We’ve got ourselves a Mexican fiesta!

Happy last weekend of July and start to the 2020 Olympics! I watched the opening ceremony on Friday night. The Japanese do not disappoint! My peeps; my motherland. So proud! Go Teams USA and Japan! Wishing all the athletes the best of luck!

On Saturday night I witnessed the men’s street skateboarding athletes from the US, Japan, Peru, Brazil, and France showcasing good sportsmanship to one another. Hugging, encouraging, and supporting each other. It brought a warmness to my heart. The world coming together.

I recalled my very first trip to Japan in 2015. Tokyo was already underway in preparing for the Olympics. A lot of construction building those extraordinary infrastructures. Amazing! They were already selling Olympics merch, too. I bought some hand towels as souvenirs. I remember thinking about wanting to be in Tokyo when the Olympics occurred. Who knew that we’d experience a global pandemic in 2020. So glad I didn’t buy tickets. I hope all who did were able to get a refund. Sending good energy that cases don’t soar out-of-control during these next couple weeks in Tokyo and amongst the athletes and all who are involved in making the Olympics happen. I’m looking forward to watching my favorite sports: gymnastics, swimming, and diving.

We’re highlighting on two dishes I made: rice pilaf and Mexican pinto beans, aka frijoles de olla. I was extremely nervous to make the rice pilaf on the stove. Every time I used to make pilaf on the stove, my rice would turn out mushy. Thank goodness for rice cookers! It’s a staple in almost every home in Hawai’i and especially amongst Asians. I learned over the years that a rice cooker can be very handy in cooking all sorts of foods, besides rice. There’s a Buzz Feed article I came across years ago. I’m glad the link is still active: https://www.buzzfeed.com/melissaharrison/rice-cooker-recipes

As suspected, my first attempt at making the rice pilaf turned out mushy. Ugh! While my taste testers enjoyed the texture, I certainly didn’t. I had another go at making it. This was unacceptable to submit to my instructor. The second time, I didn’t follow the recipe to “the T.” I added in less liquid than the recipe called for and hoped it would be enough to create a “just right” texture and consistency. Phew! Thank God it worked! My second attempt turned out perfect! And boy, was it delicious! Or should I say, addicting! It was buttery, light, fluffy, and somewhat chewy (in a good way). The dish included butter, chicken broth, and onions (brunoise style cut 1/8″ x 1/8″ x 1/8″). I didn’t know rice pilaf required baking for 18-20 minutes after boiling on the stove top. Whaaaat? Yep! It helps the rice absorb the liquid and creates that fluffy texture. Ooh whee!

Onto the frijoles de olla. That was pretty simple and self-explanatory. I soaked the pinto beans overnight. Any dried beans needs to be soaked overnight before cooking. Also, they’re to be seasoned last, after the beans are fully cooked. If they’re seasoned before they’re tender, the beans won’t cook properly. I learned something new! The Mexican pinto beans included the following ingredients: sliced onions, and chopped garlic and jalapeños. All ingredients are thrown into a pot, covered in water. They’re to be brought to a boil and then to a simmer until the beans become tender. Once the beans are tender, lard, or white fat from pig, is added. Lard can be substituted for butter, which is what I used. Bam!

Have a marvelous new week ahead!

Stay safe,

FS x

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