The food: fish tacos, Hawaiian style
The best meal I ate during my trip to Kauai consisted of some shrimp tacos from Island Taco, a casual storefront operation in Waimea on the island’s west shore, with a true dat tagline: Local Flavors in Homemade Tortillas.
Shown above are Island Taco’s Seared Wasabi Ahi tacos: two homemade flour tortillas filled with seasoned rice, shredded cabbage, cheese, salsa, seared ahi (tuna), and wasabi aioli. I hadn’t known before going to Hawaii that such a Japanese-French hybrid condiment as wasabi aioli existed, but despite being a Japanese-French hybrid myself, I wasn’t a fan of it: I prefer my wasabi unadulterated by mayonnaise.
However, the shrimp tacos from Island Taco – also filled with cabbage, rice, cheese and a chutney-like fruit salsa – were excellent, unlike any I’ve tasted elsewhere, and a great way to celebrate the end of a two hour long (there and back) hike in Waimea Canyon to see awesome canyon views at the foot of a pretty waterfall:
Back home, I created my own cheese-less version of the Island Taco shrimp taco – with satisfyingly sweet and savoury results that remind me of good times and good food in Kauai every time I make it/them. The recipe is below.
Shrimp Tacos Island Taco & Kim Style
1 lb. cleaned, deveined large fresh shrimp
1/2 head or 1 small head red cabbage, shredded to make 3-4 cups
2-3 shallots, peeled and minced
1 cup cooked white or brown rice
1/2 – 3/4 cup mango or peach chutney
fresh flour tortillas, preferably homemade (or purchased from a store that makes them fresh)
1. Sauté shrimp in skillet in 1 Tbsp. canola oil 1-2 minutes over medium-high until mostly pink. Add a splash of white wine and a a generous squeeze of lemon juice, cover and let steam cook for another 1-2 minutes until cooked through. Remove from heat and chop into large chunks. Rewarm briefly before serving.
2. Sauté shallots in large skillet in 1- 2 Tbsp. canola oil over medium-high heat.
3. Add shredded red cabbage to skillet and stir around until it starts to look glossy. Add about a 1/4 cup water and continue to cook over medium high heat for another few minutes until water boils off and cabbage is tender. Stir in cooked rice and chutney until both are well-distributed throughout cabbage mixture, and cook another few minutes to allow flavours to mingle.
4. Heat a tortilla briefly in a dry skillet over medium high heat to make it slightly crisp and browned but not stiff.
5. To assemble shrimp taco, pile some cabbage/rice/chutney mixture on tortilla, add chunks of shrimp, and serve with sliced avocado and sour cream to taste.
Makes 6-8 tacos depending how high you load them.