After about 11 hours on the plane during which I ate two or three airplane meals (the only one I remember is the one I photographed), watched When In Rome (oh god, the things you'll watch when you're stuck on an airplane), bits of Ratatouille, three episodes of CSI, an episode of What Not To Wear, and whatever else Continental was able to grab their hands on for our viewing enjoyment (which wasn't a whole lot), I landed in the sunny, temperate bosom of Honolulu. And I was pretty excited.
But it wasn't until a promotional video narrated by Governor Linda Lingle popped onto all the TV screens in the cabin near the end of the flight that I got the super excited, "OH MAN, I AM ALMOST THERE, HOO MAMA!" feeling. She was all like, "Welcome to our beautiful beaches, our lush forests, our majestic volcanoes, our bagillion endangered species, AND WE HAVE RAINBOWS, oh boy do we have rainbows, just wait till you see them" (not her exact words, but it sounded like that in my head). She mentioned most of the things Hawaii is known for, except for one.
Food. Seriously, why do you think I went there?
...I mean, I did other stuff besides eat, but not a whole lot more. When you have one of the best food guides to Honolulu at your side, Kathy YL Chan, you take advantage of that knowledge. More important than going to Waikiki Beach or hiking was that I, with the help of Kathy, consume shave ice and plate lunches and sushi up the wazoo and malasadas and more varieties of mochi than I've ever imagined and pastries and things like that.
And it happened. But not on the first night. After I hopped in a car with Kathy, her sister Tiffany, and their mom, we drove to Kathy's grandma's house for a big home cooked family meal.
Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. The dinner was for Kathy's family (mom, dad, sister), her two cousins and uncle who live with her grandma, her aunt and uncle visiting from France, her grandpa, and me. And...her grandma, although she doesn't eat meat. But her food comes out great anyway; I think her husband acts as a taste tester.
First up, roast duck and roast pork. Not homemade, but Chinatown-made.
Fried mashed eggplant with chili peppers and egg, totally homemade. It tastes much better than it looks—Kathy said this was her favorite dish on the table. It basically tastes like the description, but that doesn't tell you much. A light, soft mash that's sort of eggplant-y and scrambled egg-y with a bit of spiciness. Does that help? Probably not.
My favorite was the thousand-year-old duck egg with pickled ginger, cilantro, crushed peanuts, and vinegar. That's a lot of flavors and textures in every bite (I'm a big fan of the peanuts). Hell, you could even make this at home—I just listed all the ingredients for you.
I also liked the fried yi-mein, bright yellow egg noodles with a pleasantly soft and springy texture, mixed with mushrooms and green onions, and probably other things. Why aren't these noodles more prominent in my life? WHY?
I forgot to take a good photo of the centerpiece, a huge pot of beef ball soup (here's Kathy's photo). The beef balls were super dense and smooth with a bit of a sproingy texture. They had a bit of a funky flavor, perhaps from fish sauce.
Much funkier than the beef balls was the steamed salted fish with pork and ginger. The fish (which is sort of poking out in the bottom left part of the bowl) was super salty and funky, but those flavors were offset by the pork and ginger...and gobs of rice. I ate gobs of rice with pretty much everything. I'M CHINESE, THAT'S HOW I ROLL.
For dessert we shared a box of mochi from Mochicream...which closed that day. So no Mochicream for you. I guess they have locations in Japan, but their stand at Shirokiya in the Ala Moana Center has been replaced with a Mikawaya ice cream mochi stand, which seems less special since it's not hard to find Mikawaya's mochi in stores. The mochi from Mochicream weren't filled with ice cream, but some other sort of...cream, best served chilled. While tasty, I wouldn't prefer it over regular mochi. I'd rather eat more mochi than cream.
Here's Kathy's adorable dog Buddy. He's at least 14 years old, and it shows; he has a wobbly walk due to a busted front knee cap, and his hair is falling out (you can see a patch on his butt in the above photo). :( But he seems to be doing alright for his age. He's particularly fond of having his belly scratched, but if you flip him over on his back he can't roll back over without help. Aw. It's sort of funny in a sad way.
Eating a big home cooked family meal, something I rarely do, was a great way to spend my first night in Honolulu. I don't have anything against my relatives; we're just not close. One major similarity between this meal and a big family meal I might have with my relatives was that I couldn't understand what anyone was saying 75% of the time. You think I would've picked up some Chinese over the last 24 years of my life, but, as I tell most people, I only remember a few words from my early childhood, the most prominent one being "dapigu." THANKS A BUNCH, MOM AND DAD! (My parents spoke to my brother and me in English, and to each other in Chinese.)
I would've visited Honolulu years ago if not for Kathy's insistence that I visit when her family moved into their new house that they'd been working on for five years (her dad's an architect). And it looks like the work paid off; look at that beautiful living room. Crazy high ceilings and windows-for-walls = AWESOME HOUSE. Alas, the house still has quite a ways to go before it's finished; I woke up each morning to the sound of clanging and drilling and other noises that indicate a house is being built. But it worked out fine since we had to wake up early anyway. Also, since they didn't have Internet installed yet, I went to bed around midnight every night. That is crazy early in my world. CRAZY.
And that's her "looks like the set of Lost" backyard. Nice.
There's the end of Night 1 (plus a bit of the next morning). There are about 500000 more virtual calories coming your way. Soon. I hope.