THE BOOK AND AUTHOR: "Sam Choy's Island Flavors" by Sam Choy. Choy operates nine restaurants in Hawaii, San Diego, Tokyo and Guam, stars in a Hawaiian cooking show and has published three cookbooks. In his free time, he conceives the first-class and business-class menus for a major airline's Hawaiian-bound flights; these are the meals that economy-class passengers desperately covet, such as Macadamia Nut-Crusted Ono With Shiitake-Butter-Cream Sauce and Hibachi Miso Chicken. Choy attributes his culinary passion--evidenced by his pleasingly plump figure--to his parents and their emphasis on the cultural and familial importance of food.
PUBLISHER AND PRICE: Hyperion, $27.95, hardcover, 325 pages.
FORMAT: The book is arranged in a conventional manner: Appetizers, Salads, Shellfish, Poultry, Pork, Desserts, etc. Each recipe has two or three component recipes--a marinade, a sauce, etc.--that are combined to produce the final dish. This format makes the dishes appear much more difficult than they actually are. There's Hawaiian food lore aplenty in the chatty introductions that accompany each recipe. They're a bit kitschy, but Choy makes them an enjoyable read. There's also a handy substitution chart for Hawaiian fish that are difficult to locate outside of the islands.
NUMBER OF RECIPES: 196 (plus 136 additional recipes for marinades, sauces, chutneys and so forth)
TYPE OF RECIPES: These are simple recipes that, thanks to Choy's penchant for marinades and sauces, result in wonderfully flavorful and complex dishes. Choy concentrates on fresh ingredients, but these recipes are no dieter's delight; his sweet tooth is evident, and he's not shy about using oil, cream and butter. But it's worth every calorie. Choy offers a peek at authentic Hawaiian cuisine and its Asian and European influences, as seen in his Crab-and-Shrimp-Stuffed Shiitake Mushrooms with Mango Bearnaise Sauce, Ginger Shoyu Pork and Mango Guava Sorbet.
WHO WOULD USE THIS BOOK: Marinade fanatics. Anyone left aching for "Hawaiian-style" cooking after a trip to the islands. And folks searching for recipes that capitalize on the flavors of fresh ingredients, from tropical fruits to shellfish.
Simmered Shoyu-Sugar Butterfish With Vegetables
Butterfish (black cod) is an oily fish that falls apart easily. When you simmer or poach it in a sugar-shoyu mixture and add vegetables, it's like nichime (Japanese stew). It's a very popular dish in my restaurants in Japan. Serve with hot sticky rice. (From the Fish chapter.)
Nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray
Four 4-ounce butterfish (black cod), mackerel or sea bass fillets
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup julienned carrot
1/2 cup julienned celery
1/2 bunch watercress, leaves separated and stems cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
4 scallions (white and tender green parts), cut into 1-inch lengths
1 block (20 ounces) firm tofu, drained and cubed
Spray the fish for up to 5 seconds with nonstick spray. In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the butterfish for about 1 minute on each side; transfer to a plate and set aside.
Mix together the sugar, soy sauce and water. Put half of this mixture into the skillet along with the carrots and celery; cook for 6 to 8 minutes. Push the carrots and celery to the side and return the butterfish to the skillet. Pour the remaining soy sauce mixture over the fish and vegetables; cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Add the watercress stems and cook for 1 minute. Then top with the watercress leaves, scallions and tofu; cook for 2 minutes. Do not overcook.
Per serving: 342 calories, 35 gm protein, 16 gm carbohydrates, 15 gm fat, 74 mg cholesterol, 5 gm saturated fat, 569 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber
Sauteed Snapper With Spinach Coconut Lu'au Sauce
Here's a takeoff on a traditional Hawaiian dish called squid lu'au. Take the squid out of that recipe, make a thinner sauce, and add it to 'opakapaka, an excellent flaky fish. The combination is just right--really, really 'ono. (From the Fish chapter.)
For the Spinach Coconut Lu'au Sauce:
3 tablespoons minced sweet onion
1/2 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh ginger root
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1/2 cup cooked and chopped fresh spinach
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
Salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar to taste
For the snapper:
Four 6-ounce 'opakapaka (pink snapper) fillets (or substitute sea bass, yellowfin tuna, halibut, cod or rockfish)
1 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
For the sauce: In a small saucepan, saute the onion and ginger in the butter until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the heavy cream, bring to a boil and reduce by half. Stir in the spinach and coconut milk and cook for 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
For the snapper: Season the fish fillets with the ginger, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Dredge the fillets in the flour. In a large heavy skillet, heat the butter and oil over medium heat. Saute the fish until just lightly browned on both sides and opaque in the center, 6 to 8 minutes. Do not overcook.
Transfer the fish to a warm platter; serve immediately with the sauce.
Per serving: 375 calories, 33 gm protein, 5 gm carbohydrates, 24 gm fat, 127 mg cholesterol, 13 gm saturated fat, 340 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber
Wok-Barbecued Shrimp With Pepper-Papaya-Pineapple Chutney
I "fire up" my wok-cooked shrimp by marinating them in the zesty flavors of fresh ginger and Asian chilies. Pour the stir-fried shrimp over a bed of hot rice with the spicy chutney on the side for dipping. The exotic flavors are a crowd pleaser. (From the Appetizers chapter.)
For the shrimp:
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger root
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 chili pepper, seeded and chopped, or 1/8 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
1 pound jumbo shrimp (16 to 20 count), peeled and deveined
For the chutney:
1 small pineapple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 medium papaya, seeded, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger root
6 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon hot Asian chili paste, such as sambal oelek
For the shrimp: In a medium bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the oil with the soy sauce, ginger, cilantro, garlic, sugar and the chili pepper; mix well. Add the shrimp to the sauce and marinate for 30 minutes.
For the chutney: In a medium saucepan, combine the pineapple, papaya, ginger and sugar. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat until the mixture has a syrupy consistency, about 1 hour. Remove from the heat and stir in the chili paste; refrigerate half for another use and set the remaining chutney aside.
To finish: Heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a wok over high heat. Remove the shrimp from the marinade, discarding the marinade and add the shrimp to the wok. Stir-fry for 4 to 5 minutes. Do not overcook. Serve the shrimp with the chutney.
Per serving: 257 calories, 24 gm protein, 23 gm carbohydrates, 8 gm fat, 173 mg cholesterol, 1 gm saturated fat, 321 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber