“The Hawaii Book of Rice” by Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi

My husband Bob is an excellent cook, and one of our kitchen cupboards is full of cookbooks. He’s more than a great cook; he enjoys cooking and experimenting with new recipes, and he’ll eat almost anything.

I’m not a good cook myself, being more interested in eating good food (my best friend in the kitchen is the microwave). But I was curious to read “The Hawaii Book of Rice: Tales, Trivia and 101 Great Recipes” (2011) by travel journalist and Hawaii resident Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi, because it has more than just recipes – it “celebrates rice and the many ways it touches our lives in Hawaii” (page 5). And I really like the idea that part of the books’ proceeds are donated to the Hawaii Foodbank.

“The Hawaii Book of Rice” is nostalgic and warm, written in bite-sized sections, so you don’t have to read it in one sitting (kind of like tapas). It is filled with historical black-and-white photos and colorful, mouth-watering food photography. I enjoyed the author’s family history, and her connection to Chun Lin Hung “Ahana” and his wife Jay, who farmed rice along the Huleia River on Kauai.

In Rice Chronicles, about the history of rice, I learned that Moiliili and Windward Oahu were full of rice fields in the late 1800s, that were 504 rice farms in the 1900 census, and the last rice mill closed in 1960.

In A Grain of Truth, I read stories about rice grasses whispering their secrets, rice growing from a grave, a goddess becoming the spirits of the rice plant, and clever peasants and kings.

In Sticky Rice and Other Stories, I was introduced to “bow rice” (rice with toppings shaped in a bowl lined with rice paper) and laughed at a third-grade project that used rice as super glue.

And in 100 Rice-ipies, I browsed recipes and vibrant photos of rice dishes. Of course, I paid more attention to the desserts, and came across this recipe for Pineapple Rice Cake with Mango Frosting that I’d love to try:

Pineapple Rice Cake with Mango Frosting (Serves 10)
Craig Erickson, Executive Chef, Nāpili Kai Beach Resort, Maui

1 c. red rice (Colusari or Bhutanese)
3 c. pineapple juice
1 18.5-oz. box yellow cake mix
1 lb. cream cheese
½ lb. unsalted butter
1½ c. powdered sugar
1 c. mango puree (mash mango chunks in a blender to make puree)
2 c. shredded coconut

Making the Cake:
1. Cook the rice in the pineapple juice until it is tender. Remove from heat and cool.
2. Prepare the cake mix according to package directions.
3. Pour batter equally into two oiled and floured 8-inch round pans that are 1½ inches deep.
4. Sprinkle the cooled rice evenly over the cake batter.
5. Using the back of a spoon, press the rice into the batter. Bake the cakes according to package directions.
6. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.
7. Trim the top of the cakes to flatten if necessary.
8. Put ¾ cup of the frosting on the top of one of the cakes and spread evenly.
9. Place the other cake on top and put ¾ cup of frosting on top of the cake and spread evenly. Spread the remaining frosting around the outside of the cake.
10. Coat the outside of the cake with the shredded coconut.

Making the Frosting:
1. Put cream cheese and butter into bowl of electric mixer and beat until light and fluffy.
2. Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth.
3. Add the mango puree and mix until completely incorporated.

The Pineapple Rice Cake with Mango Frosting recipe can also be found at on the Sea House Maui website.

And if you like rice, you can Like the book’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/HawaiiRiceBook?sk=wall.

Tsutsumi’s reminiscences about rice reminded me of my grandmother’s simple dish of salted rice balls, which I loved as a child (I guess kids love anything that you can eat with your hands!). What are your favorite rice memories and rice recipes?

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2 Comments on ““The Hawaii Book of Rice” by Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi”

  1. Natalie Says:

    RE: Fixing Hawaii’s property tax system

    I was just wondering why you didn’t submit testimony to the Real Property Tax Advisory Commission. Perhaps if you did, some of your ideas may have been discussed.

    • Thanks for reading my post. I didn’t know that we could submit testimony to the Commission. It wasn’t mentioned in the news article. Do you know where we could find out more information?

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