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Star-Bulletin Features

Wednesday, September 27, 2000

By George F. Lee Star-Bulletin
The Duarte family finds togetherness is a large, warm bowl of
Portuguese bean soup. Jessica, 16, left, joins dad Frank
and brother Aaron, 17.


Bean soup for the soul

By Cynthia Oi

Frank Duarte clearly remembers a time when the aroma of his grandmother's cooking would pull him from the playground to the dinner table and a rich bowl of Portuguese bean soup.

Laura Gouveia recalls a childhood when a long day of fun and play was made complete by the soup her mother served for supper.

As Festa 2000 celebrates Hawaii's Portuguese heritage for the 22nd year Saturday, one of its focal points, bean soup, revives a discussion about whose recipe is better and what goes into the dish.

More passionate words, however, come with memories. Memories, it seems, are the most flavorful spice when it comes to Portuguese bean soup.

Festa 2000

Bullet Featuring: Food, cultural displays, genealogy research, entertainment
Bullet When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
Bullet Place: Blaisdell Exhibition Hall
Bullet Admission: Free
Bullet Call: 845-1616

Duarte's grandma lived on Madeira Street on the Punchbowl slopes, where many of the streets names reflect a Portuguese influence. His stomping ground was a nearby park. As the smells drifted from her kitchen in the late afternoon, Duarte would break off whatever game he was playing.

"I didn't care who was on first, who was winning, I would run home. The heck with the game. Dinner's ready," said Duarte, a plumber and general contractor.

Gouveia, 92, cannot think of bean soup without thinking of her mother, who died almost 60 years ago. "She was a housewife; my father worked at Honolulu Iron Works. We lived on Liholiho Street and we (she, her brother and sister) would play all day and go home tired and eat soup."

She can remember the ingredients her mother used because she learned to make soup the same way, but she treasures most her mother's "sweet smile" as she stirred the pot and served the meal.

"I loved her so much. I miss her very much. She died the day before Pearl Harbor was bombed. That was terrible. We couldn't have a funeral or a wake for her."

Gouveia insists the soup starts with dried beans, not canned, that watercress gives it a distinct flavor and that sausage is optional.

She made soup at least once a week for her own family, she said, and when told that she likely made close to 2,000 pots of soup, Gouveia laughed. Then she said, "But I haven't made soup in a long time."

She has lived in a care facility since she fell and broke her arm last year. Her daughter lives on the mainland. Her brother died a while back and her sister is also ailing. Her grandson takes her to the doctor or to the store when she needs something, but essentially she's alone.

"When I made it I would have a big pot; I couldn't eat it all now. There's no one to make it for. So now, I don't make soup."

Emily Barboza is Hawaiian-Chinese-French, but her late husband Oliver was "pure Portuguese," she said, and the bean soup tradition came from him.

"My mother-in-law used to add sweet potatoes" to make her soup distinctive, she said.

Barboza makes hers "the easy way," using canned kidney beans and Campbell's tomato soup. Her great-granddaughter, Sierra Moniz, loves soup, "just like my husband," she said. Sierra likes it with macaroni while Oliver "loved it with Portuguese sweet bread with lots and lots of butter."

Bread was also Peter Torres' favorite with the soup his Spanish mother made in the way of her home country. "It's almost the same as Portuguese, but the soup is thicker," he said.

Torres' step-father was Portuguese. "His soup was good, but my mother used to say 'Yours too watery,' " he recalled.

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Beans, sausage, vegetables and macaroni make for a thick, rich soup.

"I used to eat both. You know, Depression time, you eat what is there, you were always hungry."

The memory of his mom's bread, its heady aroma wafting from an outdoor oven, still makes his mouth water.

"That was so good. Now days, the bakery bread not good. Ours was solid, wasn't filled with bubbles.

"When I smell the soup, I wish I was back in that time."

Tess Pereira, an art teacher at Farrington High School, doesn't make soup often because "the macaroni comes out too mushy."

The best she's ever had was made by a fellow tailgater, Charlie Williams, whom she and her husband, Tony, haven't seen in awhile.

"It had a buttery flavor. My husband thought it had cinnamon in it, but we don't know."

Tony is usually the one to make soup for the children, who are now mostly grown, she said.

"When the kids were younger, we'd make it, but now everybody has their own schedule so we hardly eat together. You know how that is," she said.

Pamela Machado of Kalihi does. Her three children, ages 16 to 10, are busy with their activities and she works full time.

Her late mother-in-law used to make bean soup. "Unfortunately, I never learned," she said. "My sisters-in-law know. They know all the stuff, how to make Portuguese food.

"Me, I go to Leonard's for malassadas and Zippy's for the soup."

The press of time forces even the soup lover Duarte to restaurants when he can't cook up his own. Most of the time he is disappointed.

"I was hungry for bean soup so I went to a restaurant in Kailua," Duarte said. "There was no flavor, no zest. It had carrots, potatoes, sausage, beans -- the usual stuff -- but it was blah."

Duarte's theory is that the cook makes the difference in the soup.

"The taste comes from the cook. It's not one ingredient. My feeling is you gotta want to do it. The best basic ingredient is love: L-O-V-E."

Georgette Gomes agrees that the cook makes the soup.

Her husband Edwin, a fireman at the Kalihi Uka station, often stirs up a pot for his fellow firefighters. "He plays with his recipe and it's a little different every time, but it always comes out good."

"It's the Portuguese in him," she said. "Portuguese and bean soup go together. It isn't a stereotype. All Portuguese people eat it."


Family bean soup recipes differ to reflect household preferences. Some families add cabbage or macaroni to the soup, others prefer it sans sausage. That aside, the Portuguese community had these tips to offer soup makers:

Bullet Jessica Duarte
The soup her father Frank makes is good because he starts with ham hocks. "It has to have ham hocks."

Bullet Georgette Gomes
Husband Edwin adds watercress for zest.

Bullet August Perriera
"You have to start with the dried beans. Tastes better."

Bullet Pedro Mendoza
He used baked ham to start his soup. "That's the main ingredient." Macaroni thickened his soup, which is "more like stew."

Bullet Emily Barboza
"I boil the ham hocks, then dump the water out. Boil it again and save that broth." Otherwise, the soup is too fatty, she said. Her mother-in-law added sweet potatoes for a different flavor.

Other tips

Bullet To reduce fat: Cook sausage separately and add just before serving.
Bullet To keep macaroni from getting mushy: Cook pasta separately and add just before serving, and don't put all the macaroni in the pot unless you're eating all of the soup at once.

Bean soup for the soul

Star-Bulletin staff

The best in bean soups were recognized Sept. 18 at the Somos Amigos (We are Friends) street festival in Wailuku, Maui.

The festival celebrated the island's growing Hispanic population and its longtime Portuguese heritage.

Among highlights was a bean-soup contest, open to recipes using any form of dried beans.

The winner of the amateur division was Clarence Lopes of Paukukalo for his Portuguese Bean Soup. Lopes is soup maker for the Maui Portuguese Cultural Club and prepares his special soup each year for the club to sell at the Maui County Fair and fund-raising events.

He doesn't measure his ingredients, so his recipe doesn't come in a traditional form: "Depends on how much you want to make," he says. "Use whatever looks right. If it tastes good to you, it will taste good to everybody. This recipe is for big soup."

For what it's worth, here's his formula: Soak 4 quarts of dried kidney beans overnight. Drain the beans and put in a pot with water, 5 large ham hocks, Portuguese sausage, tomato sauce, chopped onion, diced carrots and potatoes. Season with allspice, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Cook 5 to 6 hours. "Float cabbage in at the last."

For a prize-winning recipe you could reproduce at home, here is the second-prize winner in the amateur division, Elizabeth Montero's soup made with fried pork rinds. Montero, a Wailuku resident, says the soup is in the tradition of her boyfriend's Guatemalan homeland.

Black Bean Soup with Chicharrones

1-1/2 cups dried black beans
8 cups water
1 small onion, whole
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 cups store-bought fried pork rinds (chiccarones), in pieces

Wash beans. Bring water to a boil. Add beans, onion and garlic. Simmer for 1-1/2 hours.

Remove a spoonful of beans, draining liquid ("use a spoon with pukas") and mash beans to a pulp. Return mashed beans to soup and boil for five minutes to thicken soup. Add pork rinds; stir. Bring to a boil, then turn off heat. Serves 6.

Note: This soup may be prepared with pumpkin or chayote instead of the pork rinds.


Two more specific bean soup recipes may be found in "Favorite Island Cookery," the cookbook series published by Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Betsuin:

Portuguese Bean Soup I

2-3 ham hocks
12 cups water
1/2 pound hamburger
1 Portuguese sausage, sliced
1 15-ounce can kidney beans
2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
2 carrots, diced
2 onions, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 potatoes, diced
1/2 head cabbage, shredded
1/2 bunch watercress, in 1-inch pieces
1/2 pound macaroni, boiled

Boil ham hocks in water 3 hours. Add hamburger and sausage, then beans, tomato sauce and carrots. Cook 10 minutes. Add onion, celery and potatoes; cook 20 minutes. Add remaining ingredients; cook 10 more minutes. Season if needed with salt and pepper.

Portuguese Bean Soup II

1 quart beef broth or consomme
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1/2 cup diced potatoes
1/2 cup diced carrots
3/4 cup shredded cabbage
1/2 bunch watercress, in 1-inch lengths
1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
2-1/2 cups canned kidney beans

Boil broth with ginger. Add potatoes, carrots and cabbage; cook 30 minutes. Add remaining ingredients.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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