Category: Summer 2019



AKING A HEAP OF RAW INGREDIENTS and transforming them with fire and spice into a creation all your own can make you feel alive, daring and powerful. A few of Hawai‘i’s kitchen magicians extoll the virtues of going “off-recipe.” 

A clean plate and a request for seconds — these are the hallmarks of a win at the dinner table. And when you’ve invited guests to dine, hearing the words, “I simply must have this recipe!” is music to a home cook’s ears. But chances are, there’s much more going on behind the scenes than dutiful allegiance to a set of instructions. 

While recipes can be super useful when you’re aiming for predictability, what’s life without a little spontaneity? In food writer Philip Dundas’ book Cooking Without Recipes, he promises that risk-taking yields great rewards, challenging readers to venture beyond the shackles of scripts and see their kitchen as a playground with great potential. While there’s a certain sense of ease and security that comes with following recipes, relying on them too much can mean missed opportunities to apply your cumulative cooking skills in a creative way. For the home cooks we interviewed, the concoctions that pop out of their oven (or skillet, or crock pot) are usually one part imitation, two parts improvisation. 


O‘ahu’s Dabney Gough rarely follows a recipe on the nights she makes dinner for herself and her husband, usually in the Instant Pot, the plug-in rapid pressure cooker that’s gained a cult following for its convenience factor. Soups dominate her dinner table, she says, since, “They’re super healthy, inexpensive and there’s room for infinite creativity.” 

Dabney’s ideas for soups and other inventive dishes usually come from taking an ingredients-first approach. “I have a minimalist lifestyle, so I don’t like to have too many ingredients on hand,” she says. “Maybe something catches my eye at the farmer’s market, or I’ll just see what I have at home and go from there.” 

A self-proclaimed rule follower, Dabney’s culinary school background helped her to absorb the basics of cooking enough to improvise, but she still relies on the expertise of others when attempting new types of dishes. “If I’m doing a cuisine I’m not familiar with, I’ll stick to the recipe the first time just to get a feel for the ratios of spices,” she says. 

Recently she went on an Indian-food-in-the-Instant-Pot kick, inspired by a Facebook group: “It was my first time doing something like this, so I found a recipe for lemon rice with turmeric, curry leaves and cashews and it came out great.” Instant Pot Lemon Rice:


Conscious of the toll meat production takes on the environment, Alethea Lai enjoys thinking up new vegetarian dishes for her partner and son to serve at their Puako, Big Island dinner table. 

“When I have a lot of veggies I have to go through, I’ll make a super veggie sauce using fresh tomatoes from Kawamata Farms,” she says. “It becomes harder to make food taste good when you’re limited to vegetables, so I’m working with more spices now. We like a lot more garlic and ginger than most people.” 

Though she tends to go by the book when trying something new, “I never follow recipes to a T,” Alethea insists. And while she often swaps ingredients to make her meals more local or customizes the spiciness to fit her family’s tastes, she doesn’t make a habit of skipping steps written into recipes, “… since that’s where you really build your flavor structure,” she says. 

On Taco Tuesdays, Alethea likes to hand-make the corn tortillas, letting texture be her guide: “Once you know what the dough should feel like when you roll it out, you don’t forget that,” she says. For a recent dinner-and-a-movie night with the family, she looked up the Quail in Rose Petal Sauce recipe made famous in the film Like Water for Chocolate and added some fun tweaks: “I substituted the chestnuts for macadamia nuts, and the prickly pear fruit purée for local ‘ohelo berry jam. I also made my own stock from the bones of local organic chickens and sourced the roses from an organic garden in Waimea.” Quail in Rose Petal Sauce:


Ha‘ikū, Maui home cook Barry Frankel had a grand old time during the 12 intense weeks he spent at a California culinary academy in his late 20s, where he felt instantly at home in the commercial kitchen. The experience helped him acquire the techniques and confidence to be able to “wing it” in his daily meal prep today, and when he’s entertaining family and friends.

“I’ll typically look at three or four recipes and then combine them or use my own knowledge to figure out what works,” Barry says, often gravitating to meals that fit with the weather patterns. “My new best friend is the cast iron skillet. I’ve been cooking up a lot of comfort foods during the colder nights — beef stew, jambalaya, sauteéd fish with curry sauce — but as we move into summer, I’ll do much more barbequing. ” He’s also a fan of mixing up his own dry rubs to try out on meat and fish after friends gift him with various exotic spices they find while traveling. 

A big part of Barry’s cooking game is the clever use of leftovers. “I took some leftover chicken soup and dumped it in my cast iron pan and threw an egg on it, scooped it out and set it onto a tortilla with some cilantro and avocado,” he says. “It was actually pretty close to this time-honored Middle Eastern dish called shakshuka. Now it’s one of my go-to meals.” 

His advice for successful improvisation? “We have this natural sensibility to eat foods that are in season at the moment,” he says. “If you combine that with what’s available locally, you’re going to have better results.” Shakshuka:


Yes, recipes are essential, especially when you’re learning the ins and outs of a new dish or testing out an unfamiliar type of cuisine. But if you’ve got visions of whipping up edible masterpieces out of thin air, you might want to invest a little time and effort into reviewing some fundamental cooking truths first. After all, legendary painter Jackson Pollock mindfully studied the principles of representational art so he could go on to literally paint outside the lines and invent a new style known as abstract expression. 

If you’re more of a rule-follower by nature than a free spirit, not to worry. Becoming a better off-the-cuff cook starts with observing how heat affects food — not just learning the difference, say, between baking, simmering and sautéeing, but actually discerning how these cooking styles alter both physical structure and taste. For instance, pan-roasting and grilling are both popular “dry-heat” methods of cooking meat. But since the direct flame of a gas or charcoal grill tends to zap the flavorful fats rather quickly, roasting is often preferable for larger cuts. 

Another step on the journey to freestyle cooking success is understanding the ways in which various ingredients combine to form new flavor profiles — like how garlic and rosemary complement each other nicely, or how adding an acidic ingredient such as vinegar or citrus can help bring something bland to life. 


Before you take off the training wheels, pay attention to the ratios and proportions that work in the recipes you’re making. Then, instead of pulling out your measuring spoons, remember that a tablespoon is about the size of an ice cube and see if you can eyeball it. If a recipe calls for one-fourth of a cup of something, picture a large egg. Estimating measurements can be empowering and help guide you toward inventing dishes with a balanced flavor-profile. (A quick Google search can provide you with a list of visualizations.)

In Season 3 of Netflix’s makeover show Queer Eye, resident food expert Antoni gave viewers a handy “3-2-1 ratio” to nail a pie crust from scratch — three parts flour, two parts fat and one part liquid. Once you internalize rough guidelines like this, it’ll be a cinch to adjust ingredient amounts based on your family’s preferences. 

You can also use your senses and intuition to guide you — evaluating smell, texture, and taste as you go along for results no recipe can deliver. Finally, our panelists offered the advice that adding ingredients gradually, frequently checking for doneness to avoiding overcooking, and “seasoning to taste” are all good anchor practices for creative home cooks. 


Ad libbing a dish is not unlike composing a symphony, with ingredients, temperature and timing as your instruments. As you embark upon adventures in “cooking outside the lines,” remember the words of fantasy writer Erin Morgenstern: “You don’t have to be a chef or even a particularly good cook to experience proper kitchen alchemy: the moment when ingredients combine to form something more delectable than the sum of their parts. Fancy ingredients or recipes not required; simple, made-up things are usually even better.” [eHI]

What’s your cooking style — recipe-follower or rule-breaker? Insightful responses from our recent Facebook poll:

Joanie: I wing it but didn’t in the beginning. I am a super-taster, so I can usually adjust by tasting it!

Linda: I like trying new recipes that look good but I don’t have the confidence to just throw things together. I like having a format that has proportions that have already been tested. 

Julia: I wing it 90% of the time… I like a lot of flavor, and I have found most recipes are boring.

Liana: When you cook often you know your flavors and what you can add take out or would work best for you. Often I will look at several recipes for the same thing and take elements I like.

Andrea: I very rarely use recipes, but it’s because I spent years following recipes, readings recipes and creating recipes as a chef/educator. That gave me the skill set to just “wing it,” even though it’s not really winging it…

Amber: Occasionally I use recipes for more authentic dishes from other places and cultures, but when I’m just cooking at home I make stuff up.

Daniel: Master the gold standard first. Be creative second.

Nia: Most of the time I follow a recipe, just because when I get home from work or the gym I don’t have the brain energy to be creative. I come from a science and lab background, so I feel very comfortable following recipes, and I’m out of my comfort zone when I try to wing it.

Victoria: I usually use the recipe for inspiration and then tweak it with what I think would add more or taste better. Not all recipes are winners, and neither are my tweaks — but this is how I build my own recipes from basic chocolate chip cookies to pasta dishes.

Natalie: I often use a recipe like a template. It gives me an idea of how to measure flavors, especially in new recipes. But I almost always change quite a bit.

Aimee: I usually cook by improvisation. What do I have on hand? How much effort do I feel like making? What sounds good tonight? The exception is when I bake; it requires more precision and I know it’s pretty easy to mess up if I don’t have the proportions and chemistry right.



With just a few ingredients and a free afternoon you truly can prepare your own homemade charcoal!

Why would anyone want to make their own charcoal, you ask? For one thing, good, hardwood lump burns hotter and cleaner than briquettes do, and is much easier to light. You also know where it came from, what it contains and what was done to it en route.


1. Source of fire: I use a back-yard fire pit. A propane heater or even a grill could also be used.

2. Empty metal paint can: It’s a good idea to make sure the paint can is completely clean as residual paint can put off toxic fumes. Poke or drill three holes in the lid. These holes should be about an eighth of an inch in diameter.

3. Wood: Different types of wood have different uses. Hard woods, such as oak and hickory, are better for heating and blacksmithing, while soft woods, such as pine and willow are better for making gunpowder. Experiment with different types of wood to suit your purpose.


When building the fire, wait and make sure that it will maintain a steady heat for at least four to five hours. I like to have my fire going for an hour or two before I start cooking the charcoal. This gives me a nice steady coal bed to cook over and a nice break to enjoy some sun and a brew. 

Propane already gives a steady heat from the start, so no need to preheat. 

Once the fire situation is in order, fill the can with your choice of wood. Try to use uniform pieces, which will give a more consistent end product. If using a variety of sizes, line the can with larger pieces, and place the smaller ones in the center. It’s also helpful to use dry or seasoned wood.

Tilt the can on its corner and place it over the half-burnt logs near the center of the fire where there’s an even heat. Make sure the holes in the can are facing up.


At this point I like to relax a bit with another brew and enjoy the fire. This part takes a few hours. Turn the can over once or twice, making sure that the heat stays hot and even, but not blazing.

As the wood heats, steam and gasses escape through the holes in the lid. The goal is to cook out everything but the carbon. Cooking the wood while starving it of oxygen is the retort method of making charcoal.

At first, the steam escaping will appear white. As the steam darkens, keep a closer eye on it. The darker gasses show that the essential oils are burning off. These gasses are flammable and will eventually ignite, making three small torches out of the holes in the lid.

When this happens, it’s time to take it off the fire.

PLEASE NOTE: DO NOT take off the lid at this point! Simply place the extremely hot can in a safe, cool place with the holes facing down. Introducing oxygen to the coal at this point would cause it to burn up immediately, leaving you with ashes.

Wait at least a few hours for everything to cool completely before revealing your homemade charcoal. And lastly, enjoy! [eHI]




FIRE, THE DESTROYER, the purifier; get close to it for warmth, for illumination; feel the fire of passion, feel power; find hope in its flames and knowledge. It may be that fire signifies so much for us because it is one of the things that makes us who we are. Humans are the only beings to have controlled fire and with it, we cook. 

Perhaps it was serendipity, a hominid banging rocks together and creating a spark that caught, or maybe it was inspiration from a wildfire, cautiously transferred then constrained in a small pit in a cave somewhere. It must have been pure experimentation to throw a hunk of meat on the open flames, but then for the first time in history we watched the fat begin to drip and sizzle and an aroma wafted unlike any before. We were cooking. 

Every human culture cooks. Every other Netflix show is about traveling for, cooking with or trying new food. We spend more time planning, shopping for, and cooking meals than we do eating them. To discuss cooking, or the act of putting food to fire, is to open discussions of history, chemistry, geography and human physiology. There is more to cooking than meets the mouth. 


The harnessing of fire was an immense turning point in our human evolution. When exactly the first controlled fire burned is still heavily debated, as the evidence mostly went up in flames. Some argue that it was as long as 1.5 million years ago but most scholars can agree upon at least 400,000 years ago. At that point, we were still the Homo erectus version of ourselves but it didn’t take us long to discern that besides the truly major advantages of warmth and protection, fire could also cook food. 

Before this point, our diet consisted mostly of seeds, flowers, fruits and – at times – raw meat. The heat of fire, however, chemically and physically transforms food and its advent transformed not only how humans eat, but possibly humans themselves. While cooking meat causes it to lose calories due to fat melting out, it also kills parasites, making it less likely to cause food poisoning, and also reduces the amount of energy it takes to chew and digest. Meat became a staple of the early human diet. 

Then there is the somewhat controversial theory, first hypothesized by Frederich Engels in 1876 and expanded on by Richard Wrangham in 2009, that the ability to cook with fire gave Homo erectus such a sudden surplus of nutrients and energy that, over time, it allowed human brain size to increase. This view suggests that cooking with fire transformed us from our ape-like ancestors to the backyard barbecuing Homo sapiens we are now. 



“There’s something very primal and raw about cooking with live fire. The flavor, the texture is all very natural,” says Noah Hester, chef and owner of Fox BBQ in Kamuela on Hawai‘i Island. He prepares southern-style barbecue in a 28-foot-long custom trailer wood fire smoker and grill. Chef Noah says he’s always been excited by cooking with fire, “You have to harness and control this uncontrollable thing. At the same time, restaurant cooking involves fire. Every cook in the world has that desire [to harness].” 

It has been merely 150 years since the gas range became common in household kitchens. Before that, kitchen fires burned almost consistently because, before matches, getting a fire started was much more of a process. Now, with the appearance of electric stovetops and microwaves (if we can really even call this cooking), the closest many Americans get to cooking with live fire is the backyard barbecue, and even then, most are gas or charcoal. Gone are the days where the knowledge of how to start a fire and maintain a desired temperature was necessary to cook anything. Perhaps it is this disconnect that has us seeking out experiences of food being cooked in a more age-old way. 

Chef Noah reflects on the Outstanding in the Field dinner he participated in, held in a pasture used for raising lambs in North Kohala. The objective was to cook a five-course meal for 250 people using only natural fire. He remembers it was a rainy, chilly day, “And as guests arrived they walked past this open fire pit being worked with shovels and branches. There were big chunks of lamb being cooked on stones surrounding the fire pit, so the smell was incredible. The fire pit all of a sudden became this gathering place where people started talking to each other and mingling. It really helped bring everyone together over common warmth and the promise of delicious meat. It set the pace for the dinner, and conversations that had started around the fire continued on through the event. I think seeing and smelling the food cooking over this fire and then tasting the finished product really made it that much better.” 


A steady trickle of smoke streams from the chimney of Linae Cruz’s log cabin trailer, accompanied by an aroma of burning kiawe, ribs, pork shoulder and brisket she’s been told can be smelled a mile away. Smokey Ranch BBQ offers Texas-style, pit-smoked meat and fixings in Waimanalo on O‘ahu. God’s Country sure smells heavenly with Linae cooking in it. 

“Most of the flavor of smoke is actually perceived through our smell,” she says. We understand how important the olfactory nerves are to our sense of flavor only in instances where we have a head cold or our nose is stuffed. Food just doesn’t taste the same. It takes a trifecta of information sent from our taste buds to the brain; physical and visual stimulation, such as how the food feels and looks, combines with our sense of smell to equal flavor in food. Moreover, our tongue can identify only sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami (savory) flavors, so when something tastes smoky to us, it is because it smells smoky to us. 

“I think it’s important to note that smoke shouldn’t be considered an ingredient to a recipe. The ultimate goal is that perfect smoke ring when you cut into the meat. It’s kind of like cutting through a tree trunk. If done correctly, you’ll see a distinct array of rings with the outer layer sealing in the juices and flavors,” says Linae. 

She feels that cooking food in this way will never go out of style or become outdated because it’s ingrained in our ancestral DNA. “I believe the smell of burning wood is associated with feasts and happy moments,” she says. “When we come together as people, food is an important element. We celebrate, we converse, we contemplate the world over food.” 



One of the most diverse components of human cultures around the world is how we put food to fire. Chef Leo Antunez is an Uruguayan now living on Kaua`i with his own catering business. He remembers growing up with a country life, a fire pit inside his house, and discovering a passion for cooking as a child.

The parrilla is a South American barbecue but Chef Leo has adapted it to the flora and fauna of Kaua`i, burning guava and ironwood, grilling local meats and vegetables as often as possible. “A traditional parrilla starts with the gathering of wood, finding the best location, checking out the weather and the direction of the winds,” he explains. Once the fire is burning strong, a metal grill is set above the flames for half an hour to sanitize and prepare it for cooking. The grill is then removed, the fire itself is transferred to the side, and the grill is replaced on top of the hot coals. On goes the lamb, chicken, pork, vegetables, or, traditionally in Uruguay, the organs of the cow, known as chinchulines, served as an appetizer paired with homemade bread, wine and cheese.

The parrillero’s job is then to shovel more hot coals from the fire to under the parrilla, being sure to place them in a circle in order to evenly distribute the heat. This part requires attention, patience and “let[ting] the fire do its thing.” The process is repeated until the food is cooked to perfection. 

“Manning the parrilla requires a lot of dedication and love,” says Chef Leo, “I am in love with fire, I really care for it. It can tell stories, the wood has different stories to tell. Fire used to be the T.V. of the people.” 


Two invasive species, the Axis Deer and the Kiawe tree are a perfect match, just add fire. Chef Yeshua Goodman grew up cooking over fire while camping at La Perouse and in Hana on Maui. He now runs Kiawe Outdoor, holding open-flame cooking events on the island and beyond with menus centered around sustainably caught and invasive species. “If we can’t do it sustainably for the next generation then it goes against everything that Hawaiian culture is about,” he says. 

The process of hunting a deer or catching a fish with a single line, of opting to eat canoe crops, utilizing an imu, or pounding kalo: these things are far from the easiest way to make a meal, rather, they exemplify cooking with deep intention. 

“Cooking with open fire is universal, it really strikes a cord. For millennia, it was the only way to prepare a meal; somewhere in the last century we got away from it in favor of convenience and indoor cooking,” Chef Yeshua says. “The challenge of it is part of the beauty. Tell me I can’t pull off Michelin level food in a field and I’ll set out to do just that. But we do more than just cook with fire, we’re about the whole experience. When you cook over fire, surrounded by your friends and family on the side of a volcano in Maui, watching the sunset and sipping on great wine, the experience is unlike anything else.” 

So while the origins of cooking with fire began with a human need for sustenance, it is now perhaps more of a wistful act, a social experience and open-air therapy. Fire demands we remain present and as we work with a powerful force of nature. Chef Yeshua knows firsthand, “There’s magic in the flames and it brings us back to a special place where the earth and the smoke season the food.” [eHI]




We invite a community member to TALK STORY and share a personal experience related to our issue theme. Would you like to talk story with our readers? Send us an email at

I READ AN ARTICLE RECENTLY that it started some 1.5 million years ago! Passed down from generation to generation, my quest for grilling perfection started about thirty years ago on a leased ranch in South Texas, around a family made fireplace which I helped to build brick by brick. At this hearth, I watched my Dad cook all the different game we killed. We had a very rigid family rule that if you shot it, you had to eat it – no waste. There was a wide range of game prepared around this hearth: venison, wild pig, nelgi, dove, quail, rabbit, and the occasional rattlesnake. (No, rattlesnake does not taste like chicken.) 

You really need to know your way around a fire pit to cook all the different types of game we had the opportunity to hunt. I loved all of them, but if you asked me which one was my favorite, I would have to say dove. That might seem odd at first, but I base it on the whole experience from start to finish — from opening day, to shooting, finding, cleaning, and the culmination of having a big family BBQ at the end of the season. This is where we shared all the funny, exciting, and sometime scary stories of the hunt – stories about jumping cactus, rattlesnakes and some pretty bad shots. In South Texas, if you have not been peppered by no. 8 shot, you haven’t been dove hunting enough times. 

While this was a fun and exciting time in my life, I also began to pick up that the real way to eat exactly what I wanted was to cook for myself. Embarking into my college life, I realized that if I was going to live alone, I needed to learn how to cook. My mom made me a cook notebook with all of my favorite recipes, which I still reference today. At that time, cooking was not a real passion, it just got me what I needed: dinner. Then I learned I could impress friends on the weekend with homemade beef stroganoff and pot roast. Cooking seemed to come easy to me, while friends and neighbors struggled with taste, consistency and quality. Of course, grilling on a college budget meant grilling hamburgers and hotdogs. Grilling hotdogs is a fine art of char and blistering without burning. You need the right temperature, correct distance from the heat, the ever-present flame and the right dog (Hebrew National). You can make many a friend if you can consistently and correctly do this. I also figured out that I could impress dates with homemade cooking – thanks Mom!

Over the next 20 years, I learned my way around backyard grilling. I was looking to be the best amongst friends and to do so, I learned how to use all four elements: earth for the meat, wood (mesquite) for fire, the right amount of air for the temperature, and sometimes the 4th element, water, for control. Once I get the fire to the desired state, which is always different for different meats, I begin to work with all five of my senses. 

I start with my eyesight, looking for that perfect fire, and I listen to the crackle for the right burn consistency. After I get the steak on, I go by feel, letting the fire breath around whatever I am cooking. When I flip the meat I take notice of its firmness. At this point I might add some more wood for a light smoky aroma. Now that I’ve used 4 of my senses, I figure out the perfect time to pull the meat. Finally, the best and sometimes most rewarding part of grilling is tasting the first bite! Each time I grill, even if it’s the same cut of meat, it will taste slightly different – that’s what makes tasting so rewarding. 

You can read all the cook books, YouTube the latest how-to-grill video, watch neighbors, and ask friends, but the real key is putting in hours, hours, and more hours on the grill. As many say, practice makes perfect, and this is so true when it comes to grilling. 

There is nothing better in my life than a beautiful, sunny, backyard day, with smoke gently rising and friends sharing stories and laughter while I grill. [eHI]

Sam Wilburn moved to the Big Island from Texas 9 years ago. He has a degree in architecture from Texas Tech but, in his heart, is an entrepreneur. He founded Hawaiian Volcano Sea Salt in 2011, and has since grown it into a successful small business.



THE Hawai‘i DEPICTED ON TELEVISION and in film, on people’s Instagram accounts during and post-vacation, in advertisements and commercials—that Hawai‘i does not exist. Hawai‘i is wildness and scent and taste, smoke and lava and sweat and the pounding of poi, Hawai‘i is the wai, the water, thrusting through valleys, Hawai‘i is a collision of flavor born of the cultures that arrived here over the past centuries. And Hawai‘i is rarely depicted as holistically—or as deliciously—as it is in Maui native Alana Kysar’s debut Aloha Kitchen: Recipes from Hawai‘i (Ten Speed Press, 2019).

Aloha Kitchen delivers a visceral experience of the islands through photographs, food, and stories, tracing the culinary bloodlines of seven distinct regions of influence that inform local Hawai‘i cuisine. From native Hawaiian and Japanese to Filipino, Chinese to Portuguese, and Korean to European, Kysar reveals the imprint of immigration, colonialism, and plantation life on food in Hawai‘i, past and present. With a deft history lesson, Kysar illuminates Hawai‘i’s journey to statehood, and, for readers unfamiliar, clarifies the difference between local food (the food resulting from Hawai‘i’s collective regions of influences) and native Hawaiian cuisine—while forever abolishing the fetishization of “Hawaiian” food as anything containing ham or pineapple.

Kysar herself grew up in Kula, Maui, where the flavors of her Hilo-born, Japanese-American mother’s mochiko chicken and her Californian father’s taste for French fare informed her competence and creativity in the kitchen. After solidifying her eye as a photography coordinator at Williams-Sonoma, Kysar created Fix Feast Flair, a food and travel blog that showcased an uncommon talent. In 2015, Kysar’s stunning photography and distinctive recipes garnered her a SAVEUR magazine Blog Awards win for Best New Voice. But the more immersed Kysar became in the world of food media, the more she recognized the need for a cookbook that properly represented the food that informed her most intrinsic culinary proclivities: local Hawai‘i food.

In Aloha Kitchen, Kysar presents a work unrivaled in its ability to catalog and represent the diverse culinary voices that comprise local Hawai‘i cuisine. Kysar’s humble voice, generous spirit, and meticulous, approachable recipes—from classics like lomi salmon and the anatomy of a plate lunch to deep cuts like squid lū’au, pansit, and cascaron—make it an instant classic.

The book opens with stunning vistas of Hawai‘i’s backyards and shorelines, evoking the local lifestyle its pages so effortlessly embody. 

Kysar describes: The aloha spirit…‘is the coordination of mind and heart within each person. It brings each person to the self. Each person must think and emote good feelings to others. Aloha must be extended with no obligation in return, and to live aloha, you must ‘hear what is not said, see what cannot be seen, and know the unknowable.’

Aloha Kitchen carries the potency of this charge to live, forge relationships, and cook “…placing the aloha spirit at the core of relationships and actions.” 

Aloha Kitchen introduces 85 recipes from pantry staples like pickled mango, chili pepper water, and prune mui to pūpū and snacks, meats and seafood, noodles, and luscious desserts (including a heavenly sea salt and coconut-topped butter mochi). There’s even a mai tai crafted by two-time “World’s Best Mai Tai” champion and Honolulu’s Bar Leather Apron owner, Justin Park.

Kysar’s Aloha Kitchen is a gift to Hawai‘i, and anyone lucky enough to taste the food that embodies the state’s history, diversity, and power. Welcome to the Aloha Kitchen: You won’t ever want to leave. [eHI]




Found (Fun Finds Summer 2019)


The Big Green Egg is the brand name of a kamado-style, ceramic, charcoal barbecue cooker. The Egg is a versatile cooking device capable of acting as a grill, oven, or smoker. It’s built to last and stand the test of time. Contact Greg Askew (808) 238-6565 if you’re interested in upgrading your grill game.



Ok, so you have your local meat and vegetables and are ready to barbecue. Make the right choice and BBQ over local wood. We found a company that will ship Hawaiian wood for your BBQ needs, and yes, it does matter what wood you choose to cook your food with. Online sales only at




Salt is one of the most important spices any cook can use. 

Hawaiian Volcano Sea Salt is a seriously high-quality, 

delicious salt. It’s cold smoked and the flavor profiles 

are amazing. Best of all – they ship worldwide. 






Course: Condiment
Author: edible Hawaiian Islands


  • Heavy-Bottom Frying Pan
  • Heavy-Bottom Medium Saucepan
  • Mason Jar
  • Tongs


  • 2 Cups Peanut Oil
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • ½ Cup Chili Powder
  • ½ Cup Chili Flakes
  • 3 Tbsp. Sichuan Peppercorns
  • 4 Star Anise
  • 8 Cardamom Pods
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 2 tsp. Kosher Salt


  • Over low to medium heat warm up oil and keep warm.
  • In frying pan, heat all the spices except salt over medium to low heat just until aromatics are released. Be careful to not brown or burn spices.
  • Add spices plus salt to mason jar.
  • Carefully pour hot oil over spices.
  • Wait for oil to cool, stir gently.
  • Using tongs, remove some of the whole spices if desired.
  • Once cooled, cover mason jar and store oil in a cool, dark place.


Our Do It Yourself department is meant to inspire and motivate you to make items at home that you would normally buy at the store. To continue our 2019 summer issue theme of COOK and FIRE we wanted to share a condiment we use daily. It’s our version of homemade chili oil. You can certainly make it without all the additional spices but we love the extra depth of flavor.
MAKING THIS RECIPE? Share it with us on Instagram using #ediblehi so we can see what you’re cooking in your kitchen!


Letter of Aloha – Summer 2019

BACK IN 2003, I found my first copy of edible Hawaiian Islands and literally fell in love; here were all of my passions bound together in one beautiful magazine. Fast forward to 2019, and, as we begin our 16th year of publishing, it seems that both nothing and everything has changed in food, Hawaii and the world. The term farm to table may be passé, but the fundamentals – to gather, cook and share – have remained the same.

The theme for this summer issue is COOK, and I want to share a story that I hope will illustrate how important I think it is for families to share the tradition of cooking and eating together. Back in 2003, I was married and had two children: my son Noah was five years old and my daughter Lily was three years old. Back then, I made a habit of preparing homemade meals and having the whole family eat together as often as possible. I knew that with this foundation my children could survive just about any hardship. The pleasure of cooking and caring for my children was immense.

In January 2019, Lily had just completed her first semester of college and came home for the holiday break. She mentioned she wanted to cook dinner for me, and proceeded to go shopping on her own, cook everything herself and serve dinner to me. It was the most profound meal I’ve ever eaten, not to mention delicious. As she served the dinner, she thanked me for everything I’ve done to support her and I was overcome by emotion. I knew all those family dinners had real meaning and were marked in her memory. And my son Noah – who I don’t see much these days and miss him in the best possible way – I hear he often makes dinner for his girlfriend Jazmine and his own family. I can’t help but think that cooking and eating together has benefits that stretch beyond the kitchen.

In addition to cooking, reading is another activity that I hold dear. Please take some time to read edible Hawaiian Islands together with your family. Consider showing additional support by becoming a subscriber.