Passion-Orange-Guava (POG) Cake

Before POG was a game in the ’90s, it was an acronym for a juice blend invented in the ’70s on Maui. The tart yet sweet blend of passion fruit, orange, and guava juices is nostalgic for many — especially my Dad.

(Oddly enough, the game “pogs” is named after the juice — in ’91 a school teacher used POG juice caps to  teach a modern version of a plantation-era game flipping ‘milk covas’ from the ’30s. My ’90s mind would have been blown!)

POG is relatively unknown on the mainland, and it is near impossible to find. I have only seen Aloha or Hawaiian Sun brands on the east coast, which are thick, syrupy, and lack freshness.

But, the POG experience can be re-created. For my sister’s rehearsal dinner in March we catered dessert from Taste of Aloha and the POG cupcakes were non-negotiable.

I asked baking kumu Amy if she would share her cupcake recipe so I could make it into a birthday cake for my Dad. Thankfully she obliged!

The POG cake was a hit (again!). Since I made cakes instead of cupcakes, the baking time was much longer (~40 minutes), but the cake was still incredibly moist and flavorful.

I also opted for 2 different fillings since there were 4 layers of cake. Filling 1 was a tropical fruit curd which consisted of: peach-passion fruit juice, palekaiko tea, ginger, orange puree, li hing powder. Filling 2 was the incredibly creamy and smooth liliko’i butter from Kahuku Farms that I recently lugged back from Hawai’i.

I covered the cake in toasted coconut because I didn’t want to make candied orange peel, but in hindsight it would probably be quicker to make the orange peel!

A Slice of Paradise: Hawaiian Banana Bread


Banana bread, like Zucchini Bread, is basically an excuse to eat cake for breakfast. Because of the addition of fruit, a slice of this bread can be justified at any time of day.


I completely overlooked this article about Julia’s Banana Bread in the March issue of Bon Appétit until I saw it pop up on fellow hapa foodie Erica’s blog Cannella Vita. After reading her post, I rummaged through the magazine and read the article and was convinced to attempt the recipe.


My family is from Maui and the first time we visited Hawai’i we made the trek down the road to Hana. I remember seeing this green shack, but didn’t know that it hid delicious treats. Next time I go to Maui (for my honeymoon!), I’ll be sure to stop by Julia’s to try some banana bread. My hometown, Pai’a, is the “last stop” on the way to Hana, so I have absolutely no excuse.


This banana bread is a great slice of comfort in the cold, chilly mornings of Winter (when the recipe was originally posted in Bon Appétit), but it works equally as well on the sticky summer days we’ve been having recently.

I sprinkled the top of the bread with some raw sugar I picked up the last time I was in Hawai’i and added in some whole wheat flour to boost the healthiness so that it’s even easier to justify that second slice. The bread looks even more inviting on this tie-died, honu printed sarong I picked up from Pai’a when we were there last.

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Drinks Using Gourmet Spices from Marx Foods

I was given some exotic ingredients from Marx Food and challenged to create a cocktail and mocktail recipe. I often make cocktails based on drinks I’ve had at local places or weird flavor profiles that I think up in my head. It’s easier to think of cocktail recipes because you set yourself down a path based on what spirit you choose to start with. It’s actually harder to make a non-alcoholic drink because the possibilities are endless and overwhelming. Sometimes you don’t want to have alcohol in your drink due to lifestyle, medication, age, or just to be family-friendly. In the end, our house liked the mocktail better because we could drink as much as we want and share it with everyone.

Update: The poll is now open! Feel free to see the other contestants & vote for your favorite!

Community Garden

Makes 1 drink. This drink is a mixture of herbs and vegetables you might find in your backyard garden. It’s very fresh with a slight savory note. Because it’s not too sweet, it stays light and you can taste all of the flavor layers. Saffron adds an exotic spice while the dill pollen sprinkled on top is the first thing you smell before sipping.

  • 1 ounce cucumber vodka
  • ½ ounce cointreau
  • ½ ounce RHUBY
  • 2 dashes celery bitters
  • 2 ounces club soda
  • 1 teaspoon yuzu juice
  • 1 pinch saffron leaves
  • 2 basil leaves
  • 1 dash dill pollen
  • cucumber slice for garnish
Muddle basil, saffron, and cucumber vodka. Add remaining ingredients except for dill pollen and club soda and shake until combined. Add to glass filled with two handfuls of ice. Top with club soda, stir. Sprinkle top with dill pollen and garnish with a cucumber slice.

Pacific Shrub

Makes 2 drinks. This drink is a more complex version of iced tea. This black tea from Hawai’i is spicy and has citrus notes and is inspired by the island’s volcanoes. It is brewed hot and then allowed to chill while being infused with dried pineapple and saffron. The club soda helps to keep this from getting too sweet and too muddled. Note: Bitters range in percentage of alcohol. Fee Brother’s has no alcohol % on its label so I am assuming they are alcohol-free.

Add tea leaves to hot water. Brew for 5 minutes and then strain tea leaves. Add to refrigerator-safe container and add saffron and dried pineapple. Refrigerate until cold (2 hours to overnight). Take two glasses, fill with two handfuls of ice, put half of the iced tea in each glass (½ cup), reserving the pineapple. Add ½ tablespoon of strawberry shrub to each glass, followed by ⅛ (2 tablespoons) of ginger drink and ⅛ cup club soda in each. Add 2 dashes of Fee Brother’s Aromatic Bitters to each glass and stir. Top each glass with a pinch of fennel pollen and a no-longer-dried pineapple wedge.

A Salty Adventure

Hawaiian Sea Salts: Red & Pink

Last month I saw a tweet from Marx Foods about a photography challenge they were having for salt. I told them I was interested and I received 5 samples of cooking and finishing salts: Hawaiian Red Salt, Hawaiian Pink Salt, Ginger Salt, Espresso Salt & Flor de Sal. I was tasked to create two photographs: one of just salt, and the other of a finished dish that shows the salt well.

Immediately, the dish kālua pig popped into my head. I’m in the process of planning a vacation with my family and my sister’s Girl Scout troop to Hawai’i, so Hawai’i has been on my mind. We intend to have a “Hawai’i Day” next spring before going on the trip to expose the girls to the food and culture of Hawai’i so they don’t experience culture shock when they land on the island.

Kālua pig is one of the most popular dishes in Hawai’i, and is featured everywhere from the diner-style mix plate lunches locals eat midday, or the elaborate luau feasts held for special occasions (or tourists). It’s also one of the hardest dishes to find on the mainland, especially the east coast! We usually bring our kālua pig with us from Hawai’i on the plane, frozen, or have it shipped to us from the islands.

But, seeing the Hawaiian red & pink salt in the package from Marx Foods reminded me that the only ingredients in kālua pig are pig and Hawaiian sea salt. I then began to research how to recreate a mini imu in my oven at home. It seemed that all the recipes were for larger pieces of meat, and varied on temperature and time.

I settled on a 1.75 piece of pork butt and cooked it at 350 for  2 hours and 45 minutes. I cut 1/4 inch deep slices every inch and rubbed it with 2 tablespoons of a mixture of red and pink Hawaiian salt and 2 tablespoons of liquid smoke. I wrapped the pork with banana leaves secured with toothpicks and then wrapped with aluminum foil. I set it in a small baking dish and then put it in a larger dish. I added 2 cups water in the outer dish and set in the oven. I took the pork out after 2 hours to check on it, added 45 more minutes and 1 more cup of water around the dish. After 2:45 the pork was perfectly tender and easy to shred with 2 forks. I would suggest serving this dish hot and fresh. If you have leftovers, sprinkle with water before heating up or serve with a sauce to add some moisture back in. I ate some with rice and some red chile tortillas for lunch.

Flor de Sal, Ginger, and Espresso Salts with Milk Chocolate Caramels

In my excitement to make this dish, I forgot that all of the beautiful salt would dissolve when cooking! I then used the other three salts on some milk chocolate caramels and shared them with my friend Stephanie.

The ginger salt was surprisingly very strong and spicy flavored. After eating the caramels, the spice lingered in the back of our throats for a while. The espresso salt was a tad milder and sweeter than the ginger salt. The flor de sal was strong and straight-forward and paired perfectly with the sweet chocolate and gooey caramel.The salt granules were softer and smaller than the other two flavors, so the salt was easier to mix with the chocolate and caramel while tasting.

While we were tasting pork and caramels, we also decided to try the new Top Chef: Just Desserts truffles from Godiva that I had picked up over the weekend.

From top left, clockwise: Acai Berry – Dark chocolate ganache layered with acai, rose, and berry ganache in a dark chocolate shell decorated with a red heart; Passion Fruit – White chocolate and passion fruit ganache in a white chocolate shell; Chocolate Mendiant – Dark chocolate ganache between two dark chocolate disks, topped with bits of organic dried apricot, tart cherry, and sea salt; Green Tea – Matcha tea mousse center in a white chocolate shell decorated with green stringing.

The berry ganache tasted like alcohol or cough syrup, the passion fruit was bright, fresh, and smooth, the mendiant was rich but balanced with the salt, and the green tea was far too rich with the white chocolate and too much artificial green tea flavor in the center.

The Wisdom of Sai Min

So, yesterday I decided to research “Sai Min” (saimin/saimen/saimian), one of my favorite dishes that combines the best things in the world in one bowl of happiness and yumminess. I’ve had it at the hands of my island-famous great-grandfather (who used to own a store/restaurant in Hawai’i, and would cut the noodles by hand).

I thought it was a Cantonese dish, but after much research, I have found that it is unique to the islands! No wonder everyone I talked to about it had no clue what I was saying. Now of course, my family’s Sai Min (famous, let me remind you) is the Chinese version, with no spam, sausages, eggs, or fish cakes like the Filipino/Japanese/Portuguese versions. This has led me to realize that I’m not ethnically or culturally Chinese at all – my family is Hawai’ian, and any Chinese parts of us came as a result of being Hawai’ian, and got mixed up with the Japanese and Filipino aspects that also worked their ways in there. In fact—even our Chinese New Years dinners have Guava Chiffon Pie and Lau Lau sometimes.

Sai Min Noodles

Recipe and pictures under the cut. Continue reading