Huge congratulations to Penny, Ed, Billy, Jess and Matt for pulling this together: five Melbourne food bloggers stepping into a commercial kitchen to offer the general public a chance to critique their food. They hardly need my plaudits considering the event has sold out, which finally and affirmatively answers the question about whether food bloggers can influence restaurant attendance.
Steve from The View from My Porch is considering putting together some Tasmanian bloggers for a similar performance.
I’m starting to think that I may have gone a bit soft over the past few weeks.
I called this non-beer surprisingly refreshing. I enjoyed this slice of spam strapped to brick of rice and served at roughly the temperature generated by salmonella having hot and dirty sex. Frankly, I’m loving hawaii for none of the right food reasons and it is blurring my judgment altogether.
The “spam musubi” (above) is big, dumb fun – it’s the eponymous potted spiced ham fried with teriyaki sauce then bound to rice with a belt of nori. It comes with the endorsement of at least one American president and is available around the Hawaiian islands from sushi counters and convenience stores.
I’m surprised that there seems to be no clear history of spam musubi: Was it an innovation that started with the influx of US troops in a similar fashion to the start of budae jjiggae in Korea? Did it come via Okinawa where a similar dish is served or did the two co-evolve? Why was the honorific “o” dropped from “omusubi“? This dish can’t be more than sixty years old, and so its birth is possibly still within someone’s living memory.
The Hawaiian “plate lunch” is an excuse to anchor any protein to an icecream scoop or two of sticky rice. They seem to be both cheap filler and endlessly variable. I’d imagine that you could quite easily write about nothing but the numerous variations on the polystyrene clamshell filled with Hawaiian lunch, forever. At least until a heart attack took you out of the game before you reached middle age.
Kalbi – Korean beef short ribs on rice with kimchi from Me Barbecue in Waikiki.
Two hamburgers submerged in gravy, celery and onion with rice and macaroni salad, from Sueoka Snack Shop in Koloa, Kauai
Some very bready tempura prawns with mayonnaise, macaroni salad and rice from Sueoka Snack Shop in Koloa, Kauai
Until now, the only thing that I knew about Hanalei was that it was the birthplace of Puff the Magic Dragon, which is apparently, a lie.
Some of the best food in America comes in shacks, lean-tos, vans, makeshift structures cobbled together from plywood and tarpaulin and fryer grease. The American food that Americans aspire to eat and inspires the most column inches in this decade seems to sit either at the bottom or at the top, either food van or haute cuisine, but rarely in the middle.
Talking about the middle seems to be more about despairing about the industrialisation of food, big corn, the banality of the corporate chain restaurant and the emptiness of the American home kitchen. American food is hollow in the centre. As a result, the food that Americans aspire to eat from other cultures tends to sit in the middle – home-cooked is shorthand for “authentic” if some other culture is standing in front of the household stove. Your locavoring Alice Water-y folk will argue otherwise.
It bookends neatly with my approach to food: that strange mix of street food and top end – although I am a bit tempted by the taro pie on McDonald’s special Hawaii menu here in Kauai because it combines two things that I despise made good by the deepfryer. I’m more here to surf than eat but food from a shack beckons.
The Shrimp Station in Waimea sits alongside the highway en route to Waimea Canyon and picks up the day-tripping crowd in either direction – it’s almost opposite the faded beachside deco majesty of the local cinema and market.
The drawcard is dealt straight from the deep fryer: Coconut Shrimp. Prawns in a crispy batter with shreds of local coconut, on fries. They’re top notch.
The shrimp taco is a little less inspiring – tasty, fresh salsa but a bit light on the prawn.
Location: 9652 Kaumualii Highway, Waimea, Hawaii
Tel: (808) 338-1242
It is a strange quirk of history and economics that a nation’s taxation regimes change the beer that each country drinks. In the US, beer needs to contain at least 25% malted barley and so mass market brewers push the lower limit using rice, corn or anything else that can contain sugars and is cheaper than malted barley.
In taxation terms, Japan has three kinds of beer. Japanese booze blogger Jim from MoIpai outlines:
Regular beer which must contain at least 67% malt is taxed at the highest rate.
Happoshu (which means “Sparking Spirits” 発泡酒 in Japanese) contains less than 25% malt and is therefore taxed at a lower rate (which obviously means it’s cheaper to the customers).
There is a Third-Category “beer” called 第三のビール (Daisan no Biru) which basically doesn’t have any malt and is made from “other” ingredients (I believe corn, peas, soy, etc), which has an even cheaper tax rate.
Along with attempting to juggle a fickle drinking market, Japan’s brewers do so within a three tiered tax regime. Asahi Style Free is beer of the third kind, which is to say, that it is not beer. It’s tax-dodging beer simulacra for drinkers who primarily choose their brew by price. Asahi make the claim that this beer is zero sugar which they do by some sort of prestidigitation around what counts as “sugar” in this chart. It contains no part of some subset of sugar.
The beer is as expected – yes, it’s thin and watery, headless and virtually clear, with a metallic edge and the thinness that you get from brewing with rice rather than some other grain – you can’t confuse it with an actual beer but it is surprisingly refreshing.