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#WeekendDish: Okinawan shoyu pork


I posted a photo on Instagram of Okinawan shoyu pork I had made in my crock pot.

A friend of mine (rightfully) commented, “What makes it Okinawan?”

That’s a good question, one I couldn’t answer. I have no idea.

All I know is the dish — called rafute (pronounced ra-foo-teh-) — is part of the food landscape in Okinawa. It’s made with pork belly, stewed or braised in shoyu and brown sugar. It’s supposed to help with longevity. (Okinawans are believed to have the highest life expectancy in the world.)

The only connection I see between this dish and Okinawa is the pork, a mainstay in the country’s diet. Interestingly enough, up until the 19th century and the introduction of pork and goat to the island, people here used to avoid eating meat. Now, pork is so much a part of Okinawan cuisine, it’s often said that “Okinawan cooking begins with the pig and ends with the pig.”

When the Okinawans immigrated to Hawai‘i more than a century ago, they must have brought along this dish, too.

As easy as this dish is to make, I’ve never actually tried to cook it, mostly because I’m not fond of chopping up large chunks of meat. (I’m a lazy cook, what can I say.) But I wanted to whip up something for Super Bowl Sunday that was quick, easy and would go great with a bowl of white rice.

Okinawan shoyu pork it was!


There are tons of recipes online, most with the same key ingredients. Some recipes called for miso, others required garlic, still others used sake over mirin. (I used both.)

Most cooks also recommended trimming the fat from the pork butt before cooking it. I decided to leave the fat on, figuring it would only make the dish that much tastier. (And I was right.)

I also used a crock pot instead of a pressure cooker — too high-maintenance — or on a stovetop. I like the idea of combining all of the ingredients, dumping them into a slow cooker, and going on about my day without having to tend to it.

It’s one of those crowd-pleaser dishes. You really can’t go wrong.


Here’s the recipe:

Okinawan Shoyu Pork
In a crock pot or slow cooker


3-5 pounds of pork butt, chopped into 2- to 3-inch pieces
1 c. shoyu
1 c. brown sugar
1-2 c. water
1/2 c. mirin (sweet rice wine)
1/4 c. cooking sake
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 T. ginger, minced or grated
Salt and pepper to taste


In a small bowl combine the shoyu, mirin, sake, garlic, ginger, brown sugar and water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and set aside.

Butcher down your pork into pieces and place them into the crock pot. Pour the sauce over them. Set the slow cooker on low, cooking for about six to seven hours. (The pork will turn a very dark brown, but the pieces should be fork tender.)

Serve over rice.

Comments { 7 }

Got leftover pumpkin? Make cupcakes!


It seems like the only time of the year I make anything with canned pumpkin is Thanksgiving.

This year was exceptional, too, since, in addition to a pumpkin cheesecake, I made pumpkin soup with apples, carrots and onions.

And then I was stuck with half a can of pumpkin puree.

What now?

Turns out, you can whip up a pretty nice cupcake with just half a cup of the pureed squash.

So if you’ve got some canned pumpkin to spare, here’s a great recipe to use those leftovers — after Thanksgiving and, really, all year long:

Pumpkin Cupcakes
Adopted from The Neelys


Pumpkin cupcakes:
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. canned pure pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Maple cream cheese frosting:
1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese
2 T. butter, at room temperature
2 T. pure maple syrup
2 c. powdered sugar
Chopped toasted pecans, for topping, optional


For the pumpkin cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 1 (12-cup) muffin pan with paper cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, add the butter and the sugar. Beat with a hand-held mixer until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the pumpkin puree and the vanilla extract. Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time. Incorporate the dry mixture into the wet mixtures together until thoroughly combined.

Using an ice cream scoop, fill each cupcake liner 3/4 of the way full. Bake until the tops turn golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the oven to a wire rack and cool completely before frosting .

For the cream cheese frosting: Add the cream cheese, butter, maple syrup, and salt to a large bowl and beat until creamy. Gradually add the powdered sugar until thoroughly combined.

Top the cupcakes with the frosting and chopped pecans, if you want.

Makes 12 cupcakes

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Weekend Dish: Spanish rolls


One of my favorite things to eat — I mean, I should really have stock in Nanding’s Bakery in Kalihi — are Spanish rolls.

Seriously, they are the perfect snack for anyone who loves — like me — bread, butter and sugar.

Spanish rolls are a popular yeast-raised bread — similar to pandesal — that originated in the Philippines. The dough is shaped into long, buttery logs — bastón — and rolled in a mixture of breadcrumbs and sugar.

I can — and have — eaten several in one sitting

I asked my mom — to me, the world’s greatest cook and baker — to try to make some for me. She loves making homemade bread, and I figured this would be a great project. We’d both benefit!

So she scoured the web, searching for a recipe for Spanish rolls, and found this one.

We tried it, it worked, and we’ve already made it twice!

Here’s the recipe:

Spanish rolls
Jane’s Kitchen

Dough ingredients:

3 1/4 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 pack active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm milk
1/4 cup warm water
1 fresh egg, lightly beaten
4 T. butter, melted
4 T. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

Ingredients for the filling:

1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup bread crumbs and 2 T. sugar (for dredging)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a small bowl or cup of warm water, add the yeast and a teaspoon of sugar. Stir, then set aside in a warm place for at least 5 minutes until foamy.

In a mixing bowl, mix the dry ingredients — flour, sugar and salt. To that add the warm milk, butter, egg and yeast mixture. Mix until it can be formed into a dough.

Place the dough on a on a lightly floured surface and knead for at least 10 minutes or until it becomes a smooth, elastic ball.

Put the dough on a grease bowl. Turn the dough once to cover all sides with grease. Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place for at least 1 hour until it doubled in size.

While waiting for the dough to rise, you can start preparing the filling. In a bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup sugar until creamy. On another bowl, mix the bread crumbs and sugar. Set both bowls aside.

After an hour, knead the dough for at least 2 minutes then divide into four 16 equal parts. Flatten the doughs into a rectangular shape about 3×5 inches in size. Brush the dough with the prepared filling leaving about a half an inch from the edge without. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Roll the dough from corner to corner. Dredge the rolls into a bowl containing the breadcrumbs and sugar mixture. Place them (seam side down) on a greased or non-stick baking tray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Set aside for another 30 minutes.

Bake the rolls in the oven for least 20 minutes.

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Weekend Dish: Elote y Calabacitas


One of my besties is a vegetarian, and I always felt bad when we went to dinner parties that the only thing she could eat at the buffet was a iceberg lettuce salad.

So I got in the habit of learning how to make hearty vegetarian dishes for potlucks. I mean, it’s not like we carnivores can’t partake in veggies, too. But at least my girlfriend — and other vegetarians — would have something more substantial to eat than baby carrots.

This was one of my go-to recipes, a quick and simple Mexican side dish with corn, tomatoes and zucchini.

And yes, it calls for bacon — not vegetarian! — but I’d always put that on the side.

Here’s the recipe:

Starts with bacon

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Fry bacon in a skillet and set aside. This is going to be the garnish on the dish. To make it vegetarian, fry this separately. But if not, keep the bacon fat; you'll cook the rest of the dish in it.

Elote y Calabacitas (Corn and Zucchini)
From “Mexican Cooking Made Easy” by Diane Soliz-Martese


2 strips of bacon (or more, if you want)
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped tomatoes
2 cups zucchini, cut to 1/4-inch slices
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cumin
Ground pepper
2 c. canned whole kernel corn, drained


Fry bacon in a skillet, then remove and crumble for later. Add onions to skillet and saute over medium heat until soft. Add tomatoes, zucchini, salt, sugar, cumin and pepper and cook until vegetables are tender. Add corn. Mix and cook until hot. Place in serving dish, sprinkle on crumbled bacon.

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Weekend Dish: Baked crescent roll taco ring


I’ve been looking around for new potluck dishes — mostly because I’m bored of the ones I already make.

And I stumbled on this one the other night on Facebook.

Its primary ingredient got to me: Pillsbury crescent roll dough.

I was in.

I have a secret crush on the refrigerator dough. I can literally eat all of the buttery rolls one 6-ounce can make — and I have.

So when this called for one of my secret vices, I had to explore it a bit further.

Turns out, this is a great potluck dish, especially if there are kids invited. It’s got taco meat and cheddar cheese baked inside and all of your favorite taco toppings right in the middle.

It’s a simple dish to make, but a challenge dish to eat. (Lots of components.) But it’s crave-worthy good.

Here’s how you make it:


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This is a simple recipe that calls for just a handful of ingredients. But these aren't cheap ingredients. If I had to buy everything — I had some of these things in my kitchen already — it would cost about $20.

Baked Crescent Roll Taco Ring
Adapted from a couple of recipes


2 8-ounce cans of refrigerated Pillsbury crescent rolls
1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
1 package taco seasoning — or make your own, like I did!
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sliced olives
Sour cream, guacamole, salsa


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet, cook beef/turkey with taco seasoning. Or, you can do what I did and make the taco meat from scratch, using chopping onions, garlic, chili powder, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt and freshly ground pepper. I also used a bit of the chili mix from Rainbow Drive-In. (Winner!) Drain.

Unroll crescent rolls. Place wide end of triangles in center of pizza pan, forming a ring, overlapping dough as necessary. Spoon meat into center of each triangle, then add cheese. Bring smaller ends of triangles over meat and cheese mixture, tucking ends under.

Bake 20 minutes, or until rolls are golden. Serve warm.

Comments { 18 }