Tasting the history of Hawaii
by Jon Cana, ABS-CBN News
SAN FRANCISCO — Hidden inside a secret location in San Francisco’s Mission District, the history of Hawaii came to life through an unlikely medium: a pop-up dinner.
Chef Eric Pascual and TV host Lanai Tabura, Fil-Ams with roots in the aloha state, recently collaborated for a unique dining experience entitled ‘Hawaii: a Culinary Crossroads.’
While pop up dinners may seem to be the latest hip and trendy activity, this one in particular is serving a history lesson of resilience and solidarity of different communities, including Filipinos.
Beginning in 1850, Hawaii’s plantation owners began importing labor, starting with the Chinese. To prevent laborers from organizing around causes like poor working conditions, plantations diversified their workforce, bringing in Japanese, Koreans, and eventually Filipinos.
Fast forward to today, and that same history is reflected in the night’s menu — from Chinese ginger chicken, Japanese katsu, Korean short rib kalbi, and Pinoy pinakbet and bibingka.
“There’s a story and history behind each dish. I wanna share my inspiration behind it, and the flavors are an experience through my interpretation,” said Chef Pascual.
Diners learned about the history behind each dish — stories of resilient immigrants that ultimately became the foundation for Hawaii’s cuisine and culture of today.
“Koreans gave us kalbi and kimchi and all these pickled vegetables. The Japanese gave us tempura and all these other things. The Filipinos gave us lechon and pork, and all different styles of vegetables. That’s where it all changed and became Hawaiian-style food.
“A lot of people they eat food on an everyday basis but they don’t know where it’s from,” said Tabura. “We have so much amazing food from Hawaii, but it’s not just from Hawaii, it’s from all these different ethnicities and the plantation days.”
While the temporary restaurant set up shop for just three nights, it left a lasting impression on its attendees, not just with its flavors, but with education as well.