Island Garlic Shrimp


No trip to Hawaii would be complete without a trip to a shrimp truck or as my friend Ben calls it, “Scrimps Shack”. The Scrimps Shack and Giovanni’s are two of my favorites. I remember a particular trip to Oahu, Pru and I were still kidless and so we aimlessly just drove around.  While driving along H1 en route to North Shore, we happened upon a shrimp truck that I thought was Giovanni’s. We followed it for a good ten miles before I realized it wasn’t a shrimp truck at all but just a janky refrigerator repair van. That’s how much I love the world famous Kahuku shrimp, so named for the sleepy town in the north east part of the island from which these freshwater shrimp are farmed.


Not much to look at but from that truck comes the most amazing garlic shrimp


We sadly are not making it to the islands this year so we are bringing some of that island food to the mainland.


1 lb medium shrimp (21/25 per lb)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 cloves roasted garlic*
1 stick butter
1 1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup lemon juice
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp chili pepper flakes
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp Italian parsley


*How to make roasted garlic: Drizzle garlic cloves with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake cloves of garlic in a sealed aluminum foil packet in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. When done, remove from oven and this should be soft enough to mash with a fork. Set aside.


Sautéx shrimp in olive oil until just pink and no longer translucent.  Remove from pan and set aside. Saute garlic in butter and olive oil, being careful not to burn. Add roasted garlic, wine and lemon juice to the pan. Sprinkle grated parmesan cheese over the mixture. Cook for 10-12 minutes until reduced to half. Place shrimp back in pan and add Italian seasoning, chili pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste.



Mango Butter Mochi


Nothing says summer to me more than Hawaii.  As I’ve written in quite a few blog posts, it is a rare summer that we don’t visit the islands.  We’re skipping Hawaii this year so I am trying to bring some of that island vibe to my cooking.

Mochi is a chewy dessert that you’ll probably find at most luaus, church picnics, family parties throughout Hawaii mostly because the ingredients are easy to find and the mochi so very easy to make.  In fact, it’s best not overthink the butter mochi and appreciate it for its rich, chewy and sweet simplicity.  I added the mango just because I had a couple on hand that were starting get overripe.   The mango gave it a fruity tang that managed to cut down its buttery richness.

Tip: You’ll find that the slightly burned and caramelized corners are the best part of this dessert.


16 oz box sweet rice flour
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 ripe mangoes, chopped
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
12 oz evaporated milk
13.5 oz coconut milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all the wet ingredients until combined.  Add the mochiko flour and baking powder and stern into the wet mixture until there are no more lumps.  Pour batter into a greased 9×13 pan and bake for 1 hour, until top is golden brown and set.  Cut into squares and enjoy.

Red Rice


For me, finding cauliflower rice is probably the best thing about the dumpster fire that 2017 was.  Between hurricanes and mass shootings and our president and the many disturbing revelations of sexual assault and our president, I’m looking forward to next year and the new recipes I can pair with my newfound bestie, cauliflower rice.

Cauliflower rice is essentially cauliflower florets you grind in a food processor until they resemble tiny rice pellets.  But if you’re efficient (lazy) like me, you can also buy 12 oz frozen bags at Trader Joe’s ($1.99) or a 32 oz fresh bag in the refrigerated produce section at Costco ($3.79).  A whole new low carb world has opened up for me with the discovery of cauliflower rice.  Por ejemplo, ‘silog’ is a Filipino dish of garlic fried rice with egg and whatever protein you choose.

Spamsilog = Spam+ garlic fried rice +egg

Chicksilog = Chicken + garlic fried rice +egg

Longsilog = Longanisa + garlic fried rice +egg

The combinations are endless and the carb count, low.  Sometimes I prefer to not remember I’m eating cauliflower rice because the texture is too crunchy and feels too much like I’m eating vegetables so I mix it with brown rice.  Don’t judge.  I use a 3:1 ratio–3 parts cauliflower to 1 part rice, heathens.

Imagine my delight then at being able to make red rice to pair with kelaguen.  The beautiful red hue of the ‘rice’ comes from the annatto powder you’ll need to find at your local Asian grocery store.


  • 12 oz cauliflower rice
  • 3 oz cooked brown rice
  • 1 T garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 2 T oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 t annatto powder


  1. Pour the oil into the pan and wait until pan is smoking hot
  2. Saute garlic and onion in hot pan until translucent
  3. Sprinkle annato powder over sautéed onions and garlic and cook
  4. Mix both cauliflower and red rice with the red garlic/onion mixture and fry until both rice are heated through and red
  5. Serve hot with cold kelaguen chicken


Kelaguen in Guam, do as the Guamanians do…


You know you’ve eaten at a good restaurant when you get home and can’t stop thinking about the food.  This is what happened to me soon after I ate the kelaguen at Booniepepper Grill in Newark.  A nondescript Guamanian eatery in an even more nondescript strip mall in Newark, Booniepepper Grill, which will heretofore be known as the notorious BPG, is an unassuming restaurant–loosely termed–that specializes in the kelaguen mannok, a tart/salty/spicy chopped chicken. This flavor profile is just what my palette craves.  I think it comes from being raised on a mixture of Thai chili peppers, fish sauce and lemon juice as condiments to everything ranging from crab to fish, and oysters–I’ve always loved that spicy and salty lemony kick in foods.

But at $10 for a serving of kelaguen and red rice, BPG is not cheap, especially when the ingredients are so easily accessible and cheap at that.  So when I got home, I looked up everything kelaguen and found that it’s like the ceviche of Guam; even better, it’s a cousin of a native Filipino dish, ‘kilawin’ which uses vinegar not just as a marinade but also to cook various fishes and meats.

So easy this dish, I won’t bother you with step-by-step pictures.


  • 1 whole cooked rotisserie chicken, chopped
  • *Thai red chills
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (I can’t stress this enough.  Do not make the mistake of using the sweetened coconut you normally find in the baked goods aisle.)
  • 3/4 – 1 1/2 cups lemon juice
  • 1 small onion, diced finely
  • 4 stalks green onion, chopped
  • salt to taste

*Red chili pepper flakes can be substituted

Quantities listed for the ingredients above can be adjusted to your liking.  After awhile, I stopped measuring and just used the force.


  • Buy rotisserie chicken from Costco, no need to cook or grill your own. As Marilyn McCoo once said, “One less bell to answer, one less egg to fry.”
  • Chop said chicken
  • Mix the rest of the ingredients and pour the entire concoction over chicken
  • Stir and let marinade coat the chopped chicken pieces
  • Let marinated chicken stand for at least an hour and allow all flavors to meld
  • Serve with *red rice or regular steamed rice (red rice is better)

* Recipe in next post, stay tuned!









Spam Musubi


We’ve been home from our Maui vacation for five days now and I’m wondering why the towel I threw on the bathroom floor yesterday is still there and my plate of half eaten chicken salad from last night’s dinner is still on the table.

I called housekeeping and guess who answered.  Me.

In contrast to last year’s vacation where we sailed, ziplined and hiked magnificent  trails, our Maui trip this year was decidedly more chill.  We swam or snorkeled every day–even managed to swim with some exotic fish and sea turtles at Makena and Ulua Beach–and sampled a lot of great island food.  So I realized that the only way to extend our island vacation was to duplicate some of this amazing food.


Left to right:

Roasted Bone Marrow – Sweetwater Tavern, Kihei
Black Polynesian Pearl – Mama’s Fish House, Paia
Loco Moco – Kihei Cafe, Cafe
Pina Colada Cake – Tommy Bahama, Wailea
Garlic Shrimp and Mochiko Chicken – Tin Roof Maui, Kahului
Banana Bread – Mile Marker #17, Road to Hana

But I just got back from vacation, and most of the dishes above are beyond my culinary expertise and patience (Black Polynesian Pearl) so I decided to recreate this instead:


This beautiful structure is the spicy Spam Musubi from the Sugar Beach Bake Shop in Kihei.  Notice the jalapeños on top, they bring a nice texture and lots of heat.  It’s right next door to the best shave ice place on the island, Ululani’s.


Soy sauce
Oyster sauce
Rice wine
8 slices of Spam
8 pieces of nori, 2.5″x6″
Furikake, optional

Mix all the ingredients except Spam, furikake and nori.  There are no measurements because the balance of sweet/salty flavors is really up to you so make adjustments as necessary. Marinate the Spam in your sauce mixture for about 5 minutes, just enough to coat the Spam slices.  Then pan fry the Spam over medium heat and pour sauce into the pan.  Watch closely as the sweet sauce makes it easy to burn the Spam slices.  Finally, remove the pan from heat and begin to assemble your musubi.

See below:

IMG_1213The bottom layer is 2 oz of white or brown rice sprinkled with furikake, middle is Spam, top layer is rice sprinkled with furikake.  Press your mold hard with every layer and finally, fold seaweed over your musubi.


Some tips when you make Spam Musubi:

  • Get yourself these Spam gadgets: Spam slicer which cuts even slices with one move and the Spam mold, self explanatory.  You can buy them at Takahashi Market and/or Chanco
  • Without these gadgets, a knife and a hollowed out Span can will do.
  • Press hard, like put your body weight on it hard, on the mold when you’re pressing on the rice.   What you want is a tightly packed, dense Spam/rice brick.  If it’s loosely packed, your musubi will fall apart.
  • Try not to fixate on the fact that you’re eating Spam.


**Though my Musubis tasted like the real thing, I did not pack them as tightly as I would’ve liked and they consequently fell apart.  They were still delish!  Remember to press hard on your mold.

Isn’t Sushi Lovely


I took something called Conceptual Physics in high school.  It’s not real Physics; it’s Physics without all the difficult equations and concepts are translated from math into English for those not ‘mathletically’ inclined like myself.  In short, it’s Physics for dumdums. I have no shame in owning that.  I had fun in high school, cut class a lot and saw the inside of Stonestown more than classrooms during my senior year.  And I mostly turned out OK.

Baked sushi is like conceptual physics in that it is sushi for those of us who don’t have the means nor the patience and expertise to roll out real sushi.  And it turns out better than OK.  Allow me to compare and contrast:

  • Real sushi is all about fresh, good quality fish like ahi tuna and hamachi.
  • Baked sushi uses your seafood of choice, the cheaper the better like imitation crab, baby shrimp and salmon that has been roasted and flaked.
  • Real sushi is perfectly structured; either rolled in seaweed, futo maki, or hand formed, nigiri .
  • Baked sushi is a casserole–yep, I said casserole.  No bamboo mats needed, only a spatula to evenly spread your fish over a thin layer of cooked rice.


3 c of cooked white rice
1 lb salmon, roasted and flaked
1 lb imitation crab
1/2 c Japanese mayo, Kewpie*
1/2 c sour cream
1/4 lb masago
furikake seasoning**


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spread a thin layer of hot cooked rice on a 9×12 baking pan.  Cold rice is hard to spread so ensure your rice is hot enough to spread with a rice paddle or spatula.  Sprinkle furikake seasoning all over cooked rice.  Mix the rest of the ingredients together and spread evenly over the rice with an offset spatula.  Sprinkle the top of the seafood and mayo/sour cream mixture with more furikake seasoning.  Bake for 20 minutes.

You can either eat right out of the pan or take a spoonful and wrap it inside some nori.  Flavored nori comes in a jar of individually wrapped packets.

*You can substitute American mayo for the Japanese mayo.  I just find that the Japanese variety is a little less tangy and creamier than its American cousin.

**Furikake is a dry Japanese seasoning with seaweed, sesame seeds, etc.  I just found out that the ‘etc.’ is MSG and I now understand why it makes everything I put it on taste so good.

18765901_10154386790231401_6785771030543573762_nBaked sushi lovingly topped with some sriracha mayo


Poke, Mon


I’m officially addicted to poke.   I’ve had so much poke that you need only to stand next to me to get an accurate reading of your body temperature, that’s probably how much mercury I’ve ingested from all the tuna I’ve eaten.  Let’s have a brief tutorial on the magic that is ‘poke.’

‘Poke’ pronounced ‘poe kay’, is generally now known as raw fish marinated in various spices and sauces over a bowl of hot rice or salad or on its own.  Ok, maybe not so generally–by ‘generally’ I mean in Hawaii and parts of the Bay Area and SoCal where palates for raw fish are more inherent than earned. In Hawaii, poke is sold like ham at your grocery’s deli counter.  Foodland is the Hawaiian version of Safeway but so much better because you can procure so many varieties:

My all time favorite poke place is on the Big Island, home to Da Poke Shack, a small nondescript shop in the middle of a no name condo complex and is arguably one the best restaurants (loose term) in America according to Yelp.

Thankfully, poke bowl places are all the rage in the Bay Area and poke eateries like Sunfish Poke, Poke Bowl, Limu & Shoyu have been popping up everywhere.  But lately I’ve been getting creative with my semi-homemade version which I get from–of all places–Costco.  Costco’s ahi wasabi poke is premade with seaweed, wasabi, soy sauce and it’s pretty good already.  But like Steve Kerr who upon taking over the Golden State Warriors said, “You’re good, but we’ll make you better,” I take the Costco poke to new heights by adding sriracha, sesame oil, furikake and sambal oelek.  Sambal oelek is this wonderfully spicy garlic paste you get in Chinese restaurant with your soy sauce.

If you want to make your own poke, you can go to your trusted fish monger–I go to Whole Foods for mine–and get a pound of ahi tuna that’s sushi grade.  At WF, they run about 27$ a pound and yes, that’s pricey and the answer to your other question, so worth it.


1 lb sushi grade tuna
Sambal oelek
Sesame oil
Furikake seasoning
Low sodium soy sauce
Ponzu sauce
Sesame seeds (optional)
Macadamia nuts (optional)


Cut tuna into small cubes and set aside.  In a mixing bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients to suit your taste. You can adjust for spiciness or more citrus by adding more or less of the ponzu and sriracha. Once you’ve achieved the desired flavor of your poke–which should fall somewhere between fresh, salty and spicy–mix your sauce mixture with the cubed ahi tuna.

Kalua Pork and Lomi Lomi Salmon


Hawaii is a favorite vacation destination for our family. Little guy loves the water and during this trip he has proclaimed himself a world class swimmer. On the first day of vacation, he declared that he was going to swim 100 miles.  When he ‘swam’ the width of said pool twice, he calculated that he swam 120 miles, thus exceeding his original goal.  “Tomorrow, I will swim 1 million miles.”

I think this would be a good time to mention that his swimming prowess was aided by a pair of arm floaties and the pool was at most 3 feet deep. I hope he never loses that unbridled confidence.


jhulagirlJJ: Can I kiss your belly?
Hula girl: No, but we can take a picture together.
JJ: But I’m shy.


Because of our penchant for the islands and all island foods, we’ve made kalua pork many, many times.  Since Pru and I have neither the patience nor the yard space to dig up an imu, the traditional underground pit oven in which Hawaiians bake a whole pig, we settled for perfecting our recipe in the crockpot.


*pork butt or pork shoulder, 3-5 pounds
3-4T Ono Hawaiian seasoning (can be found at Whole Foods, Cost Plus or my favorite Takahashi Market)
2T liquid smoke


Pierce pork butt all over with the tines of a fork. This is to ensure that the spice and liquid smoke are absorbed throughout the meat. Spoon liquid smoke first and then Hawaiian seasoning all over meat and rub throughout. Cook in crock pot for 8 hours on low setting. About 7 hours into cooking, check on meat which should be tender and falling apart. Take 2 forks and shred, leaving for another hour to cook in its own juices. Serve with white rice and lomi lomi salmon.

*Do not try to low fat this recipe like I once did by using a lean cut like pork loin. The healthy version unfortunately tasted like a dry, salty dishrag. A fatty cut like pork butt or shoulder is the only way to go. The long cooking time means it will render its own fat and juices which makes it moist and delicious and extremely unhealthy. But like my son who thinks he is the next Michael Phelps, I believe that all the fat released from the long cooking time means it won’t be as unhealthy or fatty.

Lomi Lomi Salmon

I’ve found that eating kalua pork without lomi lomi salmon is less than an authentic luau experience. It’s like having a hula girl dance in heels and denim cutoffs. If you’re gonna try and recreate that island experience you might as well go big, right?

2 tomatoes, diced
1 white onion, diced
1 stalk green onion, diced
salmon fillet, 8 oz

To get the salty briny flavor of lomi lomi salmon, you need to cure it. Layer a bed of salt on a glass Pyrex baking dish; set the salmon on top of this bed of salt. Sprinkle enough salt to cover entire salmon filet. Cover the whole dish with Saran Wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Once salted, rinse excess salt off the salmon filet. Cut into small cubes and combine with diced tomatoes, onions and green onion. Serve alongside white rice and kalua pork.

And another cautionary tale: don’t do a short cut by using diced smoked salmon filets. Lomi lomi salmon is supposed to taste like the ocean, not bagels and lox.

kalua pork

Loco Moco


Vacations to Hawaii are my favorite.  About two weeks or so before leaving for any one of the islands–you can’t go wrong with any of them–I take out my suitcase from the closet, open it flat and lay it out.  I don’t pack–that would be crazy–instead, every time I come home from a really bad day at work, I go to my closet and toss in an article of clothing into the suitcase to remind me that I am mere weeks away from paradise and more importantly, away from the purgatory penance that work sometimes feels like.

There have been times when I am fully packed for vacation with the suitcase piled high with clothes, it’s that therapeutic.

This year, I got outvoted and we are going instead to Disney World.  I voted Oahu.  So because I lost, I requested that Pru make my favorite island lunch, the loco moco–a crazy unhealthy concoction of burger patty topped with an over easy egg and brown gravy, all over rice.

Shortcut pro tip: use Campbell’s Golden Mushroom canned soup for your gravy and thin it with water to your desired consistency.


  1. Fry a sunny side up egg.
  2. Lay fried egg atop a bowl of steamed rice.
  3. For burger patty: season with Lipton Onion Soup Mix and pan fry.  We used pre-formed patties.  Don’t judge.  Sometimes, short cuts are the only way to go.
  4. Place fried burger patty on top of egg and steamed rice.
  5. Enjoy your food coma and thank me for the shortcuts.
  6. Shut your eyes tight and dream of your island vacation and eating that loco moco while watching the gorgeous sunset  along the Waikiki beach coastline.

Loco Moco