Recreating Hawaiian Flavor Back Home in Virginia

Grilled Mahi Mahi with caramelized Maui onions, Asian slaw and slices of fresh papaya.

So what to do when I’m not ready for the vacation to be over–but it is.  I just spent two weeks eating amazing food from 5,000 miles away and now it’s time to go back to eating local and in-season. 

This week’s CSA bag included a lot of greens, a head of purple cabbage, a lot of herbs, and broccoli.

I decided that gave me enough to work with and I would set to recreating some of the bright tropical flavors we had enjoyed.

I started with a treat I had brought back in my suitcase, some Maui onions.  These are sweet delicious onions similar to Vidalia onions.  I caramelized them and tossed them with a small amount of soy sauce and lime juice at the very end.

The dressing for the Asian slaw, peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil.

Next I turned to the slaw.  I had a head of purple cabbage, green onions, and bunches of fresh cilantro and mint.  I chopped all of these and whisked a dressing of peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil.  (proportions were about a half cup each peanut butter and vinegar, a tablespoon soy sauce and two tablespoons sesame oil.)

The vegetables were all locally grown and in season and the dressing gave it the tropical flavor.  The cilantro and mint worked together to give it a great taste.

The fish was simply seasoned and grilled so that the flavor of the fish did most of the heavy lifting.  I garnished it with the Maui onions and some sesame seeds.

Mahi Mahi simply seasoned and grilled; garnished with caramelized Maui onions and sesame seeds.

The final tropical touch was a fresh papaya which was neither local, nor–I suspect–in season when it was harvested.  It goes against everything the CSA stands for but really gave it that tropical touch!

I squeezed fresh lime juice over it and garnished with chopped cilantro. 

The tropical touch, fresh papaya slices with lime juice and cilantro.

It was a nice fusion of ingredients from this region and flavors from afar.  It was a great summertime meal with bright sharp flavors and an appealing mix of colors and textures.



  1. Welcome home — though how anybody would choose to go to Hawaii without going to Hawaii escapes both of us!

    You’ve gone nuts over raw yellow-fin tuna. Our enthusiasm for Japanese food goes way back to the 60’s and a long-gone San Francisco restaurant called Mingei-Ya. Ever hear of it? My favorite cookbook was published in 1969 by its owner, Russ Rudzinski (Rioichi Kokku), “Japanese Country Cookbook.” I don’t cook, just read it for fun. Starts with sukiyaki, which i can’t find on any on-line menu hereabouts. Wanna borrow? I can send it along via Miriam via Carrie.


    1. Thanks Elise! Too often Asian food is “Americanized” here in the States and it loses a lot of the sophistication.

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