Columnist Ryan Tatsumoto, October 7, 2016 Issue

Ryan Tatsumoto
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

Supposedly, back in the 16th century, songbirds were placed into pies that would amuse diners as the pies were cut. But the pies back then had no relation to modern pies. My first exposure to pies was when I was a child – whenever Mom and Dad had to attend a funeral after work, Mom always heated the frozen Swanson turkey or a chicken pot pie, turning off the oven just as they left the house. My older brother was then instructed to remove the pot pies (sometimes we had Swanson TV dinners) using oven mitts after about 15 minutes. I did enjoy these frozen meals, a bit morbid of a admittance because we only had them if someone died.

Then later in life, we’d always have pumpkin pie at the annual Thanksgiving family dinner. But because I never developed a sweet tooth, I usually bypassed dessert. Then sometime during my undergraduate years at the University of Hawai‘i, I became enamored of this pie-like savory dish called a quiche. I first viewed the Quiche Lorraine being prepared on Hawai‘i Public Television’s International Kitchen hosted by Nino J. Martin. Something about mixing crisp bacon, caramelized onions and Swiss cheese in a rich custardy mixture all contained in a prebaked pie shell got my juices flowing. And mind you, this was about the time that humorist Bruce Fierstein published “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche.” I not only ate quiche, but I also made it! Regularly!

Slice of Quiche Lorraine. (Photos by Ryan Tatsumoto)
Slice of Quiche Lorraine. (Photos by Ryan Tatsumoto)

The Proper Quiche

Since a proper quiche is all about getting the custard just right, any good pie crust recipe will suffice as long as it’s blind baked before filling the crust. In other words, you first press your pie dough into the pie pan, fill the bottom with ceramic beads or beans to prevent the dough from rising and bake it until it sets. That’s because you’ll be filling it with a liquid mixture of cream and eggs and you don’t want any leakage. But the real key is the right proportion of cream to eggs. Too much egg or not enough cream and you’ll end up with a filling that is more soft scrambled egg than custard. Too much cream or not enough egg and you’ll end up with a filling that tastes and looks like unsweetened crème anglaise. But when it’s just right, the custard texture will be like silken tofu. Of course, years ago as aging started rearing its ugly head, I switched from crème to half and half then all the way down to milk. Sometimes I even use skim milk. But when quiche is properly prepared and served with a green salad and perhaps a glass of Prosecco, Beaujolais or Rioja, it puts me in my happy place.

The Crust

You can purchase prepared pie crust at your local supermarket and I have used these products before but not while making quiche. I decided to enter the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest about 15 years ago (when the grand prize was $1,000,000 – since 2017 it dropped back to $50,000) and used their refrigerated pie crust to make a three-layer peanut butter, banana and chocolate pie. But back in the day when I first started making quiche, the refrigerated pie crust wasn’t readily available in Waimänalo so I used Nino Martin’s crust demonstrated on International Kitchen. However, once I finally purchased a food processor, I only use the Pate Brisee recipe from the undisputed domestic goddess, Martha Stewart. It’s simple and painless and uses five ingredients: all-purpose flour, butter (I cut the butter into small cubes then freeze), salt, sugar and ice water. Washing the food processor is actually more labor intensive than making the crust. And since you can easily find the recipe on the internet, I won’t add it to this column.

Lazy Man’s Crust

To achieve a flaky crust, you want to work the dough as little as possible. Overworking the dough activates gluten in the flour, which causes a baked crust to shrink and crack. Therefore, I always make the dough the day before, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it relax overnight or at least for several hours. Overworking the dough also heats it, causing the butter to melt – that’s why I use frozen cubes of butter. Those intact morsels of butter melt as the baking proceeds and the steam released separates the layers of flour creating a flaky crust. But moving a rolled crust requires more labor especially if your pie has a top crust or worse, a top latticed crust. And since I enjoy savory pies more than sweet pies, I make free form, open faced pies. Though I still tell diners that it’s a crostata or galette as that sounds fancier instead of saying I made a rustic, free-form pie which makes you sound like a lazy baker. Which I am.

Sweet Potato and Kale Crostata.
Sweet Potato and Kale Crostata.

Sweet Revenge

Just recently we’ve been sampling the pies created by Kathy Masunaga, owner-baker of Sweet Revenge as she now is a regular vendor at the Windward Mall Farmer’s Market (just outside of the 1st floor entrance of the soon-to-open Target). Starting with a Kickstarter campaign a little over 10 years ago, what started as a means of financial independence after a 25-year marriage ended, the pink Sweet Revenge truck travels the island regularly with both sweet and savory pies and if you’re lucky, she may also have mochi “bento” available.

The Sweet Revenge weekly schedule is posted on their website and Instagram highlights any specials made during the week – she playfully created “Star Wars” specials during the week of May the 4th (be with you). On three separate visits to the Windward Mall Farmer’s Market, these pies stood out (though all were good):

Pastele Pie

A green banana crust enrobing a delicious thick pastele stew.

Enchil-Jabba Pie

A tortilla chip top covering large chunks of chicken with flavors of a great chicken enchilada.

Sweet Revenge Enchil-Jabba Pie.
Sweet Revenge Enchil-Jabba Pie.

Pink Pear Crumb Pie

Cooked fresh strawberries (hence the pink) and pear under a thick layer of streusel.

Lilimansi Pie

Combining the tartness of calamansi and lilikoi to mimic the flavors of the traditional Key Lime pie, except with local ingredients.

Sweet Revenge Lilimansi Pie.
Sweet Revenge Lilimansi Pie.

Chocolate PB Mochi Pie

A mini chocolate cake surrounded by peanut butter mousse topped with peanut butter brittle, chocolate drizzle and tender morsels of mochi.

Sweet Revenge Chocolate PB Mochi Pie.
Sweet Revenge Chocolate PB Mochi Pie.

Though the pies are great, Sweet Revenge also makes superlative mochi – the Pineapple Clone Crunch and Red Velvet Five were flavor epiphanies. I never thought pineapple or cream cheese would work with mochi but then again, Masunaga does hail from the Fujiya mochi clan. The pies are about the same size as your typical supermarket frozen pot pies, but a major advantage is that you don’t have to wait for a funeral to sample them … For more information about Sweet Revenge go to or go to her Instagram page @sweetrevengehnl.

Ryan Tatsumoto is a retired clinical pharmacist. However, he and his wife still 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.”


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