Archives for posts with tag: Hawaii

My grandmother in the backyard of the house in Hayward in the 40’s and on her last trip to her birthplace Lihue, Kauai mid 90’s.


My great-grandparents were born in Ponce, Puerto Rico. They left the island in 1899 as part of only 5000 documented immigrants to work on the island of Kauai in the sugarcane fields after two devastating hurricanes in Puerto Rico. They settled in Lihue, just a mile away from where the airport is today. My great-grandparents had 13 children there before bringing them to California and settling in the East Bay during the early 30’s.

They bought a house in Hayward and moved it across town to a small lot where my grandmother grew up as a teenager and would eventually pass away in. I would spend as much time as I could in the kitchen with her. When we sat and looked through old photo albums the images of celebrations from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s reminded me of what a special place this was.

My grandmother didn’t have a written recipe for this dish and things were never labeled on the pantry shelf – most of the time ingredient portions were measured with “just a little bit of that.”


Arroz con Pollo

1/4 cup achiote oil
6 chicken thighs,
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Sofrito, recipe follows
1/4 cup pimiento-stuffed olives, cut in half
2 cups long-grain rice
3 1/4 chicken stock
1 can gandules

Achiote oil:
1 cup lard
2 tablespoons annatto seeds

2 yellow onions, cut into large chunks
8 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bunch cilantro, washed
1 red bell pepper, cut into pieces
1 green bell pepper, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Soak the rice in hot water for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse until the water runs clear.

Heat the achiote oil in a wide, shallow pan (that has a lid). Season the chicken with salt and pepper and fry on both sides until brown. Remove the chicken from the pan and add the sofrito, cooking until most of the moisture is gone.

Stir in the rice and coat with the sofrito and achiote oil. Stir in the olives, gandules and the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Arrange the chicken pieces into the rice and let the dish come back up to a boil. Lower the heat and let some of the liquid evaporate before covering with the lid. Cook on medium-low heat for about 40 minutes.

Achiote oil:
Heat the lard and annatto seeds in a small pan over medium heat until the lard turns a deep orange color. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Place the onion, garlic, cilantro, peppers and vinegar in a food processor and puree until smooth. Any extra can be frozen or refrigerated.

Tutu’s Mai Tai

You could say my most recent visit to Hawaii left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. The island of Oahu is becoming so congested by cars, tourists and our nations military that it doesn’t feel like an island anymore. The roads feel like the freeways of Los Angeles. And, the rows of shops in Waikiki look straight off the strip malls of Las Vegas.

Thus said I am so grateful to have a local family I can call my own. I’m struggling to understand how they are adapting, once again to the growth of their homeland. Growth that has been steadily moving forward since the late 40’s, welcome as it was at that time. The feeling of aloha is getting harder and harder to find.

Lovey at the Tahitian Lanai

Lovey at the Tahitian Lanai

So you see – hanging out with Tutu (Lovey) is definitely a highlight when I visit Honolulu. I could sit for hours and listen to her stories about the history of Waikiki in its heyday, all told with a fair amount of piss and vinegar.

Tahitian Lanai

Tahitian Lanai

Lovey was a bartender for close to 40 years, working under the umbrella of restaurants owned by the Spencecliff organization, which included Tops, Queen’s Surf and the legendary Tahitian Lanai. She claims to have made the best Mai Tai in town, and only at a cost of $1.50. Even though the cocktail didn’t originate on the island, it’s roots were clearly tropic. Nowadays it’s almost impossible to find a “real” Mai Tai in Waikiki, so many variations are being made to please the palates of cocktail-umbrella seeking tourists.

Tutu’s Mai Tai

1 oz dark rum
1 oz light rum
1/2 ounce Orange Curaçao
1/4 ounce rock candy (simple) syrup
Juice from one fresh lime (about 3/4 ounce)

Pour all of the ingredients except for the dark rum into a shaker with ice cubes. Shake vigorously. Strain into an old-fashioned glass half filled with ice. Top with the dark rum. Garnish with a cherry.