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Sam Choy's Polynesian Kitchen: More Than 150 Authentic Dishes from One of the World's Most Delicious and Overlooked Cuisines

Sam Choy's Polynesian Kitchen: More Than 150 Authentic Dishes from One of the World's Most Delicious and Overlooked Cuisines

by Sam Choy, Steven Goldsberry (With), U'i Goldsberry (With)
With several acclaimed cookbooks to his credit, Sam Choy, already Hawaii's most recognized chef, is a rising star on the Mainland as well. Sam's newest book is the first major collection of recipes focusing on the islands of the South Pacific. Forget pupu platters and silly drinks -- these high-flavor, low-fuss dishes, drawn from Sam's own travels through Polynesia,


With several acclaimed cookbooks to his credit, Sam Choy, already Hawaii's most recognized chef, is a rising star on the Mainland as well. Sam's newest book is the first major collection of recipes focusing on the islands of the South Pacific. Forget pupu platters and silly drinks -- these high-flavor, low-fuss dishes, drawn from Sam's own travels through Polynesia, represent the islands eclectic cuisine, which borrows techniques and tastes from Europe, China, and India, but is unique unto itself. From Coconut Lemongrass Baby Back Ribs and Pacific Gazpacho with Baby Shrimp to Cinnamon Chicken and Tahitian Nioise Salad, Sam's penchant for fresh and simple-to-make food shines through each winning recipe. Sixteen pages of beautiful photographs, his lively commentary, and an innovative, colorful design will inspire cooks of all skill levels to try this wonderfully flavorful and underappreciated cuisine.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hawaiian chef and restaurant owner Choy (Sam Choy's Island Flavors) brings to the table his island tales and food with this delightful new volume. Filled with anecdotes and photographs of his visits and the food memories associated with each voyage, he travels as far south as New Zealand, taking in along the way such far-reaching islands as Samoa, Tonga and Tahiti. Starting with a very full section covering the ingredients used throughout the book, Choy discusses the various culinary influences: from the Chinese in Fiji and Samoa and the French in the Marquesas, to the Indian British impact throughout the regions. Whether it's the Ginger-Scallion Fried Rice from Fiji, or the piquant sweet-sour flavors of the Kau'u Orange-Ginger Chicken from Hawaii, the recipes offer simple techniques and full fresh flavors. Cooks will recognize the many staple ingredients such as orange juice and coconut milk, which appear regularly throughout the book in such combinations as Baked Snapper with Orange-Coconut Sauce of the Marquesas, or Samoan Coconut Rice and Baked Banana Vanilla Custard from Tahiti. In bringing together the groups of recipes, Choy conveys a light yet satisfying cuisine that enchants the taste buds and expands one's knowledge of Polynesian cuisine. (July) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
A well-known Hawaiian chef with restaurants around the world, Choy grew up in a small town that he describes as "a hotbed of pan-Polynesian culture." His friends hailed from all of the seven Pacific Island nations (Fiji, Hawaii, the Marquesas, New Zealand, Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga), and the foods their families served are part of his childhood memories. For his latest book, Choy traveled extensively throughout Polynesia, meeting both home cooks and other chefs and sampling their wonderful food. The culture and cuisine of Pacific Island nations are unique, having been shaped by both the indigenous islanders and the various European and Asian colonists who settled there. The three predominant cuisines in Tonga, for example, are Tongan, Chinese, and Italian, while the food in Fiji includes the traditional local dishes as well as Chinese, European, and Indian fare. Choy presents recipes for both traditional and contemporary dishes, adding his own spin to many of them; most of his recipes are quite easy, and although some of the ingredients may be a bit difficult to come by, he provides detailed descriptions of the more unfamiliar ones and suggests substitutions whenever possible. The only caveat is that the recipe instructions are somewhat abbreviated; less-experienced cooks would welcome more guidance. Still, this is an accessible and groundbreaking introduction to tantalizing, previously unexplored exotic fare. An essential purchase. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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Hachette Books
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Sam Choy's Polynesian Kitchen

More Than 150 Authentic Dishes from One of the World's Most Delicious and Overlooked Cuisines

By Sam Choy with U'i and Steven Goldsberry


Copyright © 2002 U'i and Steven Goldsberry.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 0-7868-6475-3

How to Use This Book

I'M NOT A CULINARY ANTHROPOLOGIST, I just have a love for really good food. Many of the recipes in Sam Choy's Polynesian Kitchen are my adaptations, my take on some of the traditional dishes from the islands of Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti, New Zealand, the Marquesas, and my home, Hawai'i. Other recipes are creations, inspired by the flavors, textures, and unique ingredients that make each island cuisine distinct. I'VE ALWAYS FELT THAT THE simpler the recipe, the better. So, I've applied my "easy-to-follow" cooking techniques to each dish, and have provided ingredient substitutions that retain the essence of the islands' cooking. All substitutions can be found in most major grocery stores and Asian markets. The recipes are simple, with few ingredients. LISTED BELOW ARE INGREDIENTS THAT are staples in South Pacific cooking but may be difficult to find in American markets. I've included a description of each item, the availability in U.S. markets, viable substitutions, and storage recommendations. When substituting, it's important to remember thatthe flavor and/or texture will change as a result of the substitution.


Banana Leaves

Description: Every part of the banana tree was important to the people of the South Pacific. They ate the fruit, used the moisture-rich trunks as cooking buffers in underground ovens, and wrapped their food in the wide, green leaves for steaming. These leaves add a tantalizing, woodsy flavor to the traditional dishes of the Islands.

Use: If you are using fresh leaves, cut away the center vein of each leaf, and discard. If the leaves are too stiff to mold around the food bundles, hold them briefly over a gas flame or pour boiling water over the leaves in a colander to make them pliable. I recommend using an outer wrapping of foil around the leaf bundles while cooking to prevent leaking. The steamed food should be served in the leaf, but the leaf is not eaten.

If you are using frozen leaves, they should be thawed, then rinsed and patted dry. Glide the flat surface of the leaves across a gas flame or electric element on the highest heat setting. In just a few seconds, the leaves will become shiny and pliable, and give off a pleasant aroma. Set aside until ready to use (up to several hours). Leaves can be stored frozen for several months.

Availability: In U.S. markets, you can find banana leaves in Asian or Latin food shops. They come fresh, dried, or frozen in 1-pound packages.

Storage: Fresh leaves should be wrapped tightly in foil and stored in the crisper of the refrigerator. They can last for 3 months. Frozen leaves will keep in your freezer for virtually as long as you want.

Substitution: Ti leaves are the best substitute for banana leaves. Oiled parchment paper or foil can also be used, but these do not have the natural appearance and flavor of the banana or ti leaves.


Description: Breadfruit is native to the South Pacific. The large and imposing green fruit is covered in short, knobby spines, can weigh up to 9 pounds, and grows to a diameter of 8 to 10 inches. It's usually picked and eaten before it ripens and becomes too sweet. The flesh is bland tasting with a cream-colored, breadlike center. Breadfruit can be baked, grilled, fried, or boiled.

The breadfruit tree is one of the most handsome of the tropical flora, with thick, lobed dark-green leaves and a sturdy trunk. Trees start bearing after five or six years, and with good soil conditions and correct climate, can produce fruit for 50 years. Male and female flowers are grouped separately in catkins on the same tree. Depending on the variety of tree, the fruit can be oval, spherical, or pear-shaped and can be found at all stages of its development on the same tree. There are usually two ripening seasons a year.

Use: Breadfruit must be cooked to be edible. One fresh breadfruit weighing about 2 pounds, or one packed in a 26-ounce can, serves 6. For a vegetable side dish, peel fresh breadfruit and cut out the core, or drain canned breadfruit. Cook with desired seasonings in water to cover for about 15 minutes until tender; drain, and mash with butter to the consistency of mashed potatoes. Breadfruits have a starchy taste that makes them an excellent substitute for potatoes or rice.

Traditionally, the Pacific Islanders preserve the fruit by fermentation. But when fresh or canned, the breadfruit may simply be sliced and dried out in the sun or in an oven, or it may be cooked and pounded to a paste.

Availability: In the United States, you can find breadfruit fresh or in 26-ounce cans in some Latin and specialty produce markets.

Storage: Whole breadfruit will keep for weeks in a cool place.

Substitution: Irish or baking potatoes are the nearest practical substitution for breadfruit. The recipes in this book will work well using these potatoes.


Description: Chutneys are very spicy Indian relishes that are served either cooked or raw. The immigrants from India that arrived in Fiji to work on the copra and sugarcane plantations brought chutneys with them. Today, chutney is a staple in Fijian cooking.

Use: Chutneys are made fresh with fruits, vegetables, spices, sugar, and vinegar. They are served as a side dish with curried dishes.

Availability: Chutneys are available in Asian markets, specialty food stores, and well-stocked supermarkets. Those found in U.S. markets are usually a golden-colored mango variety. Indian markets carry a well-rounded variety of bottled or canned chutneys, and occasionally carry their own fresh versions.

Storage: Prepared chutneys are usually sold in jars and look like fruit preserves. These are stamped with shelf-life dates and can be stored in your pantry or cupboard for months. Once opened, they should be kept in the refrigerator. Fresh chutneys should be stored in the refrigerator, and will usually last 1-2 weeks.

Substitution: Chutneys are very easy to make. They are basically a combination of tomato, fresh mint, pineapple, coconut, onion, garlic, or any other ingredient that is refreshing to the palate. Please feel free to experiment with the recipes I've included in this book.

Coconut Crab

Description: Coconut crabs, also known as robber crabs, are found on the islands of the South Pacific and Indian Oceans. These large land crabs are related to the hermit crab and have a symmetrical abdomen covered with horny plates. They grow up to 16 inches long and may weigh as much as 9 pounds.

The coconut crab derives its name from its habit of climbing palms to get coconuts for food. The crab cracks the coconuts with its powerful pincers and eats the sweet meat inside the nut. The back of the coconut crab's body is red and striped like a yellow jacket, and this is where it stores all the nutrients it gathers from eating coconuts.

Use: Because coconut crabs consume so much rich coconut, their flesh is juicy with a buttery, oily texture. These huge crabs are considered a delicacy in the South Pacific.

Cooked with onions, peppers, and garlic, coconut crabs have the best flavor in the world. I always eat the back first. It's the most succulent part, where you find most of the juicy, nutrient-rich meat.

Availability: Coconut crabs are generally not available in the United States, except in Hawai'i and major West Coast cities, but they can be ordered frozen through Internet markets and specialty food supply houses.

Storage: If you can get fresh or frozen coconut crabmeat, purchase and requirements are the same as for any other flesh crab. When acquiring live crab, buy it—on the day you are going to cook it—from a reliable fish market, and take care that it is alive and kicking. If it has been kept on crushed ice, its reactions will be slow. Live crab should be purchased on the day of use and refrigerated until just before cooking. Raw crabmeat should be cooked within 24 hours.

Any cooked crabmeat purchased in a fish market should smell sweet and fresh. If it smells strong, don't buy it. Cooked crabmeat can be refrigerated for use within 3 days. Remember that freezing crabmeat damages its flavor and texture, and should be done only if it is not to be used quickly. Use frozen crabmeat within 3 months.

Substitution: Any large crab (spider, king, or Dungeness crabs) can be substituted for coconut crabs. Canned crab, precooked and sold in 6- to 8-ounce cans, can be found in every supermarket. Canned crabmeat varies greatly in price, depending on the type. It tends to be stronger in flavor than fresh or frozen. Crabs can also be found fresh or frozen in fish markets or in the fish section of large supermarkets.

Coconut Milk

Description: Traditionally, the people of the South Pacific drench their food in coconut milk, the sweet liquid from the staple fruit of the Islands. In legend, the coconut was named by Spanish and Portuguese traders that visited the South Pacific and Asia. They thought the coconut shell's three "eyes" resembled the face of a clown; loosely translated, the Spanish word coco means "grinning face."

The coconut tree is a tall, slender tropical palm that can grow as high as 60 feet. The fruits or nuts are a single seed with an outer fibrous husk that allows the fruit to float in seawater for weeks without coming to any harm. A tree in full production can bear up to 120 fruits a year.

Native to the tropics, the coconut is used in hundreds of different ways. The liquid you hear sloshing around inside the fresh coconut is called coconut water, and is drunk fresh. It's important not to confuse this splashing liquid with coconut milk, a creamy solution made by grating and squeezing the flesh of a ripe coconut.

Fresh, fully ripened coconuts make the most flavorful coconut milk. To check for freshness, shake the coconut. If you can hear the coconut water splashing around inside, the coconut is fresh. Another way to check for freshness is to husk the outer shell. All three eyes should be closed and sealed.

Use: Coconut milk is used throughout the South Pacific and Asia to season the local traditional dishes. The creamy milk imparts a gentle, pleasing flavor that provides a unique identity to these island foods.

Availability: Prepared coconut milk is available canned or frozen in most Asian markets and in some well-stocked supermarkets. Many brands are imported from Hawai'i, Thailand, and the Philippines. Check the label to make sure that the coconut milk you buy is unsweetened. Most brands of canned coconut milk are as thick as homemade (hand-squeezed) coconut milk, and are just as good.

Storage: Purchased canned or frozen, coconut milk will keep indefinitely. Fresh-squeezed coconut milk must be used immediately.

Substitution: You can make a convenient (though not authentic) substitute for fresh or canned coconut milk by mixing whipping cream with coconut extract. Use 1/2 teaspoon each of sugar and coconut extract and 1 cup whipping cream for every cup of coconut milk.

NOTE: Coconut milk, adored by all Asians and Pacific Islanders, may not hold as much appeal for certain Western palates. A key ingredient in Thai and East Indian cooking, coconut milk has become widely available in the United States, and is much more accepted as a flavoring to meat and fish dishes.

I do love coconut milk, but if you find it's not to your taste, simply use heavy cream as a substitute, or try experimenting with smaller portions than those I recommend.


Description: Coriander, also known as Chinese parsley or cilantro, is a very pungent and aromatic herb. It resembles the flat-leaf Italian parsley.

Use: All parts of the plant are used in Asian cooking: the seeds are used in curries, the fresh green leaves as an herb, and the roots in some Thai dishes.

Availability: Sold by the bunch, fresh coriander is available year-round in most Asian markets and in many supermarkets in the United States. If possible, buy the coriander with its roots attached.

Storage: Coriander should be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. It will stay fresh for about 1-2 days.

Substitution: There is no true flavor substitution for fresh coriander, but it is possible to use fresh curly parsley (found in most supermarkets) for texture and color. Coriander is often sold as "cilantro"; they are the same plant. Because of the distinct flavor difference between coriander and parsley, you may opt to leave out the parsley altogether.


Description: Curry powder is not a natural spice. It is a combination of anywhere from 7 to 20 separate ingredients.

Use: In India, cooks combine their fresh spices daily to complement the curry they are preparing. Curry powders are as different as the cooks. It's very common for a cook to prepare a different curry powder for each different recipe.

Availability: Bottled curry powders and pastes are available on supermarket shelves and in Asian markets throughout the country. These are premixed convenience items, combined spices. As a rule, the brands of curry powder from India are the best.

Storage: Bottled or premixed curry powder can be stored, tightly sealed, on your pantry or cupboard shelf for up to a year. If you prepare your own spices, it is best to use the mixture immediately.

Substitution: For convenience, use store-bought, premixed curry powder. For the best flavor you should blend your own. This takes trial-and-error practice, but the process can be a flavor blast.


Description: Daikon, a variety of white radish from the turnip family, is in season most of the year. It has a sharp, sweet flavor. There are many types of daikon; all are slightly different, but are interchangeable in recipes. The most common come from Japan and China. The Japanese variety is long and slender. It can grow to 14 inches in length and weigh as much as 4 to 5 pounds. Chinese daikon is slightly shorter and wider.

Use: Japanese cooks serve daikon in soup, preserved and pickled, or shredded raw as a garnish for sushi or sashimi.

Availability: Fresh daikon is usually available year-round in Asian markets, specialty food stores, and in the produce section of supermarkets. When selecting daikon, make sure the root is firm and white with healthy-looking dark green leaves attached to the top. Smaller roots are moister and more delicate.

Shredded and dried daikon, called kiri-boshi daikon, can be found in Japanese markets.

Storage: Fresh daikon will keep in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator 2-3 days. It's important to use any of your fresh ingredients as soon as possible. They lose their flavor the longer they are kept in storage.

Substitution: In the recipes in this book, any variety of raw turnip is a suitable substitute for fresh daikon.

French Beans

Description: French beans are a narrow, completely edible variety of string bean.

French explorers introduced many types of European produce in the lands they visited. French green beans grew well in the South Pacific volcanic soil and became very popular in French Polynesia.

Use: French beans are interchangeable with other string beans in any of the recipes in this book.

Availability: French beans are available in specialty produce markets or in national supermarkets.

Storage: Fresh French beans will keep well in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator 2-3 days. It is important to use all fresh ingredients as soon as possible. Flavor dissipates during prolonged refrigeration.

Substitution: String beans work best as a replacement for French beans.


Excerpted from Sam Choy's Polynesian Kitchen by Sam Choy with U'i and Steven Goldsberry. Copyright © 2002 by U'i and Steven Goldsberry. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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