Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Extreme Couponing. . . Sort Of

I know I haven't posted anything in a long while and I know I'm long overdue for one, so I decided to show you all my recent obsession that's been preventing me from my blog (and other things). Couponing! Yes couponing! I know most of you have heard about it and maybe even seen the Extreme Couponing show on tv. At the very least, many of you are interested in it, whether you want to admit it publicly or not. It's a simple concept; look for an item on sale then find coupons to bring that price even lower, or free! In some cases, you can get "paid" to "buy" an item. There are slight small prints to getting paid to buy an item though, but we'll get to that later. 

It all started in mid to late December, 2013. I was browsing random webpages and getting my daily dose of random news and seemingly useless info. I somehow came across this site about a man (not really sure if guy or girl but I will use "man" for all purposes) who did a month long challenge in which he had to "eat well" using only $1 a day. His method to complete this challenge was to coupon. After his first day of the challenge he spent $4.49 of the $31.00 he had for the month and this is what he accomplished:

2 boxes of Quaker Instant oatmeal

4 packs of Philadelphia Cream Cheese Minis

1 package of Knudsen Light sour cream

10 apples
2 lbs of carrots
4 boxes (small) of Wheat Thins
1 jar of Skippy All Natural peanut butter
2 cans of pork and beans
1 bag of long grain brown rice
2 packages of Mission 100% whole wheat tortillas (10 count each)

He also got the following items and donated it to a Food Bank:

15 packs of Philadelphia Cream Cheese Minis

4 boxes (small) of Wheat Thins

1 Scrubbing Bubbles Extend-A-Clean bathroom cleaner

1 Scrubbing Bubbles Extend-A-Clean bathroom cleaner refill

That was on DAY ONE! Amazing, right!?!?! Of course his food items were not healthy to start with, but he eventually found ways to get more and more healthy and tasty foods for next to nothing. I was so amazed at his accomplishment that I read all his entries for each day of the challenge. In the end he managed to buy $597.96 worth of food and other stuff for $27.08, meaning he had approximately $4 to spare in the end, and that's after donating most items to a Food Bank! Super crazy!

I was immediately hooked. I wanted that knowledge. So I read more of his posts about the mentality it took to become a couponer. He further explains that you need to have a whole different mindset in the way you shop and the items you buy and more so the way you use items at home. 

At the time, I fit into the perfect example of the type of customers that manufacturers and stores want. They love the people who decide what they want to have for dinner based off of cravings or impulses, rather than on what you have in the pantry. Same goes for non-food items. The thinking is that if you decide to make spaghetti for dinner but you don't have any of the ingredients at home, you're going to the store and buying the items whether it's on sale or not. Companies LOVE this type of consumer because they make the most profit off of them. There's more to it, but I'll let you figure it out on the link above.

Next he explained that if you want to get into coupons, you need to collect coupons and have lots of patience. Easier said than done, however, I was able to collect 2 weekends worth of Sunday inserts from the newspapers. Since I am fairly impatient, I searched for other couponing websites and found two that really fast forwarded me into couponing. The first was a website/forum called and the second is After browsing every inch of both sites, I came upon a coupon scenario (as it's called in the coupon community) that I had all the resources to do, so I did! 

In the first week of November, literally just a day or two before I was leaving for Vegas, I did my first coupon deal. It wasn't as amazing as it was supposed to be because I forgot to use 1 set of coupons that would have made me a profit of $1.01 per each transaction. I also added a few bottles of shampoo and conditioner to the deal because it made it extremely cheap and it's the brand I use. In total I got 4 bottles of Tresemme, 8 various Axe products, 4 Degree deodorants, and paid only $9.70 for it all! Amazing, at least to me, considering that the Tresemme alone was $3.99 a bottle. 

Despite my mishap in the scenario, I still think it was an amazing accomplishment. I even had a slight adrenaline rush while at the register. It's weird but you kind of feel like you're doing something illegal or wrong. I also felt uncomfortable when people lined up behind me and saw me using coupons, taking forever to finish my transaction. But the more scenarios I did, the more all those feelings withered away. 

Over the course of only a couple months I learned a vast amount of info about couponing. The coupon community has their own lingo that can make it quite confusing, especially for a newbie. Thankfully there are tons of help out there! I eventually found a Facebook group for couponers in my area, and I found that the coupon community on Instagram is infinitely huge and welcoming! A quick search of coupling hashtags resulted in thousands of couponers posting deals/scenarios for you to copy, tweak, or just plain learn from. From there I sifted through the various couponers to find ones more local to me, since stores are different across the nation. In addition to all the above, I recruited a friend who I thought would be good, and more so interested, in couponing. I was right, as usual, because he's quickly become my cbff (couponing best friend forever), and we've helped each other build quite a stockpile! 

Oh yeah, "stockpile." That's basically a couponers way to show how good they are at couponing. Different couponers will coupon for different items and neatly place them on shelving units or in pantries, or even just piled up in their garage or spare bedroom. It's an amazing sight to see how much things people can get for next to nothing out of pocket (oop). Here are a few of my hauls that currently contribute to my very own stockpile:

As you can see, there are seemingly random things and large quantities of some. I can honestly estimate that the total price for everything pictured above was less than $100 oop, including the red dutch oven which retails for over $80! Now when you look at all that, the first thing you're thinking is, "what the hell are you gonna do with all that?" Well I can answer this several ways, and a few not so nice, but the gist of it is that most of these items are things I normally would use or need throughout the year, however I just so happened to be able to buy the years supply all at once and for a mere fraction of the cost. 

Now there are items that I may have couponed for that I in no way need or want, but there's a reason to the madness! For instance, I bought glucose meters from Walgreens (Wags) for $10 each, but I had a coupon for $10 off, making this item free (except taxes). Now you're asking, "but what are you gonna do with glucose meters?" Well, nothing! Give them away? Sell them? Who knows! But here's the catch; for each glucose meter that I had purchased, I received 10k in rewards points, which is approximately $10 that I can use towards a purchase of any item in the store. It's kinda like a gift card or store credit. So now I have $10 in store credit I can use, all thanks to an item I don't want or need. This is also where the couponers mentality differs from the majority of consumers. Majority of couponers know that you may have to coupon for items you don't want/need, in order to get items you do. Majority of the consumers will pass on the item & the accompanying deal simply because they think they don't need the item. The same mentality that stores want! But hey, to each their own. 

Since I started couponing a bunch of friends and family have asked me to teach them, and I tell them to call me or meet up with me so I can at least get them started, but only 1 has actually followed through and became a full fledged couponer, and in Vegas of all places!! She had help from another friend too, but either way she's now on her way to saving money for her family. 

If you wanna get started in couponing, I've found that it's fun to set a small couponing goal to help you strive for better couponing success. It also pays to know your stores coupon policies inside and out. You'll find that many cashiers/managers think you're stealing simply because you paid almost nothing for $100's worth of product, and they tend to make up their own rules on occasion. Don't let that dissuade you though. Many people don't understand that a coupon is a set amount of cash that a manufacturer is willing to pay a store (and most times with extra) when used towards the purchase of their product. A common thing I get from cashiers is "you can't use that coupon because it makes the item free." Well, DUH! That's why I want to use the coupon, and it's perfectly legal and accepted by just about every retailer! And I say "almost" because some stores don't take manufacturers coupons, like Big Lots!

My goal when I first started couponing was to get name brand cereal for less than $1 a box! Just a couple weeks into couponing and I was able to buy 125 boxes of General Mills cereal for an average of $0.62 a box, and some as low as $0.48 each! I was proud as hell after that! And you better believe I posted my cereal success for others to see, and hopefully save on:

Of course that's not all 125 boxes, but you get the picture. I'd like to add that if not for my cbff, I wouldn't have been able to accomplish this feat! Together we find deals and share scenarios, as well as coupon together at stores. It's more fun with friends. 

I guess that's all I have to say about this for now. It's a crazy wave that I'm still riding, so expect to see more posts about it. Please know that this is just been my personal journey in couponing and that I don't speak for all the couponers out there. We all have our own reasons for doing what we do. =)

Peace & Poi,

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Try Something New: Maqloobeh (Upside-Down Chicken & Rice)

I've been sitting on this post for a couple weeks now because I've been busy with work and other things, but today I finally have time for it. Sorry for the delay but I hope you enjoy this! 

So a few weeks ago I saw an article on CNN about Anthony Bourdains new show, Parts Unknown. The article had a falafel recipe but showed a short clip, from the episode, where Anthony was treated to a Palestinian dish called Maqloobeh. It was basically a complete meal cooked in layers within a single pot, then dumped onto a platter for serving. It looked amazing and I have a liking for Middle Eastern food, so I had to try it! Here's a link to the article that inspired me.

I had to do a bit of creative research to find out the name of the dish since I didn't actually listen to the audio of the clip and I was too lazy to go back and watch it again to hear if they ever named it. Apparently there are many different spellings to "Maqloobeh," and various Middle Eastern cultures have their own variations of the recipe. Much of the spices and seasonings used are fairly the same in each recipe, with slight changes here or there, but after I scoured through several recipes, I decided to mix and match the recipes to create my own version. I do this mix-n-match technique to a lot of recipes that I haven't tried before, mainly because it's difficult to find authentic/original recipes now days. I also have a very huge flavor pallet and can usually taste mixed flavors (in my head) as I see them in recipes.

So please keep in mind, the following recipe is not entirely authentic. It is my own creation based on various versions of Maqloobeh found on the web. Also, see my note below the recipe for additional changes from the original recipe.

  • 4-6 chicken pieces (bone-in drumsticks and thighs)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut to bite sized pieces or slightly larger
  • 3-4 potatoes, sliced to 1/2 inch thick rounds
  • 3 cups long grain rice (can substitute with any preferred grain of rice)
  • 5 cups water
  • 4 whole cardamom pods
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1/2 tblsp. garam masala 
  • 1 tblsp. turmeric
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 2 tblsp. oil
  • oil, for deep frying
  • 2 halved and roasted tomatoes for garnish (optional)
  1. Fill a large frying pan, or pot, about 1/2 inch with oil at medium-high heat. Fry potatoes and cauliflowers (separately) until golden then set aside and drain. 
  2. In a large pot, add 2 tblsp. of oil and add chopped onions and sauté, about 2 mins, then add all spices and seasonings. 
  3. Add chicken and water. Cover then bring to a boil and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. 
  4. Taste broth and add salt if needed.
  5. Add cauliflower, evenly spread out, and then add potatoes, also evenly spread out. 
  6. Pour raw rice evenly into the pot then cover and simmer for approximately 20 mins, until rice is cooked. 
  7. Place a large platter upside down and over the pot and flip the pot and platter over, dumping the contents of the pot onto the platter. 
  8. Add roasted tomato garnish and serve. 
Note: Almost all Maqloobeh recipes called for eggplant, insisting that it is a MUST, but my roommate despises eggplant so I did not include it in my recipe. You will also have to adjust the water quantity accordingly, depending on the grain of rice you use. Short grain rice usually use a 1 to 1 ratio, where longer grains require nearly, if not more than, a 2 to 1 ratio (1 cups water to 1 cup rice).  I usually add just a tad bit more than required to adjust for evaporation when boiling (even when covered, some water loss occurs). 

When I made this, it was my first attempt and I had some guest over to try it. It turned out amazing and my friends really enjoyed it. In fact, two of my friends, who are brothers, took some of it home and their mother tried it. She took us out to Dim Sum a couple weeks later but raved about it during our meal! About a week after making the original dish, I made it again for my friends Rory and Olma. They too raved about it. Overall it was a successful test run at a cool and tasty recipe! 

In short, trying something new always seems risky, but how else are you going to expand your flavor awareness unless you go out and explore?! Even if you fail horribly at a new recipe, I'm sure you'll learn something new in the process. 

Try this recipe and tell me what you think! Or try a completely new recipe and tell me how it went! =)

Peace & Poi, 
Dis Hungry Hawaiian

Friday, September 13, 2013

Malasada, Hawaii's Most Cherished Snack!

Mmm. . . Hot and fresh fried doughnuts covered in sugar! Yeah yeah yeah, I know it's not exactly healthy but hey, it's hot and fresh fried doughnuts covered in sugar! ;)

Let me start off by saying that the use of the word "doughnut" is used lightly. There are some people who would argue that it's not a doughnut, but I'd rather not use the term "fried balls," and giggle every time I type it out. With that aside, let's get this thing started!

If you've ever been to Hawaii, there's a high chance that you've tried a malasada! In addition to being a local favorite, it's huge on the tourist To-Do list. This is good and bad at the same time. Good for Leonard's Bakery, the ONLY place to get your malasada fix when you're on Oahu, but bad for locals who now have to wait in a ridiculously huge line just to get a box of these delicious morsels. And don't get me wrong, the long lines are not a deterrent, just an irritant. You can't stop a hungry local from getting whatever they crave! If you don't believe me, just try it and see what happens!

Growing up I didn't get this as much as I wish I had but that probably added to the reason why I love it so much now days. Unfortunately, where I currently live there is not a single place to get it. Well, at least not as good as Leonard's! On the bright side, I love to cook, so finding a recipe similar and tweaking it to my liking wasn't too hard. Ok, I lied, it was hard! But like I said, you can't stop a hungry local!

I started by searching online for malasada recipes. I found a bunch, most of which claimed was "Leonard's" recipe, but by looking at the ingredients I can usually tell the outcome of the finish product. After scouring around the net and finding a few recipes, I eventually landed on a couple I wanted to try. They didn't come out quite like I wanted it, or should I say not quite like Leonard's, but they were good. With a lil bit of dis and a lil less of dat I was eventually able to land on the recipe I liked. I like it so much that I actually am not gonna give it out! =) But what I will give out is the actual Leonard's Bakery Malasada recipe that was provided by their very own chef, Leonard Rego, via the Food Network. I know you probably thought I was gonna give out my recipe but the fact is that I want people to go out and try new things, then tweak it to your liking! The only way to get good at anything is repetition. It took me several tries, with the exact same ingredients and measurements, to perfect my recipe. I encourage you to do the same. 

By Leonard Rego, via The Food Network

  • 2 teaspoon dry active yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar plus 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, well beaten
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Cinnamon-sugar for coating (about 1/4 cup sugar mixed with cinnamon to taste)

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the yeast with 1/4 cup lukewarm water and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Mix until the yeast dissolves then set aside for 5 minutes. Stir in the milk, vanilla, eggs, and butter and reserve.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flour with 1/3 cup sugar, salt, and nutmeg. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the yeast and milk mixture into the well. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, forming a soft, smooth dough. Cover the dough with a clean towel and set aside to rise in a warm place until dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.
  3. Punch the dough down, then with oiled fingers, pinch off pieces about the size golf balls. Place the dough balls on greased baking sheets. Cover the malasadas with a clean towel and set aside to rise in a warm place for about 15 minutes.
  4. In a heavy, high-sided pot, heat a bout 2 inches of oil over medium-high until the oil reaches 325 degrees F. Working in small batches, fry the malasadas until they are uniformly golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes per batch. Drain the malasadas on a plate lined with paper towels just until they are cool enough to handle then roll them in cinnamon sugar and serve.

I used a large outdoor propane heated wok to fry them since I was making semi-large quantities (good or bad outcome, I wanted to eat a lot of them). For this particular recipe I would advise you to use a clean wet towel, rather than dry towel, let the second rise last about 30 minutes or more, instead of 15 minutes, and be ready to get somewhat messy. The dough should be really soft and smooth, making it difficult to work with, without practice. Also be sure to adjust rise times according to your environment. I live in an area that's HOT during the summer and COLD during the winter, meaning shorter rise times in summer and longer rise times in winter. Ideally you want a warm kitchen, or room, to let your dough rise. To see a glimpse of how it's done, here's a video of malasada's being made at Leonard's, courtesy of KITV:

Here are some pictures of the ones I made. You'll see that the dough will tend to float in the oil at exactly the halfway mark of the malasada. When it's ready to flip, you can just nudge it with a wooden spoon, or whatever you're using, and it will flip over to fry the opposite side. It's quite easy and fun to do, just be careful not to splash hot oil around.

When you remove the malasadas to briefly drain, you'll notice that it seems hard/crispy and un-doughnut like. Don't freak out! It's natural for it to be like that at first. Once you let it sit for a bit, it quickly becomes soft (assuming you did it correctly). 

After a quick drain, roll it around in sugar and that's it! Serve it up while it's still hot! 

It's not an easy recipe and it takes time to master, but the benefits far outweigh any reason not to learn this recipe. Once perfected, you can do fundraisers, parties, birthdays and more. Especially if, like me, you live in the mainland. Good local recipes are hard to come by despite being in high demand!

Try this recipe and tell me what you like or didn't like. Feel free to contact me with questions too!

Peace & Poi,
Dis Hungry Hawaiian

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gramma's Chili and Zippy's Recipe!

Mmm, Chili. . . Who doesn't love chili? It's a seemingly simple dish with a complexity of flavors that can be molded to suit anyones craving. Best of all, it's good no matter what time of year it is. And everyone's got that Grandma, Grandpa, Aunty, Uncle, Mom or Dad that is known for making a killer bowl of chili. Some are known for making a ridiculously spicy chili, while others are known for making a mild but super savory chili. No matter what kind of chili it is, everyone loves it!

When I was young I would visit my grandparents every summer, and every summer I would learn a different recipe from my Gramma. Gramma was an awesome cook. She would make cooking, and cleaning, seem like a smallest of chores. The best part about her was that almost all of our vegetables came from her and Grandpa's garden. They were serious gardeners. She even taught me a system for cleaning dirty dishes as we made them, during the cooking process (best thing I ever learned in the kitchen). 

Coming from Hawaii to San Jose, the weather was kind of a shocker for me. Super hot days with freezing cold nights. I was already familiar with the heat but with night temperatures below 60 degrees, I was always wrapped up in a blanket or jacket or towel or whatever I could get to keep warm. I loved the cold though, as long as I had something to keep warm when I needed it. It always felt refreshing and clean. 

Well, one summer Gramma decided to teach me how to cook chili. What I loved about how she taught me things was that she would explain the whole process beforehand and while actually doing it she would go step by step on what we're doing and why we're doing it. I think the "why" was a key part in how I learned her recipes so easily. It's hard for me to do something without knowing the purpose or the outcome (applies to almost everything in life for me). 

So for her chili, we had to buy the ground beef from the store, but everything else came straight from her garden. I helped her chop up all the vegetables while she carefully watched me, correcting when I need it too. She would tell me about how all the veggies need to be cut around the same size so that it cooks evenly together. Most of the men were tall, on my father side of the family. Since I was also very tall, I was tasked with grabbing the big heavy pots that Gramma was somehow able to store in the tallest part of her cabinets but never able to retrieve, at least while I was in town. She liked making chili in her heavy duty enameled cast iron french oven (not a cheap kitchen accessory). After everything was    prepped and ready, we got started:

Gramma's Chili

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1-2 onions, chopped
  • 1 med. green bell pepper, seeded & diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cans stewed tomatoes
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained & rinsed
  • 3 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp. cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • water to cover
  • flour & water for optional thickener 
  1. In a large pot, combine ground beef, garlic, onions, bell peppers and sauté until meat is browned and veggies are tender.
  2. Drain excess fat and add stewed tomatoes, tomato paste, all dry seasonings and water (to cover).
  3. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally and adding water as needed, in 1/2 cup increments. 
  4. Add kidney and pinto beans and simmer for additional 30 minutes.
  5. Salt to taste.
  6. Thicken with a mixture of flour and water, if needed.
If you make this recipe enough times, you'll learn how to thicken it up on it's own due to the tomato paste and pinto beans. But if you're on a budget and want to make little go a long way, you can thicken the chili with flour and water. Practice and patience is key.

After your chili is made, you can spruce it up with just about anything you want. Some like onions and cheese. Some like it in a bread bowl. In Hawaii we love it with rice. My personal favorite, however unhealthy it is, is with mayonnaise and on a heaping pile of rice. Yes, mayo! Just a spoonful is all it takes, but the chili becomes creamy and delicious!! There are numerous other things you can do with chili too, like throw it over homemade country fried potatoes and add some eggs (another personal favorite), or make an omelette, or just eat it straight up. Add some hotdogs or throw in on a hotdog. Options are endless. 

Also in Hawaii is a local restaurant called Zippy's. It's a local favorite known for their fried chicken and chili, among other things. Actually, their whole damn menu is pretty amazing. The best part is that you can buy their chili by the bucket! And their chicken, and their mac salad, and their rice. It's fairly common for locals to buy each, by the bucket, and combine it all for one meal. 

People for years in Hawaii have all speculated about Zippy's chili recipe. It seems like a simple mix of spices, ground beef, kidney beans and tomatoes but somehow making it at home just doesn't come out the same way. There's a creaminess to it that some have said was peanut butter and others said was well, cream. Since everything now days can be found on the internet, I decided to do a little digging and see what comes up. Sure enough I eventually found an scanned copy of the original 1969 Zippy's Chili recipe, as printed in the Star Bulletin in celebration of Hawaii's 10th year of statehood!! To my surprise, there was no peanut butter or cream in the ingredient list. There were, however, a couple of ingredients I wouldn't have imagined ever being put in chili. Without further adieu, I present Zippy's Chili Recipe:

Who woulda thought that ginger and ajinomoto was in there!?!?!?! And did you notice the bacon? Wow! Try it out and tell me what you think!

Peace & Poi,
Dis Hungry Hawaiian 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Cucumber Sunomono, Japanese Cucumber Salad

One of my most favorite and simplest dishes to make is Cucumber Sunomono. Sunomono is any form of sliced and pickled vegetable (sometimes with seafood) salad. It's cucumber form is my favorite because it's a light, crispy, sweet and slightly salty refreshing snack that can be eaten by itself or as a compliment to almost any meat dish, regardless of how it's seasoned.

Due to the large Asian influence in Hawaii, as described in previous posts, almost all locals grew up eating some form of this yummy salad at one occasion or another. Personally, I love just about any and all pickled veggies, but this one takes the cake! Unfortunately, it's such a simple dish that I barely have a story to accompany it. But what I do have is the recipe! =)

Cucumber Sunomono

  • 1 large cucumber, partially peeled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 dash of soy sauce

  1. Cut cucumber in half then thinly slice both halves.
  2. In a small bowl, mix salt, rice wine vinegar, sugar and soy sauce.
  3. Add cucumber and toss lightly then refrigerate for 15-30mins.
  4. Serve

Simple right? There are other variations where people have added sesame seeds, onions, sake, carrots, regular vinegar and so forth. Some even remove the cucumber seeds. Sunomono can be any mix of pickled vegetables that you desire, however, some vegetables just don't mix well with others. Daikon (white radish) and carrots are another great mixture that I recommend. Start simple then fine tune it to your taste. 

Try it with some teriyaki skewers or even with a regular steak. You'd be surprised at how versatile this dish is, and it's so simple to make that you kinda don't have an excuse! Let me know what you think and send me pictures of your finish product! 

Peace & Poi,
Dis Hungry Hawaiian

Friday, August 23, 2013

From Garden Bed To Dinner Table. . . A Vegetables Tale

Last year I started a garden for Earth Day, thanks to a iReport assignment I decided to partake in. Here's a a bit from my iReport:

"CNN PRODUCER NOTE Kalani Kaikaka of San Jose, California, says his grandparents passion for gardening inspired him to start growing his own vegetables. "My garden is fairly small, but it has all the same veggies that I used to help my gramma and grandpa plant and care for." Kalani Kaikaka is growing tomatoes, bell peppers and jalapeños, all of which he plans to use to replicate his grandparents' homemade salsa.

- stein0726, CNN iReport producer"

Not my greatest writing but hey, it was a start! I documented, via pictures, the growth of my garden and  the foods I made with the fruits of my labor. Here are a few pics from when I started out and the progress I made in the coming months:


As you can see, it literally went from almost nothing and blossomed to a growing beast. I actually had to completely remove one of the zucchini plants because it branched out into 3 large plants and started to block out sunlight to some of the tomatoes. It was an awesome experience since it was my first garden and from what you can see, successful! The problem began when I began picking more veggies than I could eat. In fact, more veggies than I, my 2 roommates, and all my friends and neighbors could eat! I got pretty creative though, making several different dishes with the same ingredients.

The first dish I made was a type of rice and chicken porridge. I didn't really follow any recipe for it because I was craving porridge and I needed to use up some of the veggies. I basically just boiled the rice and chicken in water until it was a thick constancy, then added the veggies and boiled it just until the veggies were tender. Salt and pepper were my only seasonings...

Next I made a simple beef and veggie stir-fry. It consisted of just beef, zucchini, onions, celery and bell peppers. I used oyster sauce, a dash of soy sauce and pepper to season. Threw it on a bed of rice and that was that. Super fast, super yummy, super easy!

While at the supermarket one day I came across Thai red curry paste and decided to give it a try. I bought chicken and a can of coconut milk then did a quick stir-fry of a sort with jalapenos, zucchini, bell peppers, basil, onions and celery. I then added the curry paste, water and coconut milk (all to taste). I love spicy food and this dish was SPICY! My roommates didn't eat much due to the heat... hahaha, more for me!

Finally I made an Indian style chicken curry and my first ever homemade naan bread. To make the curry, I used a generic pre-made Indian curry mix that I bought at a local Indian market, but added the exact same ingredients as the Thai curry. The naan bread was my first attempt to make it at home and although I didn't have the high heat tandoor oven that's typically used to make naan, it came out pretty close to the real deal! From a picture, you can barely tell that it came from my oven!

At this point both my roommates and I were veggie'd out! Aside from my red and yellow cherry tomatoes, which were ridiculously yummy and we ate them like candy, we didn't want to see another vegetable in front of us for a long time...

It was a great experience though. I had other veggies I attempted to grow but none were as successful as the ones in my grow bed. I started another garden again this year and I encourage everyone to grow at least one plant a year. Start small though. It can be time consuming (and somewhat addicting).

Peace & Poi,
Dis Hungry Hawaiian

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pokē (poh-keh), not Poke (pōk)!

If you're a lover of sushi then you're also a lover of Pokē. It commonly consist of cubed pieces of raw ahi (tuna) or aku (dark meat brother of ahi) and smothered with various seasonings. Its' most simplest form is just raw ahi/aku, Hawaiian sea salt, limu (seaweed) and sometimes small amounts of inamona (roasted and crushed kukui nut, also known as candlenut), however, there are numerous other meats you can use for it.

A word of caution about consuming inamona: Because I don't want to be responsible for for someone carelessly eating inamona, please make sure that your inamona was prepared properly. Eating raw kukui nut is highly toxic and may cause nausea, violent vomiting and stomach cramps. For those of you who don't know what kukui nuts are, it's the same nut that we use to make lei's, as pictured below.

I've been eating pokē ever since I can remember. The only difference now is that there are so many more varieties of Pokē that it's so hard to choose which one to eat. And the price makes it even more difficult, at $10-$17 per pound. The picture on the right shows just how many varieties there are in just a small section. And the prices depicted are from a couple of years ago, so don't expect to get that price now days! 

Typically, pokē is served at just about any damn event you can think of in Hawaii. Birthdays, BBQ's, fishing/camping trips, weddings, kanikapila's (Hawaiian jam sessions) and many more. Us Hawaiians will make up any excuse to eat pokē, or to just EAT! ;) Sometimes pokē is served in platters and sometimes just in individual containers. Checkout the pictures below for some of the different ways I've had it.

My personal favorite, store bought, pokē is from a popular island supermarket called Foodland. Their ahi shoyu pokē is by far one of the best I've ever had. It has a perfect mix of onions, green onions, ahi and a homemade shoyu (soy sauce). The shoyu is salty and sweet at just the perfect mix to not be called a teriyaki sauce but still make a damn good compliment to the pokē. Every time I make a trip back home, I stop by Foodland to get my pokē fix. It's not only really good, it's really cheap in comparison to other places. For the more adventurous eaters, not that I'm not adventurous, there are places like "Da Pokeman Fish Market" in Wahiawa, Oahu, Tamura's Market, Tanioka's and several other places with huge selections of different types of pokē. Another favorite of mine is Tako (pronounced like a Mexican taco) pokē. It's roughly the same as ahi pokē but they use octopus instead.

Most pokē recipes are relatively easy and highly customizable. Try this ridiculously complicated recipe and tell me how you think:

Ahi Pokē


  • 1 1/2 lbs ahi, sliced to 1 inch cubes
  • 1/2 white onion, sliced to strips
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • 1 Tb. Hawaiian sea salt
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. chili flakes (optional)
  • 1 Tb. sesame seeds (optional)


  1. In a large bowl, gently mix all ingredients. Serve or cover and refrigerate. 

See how hard it was? If you had a hard time with this recipe, I don't know what to say. . . except hahaha!!! Seriously though, it's that simple and that good! One thing I want to add is that if you make pokē, it's best with Hawaiian sea salt. You may think that sea salt is the same no matter where it comes from, but that's not exactly true. There are different elements in the different waters around the world, causing different salts to taste different. Of course Hawaiian sea salt isn't exactly easy to come by, but if at all possible, use it! The picture on the right is my goto brand and you can find it in most Filipino, Japanese, or almost any other Asian markets in your area. I brought some home on the airplane once and my check-in luggage got ransacked by TSA because of it, but they let me keep it. Just be careful though!

Throughout history, the Hawaiian culture has contributed much to the world. Think "surfing." Our passion for food has also made an impact to many so good that I recently found out that there is a couple of pokē shops in Las Vegas and since I was in the area, I had to get some! 

Around late April there was a Pure Aloha Festival in Las Vegas that I attended with my roommate, girlfriend and girlfriends parents. A couple of my most favorite Island Reggae bands were scheduled to play and it just so happened to be my girlfriends birthday weekend, so why not, right? We had a blast and even met up with my hanai sister, Tihanai, and her husband, Ben, both of which are from the Bay Area but flew in for the festival. During our weekend in Vegas we decided to eat at a bunch of places, buffets and try out at least one of the pokē shops. 

On the first day of the festival we stopped at Hawaiian Style Poke, just down the street from the festival. Uncle and Aunty were extremely cool people and made all the pokē to order, keeping it as fresh as possible. Normally pokē is prepared in bulk and ready to eat but since the demand isn't the same in Vegas as it is in Hawaii, you get fresher pokē but have to wait just a tad bit longer. And that's not to say there was a long wait, because there wasn't. Plus, Aunty and Uncle were from my hometown so we got to chat it up for a while, or wala'au as we say in Hawaii. We ended up buying 2 large containers of Ahi and Tako pokē, in addition to 3 poke bowls, which we later snuck into the festival. They even had Hawaiian Sun drinks, which are my absolute most favorite drinks on earth! It was so good that by the time I took a picture of it, half of the pokē was already eaten. Just to be eating local food, surrounded by local people, listening to local style music, and have my friends there with me was amazing!

On the second day of the festival, we went back to Hawaiian Style Poke and got even more pokē that we also snuck back into the festival. I think we made pigs of ourselves because even random people were giving us weird looks. . . Proof is in the pic to the right. Checkout the lady in pink watching my roommate and I eat! Hahaha, she wasn't the only one either. We had also bought a ton of food from the booths at the festival, so our table was ridiculously full of food at all times. That's just how we do it though. Like they say in Hawaii, "Eat til' it hurts." And trust me, we do!

Another awesome thing that happened was I met some extended family that I never knew I had and most of all I got to see my nephew, Jamin Tayaba, who moved to Vegas and trains in MMA. How awesome is that? Jamin is an up and coming fighter who dedicates almost his entire life to training. Ever since he was a kid he was a knuckle head, so it only make sense! He's the lil guy  in the pic to the right but do not, I repeat, DO NOT underestimate him. He's like one of those lil red firecrackers that don't seem that dangerous, until if blows your finger off! ;)

And Tihanai, being the networker that she is, got us photos with my favorite band, Common Kings, compliments of Ben's awesome photographer skills (which is why he isn't in the photo)! I've been listening to these guys since they first made an appearance and will probably never stop! I bump their music just about everyday on my way to and from work! I've also seen them just about every time they've been in the Bay Area.

By the way, if you need a great Realtor, Referring Travel Agent, Promotor or Event Organizer, check out Tihanai at! She does everything and is amazing at it! =)

All in all it was an amazing trip filled with TONS of food, awesome company, and great music! Best of all, I had freshly made pokē, IN VEGAS!!!!!! =)

Goes to show how much Hawaii's cuisine has made an impact in the world! Give it a try and tell me your thoughts!!

Peace & Poi,
Dis Hungry Hawaiian