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June 2005


By Orrie Irwin

Every year for Father’s Day, I ask my husband and father of our two children what he wants me to cook for him and with only a few exceptions the answer has always been sweet and sour spareribs with macaroni salad. His love affair with this combination of food started many years ago when my haole boy found his way from Florida to O’ahu to live with his brother, surf, and enjoy the island lifestyle. His introduction to plate lunches came from the lunch wagons parked near Kewalo Basin. Of the many varieties he tried, the one that hit the spot, especially after a morning of surfing, was the sweet and sour spareribs. When we left Hawai’i in 1978, I figured that I better find a recipe for my husband’s favorite dish and thanks to Hawaiian Electric Co.’s home service department, I came upon one.

We have lived in the mainland for so many years that this local girl has become a mainlander in some respects. But there are things that neither time nor distance can change and for me, my love of local foods and the joy of sharing it with others are just two of them. Here’s my recipe for `ono sweet sour spareribs, add macaroni salad and two scoops rice and see if it doesn’t broke da mouth!




2 lbs spareribs
1 small piece ginger root, crushed
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2/3 cup cider vinegar
2 Tbsp flour
1 ¼ cups water
3 Tbsp salad oil
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tsp salt

Have butcher cut spareribs into 1 ½-inch pieces. Sprinkle soy sauce and flour over spareribs, mix gently. Heat oil in large, heavy bottom, sauce pan. Brown spareribs with garlic and ginger; drain off fat. Add remaining ingredients; simmer uncovered 45 minutes or until tender. Makes kau kau enough for 6.

Orrie Irwin was born and grew up in Honolulu but spent almost every Christmas and many summers in Hilo with the Kim `ohana. She graduated from Radford High School ’71 (oh so long ago) and went on to college on the mainland. She resides in San Diego , California but ask her where home is and the answer will be, where my heart is, Hawai`i .


The Best Cook in the World

By Rochelle delaCruz


My father was a great cook.

Man Chong Wong was born in 1913 in Honomū, a small town on the Hāmākua Coast on the island of Hawai`i. He worked the main window at Hilo Post Office for over 30 years and it was only when he retired in 1972 that he started cooking. He was nearly 60 years old when he took to the kitchen but by the time he died in 2001, he had become the best cook in the world. He and my mother came up to Seattle every summer and for weeks before they left Hilo, they started gathering all the ingredients for the dozens of laulau they brought up for my freezer: taro leaf, pork butt, butterfish… “and an extra piece of fat in each one,” he always said. My children grew up on Papa’s laulau, and whenever they’re in Hawai`i, they try to find something comparable. “No can,” I tell them.

Whether in Hilo or Seattle, he spoiled all of us with sweet sour pig feet, tripe stew, oxtail soup, Korean squid, kau yuk with taro, harm ha pork and tofu as well as spaghetti and meatloaf. One year he even fried all the mochi chicken for my cousin’s wedding reception! Nothing made him happier than sitting back with a can of beer and watching us enjoy eating what he just spent the afternoon cooking.

One of his favorite cookbooks was Gail Wong’s (no relation) From Hawaii Authentic-Original Chinese Recipes. He called it his bible and made sure we all had a copy. Mine is ragged around the edges and on favorite pages are stains of hoi sin and hau yau. When Orrie sent in her recipe for sweet and sour pork, I remembered that this was also one of Dad’s specialties. And as a condiment to the pork, he made Chinese pickles from a recipe in the Gail Wong cookbook.

Whenever I eat anything, I think of him.


Chinese Pickle

 2 Chinese turnips
1 small carrot
4 tbsp vinegar
4 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 slice ginger
1 stalk green onion, chopped fine

Pare turnips and carrot. Cut in halves length-wise and slice diagonally into very thin slices. Sprinkle with salt and let stand about 20 minutes. Wash and drain. Add remaining ingredients and let stand for an hour. This pickle may be served with spareribs.

In Gail Wong’s Authentic Chinese Recipes from Hawaii. First printing 1953. Copyright 1966

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