Toguchi’s grandparents Seiichi and Nancy opened the first Highway Inn in 1947 and “we’ve tried to preserve their recipes,” she says. “My focus is on serving local people—from workers in the neighborhood to governors, congressmen, and presidents of banks. You leave your pretenses at the door.”
No one, it seems can resist chef Mike Kealoha’s secret-recipe smoked meat or the lau lau of pork shoulder and salted butterfish placed on a bed of luau leaves and then wrapped tightly in ti leaves and steamed for two hours. “Hawaiian food is simple,” Toguchi says, “but the preparation can be long and tedious.”
Toguchi left a doctoral program in Oregon to return to the family business, which she took over in 2010. I applaud her commitment to helping maintain the island’s traditional food culture. It’s precisely that mix of good, local cooking and contemporary chefs with international chops that makes dining in Honolulu so fascinating, varied and delicious.
After starting with grilled banana bread (above right), I settled on a light lunch of chicken long rice soup—a local favorite that shows the influence of the Chinese who came to Oahu to work on the plantations. I could imagine every mother on the island serving this soothing soup of chicken and noodles in a heady ginger broth to a child who complained of the sniffles. I knew that it would be just the thing for a cold winter day back home in New England and Monica was kind enough to share the recipe.
Highway Inn has two Honolulu locations: 680 Ala Moana Boulevard #105, 808-954-4955, and inside the Bishop Museum of cultural and natural history at 1525 Bernice Street, 808-954-4951, www.myhighwayinn.com.
CHICKEN LONG RICE
Long rice can be found in most Chinese grocery sections of supermarkets or in Asian food stores. It is not really made from rice. It is mung bean thread and is sold in cellophane packages of tangled nests of noodles.
2 inch piece of ginger root
3 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 qt water
salt and pepper
3 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon shoyu (or strong soy sauce)
16 oz package long rice
3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
Peel and slice the ginger, then mash the slices in a mortar and pestle. Cut chicken thighs into bite-size pieces.
Add vegetable oil to large pot and fry ginger and chicken until chicken is lightly browned.
Add 2 quarts water and simmer for about one hour, or until chicken is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add chicken broth and shoyu and bring to a boil.
Soak long rice in hot water for 15 minutes. Drain and chop into 5-inch lengths. Add chopped long rice to chicken soup and cook another 10 minutes, or until long rice is tender. Stir in sliced green onions and serve.