1. How important is sourcing locally made oil to your business for self sustainability factor?
We work hard to find and use local products at Hukilau Lanai. Produce, fish and meats are all pretty easy to get our hands on. This is the first cooking oil produced in Hawaii that I have used. Each year (weʻre 16 years old this month) there seems to be more products available. Of course quality trumps all, so we canʻt use a local product unless it is of high quality. I believe we have it with both oils.
2. How did you use the oil? Be specific to sunflower oil or macadamia nut oil.
I made a Kona Kanpachi Poke Bowl using both oils. The Kanpachi poke was tossed with avocado, cucumber, onion, limu and a yuzu, white soy & sunflower oil vinaigrette. It was served on a bed of macadamia nut rice which was infused with the macadamia nut oil. The raw fish was topped with a yuzu kosho aioli made with the sunflower oil.
3. Please describe the macadamia nut oil and sunflower oil’s appearance, scent, texture, and taste, both raw and cooked. One or two word descriptions are fine. If a certain quality stands out, please elaborate.
The macadamia nut oil is crazy flavorful. It does to macadamia nuts what sesame oil does to sesame seeds. Neat toasted nutty cacao flavor really comes through. The macadamia nut oil is a great flavor enhancer. I added a tablespoon of oil to two cups cooked (warm) rice with toasted diced macadamia nuts and a pinch of salt. This was the bed for the poke bowl. The clear oil has a brown hue and is slightly viscous similar to sesame oil. Cooking the macadamia nut oil broke it down rapidly. I see it being a finishing oil more then a cooking oil.
The sunflower oil is a pretty yellowish green color. It has a similar viscosity to olive oil. It has a rich somewhat green flavor that I would compare to some California olive oils. The rich green earthy flavor was really accentuated when I used it to make the aioli. The oil stood up well to heat. I seared some fresh fish in it and was really pleased with the result. I can see using this oil as a cooking medium.
4. Did you find anything surprising about the oils?
I was surprised at the complex flavors of both oils. They couldn’t be more different from one another. The macadamia nut oil has so much going on. I shared a blind taste with several sous chefs and cooks. I wish you could have seen their expressions. They lit up, smiled, and said, “Wow! What is that?” They too were impressed.
Chef/Owner Ron Miller began his Hukilau Lanai journey as Executive Chef in 2002 when the restaurant opened. At that time, Ron began searching for interesting local products to serve. Exciting new partnerships were formed, many of whom still contribute to the menu today. Sixteen years later the small produce farmers and local artisans abound, and the possibilities seem endless. Local fisher-people have always played a starring role on the Hukilau Lanai menu. The restaurant is a certified member of the Monterey Aquarium Seafood Watch Program, which helps guide consumers and buyers to sustainable seafood buying choices. When choosing a product, Chef Ron strives to source Kauai first, neighbor island second, and mainland last. Hukilau Lanai has always been a collaborative effort, and a talented and dedicated kitchen staff help keep consistent quality at the forefront. Most nights, Ron can be found where he likes it best, working the line in the kitchen.