plate lunch

There are many foods I miss from my childhood in Honolulu but the plate lunch about sums it up: two scoops of white rice a side of mayonnaise-loaded macaroni salad (both served using an ice cream scooper to attain perfectly round scoops), with a deliciously greasy portion of meat (or fish or sometimes both).

If the plate lunch takes off on the mainland thanks to Barack Obama’s victory, as discussed in this article from the New York Times, I would be overjoyed:

This carbo load — usually piled into a plastic foam container — is paired with a protein, generally of the pan-Asian variety, often slathered in brown gravy. After a morning of hard work (or hard surf), one might opt for Korean kalbi or meat jun, Chinese char siu roast pork, Philippine pork adobo, Hawaiian kalua pork (a luau favorite), Japanese katsu or salmon teriyaki, Portuguese sausage, American-style beef stew, or loco moco — a hamburger patty and a fried egg.

“The cultural significance of the plate lunch is that it illustrates Hawaii as a special place where all of our mixed cultures share their foods with one another,” said Matthew Gray, who runs Hawaii Food Tours, which ferries tourists to Oahu’s plate lunch outlets and other lesser known haunts. “Instead of referring to Hawaii as a melting pot, I prefer to call us a salad bowl, where we all get to share and showcase the individual flavors, aromas and histories of our food.”

The Hawaiian plate lunch traces its roots to the 1880s, when giant fruit and sugar companies controlled much of the local economy. Among other factors, the decimation of the local population by disease made the companies desperate for plantation workers, and they drew a labor pool from China, Japan, Portugal, the Philippines and other areas.

I can vouch for the legitimacy of this article; the must-eat places mentioned — Rainbow Drive-In, Kaka’ako Kitchen, and Zippy’s — really are places locals eat.

Mmmm . . . I may have to make some chicken katsu or tonkatsu (Japanese fried chicken cutlet or pork cutlet) with or without Japanese brown curry or kalbi (Korean grilled beef short ribs) this weekend with a side of fried spam for a meal his weekend.


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