By AUDREY WILSON
We spent a couple of days in Kapaau, in the village of Niulii, at Kohala’s Guest House. Big Island Rotarians were asked to work at the aid station as the bikers made the turn at Hawi town for the Ironman Triathalon. Since we needed to be there early Saturday morning, we thought it a good opportunity to take in the local flavor of the area.
What is so intriguing is that the people living in the district of Kohala can spot a “foreigner” immediately. They are very friendly and are not afraid to ask you where you are from and why you are there. The true meaning of aloha that is lost in many parts of the island is still present here.
We fell in love with the town immediately! It is what Hilo was 30 years ago, when everyone knew each other, everyone was friendly and warm and when someone new came into town, they all got the onceover.
Our Friday night out was a stop to CSC Café, where many of the locals seem to hang out. This night was Japanese night and you could order it “ozen” with the side dishes and miso soup. I watched as a table of women gathered and ordered the Japanese meal of miso butterfish.
The “ozen” style was not typical, with a tray of various little bowls, small dishes and the main dish. The whole meal was served on a paper luau plate, using the divided sections for the various Oriental vegetables and included the two scoops of rice and one scoop of macaroni-potato salad.
The miso soup did not come in a black lacquer bowl, but in a white Styrofoam 16-ounce bowl.
For a relatively small restaurant, there was a wide range of selections on the menu. It was like they made sure all of their customers had their favorite dish available.
Being Japanese night, they asked me if I wanted the chicken hekka. I opted for the fried menpachi instead. The only way to serve this fish is whole, eyes and all. I asked for chopsticks so I could get every bit of meat off the bone as possible and left the plate with only bones. I got brown rice instead of white, as it was an option.
We ran into an old friend, Maha Kraans, who used to own Maha’s Café in the Spencer Building, next to Waimea’s McDonald. As she is a great chef, I felt good that she was ordering food to go and waiting in the car to have her dinner delivered to her as she sat waiting.
This meant that we made a good choice for our Friday night dinner out and to also celebrate a belated wedding anniversary.
Sandwiches on the menu reminded me of Elsie’s Fountain that was a landmark on Mamo Street for years. You can order an egg salad sandwich for $2.50 or a hot dog for $1.75. Grilled cheese with ham is $3.50.
Sunday morning before we headed back home, we could not help ourselves and stopped again at CSC Café. The parking lot was packed, mostly men were outside on picnic tables covered by a canopy, watching football on a very large television, the restaurant was not crowded, with the same women we saw Friday night and another table.
We said goodbye for now to the quaint town of Hawi for now as we headed back to Hilo.
Miso butterfish was the Friday night special at CSC Café and is always a local favorite. It was Nobu Matsuhisa who brought this dish to us from Japan and called it black cod with miso. Here is a Kyo-Ya Restaurant recipe for their miso butterfish.
Misoyaki Butterfish Kyo-ya
Place in colander to drain excess water overnight in refrigerator:
6 pounds butterfish fillets, cut into serving pieces.
Combine: ¾ cup sake kasu (rice wine dregs) 3 cups sugar, 1 cup soy sauce, 1 cup sake, 2 pounds red miso. Stir to thoroughly mix miso. (Red miso is saltier than white miso, most commonly used to make soup) Place fish in marinade, cover in refrigerator for three days. Rinse off marinade from fish and palace on rack to broil. (It is important to place fish on rack as lots of liquid and oil will drip.) Turn fish three to four times to avoid burning while broiling, about 5 minutes. A toaster oven may be used to broil a small quantity. To finish, brush your favorite teriyaki sauce thickened with potato starch on the butterfish.
Small Bites: Butterfish or Psenopsis anomala, is sometimes called melon seed, wart perch, or the Japanese word for it, idodai. It is a bottom fish found around Japan and Taiwan. It should not be confused with escolar, or stomatcidae, that is often mislabeled as butterfish. Escolar is called snake mackerel and the wax ester content in this fish causes a fish poisoning call “keriorrhea.” It is like diarrhea except the body expels yellowish-orange drops of oil.
State Rep. James Tokioka initiated HB2669 to ban the catching, sale, or possession of escolar but the bill was deferred on February 1, 2010.
Foodie Bites: The Ohana Café at Hawaii Community College has specials for you this week. Call 934-2591 to check them out.
The 42nd Annual Kona Coffee Festival’s Recipe Contest is on November 4th at the Sheraton Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay Convention Center. Entries must be received before 5 p.m. on Oct. 31. Check out their website at: www.konacoffeefest.com for entry information.