Farm to Table: 6 Dishes from Hawaii Restaurants
Here are six locally grown dishes you can order in Hawaii restaurants right now—and the farmers who made them possible.
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Besides, he notes, pigs are rooting animals. “One of my uncles had a pig in a pasture. In a week, he dug a hole big enough to bury a Volkswagen.”
Shinsato’s pigs are carefully nurtured. “It’s always in the farmer’s interest to treat his animals well. A stressed animal doesn’t grow quickly,” says Shinsato. “We take the time to do a good job, do whatever we need to do to take care of them.”
Shinsato has the only USDA-certified pork slaughterhouse on Oahu, right at the farm, strictly for his own hogs. “Our facility was licensed by the state, so when the feds took over, we were grandfathered in. They’ve assured us that will never happen again.”
Having his own slaughterhouse gives Shinsato total control. “We have to do a good job. We know who’s getting the pig.”
Shinsato sells only whole pigs. That’s sustainable agriculture. Why waste any of the animal? In addition, it avoids competing head-on with Mainland producers who can flood the market with product. “People have to realize that if they want real, locally produced food, it’s going to cost more.”
For years, Shinsato’s niche was ethnic markets. “But the older generation there is passing, and the younger one doesn’t want whole pigs, doesn’t even know how to use them.”
He worked at finding new markets, often giving a whole pig to chefs, just to get them to try them. “They’d take it and hardly ever come back.”
In recent years, though, restaurant business has picked up. High-end hotel buffets have become steady customers. If you see a suckling pig at the carving station at the Kahala or the Halekulani, you’re seeing one of Shinsato’s products.
Smaller restaurants are increasingly interested in making use of locally produced pork, even if they can’t just buy the cuts they want.
“You know, a lot of that is due to Ed Kenney,” says Glenn. “I didn’t even find Ed. He found me.”
Ed Kenney, of Town and Downtown restaurants, found Shinsato because of a Hanahauoli School father-son picnic.
One of the other fathers brought along a La Caja China. That’s a Cuban invention, an aluminum-lined wood box with a fire grate on top.
“He fired up that thing, and made a suckling pig with the best crispy skin I’ve ever tasted,” says Kenney. “I wanted to make it for a party I had coming up.”
He knew where to get a La Caja box; Roy Yamaguchi of Roy’s had one. He’d call Roy’s corporate chef, Jackie Lau, and borrowed it. But where to get a pig? The fellow parent gave him Glenn Shinsato’s number.
“Glenn and I didn’t have an instant rapport,” says Kenney. “It didn’t mean much to him I was a chef. He’d seen chefs come and chefs go. But the pig he sold me turned out to be good.”
From then on, every couple of weeks, Kenney would buy a bigger pig, a 200-pounder, to serve at Town.
Dealing with a pig that size required four days by the time Kenney picked it up in Kahaluu, broke it down, butchered it into parts. It might be another week or so until the hams were ready, five or six weeks before the salami was cured.
Kenney was forced to come up with innovative ways to use every pound of pig. “Otherwise we could hardly afford it,” he says. Braised cuts, sausages, even head cheese.
What’s the single best thing he’s ever made with Shinsato pork?
“It wasn’t my idea, it was Glenn’s,” he says.
One month Shinsato didn’t have a 200-pounder to sell him. He prevailed upon Kenney to take a small, 70-pound pig.