Vegan Haupia Cake

img_3068     I adapated this Vegan Haupia Cake from a recipe by Roy Yamaguchi, a famous chef from Hawaii.  Haupia (pronounced HOW-pee-ya) is something we would enjoy at luaus on Kauai, back in the day.  It’s traditionally a cool and refreshing coconut pudding, often cut into squares.  Here it’s a softer pudding that’s been infused into a sponge cake.  It’s a bit richer than the original this way, but so ono (delicious).  We’ve eliminated the animal cruelty and the cholesterol, but added a sprinkling of toasted coconut.  You could use a vegan white or yellow cake, but the original recipe uses a sponge cake, which provides great texture.   Here is the vegan sponge cake recipe I use.  I make both layers and leave one in the freezer for future use.


Makes one 9-inch cake

a single 9-inch layer of vegan sponge cake, frozen and set to partially thaw
4 Cups unsweetened full-fat coconut milk  (two 15 oz. cans is fine)
1.5 Cups water, divided
1 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2.5 teaspoons coconut extract
2 Tablespoons shredded sweetened coconut, for topping

Remove the single layer of cake from the freezer to let it thaw by half.  You will slice it into two layers, and it’s easier to slice if it’s about half frozen at that time.  In a small dry skillet, stir and toast the shredded sweetened coconut over medium heat–do not walk away, it only takes a couple of minutes.

To prepare the haupia, place the coconut milk, 1 Cup of the water and the sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a low boil, stirring a bit.  In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch and the remaining 1/2 Cup water together to make a smooth slurry.  Add the slurry to the coconut mixture, and stir until the mixture returns to a low boil and thickens.  Remove from heat, let cool 5 minutes, and then stir in coconut extract.

Cut a thin slice off the top of the cake layer to level it flat.  Slice the cake in half horizontally to make two somewhat-even layers.  Place the bottom layer in a cake pan.  Pour the haupia over the bottom layer to a thickness of about 1/2 inch (this will save some for the top).  Place the top half of the cake layer over the haupia-soaked bottom layer, very gently pressing down.  Pour more of the haupia over the top of the cake, using a spatula or the back of a spoon to gently spread it evenly.  Refrigerate the cake for 3 to 4 hours to set the haupia.  When ready to serve, garnish with the toasted shredded coconut.
img_3064  Bottom layer back in the cake pan and soaking in haupia.

vegan Hawaiian Coconut Curry

IMG_1909     This vegan coconut curry is adapted from an old recipe I got from a friend in Hilo, back in the 1980’s.  In Hawaii, locals love their chicken curry!  I’ve tweaked it over the years, and made it vegan, but it’s still a classic 1970’s American-style curry that brings the flavor.  It’s a really good, easy, and flexible recipe that doesn’t take too long to make.  Serve over rice and/or with naan bread or papadums,  with chutney and any of the toppings suggested below.  p.s. For other dinner ideas, there are about 60 recipes in the Main Dish category.


Serves 5-6

1 Cup vegetable stock  (I use Better Than Bouillon, either Vegetarian or No-Chicken)
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
2 Tablespoons vegan butter, such as Earth Balance
1/4 Cup all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon curry powder  (I use McCormick Curry Powder)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 small clove garlic, crushed and minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh peeled grated ginger (my favorite),  or 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
15 oz. can Lite coconut milk
Any extra protein you want, including any one of the following:  Butler Soy Curls (3 oz.), Beyond Chicken, crispy tofu cubes,  nuts such as peanuts, cashews or walnuts, chick peas,  etc.

Saute onion and celery in butter over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Stir in curry powder, turmeric, cinnamon, sugar, salt, garlic and ginger.  Turn heat to low, cover and cook 10-15 minutes.  To the pot, add the lite coconut milk and only 1/2 Cup of the stock, and stir.  Cover and cook 5 more minutes, but do not let it boil.  With a fork, whisk the flour into the remaining 1/2 Cup of stock until it’s smooth, and set this slurry aside.  When the 5 minutes are up, add the slurry to the pot, and stir until the curry thickens, just a few minutes.  Add your extra protein now and heat through.  Serve over hot rice, or with naan bread.  Serve it simply like this, or add toppings such as mango chutney (my favorite), toasted coconut, salty peanuts or cashews, etc.

Notes:  This can be made a day ahead, and it tastes even better the next day.  Jasmine rice is the traditional rice to serve with this, but I found it delicious even with Trader Joe’s sprouted red rice.  My favorite chutney is Patak’s Mango Chutney (the plain one or the hot one).  If you don’t have chutney, you can always just put out some raisins to sprinkle on top.  Other vegetables can be mixed in when cooking, such as green bell pepper (tiny dice), or even fresh corn at the last minute.  I do like the McCormick Curry Powder–it’s not gourmet, but it’s got the classic 1970’s flavor of this particular dish.

Zippys Chili Recipe Gone Vegan

IMG_1881    My parents called from Hawaii yesterday, and they had just been to Zippys for breakfast.  It reminded me that I used to like Zippys chili (it’s famous in Hawaii).  After looking at copycat recipes online, I made a vegan version, and it’s really good–a keeper.  Although I’ve made several vegan chilis before, this one is just a bit meatier and richer than the others, and it really does remind me of Zippys.  I could see serving this easy dish for the Superbowl, or any game day.  If you want a healthier vegan chili, try this Perfect Vegetable Chili with Quinoa.  I like to serve chili with these Fruited Cornbread Muffins, or Tostitos Original Restaurant Style chips, Tofutti Cream Cheese, fresh avocado, etc.  More photos below.


11 oz. package Beyond Beef Beefy Crumbles  (or other ground beef substitute)
15 oz. can Kidney beans, with liquid from can
15 oz. can tomato sauce
10 oz. can Ro-Tel Mild Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies  (use 1/2 can, or more to taste)
2 teaspoons peanut oil (or grapeseed oil or olive oil)
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons Vegenaise Reduced Fat vegan mayo  (the secret ingredient)
1 Tablespoon Better Than Bouillon (No Beef, or Vegetarian,  or No Chicken flavor)
1 Tablespoon Sherry Cooking Wine, (or red wine, or vinegar)
2 teaspoons minced dried onions  (from the spices aisle)
1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire, such as Wizard brand  (it’s delicious)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt  (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
pinch cinnamon  (a pinch equals 1/16th teaspoon)

Toppings of choice, such as vegan sour cream, avocado chunks and nacho chips.

Heat oil in small stock pot, and sauté onion and bell pepper.  Set beans aside for now, but add all other ingredients and simmer on medium heat for 5 or 10 minutes.  Add beans and bean liquid just before serving and stir them gently into the chili.  Serve with vegan sour cream, fresh avocado, nacho chips, etc.

Notes:  I avoid canola oil for purposes of flavor.  I prefer Eden Organic beans because they use kombu to “salt” their beans, but any kidney beans will do.  If you want it spicier, add the full can of Ro-Tel, or the Ro-Tel can simply be put out to dollop on bowls for those who like it hotter.  The mayonnaise might seem an odd addition to this recipe but it’s rumored to be the secret ingredient in Zippys Chili, and it does seem to add an unctuous richness.  I reduced the mayo by 75% here and the chili still tastes really good.  I deleted the MSG from the original recipes, but if you want to add it back in, use about 1/2 teaspoon.  I grew up eating a lot of Ajinomoto, and I didn’t miss it here.

Grilled Teriyaki Tofu Steaks

IMG_2133    This vegan Teriyaki is great for the grill, or you can fry it up in a pan.  You can use this Teriyaki Sauce on tofu steaks, or tempeh or vegan meats, such as a vegan burger served with a ring of grilled pineapple on top, etc.  We like the leftovers in sandwich wraps for lunch, tucked in with shredded kale or lettuce, pickled onions, Vegenaise, and grated carrots.  This is my Dad’s teriyaki sauce that we grew up with.  As a young military man, he would go to this little mom-and-pop place in Monterey, California.  He loved their teriyaki and asked the nice Japanese lady there for the recipe.  She revealed the recipe to him (he was exceedingly handsome) and luckily for us, he wrote it down all those decades ago.  To grill tofu, make sure your grill grate is clean and smooth–I rub it with a wire brush, or a steel wool pad and then rinse it clean with the hose. Once the grill is hot, take tongs and dip a wad of folded paper towel into a dish of cooking oil, and swab the grill grate before adding the tofu, and repeat when turning the tofu.  You also want to make sure there’s a little oil in your marinade.  Soak your skewers for hours, and use two skewers per piece of tofu (for stability).


Serves:  3 to 4

16 oz. block of Extra-Firm tofu,  pressed and drained
 for Teriyaki Sauce
1/2 Cup soy sauce or tamari sauce
1/2 Cup sugar  (not brown sugar)
1/2 -inch piece ginger root grated
1 jigger sake or gin or whiskey  (a jigger = a shot, or 1.5 oz. or 44.3 ml)
     (I use a mini bottle from the liquor store = 50 ml)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 clove garlic pressed, or crushed and chopped
1 Tablespoon cooking oil  (not canola)  (I used peanut oil this time)

Soak slender wooden skewers in water overnight, or for several hours.  Press and drain tofu.  Stir all sauce ingredients together until sugar is dissolved.  Slice tofu thickness in half.  Then cut each piece into two equal rectangles.  Soak tofu steaks in marinade over night, or for several hours, turning them over at least 2 or 3 times.  Before grilling, skewer each piece of tofu using two skewers, so the tips of the skewers protrude out the other end just a bit.  Make sure grill is very clean and smooth, and oil the hot grill before adding the tofu.  Grill each side.  Or, pan fry in a non-stick skillet on medium heat, until a nice caramelized sear is achieved.

Notes:  You can also marinate sliced tempeh.  I use organic Tamari sauce, but in Hawaii, Kikkoman soy sauce is the favorite, and many locals use the Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce, which is good, and my Dad is a Kikkoman man, of course.  Since the original recipe did call for “a jigger” of any of the three alcohols, I used gin this time for that juniper-berry flavor, but I think my Dad usually used sake or whiskey.  The original recipe calls for 1/4 teaspoon MSG, which I eliminated.

Vegan Lychee Buttercream Frosting

IMG_0955    My lovely cousin Munam brought me some canned Lychee from Rockville.  And so I created this Lychee Buttercream Frosting to go with the Lychee Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World.   I was a bit skeptical about the recipe for the cupcake itself because it has a whopping 5 Tablespoons of flaxseed in it, but these cupcakes are very good–slightly dense and fruity, but still definitely cake.  I used only 1/3 Cup of finely-chopped lychee fruit and only 1/4 Cup of oil in the recipe, and they were still great.  I remember eating lots and lots of lychee as a kid on Kauai when we would pick them right off the branches.  This is my first experience with canned lychee and although it’s been decades, the fruity floral perfume of this Lychee Buttercream Frosting takes me right back to the Garden Isle.


4 Cups confectioners/powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
3 Tablespoons lychee syrup/juice from a can of lychee
1 Tablespoon water
1/2 drop red food coloring (optional)

In a mixing bowl, bring Earth Balance Buttery Sticks to room temperature.  Add all other ingredients and mix with an electric mixer until smooth.  If you want the lychee flavor to be milder, use only 2 Tablespoons of lychee syrup and add 1 Tablespoon of water.  I’m going from memory, but it seems to me that the canned lychee flavor is a bit more intense than the fresh lychee.  Canned lychee are often available in Oriental grocery stores.  I used a 20 ounce can of lychee, so I had plenty of syrup to work with for both the cupcakes and this frosting.

Ramen Salad with Slivered Almonds

IMG_0576    Vegan Mofo 2013.  This fun salad is popular in Hawaii.  The almonds and noodles are toasted, and provide a great contrast with the cool, crunchy cabbage and sweet carrot. The dry broth packet helps to flavor the simple dressing, along with some rice wine vinegar and a bit of sugar.  From what I’ve read online, it seems Top Ramen in the Oriental Flavor does not have any animal products in it.  (one more photo below)


Serves approx. 4-6,  depending upon how much cabbage you use.

1 pkg. Nissin Top RamenOriental Flavor only
1/4 Cup slivered almonds
1 pkg. slaw mix,  or shaved fresh cabbage and 1 or 2 grated carrots
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons rice vinegar  (I use the un-flavored one, such as Marukan)
2 teaspoons sugar

Break up dry ramen noodles and put on baking sheet with the almonds.
Put under broiler on 2nd rack from top, to toast for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes until golden. Stir.
These can burn quickly, so don’t walk away.
If you don’t have a broiler, bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 to 10 minutes, baking first for 5 minutes and then checking every couple of minutes.

In small shaker jar put oil, vinegar, sugar and dry broth packet from Ramen. Shake.
Or you can stir it in a glass.

Wait until ready to eat, then toss vegetables with the toasted noodles and almonds.  Drizzle on the dressing by the Tablespoon, and toss and taste to see how much you like.
Serve immediately.

Notes:  If you toss the salad with the dressing too early, the salad will wilt and be limp.  I use a little latte frother for salad dressings like this.  I like to start breaking up the noodles before I open the ramen packet, just by bending it gently between my hands.   I think I normally use about 1/4 to 1/3 of a green cabbage and grate one large carrot.  It makes a lot!  I’m guessing this dressing is enough for about 1/2 of a medium green cabbage.  I guess the Chili flavor also has no animal products, but I have not tried that one.

Ginger Scallion Noodles – Ginger Scallion Saimin or Ramen

This famous sauce by David Chang of Momofuku Noodle Bar takes only about 20 minutes to make (not counting cleanup).  I approached this recipe for Ginger Scallion Noodles with a homesickness for saimin, and was not disappointed.  I can see where some might balk at the intensity of this dish, and maybe that’s where I’m at too, so I checked out this other post, where someone at Gourmet modified this classic Asian dish by throwing the raw Ginger Scallion Sauce into very hot oil.  This mellowed and blended the pungent ingredients.  I also learned to not use canola oil, because, to quote Francis Lam, it can taste “like a piece of metal trying to be a piece of fish.”  I too recently noticed this after frying something in fresh canola oil.  I followed Chang’s suggestion and bought a small bottle of grapeseed oil.   Envisioning a Zen noodle experience like that in the film Tampopo (minus the dead animals), I forged ahead.  I will say, however, that I thought the amount of oil in Lam’s recipe was way too much, and I reduced it to even less than Chang’s recipe.  I also wanted something more than a plate of noodles; maybe some hot saimin to further melt and integrate the ingredients, and so I simply made an instant broth and bought some Japanese noodles.  You could also use an instant vegan ramen (such as Nissin Top Ramen Oriental flavor) and add this amazing condiment to it, along with a rainbow of other food garnishes.  I ate the first bowl and thought it was pretty good.  The next day, I ate another bowl, and realized this was growing on me.  I’m going to try adding a bit more of the Tamari and sherry, and maybe a crushed garlic clove, but either way, I’ve got this under my skin now.  I made this for my Dad when he was here and he liked it too.  We ate it hot today with strips of vegan char siu in it, and I highly recommend this.  The meaty texture of the vegan char siu got soft and tender in the steaming broth and released it’s own spiciness, and suddenly I was just eating slowly, immersed in the flavors, fragrance and heat, . . . zazen!
Ginger Scallion Noodles

Makes:  Certainly enough for 4 to 6 people.

2 medium bunches of scallions (greens and whites) (at least 5.5 oz. or more)
2 oz. peeled, fresh ginger
2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil  or  peanut oil
2 teaspoons Tamari (or usukuchi soy sauce, or Kikkoman)
2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Japanese noodles and hot broth,  or instant ramen (make sure it’s vegan)
vegan char siu (optional) or other toppings of your choice (cubes of fried tofu, sprouts, mushrooms, shelled edamame, any vegetables thinly sliced or chopped, etc.)

Rinse and trim scallions, and process to a fine mince in food processor.
Scrape processed scallions into a glass bowl.
Process the freshly peeled ginger the same way, until finely minced but not pureed.
Add processed ginger to the scallions and stir well.
Salt the ginger and scallion mixture, and stir well.
Heat the grapeseed oil in a metal pot, until it just barely begins to smoke.
Add the ginger scallion mixture to the hot oil in the pot, and immediately stir and remove from the heat.
Stir well and scrape the hot mixture into a glass bowl.
Add the Tamari and sherry vinegar and stir again to blend.
Refrigerate, use right away,  or freeze in cubes in an ice cube tray.

My favorite way to eat this is to cook Japanese noodles and put them in a steaming broth (or vegan ramen).  Slice vegan char siu on top of the noodles and then with your chopsticks, push the slices under the hot broth so they soften.  Eat with joy.

Vegan Mochiko Butter Cookies

I adapted this from a recipe Betty Shimabukuro put in her popular  “By Request” column in the Honolulu Advertiser.  I think  these were also called Carly’s Cornflake Dreams and were submitted by reader Carlynn Yoshina.  The first time I made them, the taste of baking soda was overwhelming.  I checked the measurements and this was definitely over-leavened, as many recipes are.  By reducing the baking soda by half, we now have a great little cookie.  It’s buttery and has that shortbread essence that’s so popular with Locals in Hawaii.  The fine Corn Flakes coating becomes slightly toasted in the oven, and adds a pleasing flavor and crunch.  I replaced the butter with Earth Balance Buttery Sticks and the Kellogg’s Corn Flakes with Erewhon Corn Flakes.  Not only are Erewhon Corn Flakes organic, but they’re also sugar free.  On the long list of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes ingredients are sugar and high fructose corn syrup, and they’re made with animal products.  They’re not even vegetarian, nor are they organic.  Erewhon Corn Flakes, on the other hand, have just two ingredients; organic milled corn, and sea salt, AND they are non-GMO!  Since Erewhon Corn Flakes taste just like the bad Corn Flakes, why would we want to use anything else?  You won’t really taste the macadamia nuts, but they add a golden richness to this little cookie.
Mochiko Butter Cookies

Makes 48-60 regular cookies.  Jam thumbprints take up about twice the dough as a regular cookie.

1/2 pound Earth Balance vegan butter (2 Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)
3/4 Cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 Cups flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 Cup mochiko flour
1-2 Cups Erewhon Corn Flakes cereal, crushed fine (use a food processor or blender, not a rolling pin)
1 Cup chopped macadamia nuts (optional) (or you could use less).  I think chopped pecans would also be good, for a butter-pecan flavor.

Set vegan butter in large mixing bowl to soften.
(I lined my baking sheets with parchment paper, but it is possibly not necessary)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Add sugar to butter, and mix with electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Add vanilla and nuts, and beat again.
In a separate  bowl, put flour, baking soda, salt and mochiko.
Dry whisk the dry ingredients to thoroughly blend.
Add dry ingredients to butter/sugar mixture, and mix until well incorporated.
Chill dough for at least one hour.
Using a level teaspoon or a slightly-rounded teaspoon, measure out cookies, roll into balls, and then roll balls into crushed Corn Flakes.
Place cookie balls onto cookie sheet and bake approximately 15 minutes depending upon your oven.  I have an electric oven and found that 15 minutes worked for me.

Variation:  If you wish to make jam thumbprints, use 2 teaspoons of dough per cookies, roll in balls, roll in corn flakes and then make your thumbprint and fill scantily with jam of your flavor.  I’ll make a note here to try my favorites, either raspberry or guava jam.

Notes:  Keep in mind that these cookies will harden as they continue to cool, and becomes pleasingly crisp.  Do not over bake.  PLEASE NOTE THAT KELLOG’S CORN FLAKES ARE NOT VEGAN.

Vegan Char Siu Seitan – Vegan Chinese BBQ Pork

I found this easy recipe for vegan char siu pork on Cooking With Leyla.   I used her versatile seitan recipe, and I found the NOH Chinese Barbecue Char Siu Seasoning Mix packet in the Asian section of my local grocery store.   Leyla uses half of the seitan for Char Siu, and sets aside the rest for other recipes.  This BBQ pork seitan would be great in my Local Hawaiian Fried Rice, or in Char Siu Bao, using the Bao Buns recipe also on this site.  I used it to make David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar “Pork” Buns.
Vegan Char Siu Seitan  or  Vegan Chinese BBQ Pork


2.25 Cups gluten flour Vital Wheat Gluten,  such as Bob’s Red Mill brand
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Cup water
1 vegetable bouillon (or 1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon)
1 Tablespoon Tamari sauce

10 Cups water
2 vegetable bouillon cubes (or 2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon)
2 Tablespoons Tamari sauce
3-4 slices of fresh ginger (at least 1″ x 1″ each)

NOH Chinese Barbecue Char Siu Seasoning Mix (1 or 2 packets)

Heat the one cup of water,  add bouillon, and mix until dissolved.
Let water sit until it’s room temperature.
Add Tamari to the water and stir.

Put gluten flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl, and dry whisk.
Add the one Cup of bouillon water and bring together.
You can use a spoon but you’ll have to use your hands at the end.
I added another 1/4 Cup of water, to bring it together.
Turn dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and knead about 30 times.
Put dough into a clean, oiled bowl, cover with a towel and let rest for 15-20 minutes.

Cut dough into four sections.
Stretch each section into a long oblong.  Then cut them at least in half.
Put at least half of them aside to marinate whole for char siu.
You can marinate the rest as char siu too, or use a different marinade on it.  You can cut the other two stretched sections into half-inch pieces, for individual pieces.

In a very large pot, bring 10 Cups of water to boil.
Add bouillon cubes or Better Than Bouillon, and Tamari and ginger.
Reduce heat to a simmer.
Add the smaller pieces of dough in 15-20 pieces at a time, because the seitan will swell in size as it cooks.
Let simmer 15-20 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon or spider strainer, lift cooked seitan pieces from the pot,  and set aside to cool in a colander.**
Then cook the two large pieces of char-siu seitan, in the same way.

Once they are cooked, marinate the two large char siu seitan chunks in the NOH sauce mix for almost 24 hours.  This will simply entail adding 1/2 Cup water to the dry seasoning packet mix to make the marinade.  I used two packets for ease, but one is fine.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line a sided baking sheet with parchment paper and place a metal cooling rack on it.
Put the two marinated seitan chunks on the rack.
Bake in oven for 30 minutes; 15 minutes each side.
Remove from oven, and let stand about 3 minutes.
Slice (I sliced mine about 1/4 inch or 1/3 inch thick).
Use char siu in fried rice, or char siu bao.

**You can then freeze the smaller pieces of seitan in portions for future dishes.
To use frozen seitan, remove from freezer at least one hour before cooking.

Notes:  Leyla suggests that you could alternate the flavour of the seitan in the dough stage.  Add liquid smoke to make “bacon” or poultry spice to make “chicken,” etc.

Vegan Fried Rice – Local Style

  With Seitan, caramelized onions and fresh corn.

Here’s a good, quick Fried Rice.  In Hawaii, there’s always someplace to get good local-style Fried Rice, but not here on the Mainland.  So, you can make this at home with whatever you have on hand.  This time, I used one of our favorite combinations of grated carrot, caramelized onion and fresh corn kernels.  Some considerations with Fried Rice, which is in essence a Stir Fry, are the order in which you add things to the pan, how finely ingredients are chopped, and most importantly, the seasonings.  I’ve tried using more shoyu (soy sauce) to get more oomph, but it backfires every time.  The key is subtlety–have some balance, keep it simple, not too much oil, and of course, use REAL rice!  If you’ve ever lived in Hawaii, you know that a common joke is to accuse someone of using “Uncle Ben’s” rice.  Yes, the rice must be actually cooked, by you, but you can use a rice cooker, of course, as most Hawaiians do.  I grew up having white “sticky rice” at every meal, but now I like brown rice, and for Fried Rice, I use short-grain brown rice, and it’s delicious.  This photo is not garnished because I didn’t have any green onions on hand, but they are important in this dish.  The protein i used this time was the General Tso’s Vegan Chicken from Whole Foods, cut into quarters, and sauteed with the rice toward the end.  But you could press and cube tofu and cook it beforehand, use nuts, etc.


Make rice one day ahead.  Rice must be cold.  Freshly cooked rice will just make a sticky mess.

Serves 3 to 4 people

2 teaspoons sesame oil, divided
1/8 tsp fine sea salt, or Hawaiian salt
4 Cups cold cooked rice (real rice only)
1 large onion, chopped finely
1 carrot, grated
½ C fresh vegetables, chopped fine
A protein, such as diced seitan or pressed-and-cubed tofu or shelled steamed soy beans, or nuts, etc.
2 Tablespoons Tamari sauce
1 Tablespoon Black Bean Sauce  (my personal secret ingredient)
Black pepper
For garnish:  green onions, sesame seeds, etc.

Whisk together the Tamari and Black Bean sauces, and set aside.
In a large, non-stick skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of sesame oil.
If using tofu, fry it until firm or slightly browned, and set aside.
Heat the remaining sesame oil.
Add onions, carrot, the salt, and sauté until onions are a bit caramelized.
Add other vegetables now, if you have not added them with the onions.
Break up lumps of cold, cooked rice  (with your hands) and add to pan.
Stir until rice is heated and grains are separated.
Stir until thoroughly heated and mixed.
Sprinkle Tamari sauces mixture over rice and mix evenly through.
Sprinkle with black pepper if desired.
Garnish with green onions, sesame seeds, etc.

Note:  If using heavy, raw vegetables, chop them finer and add them earlier; when you add the onions, so they have time to really cook.  They key with this dish is to chop things somewhat uniformly.  We like our vegetables to be chopped pretty fine so it’s a more married dish.  When the fresh, local corn is ripe, we like it in this dish.

Vegan Meatloaf – Hilo Style

IMG_3045     I adapted this delicious vegan meatloaf from my Auntie Pat’s Hawaiian-style recipe.  I also added in my Mom’s favorite–a surprise layer of green olives in the center.  A nice feature of this recipe is that the tomato soup makes a built-in gravy.  I serve it with my own simple, twice-baked stuffed potatoes.  A salad is nice too, but there are already plenty of carrots and onions hidden inside this decadent meatloaf.  This dish is perfect for picky eaters who want real comfort food.

Vegan Meatloaf – Hilo Style

Serves 6 to 8

1 pkg. Gimme Lean, Ground Beef Style
Ener-G egg replacer to equal one egg
2 heaping Tablespoon Vegenaise mayonnaise
1 rounded Tablespoon Hoisin sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed or pressed
3 Tablespoons catsup (ketchup)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup finely-grated carrots (about three carrots)  (I use a food processor)
2 slices sandwich bread, soaked quickly in water and lightly squeezed, then torn apart.  (or, instead of bread, use 1/4 Cup rolled oats plus 2 Tablespoons golden flax meal)
2 Tablespoons Lipton Onion Soup mix, dry  (plus a little more to sprinkle on top)

1 can tomato soup  (I used Health Valley brand, low-sodium)
Optional: 5-10 green olives, thinly sliced
Optional: 5 or 10 sliced fresh mushrooms, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.   Set aside tomato soup, olives and mushrooms.   With an electric mixer, mix well the rest of the ingredients.
Pour ½ of the can of tomato soup on bottom of loaf pan.
Put half of the loaf mixture in pans and press with back of spoon.
Optional: scatter sliced olives and/or mushrooms on top of this bottom layer of loaf.
Put the 2nd half of the loaf mixture in the pan.   Pour rest of soup on top.
Optional:  Scatter a few sliced fresh mushrooms on top (I do).
Scatter some remaining dried onion bits from soup mix packet on top, trying not to put  the powdered salty part of the mix on.  Cover tightly with tin foil to avoid leakage.  Place loaf pan on baking sheet and bake 1 hour or more, until bubbling at edges.  It might take one hour and 15 minutes, especially if chilled.

  Bottom layer topped with olives.

Notes:  If you don’t have the Lipton Onion Soup Mix, add some dried minced onions and a sprinkle of salt on top instead.  Another thing you can do, if you’re cooking for two, or you want to freeze some or give some away, is use four of those mini quick-bread foil pans that you buy at the grocery store.  Usually, you can buy them in a pack of five (each pan is approx. 5.63″ length by 3.19″ width by 1.95″ depth).

Edamame Scented with Star Anise – Hawaiian Style

I was caught short for dinner last night, so I made agedashi tofu and Trader Joe’s Vegetable Bird’s Nests, and of course this special edamame.  This Anise-Scented Edamame is something I first had at my Uncle Stanley’s house in Hilo, back in the ’90s.  I can’t remember who made it, but I was instantly taken with this twist on traditional edamame.  It’s an easy, protein-packed delicious snack or side dish.  I received no written recipe, but was told to just add the anise pods to the boiling water.  I always use my Uncle Stanley’s seasoned Hawaiian salt recipe, the way the locals do, but I’m sure you could use plain sea salt, maybe even some fleur de sel, or Maldon salt, etc.  As a reference, seasoned Hawaiian sea salt will sometimes have ginger, cracked black pepper and garlic in it.  Yes, there is the sodium, but potato chips have sodium too, and the way you eat edamame, some of the salt gets left on the pods.  The anise adds this faint floral note and it just brings me back.  Sometimes you have to tell those who are not familiar with edamame how to eat them.  I’ve actually seen people put the star anise into their mouths, or try to chew the edamame pod.  If you already know how to eat edamame, ignore this next part.  First, look at the soy bean pod, and you’ll notice a very thin string that runs along the outward curve of the pod.  If you start at the stem, you could peel this string off, like a string bean, however, you don’t need to.  This string simply shows you where the edamame soy beans will pop easiest out of the pod, and this is the side you want to put to your mouth.  You hold the stem end between the thumb and forefinger of one hand, and gently squeeze the pod with your teeth so that the edamame beans pop into your mouth.  In the process, you will taste the salt crystals and spices clinging to the pod.
Edamame Scented with Star Anise – Hawaiian Style

10 oz. bag of frozen soybeans (I sometimes use Cascadian Farm organic)
12 star anise (or more or less,  to your taste)
1 teaspoon seasoned Hawaiian salt  (or 1/2 teaspoon)

Bring water to boil.
Add frozen soybeans, and the anise stars.
Bring back to a boil.
Boil 5-15 minutes, depending upon your taste.
Test for tenderness along the way.  The soy beans should be tender but not mushy.
Drain well, reserving the anise stars on the side, or in the pot.
Toss with seasoned Hawaiian salt, or other sea salt.
Garnish with the reserved anise stars and serve.
Feel free to let them sit out for hours on a buffet, they just seem to get better.
Or chill in fridge for up 4 days.
Note:  (three ten ounce bags is plenty for finger food for 15 people if you have other things to eat).  p.s. says it’s pronounced an-is, not ann-eese.