Faiai Eleni is a savory coconut fish stew that we first enjoyed when we were on our honeymoon in Hawaii, at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie. We participated in an AirBnB experience called "Prepare Polynesian food in a Fire Pit" and although sadly I don't see it offered on AirBnB any more, I'm sure there are other ways to participate in it on the island or as part of the Cultural Center's offerings! It was a very special experience and I am glad we were able to try authentic Polynesian cuisine.
We learned all about how the Samoans would cook using the different parts of the coconut tree, how to weave a basket, how to prepare chicken for the fire pit, making taro leaves with coconut cream (palusami), preparing breadfruit, and more! We then enjoyed a meal together afterwards with what we made. This dish was an immediate favorite of ours and I immediately asked our host how to make it since it wasn't one of the dishes we made together as a group (it was prepared already and appeared alongside the rest of the food we made).
Faiai Eleni is a coconut cream fish stew that is baked and typically uses mackerel, onion, taro leaves or spinach, and cooked in coconut cream and some mayo. It is so creamy and delicious and goes so well with rice!
This dish is great for a quick weekday meal or when you're looking for a comforting dish to eat with rice. It comes together relatively quickly, and for the most part you are throwing everything together into one pot. Once all the ingredients are cooked and well incorporated in your pan, you can either serve as is, or you can place into an oven safe casserole dish and bake for about 25 minutes. This allows the flavors to truly marry in the oven! The process of baking is similar to how the dish would normally be cooked in an earth oven under hot volcanic stones called an umu.
It's not a "pretty" dish per se, but it is certainly delicious! Plus, it includes plenty of veggies with the onion and spinach, and healthy fats from the coconut milk base.
I always make enough so that my hubby can take it to lunch the next day, and he's always excited for it! You can either do plain white rice or you can flavor your rice with garlic, ginger and coconut oil to make it even more fragrant.
Coconut Tuna & Spinach Faiai Eleni
Until next time,
Lately, I've noticed that being in quarantine seems to be making everyone a little bit more creative in the kitchen, which is great! Perhaps out of necessity because we only have certain ingredients at home, or maybe because we're tired of eating the same things over and over. Either way, I am amazed and inspired by so many people posting their creations online.
Being in quarantine also means craving food that we don't regularly make at home, like fried chicken or like sushi and sashimi, which we normally eat out. But not having had sushi for a while and then going into quarantine, made us crave it big time. After all, we don't know when we will be able to go back to our favorite Japanese sushi restaurants! So while we were picking up groceries and essentials at Costco, we got a pack of farm raised Atlantic salmon for our poke bowl dinner.
And this is what I came up with. Drool worthy goodness. A salmon party in your mouth!
Now why Costco, you might ask? Is it safe? Is it sushi grade? Well the answer is that there will always be risk when eating raw fish, no matter where you buy it from. But of course, if you have access to sushi grade salmon, then go for it!
I and many other friends and family have regularly bought farm raised salmon from Costco for raw consumption and have never had any issues. We also eat it within the first two days of buying it, and any leftovers are cooked in other recipes or portioned out for the freezer to be cooked another time. If you are thinking of going to Costco for sushi night, I recommend this article from Sushi Modern as a guide for what to buy.
So after buying some farm raised Atlantic salmon from Costco, I set to work creating a hybrid dish that combines our favorite flavors from Hawaii and Japan. When we were in Hawaii, we got poke almost every other day! At restaurants, from ABC stores (they're like the equivalent of 7 Elevens but better!), and food trucks, everywhere! The fish was always fresh and the different versions were fun to explore. Our favorites were the oyster sauce pokes and the spicy salmon pokes! Our version in this recipe is a mix of sweet from the honey, saltiness from the soy and oyster sauce, heat from the spicy mayo and tang from the fresh lime juice melding perfectly together, sitting on top of a bed of seasoned sushi rice.
On top of our poke bowl we included strips of salmon seared with a blow torch. This was something we were inspired from watching sushi chefs lightly sear salmon nigiri before serving. The first time I remembered having it served this way was Kura Revolving Sushi Bar, a conveyor belt sushi place in Los Angeles's Little Tokyo. While conveyor sushi places tend to have a rep for having low quality fish or questionable freshness, Kura blew us away with their surprisingly sophisticated, creative and fresh offerings, with a la carte options delivered to you directly on a "bullet train" belt. When we first tried the seared salmon with mayo nigiri, it immediately became a favorite and if we didn't see it going past us on the belt, we would get direct orders to come to our table via bullet train. Somehow, searing it just makes the salmon feel extra soft and buttery, especially if you have a nice fatty cut of salmon! Adding the mayo on top just made it that much more creamy. So, with this in mind, we decided to torch sear our poke bowl salmon slices as well. Plus, the hubby loves to use the blowtorch any chance he gets. (He has claimed the blow torch and the grill his domain, lol.)
The sauce goes well with the rice and the salmon is just so, so good. Sprinkle some furikake and drizzle some Japanese kewpie mayo as a finishing touch and it is perfect! We hope you enjoy it!
• 3 cups uncooked Japanese sushi rice
• 1/2 cup Sushi rice vinegar
• 2 tbsp sugar
• 2 tsp salt
Spicy Salmon Poke:
• fresh sushi grade salmon (we usually use Costco farm raised salmon and have never had issues with it) cubed to bite sized pieces
• 1 tbsp oyster sauce
• 1 tbsp lite soy sauce
• 1/2 juice squeezed from lime or lemon
• 1 tbsp honey
• 1.5 tbsp Japanese kewpie mayo
• .5 tbsp Sriracha chili sauce (I usually add more to mine because I like spicy, but just gradually add to your preference)
• 1 tsp sesame oil
• 2 tbsp scallions
• 1/4 chopped red onion
• 1/2 avocado, cubed
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Seaweed furikake rice seasoning
• Salmon strips thinly sliced to top the bowl
• La-Yu chili oil to taste
1. Cube avocado and chop red onion. Cube the salmon and reserve slices of salmon to use for searing later. Mix the cubed salmon, cubed avocado and chopped red onion with all the salmon poke sauce and seasonings and chill in the fridge until ready to use.
2. Cook your sushi rice according to manufacturer instructions. Usually about 40-45 min in the rice cooker, about 20 minute on stove top.
3. When rice is ready, take it out and add sushi vinegar, salt and sugar. Mix well and let cool to room temp.
3. Fill your bowl with rice, add your salmon poke and top with salmon strips. Use a blow torch to sear the top. Shake some furikake seasoning on top of the salmon strips, some La-Yu chili oil (optional), then add some kewpie mayo for extra creaminess. Enjoy!
Just a gal who loves to eat and cook ❤