Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
We are now in the second month of the government’s mandated “stay-at-home, work-at-home” order and that 30th bowl of Sapporo Ichiban and fried Spam just aren’t cutting it anymore. So, I have been expanding my list of restaurants that offer take-out options. Over the past month, we have been doing our part to support local restaurants by placing a take-out order at least once a week.
Pah Ke’s Chinese Restaurant
We started with Pah Ke’s Chinese Restaurant, a neighborhood favorite, which has always been popular for take-out food. Whether dining in or taking out, we usually order the Chinese chicken salad. They use crisp won bok instead of the usual salad greens, and the dressing is made with peanut butter (instead of mayonnaise) and miso. It’s nothing like the traditional Chinese chicken salad, but leagues above in taste and texture.
Whenever you place a take-out order at Pah Ke’s, those crispy fried wonton strips are placed in a separate bag. The Mrs. is happy because she doesn’t like the crunchy topping, which means I get more of that crunchy goodness!
We also order the Singapore mai fun. The thin noodles have a better texture than the other noodle dishes. Pah Ke’s sauce has just the right touch of sweetness to balance the savory flavors. Another of our favorite dishes, the chicken and abalone casserole with black mushroom, is Chinese “surf-and-turf” at its finest.
Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ
Our local Gyu-Kaku is located in Windward Mall. Prior to the “shelter-in-place” order, Gyu-Kaku’s diners were grilling their own food at their table. As a take-out alternative, they offer precooked appetizers, including meat, rice and noodle dishes. Some locations are partnering with Uber Eats and providing delivery, so I decided to peruse their online menu. Lo and behold, they’re offering larger portions, but only if they are delivered by Uber Eats.
“Mega” portions of fried rice and garlic noodles are normally not offered in the restaurant, but they are available now through Uber Eats. It was so convenient and I could enjoy a glass of wine while waiting for the Uber delivery. The “Mega Sukiyaki Fried Rice with Beef” was delicious, with just a hint of smokiness and perfectly textured rice, like it had been refrigerated for a day or so before frying — I like to refrigerate my rice for about two days in order to get that perfect grainy texture without any clumping.
Another dish we ordered, the “Mega Garlic Noodles with Shoyu Chicken,” was the absolute bomb! The thicker noodles reminded me of Okinawan soba, with just the right texture of chewiness, combined with perfectly cooked shoyu chicken! This chicken wasn’t just cooked in shoyu; it must have been marinating for a day or so. It was so good I would order the chicken by itself. But, paired with those chewy garlic noodles, mmmm . . .
The Mrs. hopes that Gyu-Kaku will continue the Uber Eats mega portions and delivery even after COVID-19 is just a distant memory.
12th Ave Grill
During the Easter weekend, 12th Ave Grill added a family leg of lamb dinner to its usual take-out menu. The lamb included white beans cooked with tomatoes and rosemary, sautéed local kale and fried Brussel sprouts with dried cherries. We added a family portion of the restaurant’s baked macaroni and cheese made with house-smoked pecorino cheese.
And, since the Honolulu Liquor Commission loosened the restrictions on alcoholic beverages, wine and spirits can now be sold “to go” as long as the establishment normally offers food and if the diner orders food and if the beverage is still in its original container. Restaurants and bars that offer a selection of wine and spirits with their meals must open (uncork) the bottle and then reseal it. Prior to COVID-19, diners had the option of “doggie-bagging” their unfinished wine.
Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us, the bottle of Camino Pinot Noir that we had ordered was not with our food order when we picked it up. By the time we realized it, we were already back in Käne‘ohe. The staff at 12th Ave Grill apologized profusely for the mistake. As for our wine, we asked a friend who works in Kaimukï to pick it up and enjoy it that evening.
The food that did make it back to Käne‘ohe with us was as delicious as always. The tender slices of roasted lamb were served on a ragù of white beans — it must be Mom’s Kumamoto heritage, because I’m always happy with a meal of deliciously cooked beans. The house-smoked cheese in the baked macaroni and cheese made it taste like they had added bacon to the mixture, when, actually, it was a vegetarian dish and one that was unique to 12th Ave Grill.
Of course, doing take-out for all of your meals isn’t very realistic. So, here is another recipe that utilizes everyday items from your pantry so you can avoid a special trip to the supermarket.
My mom has been making tuna patties for some 40 years. Of course, much has changed since her days. For example, canned tuna used to contain six and a half ounces of solid tuna. Nowadays, you get five ounces of flaked tuna “soup” — and if you don’t use a fine mesh strainer, half of the tuna will go down the drain with the liquid. So, instead of two cans, this recipe calls for about four cans of tuna.
If you don’t have eggs at home (and you don’t want to make a special trip to the supermarket), crushed potato chips will act as a “binder,” although the patties will likely crumble. The precooked patties also have a sticky texture, so cooking with a partner makes the process a lot easier and a bit neater.
4 to 5 cans tuna
One 5- to 6-oz. bag of sour cream and onion potato chips, crushed to cracker meal consistency
1/2 can of cream of mushroom soup
1 egg, beaten
Drain the tuna with a fine mesh strainer and add to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the crushed potato chips, cream of mushroom soup and the beaten egg and mix well. Shape into patties and pan-fry over medium heat, flipping each patty halfway through the browning process or a couple of minutes on each side. You can also bake the mixture at 350 degrees until golden brown.
Now, what should you do with the remaining cream of mushroom soup? Well, you can double the recipe, or you can add the soup to your rice cooker like plantation-style okazu, just as the Issei and Nisei did to stretch their meals between paychecks.
This next recipe also uses canned tuna, preferably packed in olive oil, but water-packed will work, too. It’s the Mrs.’ variation of a dish we sampled many years ago at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, located at the northern end of Napa Valley. Originally a postgraduate program for culinary graduates, the institute now offers associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in the culinary arts.
It offered many small plates (my favorite way to dine) during its lunch service. One course featured flaked tuna served with white beans and a touch of greens in a simple wine vinegar vinaigrette. A few years later, we found this recipe in a major cooking magazine and, over time, adjusted it to our tastes. Some notes: I have used water-packed tuna. Also, not having fresh parsley doesn’t change the flavor much, but make sure you have the fresh red onion — it makes a big difference in taste.
TUNA AND WHITE BEAN SALAD
Three to four 5-oz. cans of tuna packed in olive oil (water-packed is OK, too)
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
4 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
5 tsp. fresh sage, chopped (or 3 tsp. dried, rubbed sage leaves)
Two 15- to 16-oz. cans of cannellini beans, drained
Drain oil (or water) from tuna into a medium-sized bowl. Add enough olive oil to make three ounces total; whisk in vinegar. Add onion, parsley and sage. Mix in beans and tuna. Season with salt and pepper.
Ryan Tatsumoto is a clinical pharmacist by day. In his off-hours, however, he and his wife enjoy seeking out perfect marriages of food and wine. Ryan is a certified sommelier and a certified specialist of wine. The Windward O‘ahu resident also writes a column for San Francisco’s Nichi Bei Weekly called “The Gochiso Gourmet.”