Sea of Green
A huge component of living a healthy lifestyle is eating well, and today’s health-conscious foodies are always looking for the latest and greatest ways to go green. Kale has been all the rage for a while now, so I think a lot of us are ready to freshen things up and make room for a new leafy vegetable in our hearts (and tummies).
You may have seen it at your local farmers market, or watched it pop up on menus in both traditional and trendsetting eateries, but there’s been quite a buzz brewing about watercress, the bright-as-a-lime veggie that packs quite a punch.
This semi-aquatic plant has been associated with cancer prevention and good bone health, and many sources, including Horticulture Week periodical, say that weight for weight, watercress has more vitamin C than an orange, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach and more folate than bananas. It has a strong, distinctive flavor to match, proving there is nothing dull about filling up on this salad-friendly ingredient.
Hawaii’s environment is conducive to growing this vivacious edible, and a number of local farms, including Sumida Farm in Aiea, have been able to produce it in abundance and provide plenty of local restaurants with some extra green goodness to sprinkle over their menu items.
FROM THE ‘FAR EAST’ TO YOUR STOMACH
One eatery that uses locally grown water-cress is Far East Chop Suey, the spot where Waipahu residents have been satisfying their cravings for Cantonese cuisine for four decades and counting.
The vegetable makes a bold statement in Pork with Watercress Soup, prepared with an wholesome chicken- and pork-bone broth that’s been simmered for three to four hours. Because the soup base is so clean and simple, the unique flavor profile of the watercress has a chance to shine, seasoning the soup with its mix of bitter and peppery notes. The portion here is fabulous as well, because for only $7.95 you receive a huge bowl that’s absolutely packed with the green stuff, as well as bright slices of carrots and bite-sized pieces of pork.
Assistant manager Rosa Chang says that the soup is quite popular as a light and healthy option for diners, and that because of the immunity-boosting properties of watercress — and the overall pureness of the ingredients — it’s good to consume when under the weather.
Aside from Pork with Watercress Soup, dishes the likes of Shrimp Walnut, Cold Ginger Chicken and spicy Pan Fried Squid are among the best-selling menu items. Far East Chop Suey also serves up a number of plate lunch combos. The popular lunch ($8.50) and dinner ($8.95) plates, for example, feature pre-set combinations of a little bit of everything, including pot roast pork, sweet and sour spare ribs, crispy wonton and more.
Far East Chop Suey
94-300 Farrington Hwy., Waipahu
WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD OF WATERCRESS
For the past 80 years, Sekiya’s Restaurant & Delicatessen has been catering to kamaaina taste buds with its signature blend of island comfort foods and Japanese fare — both traditional and local-style. When munching on a dish like Pork Watercress ($14.95), it’s easy to see how the restaurant seamlessly brings together the different cultures of Hawaii.
Highlighting a mix of Chinese, Hawaiian and Japanese flavors, the dish instantly catches your eye, thanks to the vibrant green bed of watercress resting on top of the bowl. Underneath the heap of vegetables, sliced pork — a common accompaniment to water-cress — perfectly balances the leafy strands. Additionally, long rice, onion and aburage (deep fried tofu) bring a wealth of flavors and textures to the dish.
Watercress comes from the same family of vegetables as broccoli and cabbage, but its spicy kick is totally unique and gives this entree something special. The friendly staffers at Sekiya’s say Pork Watercress is a delicious dose of warmth for its neighborhood diners who are craving a simple yet satisfying meal. They also remind readers that it may be prepared with chicken or beef as well, and that in true Sekiya’s fashion, it comes with miso soup, tsukemono and hot Japanese green tea.
Before leaving, many regulars are known to stop by the okazu counter, which offers everything from nori maki and nishime to shoyu chicken and tempura hash. Okazu goodies are great for catering birthdays, after-school sports events and other special occasions.
Sekiya’s Restaurant & Delicatessen
2746 Kaimuki Ave., Honolulu