Category Archives: Special Meals

Hawaiian Food Trip: Oahu: Part 1 (Pearl Harbor)

Taro Milk Tea, Fried Calamari, Takoyaki

We will commence our Hawaiian Food Trip with a direct 10-hour flight from Toronto to Honolulu with Air Canada which lands us in Honolulu at 9:15 PM (Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time). With a small flight delay, a missing car seat (the airport gave us a brand new car seat to keep due to the airline’s transporting issues) and by the time we gather our luggage, get our rental car and drive to our condo, it’s past 11:00 PM. I actually packed a tetra box almond milk in our checked luggage and brought my homemade banana muffins in one of our carry-ons so that the next day we don’t have to scramble around looking for breakfast.

With three kids, you just can’t freestyle travel. We planned ahead and pre-bought and pre-booked some activities. I would suggest to plan at least one major activity for the day and if you have time, plan others as backups but manoeuvre them as needed once you get there. If you’re a Canadian planning to visit some of the major attractions in Oahu and if you’re a Costco member (once again, I’m not being paid by Costco but this is really a great deal!), then go get yourself a Go Oahu® 4-day Card. It’s a great deal and if you pick a couple of major places to visit, you get your money’s worth. Plus, we pay Canadian prices for the Go Card online, which is a bonus.

Before planning every trip, I always ask friends to recommend places to visit, where to eat, and any other helpful tips. We were also lucky that we have Canadian friends living in Honolulu and they hosted a nice family dinner for us 🙂 She also recommended places to check out and restaurants to eat – it was helpful to have a local’s perspective. I told her she should be a tour guide expert for Canadian tourists!

Pearl Harbor

People who have been to Pearl Harbor would probably tell you that you cannot spend the whole day there. Very true unless you’re travelling with small children. We got there around 8:45 AM and left there around 4 PM. Start your tour with USS Arizona Memorial and get there early (they open at 7:00 AM) because the National Park Service gives out over 1,300 free walk up tickets each day on a first come, first serve basis. We were lucky that we got to go to the 9:00 AM tour and on we went. By the time it was finished, it was 10:30 ish. Even though it was only almost 11:00 AM, the kids were hungry. Luckily there was an outdoor food area on the premise. I’m usually not crazy about the food at tourist sites. They’re usually not the greatest so I was very surprised to find their hot dogs came with complimentary cheese and chili sauce. They also sold soups there too! Again, I was a bit skeptical especially because the soups were served in paper coffee cups. But the clam chowder and corn chowder were piping hot and surprisingly delicious. (Notice I forgot to take photos of these food items. I think my hand would’ve been bitten off if I took photos of the hot dogs and soups while my famished children looked on 😛 .)

After the animals, I mean, children were fed, we proceeded to visit the Battleship Missouri Memorial and Pacific Aviation Museum. You’ll need to take a complimentary shuttle to get there once you buy your tickets. Everything is clearly labelled and there are lots of people to ask questions if you get confused. When we got back to the main site, we checked out the USS Bowfin Submarine and museum. The kids, including our toddler girl had fun playing battleship control inside the museum. It was almost closing time so hardly anyone was there and they got to spend lots of time running around.

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor

Tips for visiting Pearl Harbor

You cannot bring backpacks, not even diaper bags when visiting any of the Pearl Harbor historic sites. A great tip I read was to bring several clear large zip loc bags. I put all the baby essentials in the clear bags. (It was actually very liberating not having to carry so many things.) I had my pockets to put my wallet and cell phone.

Also, kids under 4 cannot go into the submarine but are allowed in the museum. So my husband and I took turns watching our toddler. After my husband came back with the boys, they allowed me to take the boys onto the submarine again, which was very nice.

Papa’s Tea House

Part of our Hawaii trip planning involved deciding where to eat. I am so happy now that we have Yelp, so we can pick and review the restaurants beforehand. I remember going to Santorini, Greece pre-Yelp days and we had to rely on outdated travel book restaurant reviews. One seaside restaurant had the audacity to tell us that they didn’t serve octopus! I thought to myself, their restaurant was right by the sea! As you could tell, it was one of those tourist trap restaurants. Meanwhile, we happened to discovered a neighbourhood restaurant (not by the sea) and they served the most delicious octopus and other great foods.

When I was searching, I tried to find Hawaiian style food that we normally can’t eat back home. I found this restaurant called Papa’s Tea House in Aiea which is five minutes away from the Pearl Harbor memorials. This restaurant is located in an ubiquitous suburban plaza. We ordered fried calamari (requested by the boys), takoyaki, spicy ahi don, pork katsu curry, seafood combo laksa and a large taro milk tea to share. Once again I forgot to take pics of the pork katsu and laksa because of my famished children.

Taro Milk Tea, Fried Calamari, Takoyaki

Taro Milk Tea, Fried Calamari, Takoyaki

Taro Milk Tea – Let me tell you it was the BEST taro milk tea ever! They actually use real taro and not powder.

Fried Calamari – Love the garlic and chili sprinkled on top.

Takoyaki – Crunchy on the outside and perfectly moist on the inside.

Spicy Ahi Don – Basically spicy tuna poke on top of rice. Poke was my addiction while I was in Hawaii and of course it was delicious.

Pork Katsu Curry – Pork cutlet was delicious. However, the curry didn’t taste like the Japanese curry I’m used to but almost like a Chinese curry.

Seafood Combo Laksa – Was OK but not very authentic. The taste of the broth wasn’t as complex compared to what I’m used to.

Stay tuned for Hawaiian Food Trip: Oahu: Part 2 in my next post for more Hawaiian Memorable Dishes!

Hawaiian Food Trip: Aloha!

Variety of Poke

Travelling with three kids is no easy feat. And feeding them is a whole other ordeal. Luckily my kids love to eat and they usually eat everything my husband and I do. We recently travelled to Hawaii (Oahu and Maui islands) and decided to rent condos because we found it more economical and easier with young kids. We prepared meals at the condo and the kids had more room to run around. As much as my kids love eating out, I know they would get sick of eating out everyday, three meals a day.

Coming from a food-obsessed family, I researched what and where to eat in Hawaii before I left. (When our family visits from the States, we discuss what to eat for dinner immediately after our bellies are full from eating lunch. Yes, our family loves to eat!) I even mapped out the closest restaurants in the area we stayed at and all the areas we were visiting. Not only did I read restaurant reviews, I also read reviews on which grocery stores were better in terms of size, variety of foods sold and prices. Perhaps, I did more research on food-related places than the places we visited? 😛

During our trip to Oahu and Maui, we hit Costcos on both islands plus a couple of grocery stores to feed our family. You might be thinking I’m getting paid by Costco to write this post – I’m not! Food is expensive in Hawaii and I found if you have to get some things in bulk, Costco is the way to go. Even if you’re Canadian, you can use your membership in the US.

One of the most Memorable Dishes I had was poke. I was so excited when I read about it and couldn’t wait to try it. Poke is basically a raw fish salad that’s mixed with seasonings. The traditional poke is made with tuna, soy sauce, sea salt, maui onions and a few other ingredients. I bought poke from different grocery stores and had some at restaurants too. I am the only one that went crazy over poke. My husband had a bit and only enjoyed the spicy version of it and the kids didn’t like it at all (not a surprise).

Variety of Poke

Variety of Poke

There were so many interesting food products in Hawaii. One of the things we found at the grocery store was taro buns. I should’ve taken a photo of the inside of the bun because it’s purple! I couldn’t really taste the taro in the bun but it was really cool to find food items you normally wouldn’t find in your own area. I also bought pineapple wine from the grocery store to try. It was a bit on the sweeter side and the taste was OK. I guess liking certain wine is subjective. But it was interesting to try something local from the area.

Taro Buns and Pineapple Wine

Taro Buns and Pineapple Wine

How could I forget about Spam? Hawaii is Spam haven! I couldn’t believe how many different variety and flavours of Spam they had at the grocery store. I was tempted to buy every flavour from the Spam wall and bring them home!

Spam Wall

Spam Wall

One thing I didn’t get to try in Hawaii was Spam Musubi. It’s basically Spam on top of rice wrapped in seaweed. Every place that sold Spam Musubi had it heated under a food lamp in a glass food display case. I was weary of buying something that was sitting there for hours looking like no one was buying them. I could easily create this Memorable Dish at home.

Hope this post piqued your interest in Hawaiian foods. For now, this concludes the introduction of our Hawaiian Food Trip. In the next few posts, I will write about some of our travel and food adventures in Hawaii. Take a journey with me, as I highlight some of the memorable places we visited and the Memorable Dishes we tasted.

Winter Solstice Festival Dinner

Winter Solstice Festival Dinner

With all the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparation, I almost forgot about our Winter Solstice Festival or Dongzhi Festival dinner! It usually falls a few days before Christmas. When winter solstice falls on a weekday, we would have our dinner the weekend before the actual day. My mom makes a huge Chinese dinner with lots of different dishes. For these dinners, she makes special dishes that she normally doesn’t make for her usual Sunday dinners.

This year, we were also lucky to have my uncle make this special dish called Eight Treasure Duck. The duck is deboned and stuffed with eight “treasures” which consist of lotus seeds, chestnuts, red dates, dried shrimp, glutinous rice, salted duck egg, Chinese mushroom, and Chinese sausage. It’s braised until the meat is tender.

For dessert, we have tangyuan (湯圓) or balls of glutinous rice, which symbolize reunion. My paternal grandmother used to make tangyuan all the time. But my mother buys them from the grocery store since it’s time consuming to make them from scratch.

I look forward to eating these Memorable Dishes every time we have a special Chinese holiday to celebrate. Since we moved to North America, the smaller Chinese holidays and festivals might not be celebrated as prominently as we did in Hong Kong or China. But having these special dinners help us remember the Chinese festivals and special occasions. I am hoping to continue passing on these “eating” traditions to my children 😀img_WinterSolstice2015

Thanksgiving Dinner 2015

Our family Thanksgiving dinner is always a big production. My mom thinks there’s never enough food and ends up making many different things. She is used to cooking Chinese style where we have many dishes. So making Thanksgiving dinner is not a far stretch from her usual Chinese dinner.

The dinner usually consists of a whole turkey, prime rib (this year, we had steak instead), mashed potatoes, stuffing, steamed vegetables, garlic bread, and being a Chinese family, we also have rice of course. But not just our regular steamed rice – steamed rice made with canned mushroom soup. I don’t remember how or when we started making this kind of rice. But we’ve been having it every time we have turkey.

Thanksgiving Dinner 2015

Steak & Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, Stuffing, Steamed Vegetables (From top left, clockwise)

My cousins also contribute to the already abundant array of dishes for Thanksgiving. This year, in addition to our usual fare, we had sweet potato casserole, mushroom risotto, tomato and cucumber salad, and lamb chops. Don’t forget about appetizers and desserts! My grandmother is a vegetarian, so I usually make a couple of vegetarian appetizers. To make it easier for myself, I made something with puff pastry. I made one with garden tomatoes and the other one with sliced mushrooms. Both have Gruyère cheese on them.

Thanksgiving Dinner 2015

Sweet Potato Casserole, Lamb Chops, Mushroom Risotto, Tomato & Cucumber Salad, Mushroom and Tomatoes on Puff Pastry (From top left, clockwise)

Since my mother makes so many different types of food, something always gets shafted. In our household, it’s the garlic bread. Someone is supposed to keep an eye on it but somehow we always end up burning it. There are multiple things being made and everyone pitches in one way or another. So the garlic bread always gets missed. I started using the oven timer so that we don’t forget about it. This year we didn’t burn the garlic bread because I was in charge of it. But I forgot to take pictures of it! Too many people and too much action going on!

I was overzealous with the food that I forgot to take a picture of the whole uncut turkey! I also forgot to take photos of the desserts! I’m a horrible food blogger! Hahaha…I was enjoying the moment so I didn’t take as many photos as I should have. Plus, my crazy baby girl was calling for food constantly that I was tending to her on top of helping my mom prepare. For dessert, I made my Mini Fruit Cheesecake and others brought pumpkin cupcakes, apple tart, tiramisu cake, Japanese tofu cheesecake, jello, and of course fruit to balance everything out.

Thanksgiving Turkey

Overzealous with eating and forgot to take photo of whole uncut turkey and desserts!

This is a wonderful time of year to reflect and be thankful to have loved ones to share our Memorable Meals with. I know our kids are especially excited not only about eating the food but also having everyone over to share it with. I’m sure every family has their special Memorable Dishes that they make on these occasions. I hope you enjoyed eating and spending time with your loved ones on this special Thanksgiving weekend!

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