Wednesday, January 10, 2001
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Posted on: Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Island Pantry
New recipe collection gives favorite Island dishes a healthier touch

By Ka'ohua Lucas

My dilemma at the start of every year is finding a way to trim the pounds while still indulging my passion for local food.

Sick of the holiday excess, and with a body screaming for less

sugar and more whole food, I ran across an example of our Pacific flavors entering the mainstream kitchens on the Mainland in a book published by upscale Williams Sonoma called "Fresh & Light," (Time-Life Books, $14.95).

Lane Crowther, a Los Angeles recipe developer who tested recipes for Bon Appetit magazine and other publications, has included Island classics in this collection and made them tasty while lightening up on the fat and calories.

Her Big Island Poke owes something to Sam Choy with its quickly seared-raw preparation. But it is fast (25 minutes prep time and

10 minutes to cook), tasty and healthy. It weighs in at just 206 calories per serving, with 4 grams of fat and 2 grams of dietary fiber.

Big Island Poke

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup peeled, minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or 1 chopped Hawaiian chili pepper)
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 pound ahi fillet, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 small onion, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound coarsely chopped baby bok choy
  • 1/2 cup Chinese snow peas, trimmed

In a bowl, mix the soy sauce, ginger, garlic and chili pepper with 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Place the ahi in a bowl and mix with half the soy mixture. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes at room temperature.

Heat a large nonstick frying pan over high heat and coat the pan with 1 teaspoon sesame oil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Stir-fry the onion and bell pepper, about 4 minutes. Add the bok choy and snow peas, toss for another 2 minutes. Stir in the rest of the soy mixture. Cook for another minute.

Push the vegetables to one side of the pan and, over high heat, stir-fry the ahi with its sauce for about 2 minutes. Remove immediately (you want to just sear the ahi on the outside) and serve with vegetables underneath and ahi on top. Steamed rice would be great, too, but count the calories and limit the portion size. Serves 4.

Crowther will tell you that a little fat never hurts. In fact, it not only makes food taste better, but those essential fatty acids help transport certain vitamins through our blood stream. We need some fat for shiny hair and nice skin, too. She does, however, own up to the fact that the saturated fats from animals and tropical plants may contribute to heart disease.

Her Asian Tuna Burgers With Wasabi Mayonnaise offer more than a passing nod to Hawaii Regional Cuisine, but they count up to only 376 calories each. Instead of serving the burgers on the usual buns, she uses a sesame bagel sliced into thirds with the middle section discarded. You may have your own ideas. This is a classed-up ahi burger if ever there was one.

As you attempt to convert your favorite Island recipes to lower fat, start by taking advantage of low- or fat-free mayonnaise, sour cream and skim evaporated milk. Low-fat mayonnaise can be enhanced with wasabi from a tube and pink, pickled ginger from the supermarket refrigerator case.

Asian Tuna Burgers With Wasabi Mayonnaise

  • 1 small cucumber
  • 1 pound ahi, chopped into small pieces
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons peeled and minced ginger
  • 1 large egg white
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons fat-free mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons chopped pickled (sushi) ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons prepared wasabi
  • 4 sesame bagels, halved and toasted
  • 1 package (3.5 ounces) daikon sprouts

Using a vegetable peeler, slice the cucumber into thin ribbons lengthwise. Set aside. In a bowl, mix the ahi, green onions, ginger and egg white. Season with salt and pepper. Shape into 4 patties. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, pickled ginger and wasabi. Spread the mayo onto the toasted bagel halves. In a large nonstick pan, spray with nonstick cooking spray and cook the ahi patties until browned on one side, about 2 minutes. Turn and repeat on the other side. The inside can be still rare. Place the patties on the bagel halves and top with the cucumber and sprouts. Serves 4.

Crowther even found a way to lighten up on hoisin chicken with cake noodles, or, as she calls them in her creation, Crisp Yakisoba. Use the most tender and leanest part of the chicken tenderloin called "chicken tenders" for the best results. Fresh shiitake mushrooms are ideal for this, but if you can’t find them, the dried type are fine, too. The whole thing adds up to 595 calories per serving.

Hoisin Chicken With Crisp Yakisoba

  • 3/4l pound yakisoba noodles (wheat noodles)
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons five-spice powder
  • 2 1/2 cups washed and julienned leek (or green onions)
  • 3 Japanese egg plants, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1 pound chicken tenders, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons peeled and minced ginger
  • 2 large cloves minced garlic
  • 6 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 cup cold water

Place the noodles in a large bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Allow to stand for 5 minutes, then drain and pat dry.

Toss the noodles with 1 teaspoon of the five-spice powder. Heat a large nonstick frying pan. Coat the pan with nonstick cooking spray. Over medium-high heat, place the noodles in the pan forming a large cake, brown for about 6 minutes without turning. Slide the crisp cake noodle out of the pan onto absorbent paper, cool a little and slice into squares.

Spray more cooking spray in the pan and stir-fry the leek, egg plants, mushrooms, carrots and remaining teaspoon of five-spice powder. Stir until vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken, ginger and garlic and stir-fry until chicken is opaque, about 3 minutes. Add the hoisin sauce and cold water and stir until everything is coated. Serve with noodle squares. Serves 4.

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