Saturday, August 27, 2011

How things change in 5 years, or, my love for Okinawan Sweet Potato and Haupia Pie

Even though I’ve lived on the Mainland almost twice as many years as I lived in Hawaii, and even though I’ve lived an almost an equal time in Boston, Hawaii still feels like home. 

Maybe because my parents live there.  Maybe because there’s something about Hawaii’s culture and people that will always feel familiar.

So it’s a big deal that I didn’t go home for 5 years before this last trip, and didn’t go home for 4 years the time before that.   It’s darn expensive to fly 5 people to Hawaii, even if it’s home!

5 years ago I noticed that that the people of Hawaii, were fatter even though they’re the slimmest in the nation.

This time, I noticed some other changes:

This is the density of the Diamond Head crowd
·      Everything was way more crowded.  The hike up Diamond Head Crater, which in years past always felt like a leisurely stroll with a few other hikers, now felt like Disneyland.  We got there just in time because when we got down from the viewing point there was a gigantic line of folks extending through this long claustrophobic tunnel.
·      Hanauma Bay (of snorkeling fame) looks better, less devastation and more fish than 5 years ago
·      My friends look older—especially the guys who don’t dye their hair. 
·      My friends noticed that I look older—especially because I don’t dye my hair.

But what really stuck out were some of the changes in the culinary scene:
·      Starbucks is even more quintessential
·      Shave Ice which used to just come with azuki beans and/or vanilla ice cream, now also comes with condensed milk, mochi, ling hing mui powder, and in some places, multiple ice cream choices.
·      No mangoes this year—boo hoo!
·      The explosion of purple food.  Between purple taro products and purple Okinawan sweet potato products, you can get your purple antioxidants all over the place.

Early in my visit, I ate the best dessert of the entire trip—Okinawan Sweet Potato and Haupia Pie at Diamond Head Market and Grill, a take out joint.  With a macadamia nut shortbread crust, sweet potato filling like creamy sweet potato pie only better because it was purple, and a haupia/coconut pudding topping, it was onolicious!

To my delight, I found the recipe online.  To my joy, I found Okinawan sweet potatoes at H-mart, the giant Korean grocery store here in Boston.   And to my utter exultation, I made it today for my Mainland friends and they all liked it! 

Now I can always give myself and my friends a taste of home. . .

Okinawan Sweet Potato and Haupia Pie
Based on the recipe from
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter

1/8 cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
 (3 Tbs)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup macadamia nuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a mixing bowl, combine sugar and flour.  Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.  Add chopped macadamia nuts and mix well.  Press lightly into a 13" x 9" baking pan.  Bake at 350°F for 12-17 minutes, until lightly browned.  Set aside.
The recipe for this crust is similar to one for a macadamia nut shortbread.  You may substitute any shortbread recipe for this one.
Okinawan Sweet Potato Layer
2 cups Okinawan sweet potatoes, cooked and whipped

1 stick of unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup whole milk
or coconut milk (I used coconut milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt
In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Next, fold in whipped Okinawan sweet potatoes.  Then, add in milk, vanilla and salt.  Continue to mix until well combined.  Mixture should be the consistency of pancake batter.  Pour onto crust and bake at 350°F  for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Instead of whipping the Okinawan sweet potatoes, they may be mashed for a more "chunky" texture.  I prefer them whipped.  The texture is smooth, light and fluffy.  Whipping gives this a "melt-in-your-mouth" feel.
Haupia Layer
1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup cornstarch

1 1/4 cups lukewarm water

2 12-ounce cans frozen coconut milk, defrosted (I used 2 cans unfrozen coconut milk—they were 13.5 oz. each, but it still worked OK, I think the haupia was softer but it still held together)
In a mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Add water and stir until sugar and cornstarch are dissolved.  In a heavy bottomed pot, heat coconut milk on low until warmed through.  Slowly add in sugar/cornstarch/water mixture, stirring constantly until coconut milk mixture is thickened (about 5-7 minutes).  Let cool slightly, then pour over Okinawan sweet potato mixture.  Refrigerate until firm, about 4-5 hours, overnight is best.
Cut into squares and enjoy!


athanasius said...

I love sweet potato pie! So what makes it purple?

Collin said...

keeping busy during the bad weather outside