Story by Dave Choo
photo by Ann Cecil
Like many Island expats, Frank Abraham misses Hawai‘i cooking, a nostalgia that gets stronger with every passing year. “Now before my family and I visit Hawai‘i, all we do is talk about what we’re going to eat,” says Abraham, who moved to California nearly thirty years ago. “And once we get there all of our activities are planned around where we’re going to eat.”
Learning to make a local favorite like seared 'ahi poke salad is now easy (and free) at Island food fanatic Frank Abraham's new web site.
Last summer Abraham, a computer consultant, decided to share his love of Hawai‘i food, so he launched cookinghawaiianstyle. com, a free web site that enables users to swap recipes and videos. To start he persuaded celebrated local chef Chai Chaowasaree of Chai’s Island Bistro and Hawai‘i entertainer and foodie Melveen Leed to contribute some of their favorite recipes, e.g., Melveen’s Crustacean Polynesia, a seafood stew of lobster, crab, shrimp and coconut that she learned from her hänai (adopted) auntie. The producers of the local cable television show Hawaiian Grown TV contributed, and Abraham hired Deirdre Todd, the culinary advisor for Macy’s Ala Moana Center, to provide a steady supply of recipes new and old. The web site, which highlights at least five new recipes a day, also features how-to videos, prize giveaways and monthly contests.
Abraham figured it would take at least a year to build an online community of five hundred, but within just one month of going online, more than three thousand users registered, which has left Abraham shaking his head in disbelief and scrambling to keep up. While the web site attracts users from across the globe, the majority are former Hawai‘i residents who miss Island comfort food, so not surprisingly the web site’s most popular recipes aren’t tony Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine creations but homey favorites: guava chiffon cake, “killer” brown gravy and Spam fried rice.
But sometimes a good recipe just isn’t good enough. From a recent trip to Hawai‘i, the Abraham family returned with a culinary cache that included manapua, kalua pig, squid lu‘au and twenty pounds of Chinese noodles. “It seems kind of ridiculous to bring all that back,” says Abraham, “but no one around here makes noodles like they do in Hawai‘i.”