Saturday, June 9, 2012

Broke da Mouth: Mixed Plate Lunch




The first place we visited when we arrived in Oahu was Pearl Harbor.  Ro had never been, surprisingly as a native Hawaiian.  Ro reminded FloJo that not everyone who lives in the islands takes advantage and visits the historical sites in their own backyard.  We talked about how strange it was that the Japanese have such a big presence in the islands (those that live in the islands and those that are tourists) considering the damage they did to the harbor and the bitter conflict that ensued during World War II.

Although the damage was done and will forever remain one of the most memorable and iconic moments in American and Hawaiian histories, the Japanese have played a huge role in Hawai’i’s culture and especially the food.  One of the best meals we had on our trip to Hawai'i was what’s considered a basic hamburger and fries to the islanders-- the mixed plate lunch. A mixed plate can consist of many different kinds of protein, but the two scoops of rice and macaroni “mac” salad are mandatory.

Ironically, the plate lunch helped the haole (FloJo) understand a little more about the acceptance in the islands of many different cultures including the Japanese.  We ate our plate lunches right before we boarded the ferry to the island of Lana’i.  James Dole purchased much of the island (later to be known as the "Pineapple Island") in the late 1920's where it grew to be the largest pineapple plantation in the world.  The Dole company brought in large numbers of Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Portuguese and Filipinos to work in the fields.  These workers brought with them the foods they were used to eating in their native homelands.  The Japanese laborers ate teriyaki beef with rice and soy sauce (shoyu if you are Hawaiian/Asian) and pickled vegetables. The Chinese brought noodle dishes and the Koreans kimchi and kalbi marinated ribs.  Working next to the them might be the Filipinos with their traditional adobo or pork stew.  The Portuguese might be eating their traditional spicy sausages (chorizo) and the native Hawaiians could be sharing kalua pig cooked in a underground oven (imu oven).  It didn’t take long (think back to lunch time in elementary school & swapping something your mom packed for something better someone else’s mom sent with them) for the workers to share and swap food with one another.  This is where the “mixed lunch plate” originated.  

Mixed plate lunches from Aloha Mixed Plate
We asked the locals where a good place was to get a good mixed plate and we were referred to Aloha Mixed Plate, which is settled right on the waterfront on Front Street in Lahaina.  We picked up our to go orders and ate our mixed plates on a bench waiting for the ferry and had several people stop and tell us how “ono” (delicious) they looked.  The white rice provided a canvas for the different colorful flavors to blend together.  Ro had pork steamed in a luau leaf wrapped up like a Christmas present.  This pretty dish is called lau lau and tastes even better than it looks.  She also had lomi lomi salmon (salt salmon, green onion and tomatoes) and kalua pig and cabbage along with the must have mac salad.  She also had poi (traditional Hawaiian dish made from taro root-- Ro LOVES it, Flojo does not) and haupia.  Flojo had teriyaki chicken, a kalbi rib and opu fish as the proteins in her mixed plate.  These mixed plates definitely "broke da mouth."."

As tasty as the mixed plates were while eating with the breathtaking Pacific Ocean and the Pineapple Island looming in front of us, it was just as incredible to taste the cultures and history mixed together and sharing one ono lunch plate.  Hopefully these cultures will continue to peacefully mix and co-habitate in the islands.

Aloha! Live life with flavor and fun