Thursday, September 23, 2010

Extras Credit: Lomi Lomi Pupu

My friend, Jennifer, is a great big thespian. That’s right, she’s a stage actress – educated and professionally trained. Jennifer is also married to Phillip, a naval officer, so they have hop scotched around the globe, landing at various naval bases. Because of that, she hasn’t had the opportunity to run to New York or LA and be ‘discovered’. Instead, she’s landed in Jacksonville, Dallas, and now Hawaii (and I don’t see the Navy building major installations in either LA or New York anytime soon).

Hawaii is the first place she’s landed that hasn’t had a large theater community, so Jennifer has branched out – she’s auditioned for the circus and for some television shows that film in Hawaii, including Lost, which is one of my all-time favorites – except for the finale (oh, don’t get me started).

Now there’s a second television show filming in Hawaii, the CBS remake of Hawaii 5-0. And guess what – Jennifer was cast in a major role! OK, maybe ‘major’ is overstating it a little. But the part has lines and everything!

Since Hawaii 5-0 is a crime drama, it has to set-up the murder to be investigated – that’s Jennifer’s part. She plays a mom with a pre-teen son who discovers the body of the murder victim. Alright, it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it part, but it happens on a submarine!

Jennifer’s mother is one of my best friends, so I knew I had to organize a viewing party to watch her big Hawaii 5-0 debut, but I don’t know anything about Hawaiian food (because I don’t think ordering ham and pineapple on my pizza counts). I’ve never been to Hawaii, so I hit the interwebs to do a little research. Of course, I focused in on some classic luau dishes, and found one that really spoke to me: lomi lomi salmon. (Lomi means massage in Hawaiian, so it’s twice-massaged salmon.)

It’s a salt-cured salmon dish that is served with tomatoes and onions. Think gravlax meets ceviche meets salsa. I’m a sucker for all three, so I thought that this would be perfect. Then, when I found out the Hawaiian word for appetizer, the adolescent in me decided that I had to put my own spin on it and turn this into an hors d’oeuvres, just so I could call it Lomi Lomi Pupu.

Turns out that it’s an incredibly easy dish to make, Curing the salmon takes about 5 minutes to set up, but it has to set for 6 or 8 hours, so you need to plan ahead. Most of the recipes I looked at also called for peeling the tomatoes, which is no big deal if you first dunk them in boiling water for 30 seconds. I also thought the dish was in desperate need of some color, so I swapped out the sweet onions for scallions and used a yellow tomato as well as a red one. Some recipes called for some heat, while some others didn’t – I chose to add a little jalapeño to give it some background flavor.

One other tip – do not fall victim to the desire to season the vegetation before you add the salmon. Even after washing off the excess, the salmon is quite salty. Once you add the tomatoes et al, it balances out – but it certainly does not need any more salt.

To make it finger food, chopping it into smaller chunks turned out to be the best thing (the small-chop made it easier to get the filling in). I hollowed out some cherry tomatoes, used a melon baller to create some cucumber cups, and perched some of the salmon mixture on top of thick-cut pineapple. The pineapple turned out to be the favorite in the test run – the salty Lomi Lomi needs that sweet counterpoint for the best balance. In fact, the next time I make this, I think I’ll add a little pineapple to the mixture.

Jennifer and her "son" hanging out in her on-set trailer
So Jennifer is scheduled to kick off Episode 4 of Hawaii 5-0, which means that her episode should appear October 11 (Hawaii 5-0 airs Mondays at 9pm EST on CBS). Make sure you watch the beginning – look for the woman who is trying to make a cell phone call on a submarine while she ignores her son (yeah, I really don’t understand this set-up either). Then, all it will take is for the producers to see what potential her character has – they could bring her back. Oh! I know! She could have a torrid affair with Daniel Dae Kim’s character. OK, maybe that’s just a little projection on my part – but it could happen! Hey, at the very least, Jennifer ought to finally get a page on IMDB out of it – they always credit the extras.

Recipe: Lomi Lomi Pupu


  1. The viewing party is a great idea! Food looks tasty - Congrats to Jennifer too!

  2. Gotta tell ya, this is much-needed redemption for Hawaiian food after a colleague who's just come back from Hawaii told me that they have Spam sushi over there.

  3. We just watched the premier of the show and loved it! I have SUCH a desire to return to the islands!! I will be watching for her part.
    Love the Lomi Lomi Pupu too!!

  4. That's great for your friend! Sounds like such a nice viewing party...I really like how you incorporated Hawaiian food. And the name is great! Ha ha

  5. We went Hawaiian too for our entry! I really wanted to make this but finding descent salmon in the Crossroads of America isn't a easy or cheap task. I will live vicariously thru your post.

  6. How fun to know someone that is on television! Please tell her brava! Your treats look amazing. The name makes me giggle, but the food looks delicious.

  7. Heather, I completely lucked out! I found wild-caught Coho on sale for $6.99 a pound (I thought it was a misprint). Couldn't do that again if I had to...

  8. Hi Scott! How very cool and utterly delicious! You are such a great friend and kudos to her for the part! Love it! - Megan

  9. Looks great, and what a great story! I voted for you.

    You can see my entry at

    Hope you vote for me!

  10. Seriously, the pineapple lomi lomi pupu was so full of awesome, I stole the rest of it and ate it for lunch the next day. He didn't even get to eat his own creation because it was that good and I was just that greedy!!

    Does that make me a bad person?

  11. I appreciate the story that lead to your dish. Also, I'm impressed that you made it your own by turning it into an hors d'oeuvre. You've got a vote of ours, best of luck!

    Lick My Spoon