We Tried It: “Keiki in the Kitchen with Mika the Sous Chef”

An adorable puppy teams up with Hawaiʻi's top chefs to create a new cookbook.

 

Image: Mutual Publishing

Where: A home kitchen in Kaka’ako.

Who: An 8-year-old girl and her mom.

When: A weekday evening after school.

 

Recently, I brought home a new local cookbook, Keiki in the Kitchen With Mika the Sous Chef, to test out recipes with my 8-year-old daughter. It wasn’t the food photos and kid-friendly recipes that grabbed her attention, however. What got her excited was Mika the Lhasa Apso, whose “Mommy” is Denise Hayashi Yamaguchi, the author and executive director of the Hawai’i Agricultural Foundation. There are photos of Mika with her canine friends, Mika taste-testing recipes for dogs and Mika with Hawai’i’s celebrity chefs—including her “Daddy” Chef Roy Yamaguchi.

 

High-pitched squeals and “Aaaaaawww! She’s so ADORABLE!” came from our kitchen as my animal-loving daughter flipped through the book. She spent nearly half-hour pouring over pages of the photogenic little pup.

 

Anyway, back to the cookbook itself.

 

Keiki in the Kitchen with Mika the Sous Chef is packed with easy-to-follow recipes from 39 top chefs from Hawaiʻi. This year, the Hawai’i Agricultural Foundation is offering holiday gift sets with a cookbook, plush Mika and a wood cooking spoon.

 


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The recipes are rated on a difficulty scale of one to three and incorporate local ingredients ranging from Maui onions and pineapples, to Hawaiian red salt and chocolate. There is a zucchini pasta recipe from Chai Chaowasaree, kālua pig nachos by Alan Wong, a Waialua chocolate treat from pastry chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka, taro dip by Ron Miller, and many more. The last few chapters are devoted to recipes for dogs, and bios and photos of the contributing chefs.

 

As a parent, I appreciate author Yamaguchi’s mission “to teach children about Hawaiʻi’s food supply” and “develop an appreciation for local agriculture and consider careers in farming.” The first chapter does a great job of that—with colorful illustrations by local artist Mark. C.L. Ching and a narrative of local farms and fisheries.

 

My daughter and I each chose one recipe to whip up in our kitchen. She chose “Banana Cookies” on page 90 by Chef Troy Terorotua (difficulty level 1) because she loves apple bananas and, according to her, “Steve from Blue’s Clues likes his grandmother’s banana cookies.” (Don’t ask me why.) I selected the “Tin Roof Fried Rice” on page 30 by Chef Sheldon Simeon (difficulty level 2). The fried garlic, rice and furikake in the photos reminded me of the Filipino-Japanese-Chinese home cooking I grew up with when I was her age.

 

Were the recipes we chose kid-friendly? Yes, absolutely. The cookies were easy enough for an 8-year-old to make herself, and I liked that they were flourless and dairy-free.

 


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When our banana cookies came out of the oven, however, they did not resemble the beautiful photos in the cookbook. Even my daughter eyed the lumpy mounds with suspicion. “Do they taste as awful as they look?” she asked as they cooled off on wire racks. (Kids can be so unfiltered.)

 

Surprisingly, the cookies were a hit! My daughter couldn’t get enough of the banana flavor, and my husband suggested adding chocolate chips the next time we make them.

 

And the Tin Roof Fried rice? Another winner! It was flavorful, moist and crunchy in texture. Who knew mochi crunch tastes good on top of cooked rice? A note to parents with younger keiki: Don’t leave children alone in the kitchen to make the fried rice because the recipe requires slicing, dicing and cooking over high heat. My daughter only helped with prep work and plating the dishes.

 

We did have to fling open our condo’s windows after cooking to release the smell of fried garlic from our kitchen.

 

TIN ROOF FRIED RICE

By Chef Sheldon Simeon

We’re ready to whip up “Tin Roof Fried Rice” by Chef Sheldon Simeon. Photo: Cathy Cruz-George

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • ½ cup diced Maui onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • ½ cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup Spam or Portuguese sausage
  • 5 cups cooked rice
  • 1 fried and sliced egg
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • (Optional) mochi crunch, Maui onion potato chips, furikake and ½ cup green peas

 

Furikake and kaki mochi on top of fried rice create a crunchy texture that kids love. Photo: Cathy Cruz-George

Instructions

  • Heat a wok or non-stick pan on medium-high heat. Prepare and cut vegetables. Add oil and when the oil is heated, add onions, garlic and carrots.
  • Add Spam or Portuguese sausage. Stir ingredients until carrots turn golden and the onion and garlic are almost clear.
  • Add rice and eggs to the meat and vegetables in the pan. Rice should be a little cold or hard. Cook everything so there are no clumps of rice.
  • Add soy sauce and oyster sauce.
  • Sauté ingredients for a few minutes until well-combined.
  • Add the peas, mochi crunch and potato chips if desired. Place the fried rice in a bowl and top with furikake, chopped green onion and more mochi crunch.

 


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BANANA COOKIES

By Chef Troy Terorotua

 

This “banana cookie” recipe by Chef Troy Terorotua calls for oatmeal, apple bananas, vanilla, dried cranberries and honey. Super easy. Photo: Cathy Cruz-George

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray for baking sheet
  • 1 cup smashed apple bananas (4 bananas)
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup raisins or Craisins

 

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease baking sheet with non-stick spray. Smash the apple bananas into a mixing bowl with a spoon.
  • Add oatmeal, honey, vanilla extract and raisins or Craisins. Mix well.
  • Drop mixture by the teaspoon on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove and cool.

Keiki in the Kitchen with Mika the Sous Chef is $19.99. Go to hawaiiagfoundation.org or mutualpublishing.com.