Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hawaii: Surf and Sand and Hula and Plate Lunches

The New York Times had a story yesterday about one of Hawaii’s unique culinary treats: the plate lunch. The rationale behind this particular story was a report that, during his recent visit here, Barack Obama indulged in plate lunches on a couple of occasions.

Hawaiian plate lunches come in several forms but almost every variation includes two scoops of white sticky rice and a scoop of macaroni salad, laced with mayonnaise. Then there’s the meat, which can be chicken (teriyaki or katsu), pork (usually kalua pig), teriyaki beef, some kind of stew or the ever-popular Spam ... all served with chopsticks on a flimsy paper plate. (You'll get a plastic fork if you ask.)

Typically, these are served from little “mom and pop” restaurants or from lunch wagons that show up around mid-morning, wheeling into parking lots, alleys, side roads, or just pulling off onto the shoulder near light-industrial areas.

Several years ago, I was having breakfast in a local hangout with a visiting friend from the mainland. In the middle of our conversation, he suddenly stopped, pointed at the table next to us and said, “My God! What is THAT??”

It was a favorite breakfast choice among locals here called, for reasons lost in time, a loco-moco. It consists of three scoops of rice, a large hamburger patty, pools of brown gravy, all topped with two fried eggs. Three-quarters of the way through one of those babies you can actually hear your arteries begin to harden.

It’s absolutely true that Hawaii has some wonderful restaurants and there is a whole genre of quite fabulous cuisine that has been evolving here for many years. But you really can’t beat sitting under a palm tree on a balmy day, looking at the surf while digging into a good plate lunch. Dat’s good grinds, bruddah!


Mike said...

Damn, I skipped lunch and it's 3:30 and we're going out for Mexican and I'm starving and you have to post something like this!

Say, would it be bad form to put a little Tabasco on the loco-moco?

Hungry now...

JIM LOOMIS said...

Tabasco? Sure ... why not!