Spice Up Your Life
Many of us will come together today by taking the time to reflect on the Sept. 11 attacks. Amid the complex thoughts and emotions the event’s anniversary spurs, one of the things I am reminded of during this time is what I am grateful for as an American. Near the top of that list is the freedom to embrace so many different cultures, especially through food.
As something that bonds us universally, food is often the easiest bridge we have to understanding and appreciating different cultures. Here in Hawaii, and in the country at large, we are so lucky to have such a melting pot of cuisines at our fingertips.
One dish that perfectly represents this diversity is curry, which is not only found in so many countries, but also in countless variations from region to region. Here on Oahu, we too have bottomless cauldrons of curry just waiting to be explored.
If you haven’t done so already, you must try the curry buffet on Wednesdays at The Kahala Hotel & Resort. But first, what I have lined up for you here are the thick, creamy curries you see in your dreams as well as a delightful curry treat where you’d least expect it.
THAI CURRY BLISS
During a recent visit to Noi Thai Cuisine, the savory aroma of wagyu beef instantly enveloped me as the waiter came to the table with a piping-hot stone pot bowl, audibly sizzling from the high-quality meat inside of it. Already watering at the mouth, I watched the waiter pour green curry into the pot, transforming it into a bubbling, boiling blanket of luxurious flavors.
I won’t soon forget Green Curry Beef (Wagyu), which, in similar fashion to the rest of the menu, is full of authentic Thai touches that are expressed through sophisticated ingredients and a gorgeous presentation. In the case of this dish, priced at $54, the eggplantand bell pepper-spotted curry fully develops its richness by melding with the luscious juices of the meat while cooking in the stone pot.
When savoring this spicy curry, general manager Ying Rosawan says guests may customize how their wagyu is cooked. “For the temperature that you would like your beef cooked, if you like medium rare, you can just scoop it up right away, and then if you want it medium, you can leave it for about 20 more seconds.”
Narongdach Janthong, AKA “Chef Ake,” invites guests to try all of Noi Thai Cuisine’s classy curries, from Red Curry Roast Duck and Yellow Curry Crab to Massaman Lamb Curry, a thick Southern Thailand specialty prepared with potatoes, onions and peanuts.
Janthong is one of two new chefs that have come to the Royal Hawaiian Center restaurant from Noi Thai Cuisine in Bend, Oregon. (Owners JJ Chaiseeha and Noi Lapangkura run a family of Thai restaurants in Washington, Oregon and Hawaii.) Patrons can look forward to new menu items from the chefs, as well as a sharable Thai Tea shaved ice, soon to please with condensed milk and Thai fruits such as jackfruit and rambutan.
Noi Thai Cuisine
Royal Hawaiian Center, Building C, Level 3
2301 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki
UNCOVER THIS CURRY
Fendu Boulangerie is home to a plenitude of freshly baked goods, from baguettes and pastries to cakes and scones. In the seven years since the Manoa bakery has been in business, it’s also built up an excellent reputation for comforting meals, including hearty pizzas, sandwiches and even soup and pot pie. At first glance, few would expect exotic curry spices to make their way into a European-style bakery, but in actuality, Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich ($7.99) continues to be one of the best-selling items, confirms owner and chef Niel Koep.
Take one bite of this full-flavored, robust sandwich, and you’ll understand why.
Fendu is known for making everything from scratch, and this creation is no different. It starts with a whole chicken that is roasted in-house, then pulled apart into tender pieces that go into the curried salad mixture. The bakery seasons its salad to golden glory using the locally made Kaiulani brand of organic curry spices. Creaminess and dimension are added to the mix with mayo, sour cream and balsamic vinegar. For the finishing touches, juicy slices of local-farm tomatoes and Manoa greens are combined with the chicken salad and tucked into Fendu’s freshly made Sweet Onion “Naan” bread.
Is your tummy growling yet?
When you visit the bakery to try this sandwich, be sure to inquire about a slightly sweet, classic puff pastry treat that is soon to be unveiled. Koep adds that he’s also looking forward to adding an espresso bar to his offerings, which he plans to have up and running for 2017. He was inspired to create an espresso bar after receiving many requests from customers for a splendid sip to accompany their baked goods. The new bar will offer cappuccinos, iced teas and other fine beverages, so stay tuned.
2752 Woodlawn Drive, Manoa