In Hawaii the word “Aina” refers to the islands’ blessings of nature, spirit and beauty. But when I hear “Aina” I think of the classic Hawaiian plate lunch. That or the rusted cars on the side of the road. But this is a recipe column, and not the place to address vehicular refuse, so we are going to focus on the two -coop rice, two-scoop mac’ salad and Shoyu chicken which make up the Hawaiian culinary staple known simply as the plate lunch. One of my favorite plate lunch stands near Diamond Head has a sign out front that says “Eat Till You Sleep.” Such sage advise, really. Just combines my two favorite activities in one sentence. The Hawaiian Plate Lunch is not for the calorie or carbohydrate conscious. It is not something you eat and then feel great about putting on your two piece — unless it’s a two-piece sectional sofa. But it is a great balance of flavors, especially if you deviate from the set menu and jazz up your plate with a side of ginger cucumber salad. For my “Mac Salad” (pictured) I used my friend Melody’s recipe, adding tomatoes and green onion to the traditional “Da Kine” (elbow noodles, mayonnaise, salt and three shreddings of carrots you all fight over) which could seriously get me banned from every Hawaiian potluck for the next five years.
But this Memorial Day I wanted to celebrate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and mix it up a bit! This is a day to honor all the freedoms we have had handed down to us from generations of those who cared enough to make a difference. A day to be thankful for all we have and, also, for all we don’t have.
So grab a dock, hit your deck or, Hawaiian style, just pull over to the shoulder of the road and enjoy the day and some good “grinds.” (And that would be food.)
Shoyu Chicken Thighs
10 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in
1 cup soy sauce
3 Tbls. sesame oil
2 Tbls. minced garlic
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
4 Tbls. green onions, chopped
2 Tbls. sesame seeds
Preparation: Mix all marinade ingredients, pour over chicken, coating all. Turn chicken to coat flip side, and let sit overnight, refrigerated. Grill on medium heat, about 17 minutes per side. Serves four, easily.
Melody’s Macaroni (Mac’) Salad
1 box or bag salad macaroni
3 Tbls. olive oil
6 Tbls. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbls. salt (or more to taste)
1 Tbls. garlic salt
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 bunch green onions, chopped
4 large tomatoes, chopped, (rinse out seeds)
4 hard boiled eggs, finely chopped
Preparation: Boil noodles per package instructions. Rinse, cool, and toss with olive oil and vinegar. Add spices, using more salt or garlic salt, if desired. Stir in mayonnaise, onions and tomatoes. Chill for about an hour. Stir in egg. Chill again before serving.
Cucumber and Ginger Salad
1 cup white vinegar, rice wine vinegar or mix of both
1/4 cup sugar (use half as much if using rice wine vinegar)
2 Tbls. grated ginger, or same amount from the jar. I prefer the jar with juice.
1/4 cup finely chopped onions
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 carrots, grated
2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced thin
squirt of hot chili sauce (Sriracha) if desired
Preparation: Mix vinegar, sugar, ginger, onions and lemon juice until blended. Add cucumbers and carrot. Let sit for a few hours (minimum) before serving.
Again, they may serve this at McDonald’s Hawaii, with eggs, for breakfast, but it is not traditional plate lunch fare. Still, it shows up at most family gatherings in one form or another. I like it sliced and fried (no oil needed) with a little hot sauce (again Sriracha).