Flavorbliss Lazy Mainland Style Laulau



I’m always homesick. Coming from Hawaii, I always miss the beaches, the people, the Aloha spirit, and the food. Since I’m on the mainland, I have always tried to make the local Hawaiian food myself to kill the food craving and homesickness. Trying out different kind of recipes.

I gathered this recipe from 3 different recipes. And so far, below is what I got and I have been happy with it. I have made it numerous times. Everyone loves it. It is the “lazy” shortcut kind, and mainland style because some ingredients you can’t even find them here, such as the taro and ti leaves. But, I found that, the banana leaves makes up for the ti leaves, and the canned spinach makes up for the taro leaves.

SO, it’s a lu’au!, and it’s ono! 🙂

Dried banana leaves
Cooking string/ twine
Cod or butter fish (optional- I normally don’t put any fish)
1 big slice of pork belly (I use this instead of fish), cut up into 1 inch cubes
Sea salt or kosher salt
2 cans (or more) of Del Monte spinach (I ALWAYS use Del Monte brand- to me, it has taste and smell like taro leaves)
1 lb pork butt, cut up or cubed

Season pork butt with salt. Give about 3-4 big pinches on each bundle (explanation below). If you use fish, also cut up the fish, or pork belly and season with salt. When you are done, prepare the banana leaves. Once you clean and dry up the leaves and they become soft, cut about 10- 12 inch in length. You want to make sure that at the end, you can wrap those pork like a bundle or a present. Place the cut up pork at the bottom, then the fish or pork belly, and season with salt on top. When they are done, place a handful of spinach on top of them then wrap your leaves into a bundle and secure it with the string on all fours sides. Make sure it is all tie up and secured.

Your choice of using steamer or crockpot, make sure you place the seam on the bottom to avoid the leaves from opening up. If you use crockpot, set it on low for 6-8 hours. I always put about 1/2 cup of water before I turn the crockpot on, so the laulau are moist and not too salty. If you use steamer, pile them in steamer, with metal strainer underneath so they don’t touch the water. You will be steaming for a while, at least for about 4 hours. Keep on checking though, especially for water level. You don’t want your laulau to burn. They will smell bad.

Easy and simple, right? That is why I called it “lazy”! Good luck.


Colombian Tamales Santandereanos

This past Christmas, hubby and I decided to make this Christmas a Colombian theme since his parents were coming to spend Christmas with us at our place. So, we made what they called traditional Christmas meal, which consists of Colombian Hot Chocolate drink, bunuelos (recipe is coming soon!), and tamales.

This was my first time (well, second time) ever making tamales, I practiced about a week or two before the day. First time I made them, they were too big and too little meat inside. Plus, the consistency of the “masa” was not what I expected. I think the hardest part for me was to find the right consistency of the “masa”. The secret is actually using fat in the “masa”. In Mexican tamales, they use lard… the Colombian tamales use oil.

From a sit down meal to a pit stop for lunch, I think Colombian tamales are amazing tamales, but not like any typical Mexican tamales. They have very appetizing fragrant since each tamale is wrapped in banana leaf, and with the choices are chicken, pork, or chicken and pork.

The tamales that I made come from the region of Santander. In Colombia there are many kinds of tamales depending on the region of the country. For hubby’s family, having tamales for dinner close to midnight, accompanied by hot chocolate drink is a Christmas tradition which later, I found out that it is how it is for many families in Colombia.

Here is the recipe. It has few steps to follow. It makes about 10-15 tamales, depending how big you wrap them. Generally, the tamales are actually easy and fairly simple to make, they are just time consuming. Well, if you are curious to know how they taste (since as I know there are only very few places sell them in the U.S.), give them a try!

10 chicken thighs, shave from the bone
10 pork ribs about the length of your finger with a good amount of meat on them.
1 can garbanzo beans
4 cup “Masarepa” or “ArepaHarina” (extremely fine precooked corn meal – you simply can not use any substitutes here)
5 cup of water/ chicken broth
½ cup to 1 cup of canola oil
1 package frozen banana or platano leaves (latino or asian groceries would have them), thawed and cut into 12 inch square pieces Clean string or cord used for tying.
A very large boiler and lid.
Enough salt to make salted water to boil the tamales in the pot.
Hogao (recipe follows- devide the hogao, one to just enough to marinate the chicken and ribs, and another to put inside the tamales with all the meat)

Recipe for Hogao:
6 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 bunches of green onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup of packed, chopped cilantro
2 tbps butter
salt and pepper to taste

Finely mince all the first four ingredients. Melt butter in the pan, and fry garlic until fragrant. Add the other ingredients and let simmer for at least an hour. There should almost look like salsa because of the tomatoes. When it’s done. Set aside.

Direction for Tamales:
Two or three days before, put the chicken and ribs in a container and marinade them with one part of hogao. With your hands, work the marinade into the meats. Cover and refrigerate until the next day.

Preparation of the “Masa”:
Put “Masarepa” or “ArepaHarina” in a large bowl. Slowly add warm (not hot) water or chicken broth. You probably have to use your hands to mix. Most likely, you will need to add more liquid to get the “masa” to the consistency of cooked oatmeal or grits.

Assembly and cooking of the Tamales:
Place about a size of golf ball of the dough in the center of the banana leaf. Flatten it to about 1/2 inch thick. Place few rib, chicken (don’t be cheap) and 1 tbp garbanzo beans on top. Spoon about 1-2 tablespoons of “hogao” on top of the meat. Then spoon another golf ball size of “masa” on top of all of them, and gently spread as much out as you can.

Fold the edges of the banana leaf over the filling so as to make a package. Try to not let any of the filling show. If the leaf splits, just take another smaller piece of leaf and fold it around the package.

Tie up the package/tamale with a string or cord. Wrap it tightly around the tamale. Continue with the other tamales according to the above directions.

Pour water into a very large pot and salted the water. Stack the tamales all the way to the top in the boiling pot until the water covers them. Turn up the heat to high. When you hear the water boiling furiously, turn the heat down to medium. Cover and boil for 3- 4 hours.

When they are done, unwrap the banana leaves from the tamales before serving. Or, as traditional Colombians would do is to serve the tamales on a section of banana leaf. Either way, it is all good. Enjoy!

Empanadas Santandereanas (Meat Pie from Santander)

For being either “street food” or pastry, empanadas have earned their place in my heart and my taste buds. Each time I go to Colombia to visit my in laws, I have to have empanadas. And my favorite is always the traditional rice and beef filling. My husband has his favorite place to buy empanadas, which have quickly became my favorite place as well. I could eat more of them everyday!

Previously, I attempted many many times in making empanadas with no success. It was the skin! I couldn’t seem to get it right. It was either too thick or they fell apart when I tried to fry them. It was a big mess. On my last trip to Colombia, I had the chance to watch someone made a homemade empanadas, and of course, when I got back in the U.S, I was itching to try to make one myself!

So, here it is what I did and finally, came out pretty well! I was happy and so did my husband. A little disclaimer: I don’t bake… don’t really like it, and making the skin is like baking to me… so, please try it on your own risk 😉 Come on, it is worthed it!!

2 cup white wheat flour (harina de trigo)
4 tbp butter, room temperature
1/3 cup and 2 tbp water
salt to taste (about 1/2 tsp)
6 cup of oil to fry

You can pretty much put any kind of filling you want.. you can be creative. I’ve found many empanadas in Santander have been “westernized” in a sense that I found such cheese, or ham and cheese fillings inside them. So, go ahead and put in whatever you like!

But, if you want to be traditional.. here are the ingredients:
1 cup of rice
1 lb of ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbp cilantro
2 tbp oil

Pour the flour in a flat surface. Season with salt. Make hole in the middle of the flour mount, so it would look like a crown. Put the butter the center following with water. Start putting the flour on top of the butter and squeeze them together to make a dough. When you create a big ball, start kneading them until it is dough like consistency. It helps, to kind of slapping the dough down the surface when kneading. (If it is necessary add in a little more butter and water to reach the consistency needed).

Let it sit for 5- 10 mins before shaping the dough. Take a golf ball size of dough.. flatten it with either side of drinking cup or rolling pin until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Put in about 1-2 tbp filling in the middle. Fold into two, into a half moon shape. With a fork, start pressing the edges and cut the extra dough.

You can either cook the rice separately or you can cook the rice with the meat. What I did was cooking the rice separately in rice cooker. Easier. So, warm rice. Set aside. Brown the meat with garlic, onion, and cilantro. When the meat is brown, add in rice and mix well. Set aside until when you are ready with the dough.

When both are done, heat up the oil in a pan. When the oil is hot, deep fry the empanadas until they are golden brown on both sides. Serve when they are hot!!

Enjoy!! It’s one of my favorites Colombian dish! You can also serve them with aji… which I think pretty much look like pico de gallo, but chop all the ingredients finer, and instead of using lemon juice, use vinegar and a little water. That is it!!

Happy trying!!