qian asked: What do you miss about Hawai'i?
So many things. I think this is going to have to be in list form. Most of the things on it involve food. As you will see from the list, modern Hawai’ian food is derived from the many Asian cultures that comprise the population.
- Stinky pickle sushi. This is pickled radish, usually dyed fluorescent yellow, wrapped in rice and seaweed makizushi style. It is so delicous. Sweet and salty at the same time. I will also happily eat a large quantity of stinky pickle on its own. Nearly impossible to find on the mainland (US) in sushi restaurants. Stinky pickle (or “daikon radish”) can sometimes be found in jars in Asian supermarkets.
- Malasadas. Incredibly light and fluffy doughnuts with no hole in the middle. Preferably from Leonard’s.
- Manapua. Steamed stuffed dumplings. As it says on Wikipedia, “[i]ts name is a shortening of the Hawaiian mea ʻono puaʻa, meaning, "delicious thing with pork inside." OH YES.
- Guava, Coconut, Sweet Sop. All fruits that could be had straight off the tree in Hawai’i. I often had them for breakfast. I also miss good, properly ripened mango and papaya.
- Saimin. Ramen noodles in broth with a variety of things on top, including fishcake and Spam. Spam is not weird in Hawai’i. It was a staple for a long time. I don’t know if it still is any more, but I grew up with it (and condensed milk) because both were much cheaper than the fresh versions. I think a lot of people often forget that Hawai’i is a set of tiny islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles from large tracts of arable land. The fresh versions of things that many people on the mainland take for granted are expensive to import.
- Lumpia. Fried egg roll with pork inside. Made by my many aunties. SO GOOD.
- Chicken malunggay. Basically, chicken soup, made with cheap bits of chicken and malunggay leaves. We had a malunggay tree in our garden. Its pungent flavour is indescribable. The soup served the same purpose as the blander mainland chicken noodle version: you always got given it when you were sick.
- Hanauma Bay. We used to go there most weekends, very early in the morning when it was still cool and the fish were quite close to the shore. We brought a bag of frozen peas to feed the fish, and the colourful parrotfish, wrasse and smaller specimens would form rings around us as we threw them in the water. As I got bigger, I would body-board by myself out to the edge of the reef and see larger, shyer fish like the squirrelfish and huge tube fish. Since then, the spiraling visitor numbers and the damage they were doing to the coral reefs prompted changes to the site access (including an entrance fee) that would certainly have knocked it off our regular destination list when I was a child. No one is allowed to feed the fish - let alone frozen peas! - any more. I’m sad that I would no longer be able to reenact the experience I had there as a child, but I understand the necessity for preserving the habitat.
- Fresh shellfish. Fresh, as in going down to the beach with members of my (rather large) extended Filipino family, harvesting mussels and barbecuing them right there. Also probably not allowed any more in Honolulu, although I can’t imagine such restrictions being enforceable in the less densely populated areas.
- Holidays on the outer islands. Even paradise has its gradations of idyllatry. My parents had a timeshare condo on Kauai when I was small, and the beaches there were just incredible. Miles of fine blonde sand, crystal clear water and not another soul in sight.
- Muumuus. A muumuu is a loose-fitting, patterned, brightly-coloured dress made of light fabric. They’re so comfortable in hot, humid climates and they look really pretty on just about everyone.
- Pidgin English. I’ve forgotten most of it, but I occasionally find myself calling something I can’t remember the name of “da kine”, or describing a hole in a sock as a “pooka”, or asking someone to pass the “shoyu” (soy sauce). It crops up more frequently when I’m tired.
There are more, but it’s nearly midnight where I am and almost 8 am in the UK, so I need to go to bed before my brain properly processes these conflicting signals and decides to torture my body by keeping it awake.
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