Chef Roger Mooking recently traveled to the United States and Jamaica, and returned with tons of photos and stories about the incredible food culture. We hope you’ll be inspired to explore different cuisines and exotic ingredients this summer. We’ll be publishing a new post every Thursday over the summer, so stay tuned and enjoy Roger’s fifth post below! Make sure to also check out Roger’s latest solo album, Feedback, available on iTunes.
I seek out markets when I’m on the road, and the KCC Market in Oahu is one of the most memorable I’ve ever been to. What makes it so special? Well, like all farmers’ markets, there was food, food, and more food, but it’s the energy at KCC that is unique. The market gate was locked while the vendors set up their stations and the lineup of anxious customers outside the gates must be similar to the running of the bulls; as soon as the horn blew, signaling the opening of the market, the stampede began. Hundreds of food maniacs started shopping for produce, early lunch, smoothies and flowers.
Some of the vendors were farmers, restauranteurs, and weekend chefs looking to exploit their goods and showcase their talents. I tried a few things that really grabbed my attention and they were some of the best dishes I’ve ever had in a market. There was a makeshift restaurant called The Pig & Lady that seemed to have a double or even triple-sized stall that had some space reserved for sit-down dining on picnic chairs and fold-out tables. The tables were set with several sauces, but the most memorable was a bottle of vinegar chili that added tang and heat to every dish. Funnily enough, these jars of vinegar chili were next to a famous coffee container from New Orleans, one of my all time favorite cities. I’m not sure what the connection was and forgot to ask, but it made me smile.
The Thai crepe was the start of a great meal at the market and had bean sprouts, shrimp, and pork belly rolled into it. A green papaya salad, with more pork belly, tomatoes, carrots, basil and a sweet & sour dressing, was refreshing and surprisingly filling.
I love pho and the oxtail pho reminded me of both the Caribbean and Vietnam at the same time, both of which are cuisines I could eat daily without complaint.
To wash it all down, I had a fresh coconut with firm jelly (meaning the white meat of the coconut is set and firm but still slightly gelatinous, bordering on crunchy – similar to al dente pasta). There is nothing like fresh coconut water straight from the source. As you can see by the price of a single coconut, KCC is not exactly inexpensive. But like my grandfather always said, “Cheap ting no good, good ting no cheap.”
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