. Immediately after removing the shrimp from the fryer, add the shrimp to the pan with the garlic–jalapeño mix and season with 2 tablespoons of Garlic Seasoning. Toss everything together. It may seem like you are adding a lot of seasoning to the shrimp, but the mix is well-balanced and you shouldn’t find it too salty.

In the Part Three: Island Cooking Then and Now – Sides and Specialties chapter, Derek talks about the love/hate relationship of natto, fermented soy beans. Derek developed a Natto Fried Rice recipe to pay homage to the natto sushi that you can find at sushi bars in Japan (and sometimes in Hawaii and the mainland). It uses raw egg so most steer clear of it. I personally love it on top of hot rice with green onions and shoyu. The fried rice cooks the natto and egg together and makes a beautifully rich flavor. I personally think this recipe needs more shoyu but you can add more/less for your taste. The sunny side egg on top seals the deal with a luxurious golden yolk. The fried rice cuts down on the natto flavor and aroma so this is good for a first-timer and very easy to make. Rating: 4.5/5

If you want to learn more about Hawai’i Regional Cuisine or miss the flavor of home, this cookbook is a must for your collection.

For more information:
From Kau Kau to Cuisine: An Island Cookbook, Then and Now by Arnold Hiura

On the search for an ingredient that you can’t find in the store, check out Melissa’s Produce.

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