Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hōʻiʻo Salad

First time I ever saw or heard of hōʻiʻo was when I was an 11th grader at Kamehameha. One of the Hawaiian language teachers was cooking it and talking with another teacher about its slimy nature. Yum. I don't think I saw it again for many more years--it's not as easy to come by on O'ahu as it is on Hawai'i Island. In fact, it is so affordable I'm ashamed I don't eat it more often. I mean really, I could get it for free if I want to venture down into Waipi'o or other places along the Hāmākua Coast. At the open market in Hilo you can get a nice bunch for $2-3 and if you go later on in the day you could even garner a bunch, like I did, for a mere $1.00. It almost doesnʻt seem right!

Hōʻiʻo is often referred to as warabi (Japanese name) or fern shoot. I will stick with hōʻiʻo, what with being Hawaiian and all. It is often likened to asparagus in taste and I must agree. I think the part that is most unattractive about it is its slimy texture once it is cooked. But once you get past that, it really is quite delicious. And the better you clean it, the less slimy it is.

$1.00 just because it was almost closing time!

I have watched others prepare it and I will eat it at gatherings but I never really prepared it myself until a girlfriend of mine taught me how she does it. I was so excited to start this afternoon that I jumped ahead of the gun:
I cut off the end pieces just like I do with asparagus.   Put those in my compost bin and then proceeded to cut up the hōʻiʻo in small one inch pieces.

And then I remembered that I didn't clean the stalks. So I had to clean the pieces.

My friend, Kanani, taught me that you should run your thumbnail down the deep groove on each fern shoot. I forgot all about this step until, of course, I had already cut up every single shoot in 1 inch pieces. Darn! Now I had to clean up each piece. Piece by piece. Ugh. But that's okay because in the meantime the water was on the stove heating up. Here is another great cleaning tip: have a toothbrush dedicated to hōʻiʻo cleaning and use it to brush in that groove and all around, especially on the hairy pieces.

Once you have cleaned up the groove of each stalk and cut it up into pieces, wash the pieces well. At least a couple times. Once the water in a pot starts boiling, put the pieces in then rush to get some ice and put it in a bowl and add water for an ice bath!

After maybe a minute of blanching, take the hōʻiʻo off the stove and drain immediately then put it in the iced water bath to stop the cooking. This will help to retain a nice green color as well as retain a great crispiness.

What you want to add at this point is totally up to you. Kanani likes to add konbu, aburage, and pea shoots. I like to add whatever I already have in the pantry and refrigerator. I had some wakame and konbu. Since the konbu is seasoned with MSG and other not so great ingredients, I make sure to rinse it at least 2 times. I added probably 2 tablespoons of dried wakame and dried konbu, then reconstituted them in water.

In the fridge I had some small tomatoes and a Japanese cucumber so that would be added for sure.

One of my favorite cooks uses the Paul Newman's dressing as the "sauce" but I just added 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons of Braggs (or shoyu).

Putting this over some buckwheat soba noodles would be exquisite. Or just eat it right out of the bowl. The longer you let it marinate the better! I cannot wait until tomorrow!

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