A Grand Turkish Meal

Happy Fourth of July! Wishing you all a safe celebration.

I have a few days until I begin culinary school. I’m super excited to start this new journey. From next week, I’ll be highlighting my weekly posts on dishes I’ll be making in my classes. If time permits, I’ll post additional blogs about new restaurants I’ve dined at or exciting dishes I’ve made.

This week, I’d like to share about Turkish cuisine- one of my top five faves. I’m so happy to say that Istanbul Hawai’i has finally opened their restaurant! I remember ordering a lamb-beef doner from their food trucks at Night Market years ago. I would always get excited whenever I saw their food truck. This is a long time coming and I’m so ecstatic to have finally dined at their restaurant.

My friend and I were so excited. The restaurant was packed! We had a late reservation. There were reservations all through the evening. It was busy the entire time we were there. Even near closing, the place was filled. I was so happy to see how busy it was. It shows that the food is spectacular and that business is a success.

The menu was pretty overwhelming. A lot of dishes were very foreign to both my friend and I. I’ve been to Turkey twice; had authentic Turkish food there. I’ve also had Turkish food in Japan as well. My experiences eating Turkish food in its native country to Japan, and at home, have all been very different.

We used our helpful friend, Yelp, for suggestions on what to order. We honestly didn’t have a clue on where to start. We also took my friend’s friend’s suggestions and ordered what she thought was really delicious. Great recommendations! We shared the meze platter, which seemed like a popular dish. The meze platter (top right image) contained the following: fresh pita bread to accompany the three hearty dips: hummus, muhammara, and babaganush. I liked all three dips equally. They were fantastic! I’ve only had hummus before. The muhammara was made with roasted red peppers (not spicy). I’ve heard of babaganush before, but never had it. I didn’t know it was made with eggplant. It was delicious! The other dishes on the platter were: su borek, spanakopita, and peynir and karpuz. The su borek and spanakopita were pies, very similar to each other, but tasted completely different. The peynir and karpuz dish was very interesting. It was watermelon with feta cheese and Turkish olives, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Not my favorite on the platter because I’m not a huge fan of watermelon, but it was very fascinating to try. The balsamic vinegar made it easier to eat. We ordered the iskender doner dish (bottom right corner image), which was lamb/beef combo with rice pilaf, and a refreshing toss salad, with my fave, tzatziki sauce- whoo hoo! We had to order more pita bread at this point to eat with the tzatziki sauce. So, so good! We chowed down our delicious dishes with some very refreshing drinks: a caffeine-free organic hibiscus lychee iced tea (bottom left image) and a saffron lilikoi sorbet with prosecco. My friend ordered the latter and welcomed me to try it. I am getting that drink next time! Last, but not least, dessert. We saw a lot of images on Yelp of the hatay kunefe dish (top left image). From the looks of it, you wouldn’t think it’s a dessert. It looks like crispy noodles. It’s actually shredded phillo, which is a like a flaky pastry. Underneath the phillo, is glorious cheese, mixed with a honey syrup. Oh, goodness gracious! The shredded phillo is topped with crumbled Turkish pistachio and kaytay, which is a kind of thick whipped cream. Hatay kunefe is a small dish, but don’t let that fool you. It is super filling and rich!

What a meal! Everything was beyond fabulous! I can’t wait to dine there again to try more dishes. I love lamb! Istanbul Hawai’i is the perfect place to go, as there are a lot of lamb dishes on the menu, for both lunch and dinner.

To the land of the free… Happy Independence Day!

Stay safe!

FS x

Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Papa’s Day to all the fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and father-figures! Hope you had a chillaxing day, doing absolutely NOTHING! We appreciate all that y’all do for us. Thank you, thank you!

My family and I are celebrating with my dad. My sister and I cooked steaks, seasoned with garlic pepper, and rack of lamb, marinated with teriyaki sauce. We’re using the Instant Pot air fryer combo we got my dad for Father’s Day last year. It has all kinds of cool features: air fry, bake, broil, and roast. We’re using ALL the features. So exciting!

I made a Greek yogurt sauce to complement the meats. Yum! That’s my favorite part about eating red meat, which I’m so excited to eat because I don’t have very often anymore. Red meat is a delightful treat. I was introduced to this delicious pairing when I went to Turkey in the summer of 2010 for a world conference.

The yogurt sauce is similar to the Greek tzatziki sauce. It’s very simple to make. I add my own simple touches to it to make it my own. I used plain Greek yogurt and seasoned it with garlic pepper, minced dried garlic, and dried dill. Voilà! All done! The sauce is so good, I can eat it by itself. Uh huh! You heard right!

Now, gotta have them veggies! We made green beans and brussel sprouts, cooked with garlic balsamic olive oil, onions,and garlic. Scrumptious! Now, that’s how you get people to eat their vegetables, haha!

We also had Portuguese sausage, the best sausage there is, in my opinion (I’m not a huge sausage fan) and shrimp tempura. The tempura was already pre-made, thanks to Costco. My dad cooked oysters in a buttery garlic sauce. Oh my! I was in heaven! I love oysters. We don’t eat it all the time. Whenever we do, I savor every bite! It’s a wonderful treat!

For dessert, my dad requested a haupia pie, which my sister bought. Haupia is a Hawaiian coconut dessert.

Time to grind all the delicious foods! Ciao!

Have a great week. Happy belated Juneteenth, now a federal holiday (yay!), and Happy Summer!

FS x

An Adventure in Fargo

Happy June and soon-to-be summer! The days are getting longer, which is the best part about summer. Though, I wish the sun would go down later in Hawai’i. It goes down a little past 7pm here, which I was used to until I started traveling. I remember being so amazed when the sun went down past 8pm whenever my family and I would travel to Las Vegas in the summer. When I traveled overseas, it was so cool to see the sun go down close to 10pm. It boggled my mind!

In the fall of 2019, I visited my dear friend in the Midwest. We went to a lovely district in Fargo (North Dakota) of restaurants and bars, and came across a Liberian restaurant, called A&E. We both had not eaten Liberian food before and decided to try it. We were both excited and had no idea what to expect.

The owner of the restaurant was a gem. She was friendly and kind to suggest dishes for us to try. We ordered: cassava leaf with rice, roasted meat, and plantains. It was a nice, quiet, and quaint place. Perfect for catching up.

The cassava leaf, which is not pictured, reminded me of both canned spinach and lu’au leaves, Hawaiian leaves, that is used to wrap the chicken, pork, or fish in lau lau. The cassava leaves had a similar texture and taste to the lu’au leaves- my favorite part of the lau lau . I also tried plantain for the first time (featured image). It was very yummy and sweet. It reminded me of banana lumpia, which is a Filipino dessert. The roasted meat was very tasty. I can’t wait to go back to try more food the next time I’m in town again.

I remember our evening together so vividly. It was a chilly fall night, one of my fave seasons. (The other being summer). Snow flurries fell from the clear evening sky. The stars were shining so brightly. Two great friends- a night on the town. It was beautiful.

I found this link: https://www.tasteatlas.com/most-popular-food-in-liberia. It has some interesting dishes I would like to try making. One of them is the Liberian peanut soup. It has peanut butter- my fave! I’m always game to make anything with PB!

It’s always an exciting adventure to explore different ethnic foods during my travels. That is the best part! I love being spontaneous, trying amazing and exotic foods, and then sharing about them with everyone. It’s a treat; a joy! And then, doing some research to find some dishes to make at home. It’s fun to experiment cooking various cuisines. It makes cooking very interesting and entertaining for me.

Have a great week!

FS x

Week Five of AAPI Heritage Month: Nepalese Food

We’re closing in on Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. It’s been a wonderful month highlighting the culture I’m so proud to be apart of. I’ve learned about so many different resources, books, and movies that highlight the AAPI people. RepresentASIAN!!! I’m so happy that President Biden signed a bill to combat hate crimes against the AAPI population (the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act).

I’d like to also mention again that May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Throughout the pandemic, especially this year, taking care of my mental health has become so important. Moreover, realizing that the little things we often take for granted are what we should be treasuring every single day. Things such as: socialization, companionship, and hugs. Those are part of the human make-up, we so desperately need.

Mental health should be openly spoken about and not looked upon as a negative stigma. Often times, people feel judged and criticized once they talk about mental health. That’s not right. My dream is that mental health would be openly discussed amongst people, freely and in a healthy, positive way. There are various support groups through mental health organizations, where people can meet and safe safe to discuss their experiences, but we need that same love and support from society.

This week’s AAPI cuisine feature is Nepalese food. I had two close friends (siblings) in graduate school who were from Nepal. While they resided here on O’ahu, they frequently invited me over to their home and made home-cooked Nepalese vegetarian food. They were so proud of their culture and country. And they were great cooks! They even taught my family and our friends how to eat with our hands. I guess they don’t really use utensils in Nepal. It was a bit strange, as I’m not used to eating with my hands, but it was an interesting experience. Likewise, my friends learned about the local culture here and were exposed to a variety of different ethnic foods. They often liked eating at Himalayan Kitchen in Kaimukī. I love that place. They became friendly with the staff. I’d always have a grand time hanging out with them. They brought so much joy and a sense of calmness whenever in our presence.

If you haven’t had Nepalese food, it’s very similar to Indian food. They are neighboring countries after all. That got me thinking, what’s the difference between the two cuisines? They seem so similar- and they are. I found this article that explains the difference: https://kitchenappliancehq.com/what-is-the-difference-between-indian-and-nepalese-food/. One thing Jeff Campbell states is that Nepalese food does not contain cream like Indian food does. That’s very true! A lot of Indian dishes have creamy textures. Next time I’m dining out at a combined Nepalese/Indian restaurant, I’ll be able to tell the difference.

Have a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start to summer!

Cheers!

FS x

Week Four of AAPI Heritage Month: Filipino Grindz

Summer is right around the corner. Get ready for sunnier, longer, and hotter days. The best part about summer is the long days. I love when the sun goes down late in the evening. One summer, I’d love to visit Alaska, where the sun goes down right before midnight in some areas. That is mind-boggling! Imagine all the activities I could do late in the night.

This weekend, my dear friend and I had an impromptu dinner. We dined at Shay’s Filipino Cafe in Waipio. There’s also a new location in Honolulu- Kakaʻako. She introduced me to Filipino food many years ago and I loved it! My favorite dishes are: the pancit noodles, squid guisadong, and the sari sari soup. Pancit is a rice noodle stir fry dish, made with vegetables and meat. Super simple to make at home. Squid guisadong is sautéed squid with tomatoes, spinach, and onions. It’s so tasty! I have to order this dish at every Filipino restaurant. Sari sari soup includes squash, meat, seafood, and vegetables. It’s very hearty.

This week’s featured image includes two of my favorite dishes: pancit and squid guisadong. My girlfriend ordered pork guisantes, which was very yummy. It’s a dish made with pork, peas, and bell peppers, cooked in a tomato sauce.

We have a huge Filipino community in Hawai’i, with a lot of Filipino restaurants to choose from. My top two fave places are Thelma’s and Shay’s.

Can’t wait to explore the Filipino menu and try more yummy dishes.

Enjoy the last full week of May.

FS x

Week Three of AAPI Heritage Month: Szechuan Cooking

I’m so excited to share about Szechuan cooking. My sister and I dined at a new restaurant called SXY Szechuan. Prior to ordering, the chef and owner of the restaurant shared about Szechuan cooking. Szechuan, also spelt in multiple ways, comes from southwestern China and is known for the dishes to be spicy. Though, she said the chefs will make the dishes milder if one cannot eat spicy foods.

My sis and I were a bit overwhelmed by the menu, as we weren’t familiar with the dishes and the cuisine itself. Thank goodness for pictures as we browsed the menu. We decided to order tofu and vegetable soup, fried lamb BBQ, and mung bean jelly noodles with chili sauce. The mung beans looked the most interesting. I’ve heard of mung beans before in Korean facial products, but have never seen what they looked like.

The food was delicious! The soup was very simple, yet, it was soothing and comforting. The fried lamb resembled an Indian and Mediterranean dish because of all the herbs sprinkled on the lamb. And last, the mung bean noodles… They looked very intriguing. They were really good! That chili sauce was mild, and so tasty! I don’t recall the mung bean noodles having any taste. It literally felt like I was eating jellied noodles. We enjoyed the food very much. I can’t wait to go back to try more dishes.

Speaking of AAPI Heritage Month, I want to highlight the “To All the Boys I’ve Loved” trilogy movies on Netflix. I finally watched them and listened to the audiobooks within one week! Yes! And OMG! Why did I wait this long to listen to the stories and watch the movies?! I absolutely LOVED the story! The audiobook was a “page-turner.” It was funny, quirky, cute, and romantic- all in one! It was fabulous. It brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes. The story took me back to my HS days and my HS BF. Lara Jean and Peter’s love story is so sweet. I love both characters, especially Peter’s. He has grown so much over the last three books and it was great to experience his tremendous love for Lara Jean. So, so cute. There were a lot of differences between the books and movies, but the overall concept of the story was the same, which made me happy. These movies and books have been added to my all-time fave list.

I would like to also mention that May is mental health awareness month. Freshly, I’ve developed a deep passion for mental health advocacy and have been learning about ways I could become more involved in the mental health community. Taking care of our mental health is so important and we need to vocalize that mental health matters. More people need to be educated, open, and willing to share that mental health shouldn’t be shunned and hidden. The stigma needs to end. It’s ok to talk about it; to be open, and to receive help. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I give huge kudos to those who aren’t ashamed and seek treatment. It’s the way to move forward and to feel better. And that’s important above all else. Why live in darkness and in pain? There’s a bright world out there, waiting for us to shine. Don’t let mental health define and consume you.

Keep safe; take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Be proud of who you are.

In love,

FS x

Happy Mama’s Day! Week Two of AAPI Heritage Month: Japanese Cuisine

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, grandmothers, and aunts! I hope your weekend is filled with love, relaxation, joy, and laughter. You are appreciated. Your sacrifice, hard work, unwavering love, support, encouragement, and understanding means the world. Thank you!

Every year, I cook dinner for all my mother-figures in my family. This weekend, as we continue celebrating Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I made an Asian curried ground turkey stew (featured image), which turned out to be more like soup. Nonetheless, it was scrumptious. I’m sure it’ll taste even more delicious after all the ingredients have soaked into the broth over the last couple days. I’ve learned that it’s best to make the dishes ahead of time so they have time to marinate in their sauces and seasonings. The dishes are a lot more tastier a few days later. Here are the ingredients I used:

  • Pepper
  • Garlic pepper
  • Dried garlic flakes
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Homemade curry powder
    • Cumin
    • Coriander
    • Ground ginger
    • Mustard seed
    • Red pepper flakes
    • Turmeric
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Shoyu (soy suace)
  • White vinegar
  • Chicken stock
  • Bay leaves
  • Whole wheat flour (to thicken the sauce)
  • Ground turkey
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Lentils
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Okinawan sweet potatoes

I love cooking. But cooking for a heartwarming purpose, like Mother’s Day, is exhilarating for me. I love putting all my heart and soul into my cooking. Cooking with love is the best!

“To the world you are a mother. To our family, you are the world.” ~Unknown

In joy,

FS x

Week One of Asian-American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Thai Cuisine

Happy belated May/Lei Day, and Happy AAPI Heritage Month! So grateful to have this entire month dedicated to us!

I’ve included some links to learn more about the AAPI legacy:

Each week during the month of May, we’ll highlight on a dish of Asian or Pacific Islander cuisine. I’m excited to share about the various dishes I love throughout this month.

This week, our featured dish is Thai cuisine. It’s one of my favorite Asian foods. I love this new restaurant in Kaimukī called Red Elephant Thai Cuisine. Their food is excellent. The server shared that the food is considered to be authentic to the food cooked and eaten in Thailand.

Over the weekend, my friends and I had a marvelous dinner at Red Elephant. We sat in their outdoor section of the restaurant, which is featured in the picture collage. Their outdoor atmosphere is beautiful and tranquil both in the daytime and nighttime. I love sitting out there. We were entertained by a talented pianist while enjoying our dinner. Everything about that night was spectacular. We laughed and enjoyed each others’ company. The food was delicious. It was a wonderful reunion.

Prior to dinner, we attended our late friend’s celebration of life service. I had shared in a prior blog post that one of my girlfriends unexpectedly passed a couple months ago. It was shocking to all who knew her… The service was a lovely tribute to remember and honor her life. There were lots of tears and laughter, and reminiscing about the fabulous person she was to those who had known her. She will be dearly missed. I hope she is resting in love, happiness, and peace, and watching over us. My main takeaway from this experience is to live life to the fullest. Be the best version of yourself; be kind and loving to those around you, and have faith in everything you do.

I have so many favorite Thai dishes from Red Elephant, and overall. I didn’t present them all. The dishes featured in the collage are: yellow curry with sticky rice, tom yum (hot and sour lemongrass) soup, and green papaya salad. These photos were taken when I dined there with my sister.

This weekend, my friends and I ate: red curry with sticky rice, tom yum soup, spring rolls, and pad see lew (stir fry with noodles). We loved all these dishes. Yum!

The go-to dish I must order at any Thai restaurant is the tom yum soup. It is a breath of fresh air. I love the spiciness and sourness. The broth is so tasty. I always get excited when I see tom yum soup packets and flavored snacks at the store.

Check out Red Elephant Thai Cuisine:

3196 Wai’alae Ave.
Honolulu, 96816
808-732-5461
https://www.redelephantthaicuisine.com/

Peace,

FS x

Local Kine Grindz

This week, we’re exploring the local grinds on the island of Maui, one of my favorite islands away from home. Maui holds a special place in my heart because my mom was from there. I have lovely memories staying at my maternal grandparents’ house in Wailuku and visiting with relatives whenever I’d visit. As a child, we got our second dog from Maui. His name was Charlie. Boy, was he a menace. But he was a good watch dog. Always protecting us and our family home.

Several years ago, I got to try the famous Sam Sato’s in Wailuku. It’s a small, family-owned business. The restaurant gets pretty crowded, but the wait is worth it. They’re known for their dried noodles. This week’s featured image has a variety of popular dishes from Sam Sato’s: dried noodles, saimin (similar to ramen), cheeseburger, and BBQ beef stick. Can I say, ahhh-mazing? Loved all the food. It was so yummy. It hit the spot.

These days when I visit Maui, I like to play tourist. My favorite places to visit are:

  • Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm
    • It’s a beautiful and peaceful place, full of zen and nature.
  • Maui Ocean Center
    • I always love going to an aquarium.
  • MauiWine
    • Mmm, wine! Can you say wino? MauiWine is not too far from the lavender farm.
  • Sightseeing in Lāhainā/Front Street
    • I love Lāhainā and walking through Front Street. I love seeing the largest Banyan tree in the U.S.
  • Tasaka Guri Guri
    • My childhood favorite snack. This is a must have every time I visit. Guri guri is a dessert that’s between an ice cream and sherbet. Tasaka’s has two flavors: strawberry and pineapple. Both are quenching, but my favorite is the strawberry. Strawberry, all the way!
  • Whaler’s Village
    • A beautiful shopping mall in Lāhainā, with yummy restaurants, like Leilani’s on the Beach. Have a meal and a drink while watching the sunset fronting the beach.

My friend and her family recently visited Maui and told me about her visit to the goat farm. She shared how fun it was. That’s on my travel list the next time I’m in town again. Surfing Goat Dairy|Maui Goat Farm. I LOVE goat cheese and can’t wait to try them fresh. Yum!

Next time you’re in Maui, visit all these cool places, including Sam Sato’s:

1750 Wili Pa Loop
Wailuku, 96793
808-244-7124

Travel safely! Wear your mask!

FS x

Easter Genesis

Happy Easter and Resurrection Day! May your Easter weekend be filled with love, peace, happiness, and many blessings, today and always.

Did you know that pink is one of the colors of Easter? My favorite color as well. According to a Southern Living article (2019), pink represents hope and brand new beginnings. Perfect for the my mindset this Easter and spring season.

This year, I’ve added spring to my favorite seasons. I had an “aha” moment. We are generously given so many opportunities to “start over” and live a new life every day. Leave the past behind and continue moving forward as we learn from our mistakes and make better choices the next day. We proceed with perseverance and stay the course on this journey of life. Literally, we have a fresh pristine start every single day. Others believe that every January 1st is a fresh start as we ring in the new year. Furthermore, some believe that the new year truly begins on the Lunar New Year, which varies from year to year. A new year can also begin during the spring season and on Easter Day.

I’ve been reminded to be kind to myself and take things day by day. As New Year’s Day 2021 approached, many of us hoped and wished for a better year as the clock struck midnight. Lunar New Year came and we had those same wishes for the Year of the Ox. Now that spring has begun, I’ve learned to appreciate new life, more sunshine, and fresh beginnings. And today, on Easter Day, it feels like a new dawn all over again.

2020 was a tough year for many of us. Just the same, some of us still feel like we’re living in 2020, a year later. Still feels like Groundhog Day in some sense. I’ve experienced periods of that this year. We’re 1/3 into 2021. The year is far from over yet. I’m still believing for an exceedingly superb year. Let the rebirth begin!

One of the traditional dishes eaten during the Easter holiday is lamb, which is this week’s featured dish. According to Waring (2018), the people of Egypt experienced horrendous sickness and mourned the deaths of their firstborn sons. Therefore, the Hebrew community covered their doors with the sacrificed lamb’s blood so that God would “pass over” their homes. Hence, the meaning of Passover. As Christianity emerged, those newly converted passed on the tradition of eating lamb. Christians also refer to Jesus as the “Lamb of God, as He sacrificed himself to die for all of humanity. John 1:29 in the New American Standard Bible states, “behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

Lamb is my ultimate favorite red meat. I love its gamey and distinctive taste. It’s unlike other types of meat, which makes it so unique, delicious, and special.

Cheers to a wonderful Easter season. Continue believing and hoping for all good things. That is my prayer every day for this world.

In peace,

FS x

References

New American Standard Bible. (2020). Bible Gateway. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+1.29&version=NASB

Southern Living. (2019). The real meanings behind the colors of Easter. https://www.southernliving.com/easter/easter-colors

Waring, O. (2018). Why do we eat lamb at Easter? https://metro.co.uk/2018/03/29/eat-lamb-easter-7426513/