Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Clearing out a pantry's load of letters, e-mails

Advertiser Columnist

 •  An updated cassoulet with a veggie spin

You know how sometimes you just have to dig into the food cupboard and start pitching things backward like a dog digging for a bone because it's time to use the stuff up or lose it? That's what I'm doing today.

I'm dealing with all those letters and e-mails I "meant" to get to.

First and most recent is a request from Vanessa Tom on smoking fish. I'm no expert on this so I'm appealing to the readership: Tom asks, do you need to glaze the fish in addition to brining it in order to get a sweeter flavor? Do you have any sure-fire tips for creating a really good flavor in smoked fish? Let's help her out if we can.

Several readers offered feedback on my recent story on saimin. Bill Lum wrote to say that the base for the broth used at a memorable saimin stand at Vineyard and Liliha Streets years ago combined dried 'opae (shrimp, aka ama ebi) and chicken feet, cooked separately and then combined. This, and other saimin tips I received, has convinced me that the key to a great saimin broth base is a touch of seafood saltiness, even if the primary ingredients are chicken or pork dried shrimp, dashi powder, katsuoboshi (shaved bonito flakes).

In response to a story I did on a classic Chinese fish dish, Lum also sent me one of the most eye-opening recipes I've ever seen. I have to give it to you just as he wrote it: "Mullet, about 1 lb. Bring water to a boil, place mullet in water, let water come to a boil again. Turn stove off and watch the fish's eyes. When it pops out, remove from water and garnish."

My eyes popped out when I read that! This was partly because I misread it at first and thought the fish eyes were popping OPEN after the fish was dead. But then I realized he said popped OUT, which, though not a pretty image, made more sense from a culinary standpoint.

In the reader request department, an anonymous e-mailer is looking for a carrot cake-bread she experienced at the Outrigger Canoe Club some time ago. "I call it cake rather than bread as it was fluffy and moist, similar to a cake, rather than a bread. It was chockful of carrots, raisins and nuts. It was the best carrot cake I ever tasted and I have tasted a lot. I inquired of the waiter where the bread was from. He said an employee has been baking it all these years."

Anybody got an in on that one?

Also in the restaurant request department, a reader named Evelyn is pining for Flamingo Restaurant's pancake recipe. I've been down this pancake recipe road before with other restaurants. These recipes are very hard to replicate and the differences between what you would do at home and what they did in the restaurant and between commercial and home ingredients may be subtle but critical. But if anyone who used to work at Flamingo can tell us the secret, I'm sure Evelyn would be very grateful.

Joline Lavilla is still looking for a papaya cobbler recipe that she believes ran in The Advertiser in the 1980s. I went through the entirety of our (woefully incomplete) files and never found it. Is it by chance languishing among someone's clippings out there?

And, finally, let me clear up any remaining questions about the nature of the elusive "brown sauce" used in the "Chinese spaghetti" (cha chiang mein) I wrote about a few weeks ago. It can be found both at the Asian Grocery on Beretania and in some Chinatown stores, such as Bo Wah Trading Co., under the name "Ground Sauce" (as in "ground bean sauce"). Koon Choon is the most widely available brand. It is also referred to sometimes as "yellow sauce" (although it's not yellow, it's just more pale than classic black bean sauce).

And that clears out my pantry for this week.

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.