Classic Hawaiian Cookbooks – HOP to it

Sam Choy, Beverly Gannon, Peter Merriman, Alan Wong and Roy Yamaguchi, five of the original 12 members of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement, all have signature cookbooks. Like their restaurants, the books still hold up today. For many people, it isn’t a trip to Hawai’i without visiting one of their dining locations. What follows is a quick synopsis of their most popular cookbooks. If you want to take a piece of Hawaii home with you, you might as well take the piece that lives inside your belly! All of these books are available from Amazon, with the exception of the Merriman book, for which you’ll need to swing by one of his restaurants or order directly from his website. The cookbooks below are listed chronologically. Bon appetit!

“With Sam Choy: Cooking from the Heart” – Sam Choy, Evelyn Cook (1995)
“With Sam Choy: Cooking from the Heart” tells the story of Sam Choy, one of the main faces and personalities behind the Hawaiian food revolution of the early ’90s, through his recipes and words. Often called the “Godfather of Poke,” his engaging, out-sized personality shows through in the food descriptions and when he’s “talking story” throughout the book. In fact, there are personal stories for nearly every one of the 130 recipes. Whether the story is about the inspiration behind the recipe or why he would present the dish in a certain fashion, it’s these little anecdotes that make reading the book a real pleasure.

Chef Choy has one Big Island restaurant: Sam Choy’s Kai Lanai

“Roy’s Feasts from Hawaii” – Roy Yamaguchi and John Harrison (1995)
With over 150 recipes, Roy Yamaguchi steps out from the kitchen and shares the secrets behind his award-winning dishes. It’s a beautiful book containing lots of pictures and wonderful recipes. Along the way, he slowly tells the story of Hawaiian Regional Cuisine through each recipe. At first glance, the recipes can seem overwhelming due to the sheer number ingredients, but a deeper read shows that most home cooks, regardless of their skill level in the kitchen, can follow along with a majority of the recipes.

Chef Yamaguchi’s restaurants in Hawai’i:
Maui: Roy’s Ka’anapali
Big Island: Roy’s Waikola
Oahu: Roy’s Hawaii Kai, Roy’s Ko Olina, Roy’s Turtle Bay, Roy’s Waikiki

“New Wave Luau” – Alan Wong and John Harrison (1999)
Probably the most adventurous of the five chefs whose books we’re looking at for this article, Wong masterfully blends classic recipes with a playful whimsy to create foods that will bring smiles and winks from your dinner guests. The kalbi short rib tacos with papaya-red onion salsa is nothing short of breathtaking and quite easy to make. The book is filled with wonderful recipe intros and lots of pictures. The recipes themselves are well-written and easy to follow.

Chef Wong’s restaurants: Alan Wong’s Honolulu; Alan Wong’s Shanghai

Hali’imaile General Store Cookbook” – Beverly Gannon and Bonnie Friedman (2000)
After a nice intro about her family, the restaurant’s neighborhood and the restaurant itself, chef/restauranteur Beverly Gannon breaks the cookbook into seasons, starting with spring and ending, naturally, in winter. Along the way, the recipes are well laid out, easy to follow and there are plenty of photos. Hali’imaile General Store is one of the most popular and well-reviewed restaurants on Maui. If you loved eating here, you’ll be thrilled to recreate the signature dishes (minus, sadly, the crab dip) at home.

Chef Gannon’s Maui restaurants: Gannon’s (Wailea); Hali’imaile General Store (Makawao)

“Merriman’s Hawai’i” – Peter Merriman and Melanie P. Merriman (2015)
Starting with an intro by renowned chef Peter Bayless, “Merriman’s Hawai’i” covers 75 recipes over 262 pages. There are gorgeous pictures for every recipe. Even better, reading this book is like taking a culinary tour of the Big Island. As you’re reading, you’ll meet local artisans who supply the “farm” portion of his farm-to-table culinary ethic. Maybe because it’s the most recently published, this book is the sharpest looking and most interesting read of the five cookbooks in this article.

Chef Merriman’s restaurants:
Maui: Merrimans (Kapalua), Hula Grill (Ka’anapali), Monkeypod (Wailea), Monkeypod (Ka’anapali opening Fall, 2017)
Big Island: Merriman’s (Waimea)
Kauai: Merriman’s (Poipu), Gourmet Pizza and Burgers by Merriman (Poipu)
Oahu: Moku Kitchen (Honolulu), Monkeypod (Ko Olina)

Do you have a favorite Hawai’ian food-based cookbook? Tell us on Twitter @HIOceanProject and Instagram @hawaiioceanproject

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