Make or Take: Cook This Vegetarian Pan-Seared Taro For Your Thanksgiving Potluck
Grammy-Award nominated musician Halehaku Seabury of Nā Hoa shares culinary dreams, family recipes and nostalgic memories.
Though known for his musical prowess as one-third of the Grammy-nominated Hawaiian music trio, Nā Hoa, Hale Seabury’s love of food runs deep. Raised in a proud Hawaiian and Portuguese family, he recalls savory bites of pasteles, fried fish and manapua as some of the most vivid memories of his youth. A quick scroll through his Instagram feed—vinha d’alhos, ramen, opihi and his famous holiday chocolate chip cookies—points to music and food as his two great loves.
Seabury gives us a glimpse into his almost-culinary career, the foods that inspire him and his favorite way to cook kalo during the holiday season.
NĀ HOA PERFORMING LIVE FROM GRAMMY MUSEUM IN L.A.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF IKAIKA BLACKBURN
HONOLULU Magazine: Give us a bit of insight into your love of food. What role has food played in your life?
Hale Seabury: Before I realized that I needed to be a musician, I was COMPLETELY preparing to be the next Emeril Lagasse—I was looking at culinary schools, the whole nine yards. When I was a child we lived in a plantation-style house with my great-grandparents in the “luna” house. Jennie Ahue, my great-grandmother, always made gandule rice, and another neighbor, Mrs. Ramos, always made pasteles for birthdays, celebrations and gatherings.
HM: Who taught you how to cook and encouraged your love of food?
HS: Although I spent a lot of time in the kitchen as a kid, most of my real learning started with my grandparents. Watch and listen. Repeat.
HM: What kind of food did you grow up eating?
HS: We had a little of everything. My father’s side of the family are hunters and fishermen, so on special occasions we had venison and fried fish. Bitter melon soup was often on a burner at my grandpa Seabury’s house. Standing out in my mind are things like fried noodles, rice cake and haw flakes from the manapua man where we went to school.
HM: Do you have any favorite childhood dishes you remember enjoying during the holidays?
HS: My great-grandmother’s gandule rice and Mrs. Ramos’ pasteles, together. If we were lucky, as kids, we got one of the spicy pasteles usually reserved for the adults!
HM: What kinds of Thanksgiving ingredients or dishes do you especially look forward to during this time of year?
HS: My Portuguese blood (and Emeril Lagasse fandom!) have me choosing pork over turkey nearly every single time at Thanksgiving. In our house, I usually look forward to two things: my tutu’s honey glazed ham and my mom’s stuffing.
HM: We always love an opportunity to gather during the holidays and Thanksgiving potlucks are on the top of our list! What is one food item that you love to buy to share at a Thanksgiving potluck and where can we order it?
HS: If I buy a dish, it’s usually pork hash with duck egg. I usually [get it at] Golden Duck if I’m in town, or Mui Kwai on the Windward Side.
HM: What is one dish you love to cook or bake to share at a Thanksgiving potluck?
HS: My wife makes Portuguese sweetbread from an old family recipe that we love to take to gatherings, or to a Thanksgiving potluck. The other dish, the recipe that I can share, is kalo paʻa palai, or pan-seared taro. It’s a delicious, simple dish that is also vegetarian friendly.
HM: Who introduced you to this dish and how long have you been making it?
HS: Kalo palai was an offshoot of my sour poi pizza dough. I’m supremely nocturnal and most creative in the early morning hours, both musically and in the kitchen. One great thing about this recipe is that it eats like a steak, in texture and taste, but is also light enough that it pairs well with meat dishes.
Kalo Paʻa Palai Recipe
Clean and steam 10 pounds of raw kalo (an Instant Pot does this in 45 minutes).
Let it cool, then slice steamed kalo into medallions.
Salt both sides and pan-fry in butter.
Serve while hot.