We arrived at our new house in Hawi, at the north end of the Big Island (Hawaii, the island, not to be confused with Hawaii, the entire state). Hawi is best known as the finish line in the Hawaii Ironman competition, which has been postponed from October 2021 to March 2022, based on current Covid conditions. All of Hawaii is suffering from a high caseload, primarily from infection of unvaccinated individuals. Visitors are welcome if they are vaccinated or can show a recent negative Covid test. Everyone wears masks indoors and at crowded outdoor venues like the farmers market.
Not surprising for us, the farmers market was our first stop on Saturday, the day after we arrived. The market is small here, with booths alternating spaces rather than side by side. One very nice thing about this market was the freshness of the locally grown items for sale. We bought a pineapple, a couple of passionfruit, and a few other items. Jonathan picked out a length of ginger root that was fresh and pinkish, easy to peel. Usually, the outside of ginger is papery and brown and has to be carved off. We plan to return to the farmers market for more to make crystallized ginger.
Bananas grow in many people’s backyard and are stubbier than the Cavendish, grocery store variety. They taste the same. We found a stalk of bananas hung up by our host and ripening. Every day we trim off a few more to eat and keep in the refrigerator. Trees in the orchard behind our house give us limes, oranges, and mangos. We may even get a drinking coconut or two. Jonathan finds this heavenly. (The banner photo at the start of this post shows our orchard.)
A visit to Costco, where everyone in Hawaii shops, was next. Having done his homework on the price of macadamia nuts, Jonathan stocked up. We don’t usually have a membership, and the immensity of Costco was daunting, but we managed to fill a shopping cart.
On the way home, we stopped at the fish market using directions from Amanda’s list, seconded by our host. You’d drive right past it without directions. It is virtually unmarked, and when we pulled in, we had that “Are we in the right place?” moment. The tiny shop presently serves one customer at a time, so we were glad the parking lot was not full. It took me a couple of visits to find their sign and figure out the name of the place (Hale I’a). On subsequent drives past, we noticed there was usually a socially distanced line coming down the steps, especially around mid-day. We bought opah-opah, a kind of snapper. We ate it sauteed, with shishito peppers that evening. At the same time, we selected a poke bowl to share for lunch. These are really delicious, and health food! (Poke bowl: Your choice of freshly cooked white or brown rice topped with your choice of poke–cubes of raw tuna or other fish, marinated in soy sauce, hot chili, wasabi, ginger or some combination. Fresh as sushi, and delicious). It was enough for lunch a second day.
With a kitchen full of ingredients, I started baking. Maybe I am fending off nerves while we await our family visitors, but I had a lot of energy to try things. First came the macadamia biscotti. If I had crystallized ginger to add, they would be even better. Next, I needed a breakfast bite, and oatmeal/macadamia/ginger scones seemed just right. I used some grated fresh ginger along with powdered ginger. The result is just the thing with my morning cup of (what else) Kona coffee.
Last, but not least, I read about mochi, the Hawaiian treat made with glutinous sweet rice flour. I found a box in about the fourth store I looked in and used a simple recipe for butter mochi. “Regular” mochi have a sweet layer wrapped around a filling, most often red bean paste. Not having been raised in a family where red bean paste is a treat, I went for the unfilled butter mochi, using coconut milk and adding a handful of dried coconut that floated to the top and made a toasty, coconutty flavored crusty top.
Mochi aren’t for everyone, as the recipe yields a soft, slightly rubbery substance that looks a bit like a blondie and tastes like sweet Cream of Wheat. I can see making them with stronger coconut flavor, ginger, chocolate or even peanut butter. I can also imagine that they might not all disappear from a buffet table in the Midwest. Mochi may be a Hawaiian treat best eaten in Hawaii.
Next stop in Hawaii is the great outdoors.