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April 2005

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Arare

By Ka`imioka`ono

Arare…mochi crunch…those ubiquitous rice crackers found everywhere in Hawai`i . Long’s Drugs devotes entire aisles to the numerous varieties of them. Everyone eats then, but how did they become the favorite snack of so many different ethnic groups? I’ve asked around and been brushed off with comments such as, “STORY?! There’s no story. The Japanese brought them. We ate them. THAT’S the story!”

Aunty Rochelle kindly offered the notion that perhaps it all happened on the plantation. While the different ethnic groups lived separately in camps, they ate their midday meal together out in the cane fields. Aunty used the picnic analogy: the food on the next table always looks better than what you brought; delicacies are shared and maybe that’s how arare came to be loved by all.

In Hawai`i, locals bring arare the way mainlanders a bag of chips…anytime you might need a little something to snack on…a long car trip, a ballgame, and especially on the airplane. Whenever I fly to the islands, I always spot someone with a bag nearby…especially tutus with grandchildren in tow.

Once, on a flight from O`ahu to Kaua`i, we were told there would be a delay. That information is always a bit disconcerting when one is already on the plane! We waited and waited, and finally they informed us that there was a “mechanical problem.” We would continue to be delayed until it could be checked out. I don’t know which is worse: to have a mystery problem or to know the airplane has a “mechanical problem.” Needless to say, my husband and I were getting more nervous by the minute. After what seemed like an eternity, the flight attendant said that a passenger had reported smelling smoke, (another nerve-wracking detail!), but the aircraft had been thoroughly checked, and we were now ready for take-off. The engines were started, but even before the airplane could back away from the gate, the same alarmed passenger reported she still smelled smoke! Having investigated the situation, the flight attendant stomped back to the rear of the aircraft huffing and rolling her eyes.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Ugh!” she sighed. “Someone opened a bag of arare and THAT’S what the passenger thought smelled like smoke!” After almost an hour, not to mention a good laugh, we were finally on our way.

No doubt about it, locals love their arare, and they like to get creative with it. Big Island Candies dips pieces of arare in chocolate – halfway, just like their shortbread; Tanioka’s Market makes mochi crunch cookies; there’s even li hing arare!

On a visit to Sam Choy’s restaurant on the Big Island , I noticed a small piece of paper taped to the back of the cash register: Asian Clusters: $5.00. What could those be? I just had to ask. The cashier used both hands to show an imaginary tennis ball-sized item.

“Well, they’re about this big, and they’re made from arare and macadamia nuts dipped in chocolate…but we ran out already.”

Can’t you just imagine what those must have been like? `Ono, no? Well, I haven’t been able to get them out of my head, nor can I continue to live with the regret of not having been able to taste them, so here’s a recipe I came up with to try at home.


Ka`imioka`ono’s Arare Clusters

2 cups arare or mochi crunch

1 cup macadamia nuts

12 oz. bag chocolate chips, semi sweet or milk, your choice…or maybe you want to make half of each kind.

Melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler. Mix arare and nuts in a large bowl. Pour chocolate over and stir to coat. Using a large spoon or ice cream scoop, drop mounds onto a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. Let dry completely before enjoying them. And if you no like share, you bettah hide `um!

Ka`imioka`ono travels the globe in search of delicious foods, their recipes, and the stories behind them.


Go from this






Arare Clusters  


Ka`imioka`ono’s story and recipe got me thinking about arare (pronounced ah-rah-rey – equal stress on each syllable and gently roll the r) which we called kakimochi when I was growing up in Hilo . We all know they’re Japanese rice crackers, but surely there was a time way back when you couldn’t just go to the store to buy them in 3 or 6oz plastic bags? So I looked through my many island cookbooks and after the fifth one, finally found a recipe. This is for Ka`imioka`ono, a purist who likes to make everything from scratch, in case she decides to make her own hand-rolled arare. ~RdC


1 cup flour 2 tablespoons goma (sesame seeds) raw
1 cup mochiko 3 tablespoons sugar
¾ cup or more of water 2 teaspoons baking powder

Mix all together, roll paper thin, cut into rectangular strips, ¾-inch by 1 inch.
Deep fry.

Syrup: ¼ cup Karo ¼ cup sugar

Boil syrup and put on fried arare. Spread and dry in 300º oven 15 to 20 minutes.

From Church of the Holy Cross Cookbook “Celebrating Our 90 th Anniversary in 1981” According to the cookbook introduction, the Church of the Holy Cross was organized in 1891 by Jiro Okabe under the name of the Hilo Japanese Christian Church. It was renamed Church of the Holy Cross in 1942 and extends its membership to other racial groups


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