Far from the sandy beaches and sunny skies of her native Hawaii, Maay Cacal keeps her heritage alive in New York City. A founder of Polynesian Dance Productions, she and her troupe travel up and down the East Coast of the United States performing dances that truly represent Hawaiian culture. "A lot of people misrepresent our culture," May explains. "Our dancing is very authentic, and we incorporate education about the culture into all our shows."
Just as important as dancing to Hawaiian culture is its food, an instantly recognizable hybrid of Japanese, Filipino, and Korean cooking mixed with locally available ingredients—a style of cooking known as Local Food. "Hawaii is one big mixing bowl," May explains. "In the 1800s, there was a huge plantation industry. Workers from Japan, China, Korea, and the Philippines came over to work the fields. They couldn't speak to each other, so to communicate, they shared their food."
One of May's favorite Hawaiian foods is poke, a tartare-like dish that mixes fish or seafood with seaweed, scallions, onions, sesame oil, sea salt, soy sauce, and chili powder. "When I lived in Hawaii, I usually ate poke once a week," she says. "But now when I go home, I eat it every day." In Hawaii, poke is typically made with ahi or tuna. My version, made with yellowtail, is served with a spicy wasabi-inflected rouille.
1. In a large bowl, toss together the yellowtail, sesame seeds, wasabi, dried seaweed, shallots, sesame oil, tomato, scallion, chili powder, salt, garlic, chile, miso, and ginger.
2. Divide the yellowtail mixture (about 2 heaping tablespoons each) evenly among the 12 nori sheets, placing the fish in the center of each piece. Brush the ends of the nori with the egg whites and fold the edges around the filling, pressing with your fingers to seal the edges.
3. Heat a wok or a large sauté pan over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the peanut oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add half the nori rolls and sear on both sides until golden and crispy, about 30 seconds per side. Remove the nori rolls with a spatula and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain excess oil. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and repeat with the remaining nori rolls.
4. Slice each roll into 1-inch pieces and serve with the wasabi rouille. Sprinkle with the chives.
Makes 3/4 cup
1. Heat a small sauté pan over low heat. Add the garlic and almonds and toast until the almonds are golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool slightly. Add the wasabi, mayonnaise, and chili powder. Whisk in the vinegar and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.
This page created March 2010
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