Talk story is a commonly used phrase in Hawaii, referring to sharing stories and chatting with friends, old or new. In our new interview series, So Much More Hawaii will ask various local personalities and friends of the islands five questions to learn more about why Hawaii holds such a special place in each of their hearts.
If you like to eat, you’ll probably remember reading about the culinary adventures of our first interviewee, Carolyn Jung. This James Beard award-winning food writer, blogger and cookbook author has major foodie street cred in her hometown of San Francisco, but also harbors a love of Hawaii evident in her popular blog, Food Gal. It only made sense that we talk story about what she knows best—food!
What is the most memorable dining experience you’ve had in the islands?
I’ve had plenty of upscale meals in Hawaii, but one of my favorite meals was one of the simplest. It was an ahi omelet at Nico’s Pier 38. What made it special was that I had gotten up at the crack of dawn (so early that even the valets at the hotel wondered where the heck I was going) to watch the Honolulu Fish Auction in action. It was freezing cold inside that warehouse, as I walked the rows and rows of fresh fish, and watched the buyers decide what they would spend their money on. Afterward, my husband and I grabbed breakfast nearby at Nico’s, which had just opened for the morning. As I rubbed my hands together to warm up and watched the sun come up on a beautiful Honolulu morning, we dug into the fresh ahi from that day’s auction. The setting, the taste, the whole experience made for an unforgettable time.
What is your favorite thing to eat in Hawaii?
Fresh seafood and fresh papayas. I could live on those two things alone for the rest of my life on Hawaii and be quite happy.
What was the most unusual dish you’ve tried?
An ice cream bean. One of the pleasures of visiting Hawaii is trying all manner of fruits that you can’t find elsewhere. At a visit to Kupaa Farms in Maui, I had the chance to try an ice cream bean. It looks like a plantain with segments of cottony flesh inside. The fruit is juicy and sweet, and tastes unbelievably of vanilla ice cream. It’s a fruit that will blow your mind.
Which island(s) would you like to visit on your next trip and why?
Oahu, because I love its diversity — the big city, the farms, and the North Shore’s surfing mecca. It has a little bit of everything. And Maui for its sheer beauty, plus exciting new restaurants such as Migrant and Kaana Kitchen.
What is one thing that surprised you about Hawaii’s culinary scene?
The number of young chefs who are really re-interpreting Hawaiian cuisine these days. Places like Vintage Cave, the Pig and the Lady, and MW Restaurant are led by the next generation of chefs who are really fostering not only a wonderful camaraderie, but breathing new life into Hawaii’s dining scene.