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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, January 17, 2007

FOOD FOR THOUGHT
You say heka, I say hekka

By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Columnist

The e-mail has delivered informational treasures in recent weeks.

  • Hekka is heka? A question I've often been asked and never been able to answer is where the word hekka comes from. Everyone agrees that hekka is a folksy, one-pot version of the much fancier dish, sukiyaki stir-fried chicken or beef with vegetables and yam-thread noodles. Rachel Lauden, in her award-winning book, "The Food of Paradise" (Kolowalu/UH Press, 1996), says hekka was one of the first Asian recipes to receive wide acceptance; it's included in many early community cookbooks. But if you say hekka to a Japanese national, they look at you blankly; it's not a word they know.

    This bugged Mark Noguchi, a lead cook at Kona Village Resort, who decided to tackle the issue by sending an e-mail to everyone he could think of who might have an answer, including authorities at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i, the National Japanese American Historical Society and the Japanese American National Museum. The break came when the cultural center's Brian Niiya and Yaeko Habein checked a Hiroshima dictionary and learned that heka is Hiroshima-ben for sukiyaki. As many Japanese immigrants to Hawai'i were from the Hiroshima area, Noguchi theorizes that heka became hekka over time, either due to pronunciation or a Romaji misspelling (Romaji is using the Latin alphabet to write Japanese).

    If anyone out there has more of this story, I'd love to hear and share it.

  • Sugar pines. Anne Nakasone had written to ask about tiny, super-sweet pineapples she recalled from the days when her auntie used to work for a pineapple cannery, called "candy pineapple" did anyone know their proper name, or where to find them? Last week, James Sutherland of Wahiawa, who works at the Kahuku fire station and drives through "Dole country" often, wrote to answer: "It's my understanding that these are not a separate variety but usually second- or third-year product of any of several cultivars. The first fruit of the plant is a big, grade-A, cosmetically appealing pineapple. The next year it's smaller but still delicious, and the third year, smaller still. Many kama'aina prefer the smaller, some say sweeter, fruit the little sugar pine. (Also called the ratoon crop.) Cannery workers used to get these little guys because at the cannery, they were producing chunks and canned juice product in addition to the sliced whole pineapple (so smaller pineapple were acceptable). Unfortunately, since the closing of the canneries, the market is all about the fresh export, air-freight, grade-A pine. I see thousands of sugar pines rot in the fields every year."

    Auwe! Another lost Island tradition, but good to remember and store away this kind of knowledge.

    Send recipes and queries to Wanda A. Adams, Food Editor, Honolulu Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802. Fax: 525-8055. E-mail: wadams@honoluluadvertiser.com.

    For more information about our 150th anniversary cookbook, call 535-8189 (message phone; your call will be returned). You can order the cookbook online.