Visitors here who have a passion for the food arts are fortunate
people. The blending of Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and,
more recently, European cuisines with traditional Polynesian dishes
has spawned entirely new flavors that cannot be found anywhere else
in the world.
to the people who live here, the foods found throughout the islands
are diverse and eclectic, but still maintain roots sewn deep in
The Halekulani is
celebrating this idea with a two-day culinary tour that delves not
only into food but into the cultural aspects of dining on
The tour is being
offered monthly to guests of the hotel. Private tours can be
arranged for meetings and other groups staying at the hotel, a
sessions are pricey, at $600 per person, not inclusive of hotel
accommodation (the tour is open to all visitors, with a 14-person
On the tour I took, most of the group activities took place on the
first day. The following is a look at that day's
We began with a
short drive to the Honolulu fish auction, run by the United Fish
Agency. En route, the group was introduced to Joan Namkoong, author
of a number of food-related books and the host of the daylong
executive chef Darryl Fujita joined us at the market, where he
tested the quality of a yellowfin tuna by rolling the fish's red
meat between his fingers. The "give," scent and visible fat all
factor into the quality and price of a fish, he said. He settled on
a 30-pound red snapper for our dinner.
Next stop was
Honolulu's Chinatown, a four-square-block area teeming with outdoor
markets, lei stands, dim sum eateries and bakeries. The district
emerged in the 1870s, Namkoong said, when migrant Chinese workers
arrived in droves to work the sugarcane fields that populated much
of the island.
We ducked into
Mei Sum, a family-run establishment that Namkoong called her
favorite. There we nibbled on dumplings and won tons filled with
mushroom and chicken, shrimp, bean curd and fresh
A half-hour away
by bus is Aiea, where our attention was turned to a 10-acre
watercress farm owned by the Sumida family.
The farm produces
75% of the watercress consumed on the island.
1928, it lies in an area that has changed dramatically with the
urbanization of Aiea, according to owner David Sumida.
Sumida walked us
to the spring-fed marshes where the watercress blossoms.
"There used to be
this great river that flowed all the way from the mountain down to
the sea," he said.
"The kids used to
come all summer long and swim in the river, and I could always see
them when I was working in the fields, asking my father if I could
go out and play."
By midday, we had
returned to the hotel to begin preparing our lunch.
First, we enjoyed
a salt and soy tasting in the kitchen of La Mer, the Halekulani's
fine dining restaurant.
explained the difference between soy sauces. The heavier and
thicker soys are best for marinades or paired with meats, she said,
and the lighter and less salty soys are best for fish or dipping
with sashimi and vegetables.
We made our way
to the workstation area in La Mer, where chef Fujita was cleaning
the red snapper he had purchased earlier that day.
the process of preparing a whole fish, and then put us to work
julienning ginger, garlic, cilantro, green onion and shiitake
mushrooms, which would top our steamed fish along with the
watercress we had picked at the farm.
He taught us
techniques for heating sauces and oils as well as the proper way to
pan-fry vegetables. As soon as the fish
was done, we sat in the kitchen and ate of our efforts.
Between lunch and
dinner, there was time to enjoy the beach, wander Waikiki or relax
at the hotel.
At 6 p.m. we
reconvened for cocktails at one of the hotel's other restaurants,
House Without a Key, before venturing over to Orchids, the final
restaurant on property, for a full dinner with wine pairings and
instructions on how to pair vintages with Asian flavors.
The second day
began with a culinary class in La Mer with chef Yves Garnier, who
delved into the use of local ingredients and techniques to improve
one's skills in the kitchen. The day
ended with a dinner at La Mer, inclusive of wine
on the Halekulani, call the hotel at (808) 923-3311 or visit www.halekulani.com.
reporter Brian Berusch, send e-mail to [email protected].