Readers cook upAward-winning recipes By Betty Shimabukuro
That old saying about a thing adding up to more than a sum of its parts -- it must have been coined in anticipation of Violet Tasaka's kitchen experiments.
Chichi dango, wrapped in good old American cheese, sealed in a wonton wrapper, fried crisp and sprinkled with furikake ... sounds weird, tastes incredible. Trust us on this.
Tasaka's Mo-Cheese Age is the first-place winner in "Pupus with Panache," the Star-Bulletin's search for honorable new appetizer ideas. It was not an obvious choice at first. Her recipe was passed over by most judges at the semi-finalist stage as too bizarre, but was pulled back into competition by a few who just had to know what something that audacious would taste like. And when Tasaka brought it in for judging, it was the clear winner.
Mo-Cheese Age is sweet, a bit salty and crunchy in a manner only deep-fat frying can achieve. Plus it has the magic of nori. Just about every "local" taste sensation covered.
Second and third place awards were more closely contested. Sonia Beaver's fish-crab rolls were thought by some to be too ordinary, but were pushed into second place by a couple judges who said, basically, "What difference does ordinary make if it's yummy?" and awarded high scores.
Deciding third place, though, kicked off the most heated food debate in these parts since the last time we talked about Spam.
First contender was a taro ball:
"Tastes like Chinese restaurant taro cake!" said one taster (this was not meant to be a compliment).
"So what? I like taro cake. Besides the sauce elevates it."
"I didn't get any sauce."
"So get some, what are you, helpless?"
"The sauce is too sweet."
"It is not."
And on and on.
Second contender, a sushi-like like tidbit made without rice (again, trust us):
"Would be great with beer."
"But it's just egg wrapped in nori!"
"And soybeans -- they're a nice surprise."
"So what, just eat soybeans, then."
And on and on.
As this seemed like it could continue forever, the decision was made to split third prize and declare a tie.
At least one person thought this to be the coward's way out -- dare we say, a chicken-pupu decision -- but it was either that or we'd still be arguing today.
All the winners will receive gift certificates to their favorite supermarkets.
So anyway, for your next party, forget about the same old spinach dip or sushi platter. Serve up these winners and you're sure to score points for originality.
They are all simple, suitable as finger food, and have that somewhat undefinable, but-I'll-know-it-when-I-taste-it quality of being "local" in flavor and sentiment.
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Tasaka grew up working in her parents' okazuya. She is a veteran recipe-contest champ, having won several competitions, often for mochi-based recipes such as her Banana Cream Pudding Mochi and Mac Nut Mango Mochi.
Mo-Cheese AgeBy Violet Tasaka
She stuck with mochi for this contest, adding cheese because "I always try to be different."
8 ounces plain chichi dango (mochi) or haupiaCut chichi dango into 30 pieces, about 1/2-inch square. Cut each piece of cheese into 5 strips.
6 slices American cheese
30 won ton pi wrappers
Vegetable oil for frying
1/4 cup agi nori furikake, for garnish
Wrap mochi in cheese and place on top of won ton pi. Fold won ton in half diagonally and seal edges with water.
Deep fry in oil heated to 350 degrees, about 1 minute, until golden brown. Remove, drain and sprinkle with furikake.
Makes 30 pieces.
Approximate nutritional information, per piece: 75 calories, 3 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium.*
Beaver first put together this dish for guests after she'd discovered orange roughy at the supermarket. She had some imitation crab at home and made the match.
Wheat Germ OrangeBy Sonia Beaver
Roughy Fillet with Crab
The second time she made it, she added the wheat-germ crust. "I needed something crunchy on the outside."
2 orange roughy fillets (1/2 pound each)Cut fish in half lengthwise. Combine butter, garlic, lemon and dill. Coat fish in this mixture. Combine wheat germ and garlic powder; set aside.
2 imitation crab sticks, cut in half
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Place crab on the narrow end of the fillet and roll fish around crab. Cut roll in half. Secure with toothpicks. Roll each piece in mayonnaise, then in the wheat-germ mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Makes 8 rolls.
Approximate nutritional information, per roll: 75 calories, 3 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium*
THIRD PRIZE (TIE)
The surprise in this dish could be the edamame (soy beans) or the bite of the ginger, or the mitsuba leaf wrapped inside (Higa grows it in her back yard). Or it could be the fact that it looks like sushi, but doesn't contain any rice.
Nori SurpriseBy Mildred Higa
Whatever the case, the flavors work well together.
1/2 cup frozen shelled soy beans (edamame)Saute soy beans in oil over medium heat 5 minutes. Pour egg mixture over soy beans. When eggs are set on one side, turn over. Remove.
1 teaspoon canola oil
2 eggs, beaten, with dash each of salt, soy sauce, garlic powder
1 tablespoon red pickled ginger
10 mitsuba leaves or lettuce
2-1/2 sheets Korean nori, cut into quarters
Cut eggs into rectangles, about 1-by-2 inches. Place one mitsuba leaf or piece of lettuce on a square of nori. Top with piece of egg and a few pieces of ginger. Wrap nori into a log shape and secure with a toothpick. Makes 10 pieces.
Approximate nutritional information, per piece: 45 calories, 2.5 g total fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 40 mg cholesterol, 90 mg sodium.*
THIRD PRIZE (TIE)
These taro balls came accompanied by a syrupy passion-fruit sauce, mango garnish and a worthwhile sentiment typed onto a card:
Taro BonbonsBy Rocky Maghanoy
"If 10 people use this recipe and share it at a gathering, which inspires 10 others to share it with someone, the lives of taro farmers and their families would be more rewarding."
2 cups diced taroCombine all ingredients except sesame seeds. Steam for 1 hour.
1/2 cup diced char siu
1/4 cup minced dried shrimp
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup diced water chestnut
1 cup flour
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup passion fruit juice
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 cloves garlic, grated
Salt to taste
Sesame seeds and cilantro leaves for garnish
While mixture is still warm, shape into 1-inch balls and sprinkle with sesame seeds and cilantro. Chill.
To make sauce: Combine all ingredients. Serve with Taro Bon Bons. Makes about 40 pieces.
Approximate nutritional information, per piece (not including salt to taste): 35 calories, 0.5 g total fat, no saturated fat, less than 5 mg cholesterol, 50 mg sodium.*
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