Hawaiian Christmas Luau with Beervana

Bangkok-based Beervana, a specialty beer importer, recently sponsored a Christmas Luau, a Hawaiian feast cooked by chef Tim Butler (from Eat Me restaurant) and hosted at Flow House, Bangkok’s first spot for “indoor surfing” on the FlowRider wave machine. Bangkok Glutton writer Chow invited me to come along for the fun.


It was a warm and windless evening, which didn’t bode well for an outdoor dinner. The location, Flow House Bangkok, is on Sukhumvit Soi 26 near Rama IV Road. It has a nice second floor terrace that overlooks the Flow Rider wave machine and provided a private dining space for our twenty or so diners.


The Flow Rider provided plenty of entertainment, watching the (mostly younger) crowd surf on this high-powered sheet of water. Especially fun was to watch how, when they wiped out, the spray of water would carry them up the ramp and onto the platform at the top of the wave. Looks like fun!

While we waited for dinner to be served, Beervana’s owners plied us with a couple of their imported beers. Beervana searches for unique beers with character. They are typically non-pasteurized and non-filtered and are made by small, independent brewers. While I’m not a beer drinker, several of their beers were very enjoyable and all paired well with the food.


After a bit too long of a wait, the first course arrived, an ahi tuna poke with ginger and chili coconut vinaigrette. Poke is a typical Hawaiian dish generally made with raw fish mixed with various dressings. In this case, the vinaigrette made the poke into more of a ceviche. It was okay in itself but the accompanying beer, an Anderson Valley Poleeko Pale Ale, was excellent.


Second course was a grilled prawn with ogo ogo seaweed salad, basil, and Spam. When preparing prawns for large groups, the risk is that the prawns will be overcooked. In this case, the prawns were actually slightly undercooked. The seaweed salad was underwhelming and the prawn lacked seasoning. The addition of Spam (and cilantro instead of the basil listed on the menu) added nothing to the dish other than a convenient shortcut to make the dish more “Hawaiian”… kind of. Paired with an enjoyable Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale.


The third course was very nice, a spicy lomilomi salmon with heirloom tomatoes and coriander. Lots of lomilomi salmon in Hawaii is served with smoked salmon of so-so smoked salmon and is usually too heavy on the tomatoes. In this case, the salmon was excellent and there was plenty of it. Assertively flavored, it had a nice kick. The course was served with an Anderson Valley Solstice Cream Ale, which tastes heavily of cream soda and didn’t do much for me.


After a long wait, the whole roasted pig was served. It was ostensibly served “family style” but that meant that we needed to walk over to get our plates.


The pig was very flavorful and moist. Pieces of crisp skin were enjoyable but the skin attached to the sliced meat was rubbery. The taro puree and pineapple lime confit, while simple, were nice accompaniments for the pork. This was served with a Rogue Yellow Snow IPA, which was nice but I soon reverted to some more of the Anderson Valley Poleeko Pale Ale served with the first course.


For dessert, we were served vanilla coconut custard with roasted pineapple and rum. This tasted okay but way too much gelatin had been used so the custard was rubbery. The pineapple went well with the custard, though. Served with a Rogue Chocolate Stout that complimented the dessert but I don’t like stout – too bitter for my taste.

All in all, it was a fun evening. It is fun to try a new experience and the idea of pairing beer with food is an interesting one. The beer was a bottomless flow, so if I were more of a beer drinker, it would have been heaven. Instead, it was just a slice of beach in Bangkok.


Food in Kauai: Koloa Fish Market

Looking back, I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point in my life my “what to see” list when traveling started to tip in favor of places to eat rather than sights and attractions to see.  While Kaua’i is a beautiful island with stunning beaches, mountains, canyons, and jungles, as I made my list of what I wanted to do, it pretty much read like a list of local types of food I wanted to try.  Along the way, I discovered Lonely Planet’s Kaua’i guide, a book that uses 296 pages to detail the island and does a lot of work to present it through a environmental/sustainable/locavore lens.  Excellent resource.


Our first afternoon in Poipu Beach we decided to start with the nearby town of Koloa, a five-minute drive from Poipu.  With its little town feel that would be right at home in an “old west” movie, our first stop was the highly recommended Koloa Fish Market.  Known for good local “grinds”, I was anticipating a chance to sit down and enjoy some great food.  We got the great food alright, but since there was no place to sit down we had to take the food back to the condo.

Everything’s on the chalk board inside this tiny market.  The friendly staff readily explained things that we later realized were written right in front of our face.  (Hey, it happens to the best of us!)  With four of us, two of whom are not large eaters, we decided the following would be enough:


This mixed seafood plate has seared ahi tuna encrusted in sesame, boiled shrimp served with dipping sauce, seaweed salad, and poke.  Poke (pronounced “poe-kay”, which means “to cut or slice” in Hawaiian) is a common side dish in the islands made from raw fish marinated in soy sauce and other ingredients.  We ate a lot of poke and every bit of it was fantastic.  Most often, it is made from ahi tuna, the quality of which is amazing.  We also had it made with octopus, crab meat, and salmon.

Now, I will say this about seafood in Hawai’i.  It is really wonderful and all, but I get really fresh, really inexpensive seafood in Thailand so there was a point where I was thinking that it was all fine and dandy, but not really that exciting.  This echoes a problem that Michael shared with us.  When he has guests from the mainland, there are a lot of very interesting types of food for them to experience because Hawai’i has a hodgepodge of Asian cultures that make up its heritage and a lot of the Asian food here is better than what the visitors may experience back at home.  When he has guests from Asia, though, they are more likely to think something like, “yeah, we’ve got this back at home.”

Of course, that didn’t stop us from trying as many different things as we could!


Another thing we tried is the plate lunch.  Well, the styrofoam box lunch.  Today’s offering was a mix of laulau (pork steamed in taro leaves and ti leaves), kalua pork (slow roasted, traditionally cooked in a fire pit), rice, lomilomi salmon (minced salted salmon with chopped tomatoes and green onions), and a little serving of poke.  Both types of pork were wonderfully tasty.  The lomilomi salmon was fine but it was hard to identify that there was any salmon in there.  We tried some a bit later in the week that had more noticeable amounts of salmon. 


For dessert we shared a piece of the fish market’s homemade sweet potato and haupia pie, a market specialty.  Haupia is a coconut milk dessert thickened with arrowroot or corn starch.  It is very similar to a Thai dessert and is lightly sweet and salty with a thick, gelatine-like consistency.  This version is served with a sweet potato base made from purple sweet potatoes, again something familiar to people in Thailand.  It is served on a cracker-crumb crust.  It was very nice, not overly sweet but pretty filling.

All in all, our first meal in Kaua’i was a thumbs up.  Relatively inexpensive, good food, simply prepared.


Unrelated to the lunch at the Koloa Fish Market was our search for malasadas, the fried dough that came here with Portuguese contract workers, thousands of whom came to Hawai’i in the late 1800s.  We were looking for for the one-woman stand known as Kaua’i Malasadas, located in from of the K-Mart at Kukui Grove Shopping Center in Lihue.  Unfortunately, she was nowhere to be seen, so we stopped at Kaua’i Bakery & Cinnamons in the same shopping center to try some of the different malasadas.

The options included plain, chocolate cream filled, vanilla cream filled, and filled with both chocolate and vanilla cream.  Lightly sprinkled with sugar and not too oily, I was nonetheless underwhelmed with these fried treats.  They are donuts without holes, something that I can’t get incredibly worked up about.


Honolulu to Lihue

Route Map
Link to Part 1: Bangkok to Hong Kong
Link to Part 2: A Half Day in Hong Kong
Link to Part 3: Hong Kong to Guam to Honolulu

After some 29 hours traveling, we had safely made it to Honolulu and had just one more short hop to our destination: Lihue, Kauai.  To get there, we had to take a 20-minute flight about Hawaiian Airlines, which has a codeshare agreement with Continental. 


We exited our plane from Guan (pictured) above and walked downstairs where we had to claim our luggage and go through customs.  As you can imagine, since Hawaii is a bunch of islands they are particularly concerned about fruits, vegetables, uncooked meat, plants, and anything else entering the state that might harm local agriculture.  About forty minutes after landing we found ourselves outside in the fresh (and very pleasant) air, and made our way to the inter-island terminal.


The inter-island terminal is a ten-minute walk from the main terminal and is also connected by these buses called Wiki-wiki busses.  In Hawaiian, “wiki” means quick, so “wiki wiki” implies very quick.  In place since 1970, the buses really are anything but that.  Ostensibly a new moving sidewalk system has been opened but I didn’t see it.

Since our bags were checked through (we placed them on a belt outside customs so they could be connected for us), the walk was leisurely and we proceeded through security.  We realized, though, that we still had better than an hour before boarding time, so I walked around the inter-island terminal to get some pictures.


For the longest time, the state of Hawaii had two dominant airlines: Hawaiian and Aloha.  In March 2008, Aloha went out of business, at least in part because of predatory practices by Mesa Air Group (who operate many regional affiliates for major US airlines) who decided to open their own island carrier called “go!”  Hawaiian continues strong, though, and consistently ranks with the best on-time percentage and fewest mishandled bags of any US carrier.  Here is their fleet of Boeing 717s (a modernized version of the 1960s era Douglas DC-9) at Honolulu.


The airport has lots of open air areas, although since I was last there in 1994, they have enclosed and air conditioned the gates.  The walkway in the picture above is open air.  The garden below in the picture below is viewed from the left edge of this walkway.


One of several beautiful gardens in the airport which passengers can spend time in.  What a peaceful place to wait for a flight!


As the sun set, I caught this nice picture with the Hawaiian Airlines maintenance hangar in the background.

Throughout the terminal are wall-sized enlarged photos taken from different eras of Hawaiian Airlines’ history.  Talk about a walk through the past!


1960s – Hawaiian received their first Douglas DC-9 aircraft in 1966 and along with them, these funky flight attendant uniforms and hot boots!  Go, Nancy Sinatra, go!


In the 1970s, the carrier updated their look both in terms of livery and flight attendant uniforms.  I’m curious where they got the California surfer boy?  Must have flown in from the OC and been accosted on the ramp by the flight attendants!


This picture, probably from the 1980s, is very pretty, showing off both the beauty of the islands as well as of the airplane.


One reminder of Aloha Airlines is this mural from a route map they had published in the early 1960s, based on the aircraft shown, a Fairchild F-27.  Beautiful illustration, isn’t it?


Speaking of nice illustration, the toilet signs are appropriately decorated with aloha shirts for the men and muu-muus for the women.


As night fell and departure time neared, the gate area started to fill up.  Among our fellow passengers, a group of elementary school students and their parents, flying to Kauai for a weekend outing.  The flight attendants gave them a special shout-out when we landed.


Our aircraft, almost ready to board.  Watching their ground crew move, you can understand why they have such a good on-time record.  Despite the islands’ laid-back culture, they certainly hustle when there is work to be done.


The interiors are a bit old and dark, but for such a short flight it was fine.  Service was friendly, along the lines of Southwest Airlines.  For our 20-minute flight, the only “inflight service” was the handing out of containers of POG – passionfruit, orange, guava juice – and then quickly collecting them.  Seriously, we took off, leveled at about 5000 feet (versus 35,000 for a normal flight), and then were descending almost as soon as we had leveled off.

Finally, about 32 hours after leaving Bangkok, we landed smoothly on Kauai, retrieved our bags in the open-air bag claim, and waited for my parents to arrive and pick us up.  At last, we were there!