Delicious fish from the waters surrounding Hawaii has always starred in island meals. Some cooks here follow the custom of Polynesian settlers and grill fish over a fire until crispy brown, with merely a sprinkle of salt. Others dice raw, tender fish for poke, an appetizer made from chunks of fresh fish marinated with seaweed, salt, and ground, sweet-tasting kukui nut. Another popular preparation developed by ancient Hawaiian chiefs involves steaming mild, white fish in banana leaves.
Exotic flavors such as miso, sake, ginger, pineapple, cilantro, mango, and macadamia nuts have long enhanced Hawaii's simmering melting pot. Laborers from China, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Korea, the Azores, and Japan introduced the ingredients when they came to the islands to work the mammoth sugar plantations. But today Hawaii can also claim a range of fabulous fresh produce, including earthy mushrooms, vine-ripened tomatoes, bell peppers, herbs, watercress, and other greens.
These recipes reflect the islands' rich diversity and the new focus that Hawaiian chefs place on local ingredients and sustainable seafood. Like their ancestors, they spotlight the precious qualities of the fish, with recipes that avoid heavy sauces and handiwork, and emphasize time-proven methods. And they're all easy, fast, and flavorful.