Maui Food Madness Part 4

Sorry for being absent from Xanga for over a week. We returned from the United States with my sister and brother-in-law in tow, and have been showing them around Bangkok, leaving little time for blogging. With that said, let me pick up where we left off in Hawai’i. For the final segment on food in Maui, we visit a lavender farm, a goat dairy, and eat some fantastic fish tacos.

Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm

One of the interesting things about Maui is that it is agriculturally more diverse than you initially expect. While there are wide swaths of land dedicated to sugar cane and other tropical produce, as you ascend the slopes of Haleakala (the volcano that forms the eastern 75% of Maui), you pass through a more temperate zone. The combination of rich soil, moisture-laden air, and the filtered tropical sun provides a fertile growing environment for a wide variety of produce. Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm is a great example of this. 

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Situated 4,000 feet above the ocean in the town of Kula, the Ali’i farm stretches over 13 sloping acres. Different varieties of lavender are cultivated and the grounds are largely open for self-guided walking tours. In the early afternoon, the breeze was pleasantly warm but we were protected by a thick layer of clouds that reminded me of the fog of my native San Francisco, but without the need for multiple layers of clothing.

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Here, Sugi and Tawn pose amidst a field of lavender on the upper edge of the farm. The farm offers settings for private events including weddings. While the steep slopes might prove challenging for guests with limited mobility, the views (and fragrance!) would be unforgettable and worth the effort.

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Close up of one variety of lavender. The air really is perfumed with a subtle, but pleasant aroma from the acres of lavender.

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In addition to the lavender, the farm has extensive gardens with many different plants and beautiful flowers. Many of the plants were familiar to me from growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, which has a similar climate. I was excited to see the fuchsia (on the right) because my father used to grow these in our back yard.

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No trip to the farm is complete without a stop at the gift shop for a snack. Beverages include lavender lemonade and tea.

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The highlight is the lavender scones served with passion fruit and lavender jelly. A few years ago, I purchased some food grade lavender but rarely used it. Tasting these scones, I was sorely tempted to buy some more and make it a point to cook more frequently with this beautiful flavor.

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Sitting on the shady balcony outside the gift shop, we were visited by a flock of small birds who waited not so patiently for scone crumbs. Tawn decided to share his crumbs with them and they gingerly approached and pecked them from his hand.

Surfing Goat Dairy

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Just down the hill from the lavender farm is the Surfing Goat Dairy, another example of the agricultural variety found on Maui. A working farm that produces more than two dozen varieties of goat cheese that are used at restaurants across the island, Surfing Goat Dairy proudly claims to make da’ feta mo’ betta!

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One of the younger goats playing on a surf board.

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The dairy offers tours and there is a small gift shop that sells a variety of their products. Recommended are the cheese tasting flights, which feature both fresh and aged cheeses.

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We sampled six cheeses, a mixture of fresh and aged. From the back left, clockwise: fresh feta, “Ping Pong Balls” (drained chevre, rolled into balls and marinated in garlic olive oil), Ole! (chevre with jalepenos, lime juice, artichokes, and cilantro), Udderly Delicious (plain, salted chevre), Garden Fantasia (chevre with fresh garden herbs), and French Dream (an aged cheese with herbs de Provence). Lots of fantastic cheese here, many of which have won national awards. 

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A pleasant, shaded seating area was populated with a friendly farm dog and cat, both of which came over looking for some attention. Despite being outside, both animals had exceptionally soft, well groomed coats. Perhaps the result of drinking plenty of goat milk?

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Before we left, I snapped a picture of these kids feeding kids. Ha ha…

Coconut’s Fish Cafe

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The final entry about Maui food concludes with a stop at Coconut’s Fish Cafe in Kihei. This restaurant, which is in a strip mall, looks like nothing to write home about but surprises you with tremendous quality. The must-eat item is fish tacos, which are prepared from fresh, locally-caught fish.

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The owner, Mike Phillips, who is in the shop most evenings, supervises operations and comes out to chat with customers. He took this picture for us. He explained that they are just setting up franchises on the west cost of the mainland, with the initial store to be in Santa Cruz. If a Coconut’s Fish Cafe opens near you, please make sure you try it. As Mike explained, the only advertising they do is customer word-of-mouth. So from my mouth to your ear: word.

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The beautiful fish taco, made with fresh mahi mahi, crunchy cabbage slaw, and a sweet and tangy mango salsa. This taco was so good that I would seriously consider stopping in Maui next time I’m flying back to the mainland US, just to eat here. My only quibble is that the toppings are cut in very large chunks, making them a bit hard to eat. Smaller bits would ensure you get a little bit of everything in each bite, but that’s a tiny complaint.

There you have it, the conclusion of my Maui Food Madness entries. I hope you enjoyed them!

Part 3
Part 2

Part 1

 

Malaysian Roasted Root Vegetables with WORLDFOODS Chilli Coconut Marinade

Malaysian Chilli Coconut Marinade Recently, I was invited to attend a dinner sponsored by WORLDFOODS, a Malaysian based maker of high quality Asian-inspired sauces, marinades, chutneys, and pastes.  I walked away with a bag of several of their 51 different products and a challenge: come up with and blog about new and creative ways to cook with their products. 

The first product I used was their Malaysian Chilli Coconut Marinade.  It was a weeknight and I needed to prepare a quick meal.  One chicken breast and thirty minutes later, I had a tasty protein ready to cook and add to a salad.  There were two things that caught my attention about the marinade:

First, one reason I cook a lot is that I want to know what I’m putting in my body.  Looking at the ingredient list, I was pleased to see familiar, pronounceable words.  No artificial colors, preservatives, flavorings, MSG, or gluten.

Second, the flavor was remarkably good and remarkably authentic.  Unlike a lot of “Asian” products that are watered down versions of popular sauces, the WORLDFOODS products have the same ingredients (and the same amount of chilies!) that you find when eating these foods in their home country.  While available worldwide, you won’t find any “Americanization” of the flavors.

Wanting to find ways to use the marinade differently than its traditional use, I put the right side of my brain to work.  The idea I settled on was to do roasted root vegetables, something I associate more with olive oil and rosemary, and use the Chilli Coconut Marinade as a glaze.

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I decided on a combination of yams and beets (about 1.5 pounds or 750 grams total), with two yellow onions and a handful of garlic cloves.  These were scrubbed and, except for the yams, peeled.  Then I sliced them into approximately 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces.

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When I cut open the yams I was surprised to discover that they did not have the orange-colored interiors I am familiar with.  Instead, they are purple.  In the end, the flavor wasn’t that different, although it did lead to a slightly more monochromatic dish than I had anticipated.

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Once the root vegetables, onion, and garlic were combined, I coated them with about 1 cup (200 ml) of WORLDFOODS Malaysian Chilli Coconut Marinade and 1/2 cup (100 ml) of chicken broth.  You can substitute water or vegetable broth, if you wish to keep the dish vegetarian.

The vegetables were poured in an ovenproof dish and then placed in a preheated 350 F (180 C) oven for about 25 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes to keep the vegetables coated with marinade.  There is enough marinade that it forms a bit of a pool at the bottom of the dish, helping cook the vegetables by steam as well as direct heat.

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Once the yams and beets were getting soft but not yet fully cooked through, I stirred in about 4 cups (90 dl) of kale, washed and cut into wide strips.  The dish returned to the oven for about ten more minutes, enough time to finish cooking the root vegetables while still leaving the kale a little crunchy.  You can cook the dish for longer if you prefer your vegetables softer.

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Uncommitted to the idea of this being a fully vegetarian meal, I also pan fried a plate of Northeastern Thai style sausage called Sai Oua, sliced it, and served it on the side.

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The end result was very nice.  The marinade had thickened into a nice glaze, coating the vegetables with a sweet, tangy, and spicy sauce which countered the natural sugars in the yams and beets.  The kale provided a fresh contrast that made for a very satisfying meal.

All in all, I’m very pleased with the WORLDFOODS Malaysian Chilli Coconut Marinade and look forward to trying it in other dishes, as well as to trying their other products.

While WORLDFOODS is based in Malaysia, its products are available in major countries across the world including Australia, the UK, the United States, and Canada, as well as most Southeast Asian countries.  To locate a store which carriers their products near you, use this store locator.  In the United States, you can also order WORLDFOODS products for home delivery through MyBrands.com

Full disclosure: While I am not being paid or otherwise compensated to write this entry, I did receive the products for free and dinner that night was paid for by WORLDFOODS.  It’s important to me that you know that the opinions expressed in this blog are my own and are not bought or paid for by others.

 

Great Eats in Bangkok Volume 2 – Khanom Krug

As I promised, my “Great Eats in Bangkok” series is in fact becomming a series and not just a single video.  Using my new wireless microphone that plugs into a Kodak Zi8, the audio quality is a bit better than the first time I shot the footage for this episode.  I’ll have to keep playing around with the equipment in order to learn to master it, but hopefully each successive volume of the series will get better.

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Photo courtesy yang1815

In this volume we explore one of my favorite Thai desserts, something called khanom krug.  “Khanom” is the broad term used for snacks and nibbly type of desserts and “krug” refers to the half-sphere shape in which these tasty treats are made.  You can loosely describe khanom krug as “rice flour and coconut milk pancakes”, although that description fails to capture what makes them so special and worth seeking out.

Here’s the 3-minute video.

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Photo courtesy yang1815

The interesting thing about khanom krug is how it is composed of two batters, both made with rice flour and coconut milk.  One batter is a little saltier and the other is a little sweeter.  The sweet batter is poured into the indentations in the pan, filling them about 2/3 of the way.  Then a few seconds later the saltier batter is added.  Savory fillings such as corn, taro, or free onions can be added (but just as often, are not) and then the whole thing is covered and allowed to bake and steam for several minutes.

Once the khanom are fairly firm, but still a little molten in the middle, the halves are scooped out and paired together for serving.  You have to be careful of a few things when eating them: first, they will be incredibly hot and the interior will decimate your tastebuds like lava flowing through a forest.  Second, don’t let the vendor put the container of them in a bag.  Steam is the enemy of these khanom and they will lose their crisp exterior very quickly.  Third, solve that problem by eating them right away!

I hope you enjoyed the video.  A third one is being edited now and the first volume, focusing on rice noodles called guaytiaw, is here.