When Jerome Ranos first came to Hawaii, as a tourist in 1990, the food wasn't quite what he was expecting. He thought he'd see tropical fruits in the dishes, more island products, more a sense of island flavor.
Instead, he recalls, "it was mahimahi with tartar sauce."
Now, as chef of the Chief's Hut in the Outrigger Reef on the Beach, Ranos is in charge of meeting tourist's expectations. "The guests are our bosses."
What's popular with them, he says, what fulfills their image of what a meal in Hawaii should be, are fruits, macadamia nuts, "sweetness and spice."
"They're coming to Hawaii looking for something special," Ranos says.
"How many people come here looking for spaghetti?"
His menu lists lots of mango, papaya and pineapple, served fresh with salads, barbecued chicken, even pork chops.
But it is Ranos' way with mahimahi that drew the attention of Cathy Ellis, a resident of Richmond, B.C., in Canada, and a frequent visitor to Honolulu. The dish is a favorite of her daughter's, she wrote.
Ranos actually has two mahi dishes on his regular menu. One is a tropical presentation with a passion fruit glaze made with papaya seeds and honey and topped with fresh papaya. The other is a Thai-style dish with a satay-style peanut sauce that's slightly spicy.
In both dishes, the fish is simply prepared -- sautéed or grilled with minimal seasoning. The dish is made in the finishing sauces.
Combine sauce ingredients, except oil and honey, in a blender until seeds are fine. Slowly add oil while continuing to blend. Add honey and blend well. Set aside.
Tropical Mahimahi6 7-ounce fresh mahimahi fillets
Salt and pepper to taste
1 papaya, skinned, seeded and sliced (save seeds for sauce)
1 cup diced macadamia nuts, toasted
>> Honey Passion Fruit Glaze:
2 tablespoons papaya seeds
1 tablespoon finely diced shallots
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Pinch dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup frozen passion fruit juice concentrate
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
To prepare fish, brush fillets with oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook on grill or in broiler to desired doneness.
Serve fillets topped with papaya slices, drizzle with glaze and garnish with nuts. Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional information, per serving: (not including salt to taste): 510 calories, 28 g total fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 150 mg cholesterol, 570 mg sodium, 31 g carbohydrate, 39 g protein.*
To make peanut sauce: Combine all ingredients in a blender until incorporated. Refrigerate.
Thai-Style Mahimahi6 7-ounce fresh mahimahi fillets
6 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste
>> Thai Peanut Sauce:
Juice and zest from 2 limes
2 tablespoons mirin
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup coconut cream
1/3 cup Vietnamese-style chile-garlic sauce
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
>> Crispy Thai Noodles:
2 packages (1.32 ounces each) rice noodles
Vegetable oil for frying
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
1/2 cup EACH sliced green onions, sliced red cabbage and carrots, cut in match sticks
1/2 cup sweet Thai chile sauce
To prepare fish: Season fillets with salt and pepper. Sauté each fillet in 1 tablespoon butter to desired doneness.
To make noodles: Heat oil to 375 degrees. If a noodle dropped into oil "pops," oil is ready. Pull noodles apart to allow for expansion during frying. Add to oil. After first "pop," turn noodles. Cook 15 seconds and remove; drain on paper towels.
Toss noodles with sesame seeds and vegetables. Just before serving, toss with chile sauce.
To serve: Top each fillet with peanut sauce and noodles. Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional information, per serving: (not including salt to taste): 600 calories, 37 g total fat, 15 g saturated fat, 180 mg cholesterol, greater than 1,300 mg sodium, 22 g carbohydrate, 46 g protein.*
Food Stuffs: Morsels
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Asterisk (*) after nutritional analyses in the
Body & Soul section indicates calculations by
Joannie Dobbs of Exploring New Concepts,
a nutritional consulting firm.