Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hawai'i Day Six: Loco Moco, Mochi, and Lilikoi

After another quick breakfast of Golden Grahams and an open-air shower overlooking the river and jungle, we headed into town to visit the Pacific Tsunami Museum, Mokupapapa Discovery Center, and some downtown shopping.

For lunch, we drove up to Cafe 100 - a little fast food joint with a long history here in Hilo. It's been around long enough that it was wiped out by the 1946 tsunami, then was rebuilt in 1960 - just in time to be demolished again by the tsunami later that year. Thankfully, it's now safely on high ground, up on Kilauea Ave, where they serve local favorites, including an odd, uniquely Hawaiian dish called Loco Moco - which was the reason we went. In fact, rumor is the Loco Moco was invented at the original Cafe 100... though that's hotly contested.

The classic Loco Moco is a pile of white steamed rice, topped with a hamburger patty, topped with a sunny side up egg, and coated in gravy. That's the version Dan ordered, but they have enough varieties of Loco Moco that you could come back every day for a couple weeks and never try the same one twice. The king of them all is the Kilauea Moco - which has everything on it but the kitchen sink, but a mountain of food wasn't on my menu today.

I went for the Spam Moco - which is just like the original, but replaces the ground beef for that canned meat wonder, Spam. Introduced during WWII by the US military, Spam is now a fixture in Hawaiian cuisine, eaten so many ways that there are at least 4 cookbooks focused just on Spam recipes (which the wonderful woman from Basically Books shared with us while we were shopping).

This was my first Loco Moco while in Hawai`i, and it was tasty. I've had a great Spam Loco Moco in Seattle, but getting to try it in the open air of the famous Cafe 100 was a treat. And at $1.99 for the original Loco Moco - hard to beat in terms of price.

One of my favorite Food/Travel TV episodes was about Hawaiian food, and the host came to Cafe 100 to try the Loco Moco. Between mouthfuls, he inquired to the owner what kind of gravy was in the Loco Moco - surely wondering whether it's a beef or chicken based gravy, for example. She looked at him like he just asked the silliest question ever, and responded "It's BROWN gravy." That cracks me up every time I think about it, and kinda sums up local Hawaiian food. Simple and tasty.

After lunch and shopping, we also swung by a little bakery called Two Ladies Kitchen that Dan will surely write more about, and got some amazing fresh strawberry mochi. Mochi is the term for any of a variety of Japanese foods made of glutinous rice pounded into a paste.

The strawberry stuffed mochi balls are known specifically as ichigo daifuku, and these ones included a little red bean paste around the strawberry - and were amazingly good.

I've heard folks from the Pacific Northwest who've moved to Hawai`i miss all the berries we have in the Summer time, but these locally grown strawberries were as juicy and fresh and tasty as any I've had back home.

I cooked here at the house again tonight, using some of the items from the market yesterday, plus some provisions we picked up at the Sack & Save downtown. I boiled some linguine pasta, and while that was cooking, I cut up some mango and blended it, then added the lilikoi juice (straining out the seeds). I cooked some huge prawns in some butter in a saute pan, then pulled them out to rest, leaving the butter on the heat and adding in the mango/lilikoi mixture, whisking until combined. When the pasta was ready, I topped it with the prawns and the mango lilikoi butter sauce, garnished it with a few of the lilikoi seeds, and paired it with a pre-made 'ocean salad' (seaweed with sesame) from the store.

(Dan's writing all about our trip over at our other blog, The Dans In Hawai`i, so I'll just stick to writing what I know: food.)

Cafe 100 on Urbanspoon

Two Ladies Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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