Ever eat the contents of a barnyard? I have.

Given that the vacation was weeks ago, I should probably just give it up and stop posting about Hawaii and its regional cuisine. I'm still picking up our Kauai guidebook and reading about places I should have gone, just to torment myself. It's sick, really, and quite unhealthy.

In Honolulu, we went to Shirokiya, a giant department store filled with Japanese goods and foods. It was hard restraining myself with dozens of dried fish snacks, fried sweet potato puffs, a plethora of take-away bento boxes, and an entire counter dedicated to mochi. It was truly marvelous to behold. Too bad I forgot to take a picture. Here's our hand-picked selection of mochi and cakes for the road. The cake on the far right was shaped like a little chick, and was filled with salted egg. The tastiest of the four was the purple mochi filled with a sweetened taro paste. This tiny cake was no larger than an egg but was so dense you could cause serious damage if you lobbed it at someone's head.

For lunch, we stopped at the Ala Moana Shopping Center food court. They had a nice selection of Korean, Japanese, local, Chinese, Thai cuisines. Yes, it's in a mall. But no mall in upstate NY has this much variety! Usually the only Asian faces I see in our malls belong to those working at the Cajun food booth handing out Bourbon chicken (Why is that? What's the correlation between mall Cajun food and Chinese entrepreneurs?). It was nice to see my people all over the place for a change, and not only stuck behind restaurant and dry cleaning counters. It was also great not being in the minority, for once, and to hear English being spoken all around me. I felt right at home! If only I could find a way to afford life in Hawaii. It's an expensive place, I've heard.

Tony (finally) made a winning choice and ordered a plate lunch from the folks at Yummy Korean BBQ. On his plate: glass noodles, fried tofu, beef kalbi, fried gzoya, pork chop, kimchee, and seaweed salad.

Since I hadn't the opportunity to eat real laulau and other Hawaiian foods, I thought I might do so at a place called the Poi Bowl. Big mistake to order this at any mall. My plate lunch: laulau, kalua pig, lomi salmon, chicken long rice, and haupia for dessert. After ordering the "local boy" special, I brought my spoils back to our table. Upon opening up my styrofoam container, Tony suddenly sat up with a look of alarm and disgust. "What smells like a barnyard?!" he asked. Sure enough, after one whiff, we both confirm that it's the laulau. (Laulau is a bundle of pork butt and butterfish wrapped and steamed in taro and ti leaves). It's stinky. In usual fashion, I ate it anyway. Funky smells never stopped me from eating anything on my plate before. However, this unfortunately tasted like a barn. Or rather, used straw in a barn. We cooked laulau in the hotel class I took last fall, and I remember it being quite delectable with no trace of barn whatsoever. I can only conclude that either I don't like real Hawaiian laulau, or I made a bad call in getting a so-called "authentic" dish in a mall food court. It's probably the latter. Just for the record, I choked down most of it anyway since it seemed a shame to waste all that *good* meat, even if it did taste like a farm animal. Mom, Baba, look what happens when you teach your kids to finish everything on their plates! In this case, my guilt for leaving food uneaten overrode my discriminating palate (or common sense not to eat rancid meals).

We followed up Tony's great meal (and my lousy one) with a mango snow ice from the Shirokiya smoothie counter. Shaved ice, condensed milk, and mango jam - what's not to love?

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