A few weeks ago when visiting Hawaii to research the connection between Oahu's community farms and the chefs that run the vibrant hospitality industry's appetite for local grown produce, I had the chance to visit one of my old childhood haunts, Chinatown markets. This is where I spent many days and hours with my tireless cooking grandmother, Popo LIm, shopping daily for fresh seafood, meats and vegetables to feed her large extended family after the war. Although she is long gone, the memory comes back as I gaze down rows of vibrant, just harvested gobo (burdock root), seqwa (loofah squash), banana flowers, papayas, longans, bananas, papayas and lychees, almost hearing her advice on selecting the best o the lot. Checking through the fresh prawns and local fish, I can almost hear her saying "that's a good one over there". Having quickly purchased some prawns and fresh veges for a tempura, some nice young seqwa for a soup, some look fun rolls (freshly steamed rice sheets wrapped around slivers of green onions & char siu) and the ingredients to make kombu maki ( kelp sheets, gobo, shiitake, kanpyo (dried gourd strips), we were ready to head home to create a grand Hakka (southern Chinese cuisine) dinner.
A short quick trip back to Windward Oahu and Kaneohe, saw us prepping the ingredients for the Kombu Maki Rolls, followed by cleaning and cutting the veges and prawns for the tempura, assembling the stock, pork and seqwa for the soup and soon the long list of ingredients turn into many luscious dishes fit for the royal banquet. Family and friends arrive, let the feasting begin!