HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >


Hawaiian Ingredients???

  • r

I'm hosting a Polynesian dinner for my cooking club in a couple of weeks and working on the menu. We've never ventured into Island cuisine before, but it sounds like a wonderful idea for a poolside dinner.

Wondering where we might get some of the more unusual ingredients for some of the dishes...if they are even available in the area. The closer to the SF Valley the better...but hey, if we have to travel, we have to travel! I contacted 99 Ranch Market and the only ingredient they said they had was the Okinawa (purple) sweet potatoes.

Where might we find, if anywhere...

Hawaiian Sea Salt (the reddish colored one)


Taro Chips (bagged)

Aloha Shoyu (soy sauce)

Ti Leaves or Banana Leaves

Green Papayas

I'm sure the places to look are Asian Markets...I'm just not very familiar with any. Any suggestions for good "one stop shopping" spots?

Thanks very very much!


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Can't help you with the rest of the ingredients, as I'm in NoCal, but in the Bay Area Trader Joe's is currently carrying both the red and black Hawaiian salts.

    1. Marukai market has taro chips, Aloha Shoyu and Hawaiian red sea salt at all their locations (downton Little Tokyo location at Weller Court you don't need to be a member to shop there).

      1 Reply
      1. re: monku

        Yeah, sounds like you might have some closer leads, but Marukai definitely has many of these (not sure about ti leafs)-- at least at the Gardena location. There's quite an extensive selection of Hawaiian items there. (It's a flat fee of $1 if you don't have a membership)

      2. Hawaiian Sea Salt (the reddish colored one) Depending on how fast you need it, it's for sale on Ebay from a number of sellers. (How do you use it???)


        Taro Chips (bagged) -- Bristol Farms sells these and I believe I've seen them at Whole Foods

        Aloha Shoyu (soy sauce)

        Ti Leaves or Banana Leaves -- Latin groceries

        Green Papayas -- Indian groceries

        2 Replies
        1. re: mar52


          I'm using the Hawaiian Sea Salt for Kalua Pork...rub the pork butt with the salt and liquid smoke, tie up in Ti leaves or Banana Leaves and seal in foil in a roasting pan in the oven. Never made it (can be made in crock pot also I've been told without the leavs). I understand the Hawaiian Salt has a milder flavor to it. For such a simple dish, I wanted to get the ingredients as authentic as possible.

          Thanks for the info!

          1. re: rowjo

            have done in the crock pot and the oven, never used the leaves but also use kosher rock salt. love it

        2. Isn't there a Hawaiian Market on Valley Blvd a few blocks west of San Gabriel?

          2 Replies
          1. re: Burger Boy

            It's called Hawaiian Market, but it isn't a Hawaiian market....mainly a Chinese market. Don't ask me why.

            1. re: monku

              It's called Hawaii market and it's Taiwanese.

              That said, the OP needs a Japanese market -- which are not in evidence in the SFV, more's the pity. However, a short drive to West LA (depending on timing, anyway) will render you at Nijiya, Safe-N-Save, or even Mitsuwa. Thai markets (try Bangluck on Sherman Way west of Coldwater Cyn) will have the green papaya, taro and banana leaves.

              99 Ranch in Van Nuys totally has banana leaves -- they're usually folded and on a styrofoam tray in an inconvenient corner of the produce section, or else you can get them frozen (this makes them turn black, like bananas themselves, but it still works), and they usually have taro, and I've seen green papayas there too. You must have got a real winner in the headcase dept. when you called over there...

          2. i'm from honolulu and can tell you that there is no native hawaiian dish with green papayas in it...but we do snack on slices of green mango dipped in shoyu/lemon juice/black pepper.
            an easy dish for you to make would be poke: cubes of ahi tuna, sliced onions and chopped scallions with a splash of shoyu and chili pepper water (everyone has their own take on it). lomilomi salmon is a cold salad --also easy and delicious--salt salmon (you can use lox), chopped tomato, scallions, onions, and a small can of tomato juice. good luck!

            2 Replies
            1. re: at4

              I think the green papaya dish was maybe Samoan or Fijian or from the Cook Islands(we're trying to get a couple of dishes from outside Hawaii that are still Polynesian). We are making Poke...that's why I wanted the Shoyu. I'm doing an "oven" Kalua Pig...some Tongan Otai fruit drink, macaroni salad (of course!), sticky rice, maybe some Okinawan sweet potatoes (I think that's a Sam Choy recipe), a recipe for macademia nut hummus (probably not very traditional...but I bet it's great with Taro chips!), some fresh pineapple/mango...

              I'm considering a Spam dish...maybe sam Spam Musubi. And we'll probably make Blue Hawaiian Cocktails...unless you have any other suggestions for a good Hawaiian cocktail (at least the Blue Hawaiians were concocted in Hawaii). Thought about getting some Hawaiian beer also...we usually have wine with our dinners...but that just doesn't seem appropriate for the menu.

              In our group, the hostess plans the menu, makes the main dish and usually something else. Then everyone else signs up for the other recipes so that it becomes like a potluck. Wanted to add another fish/seafood recipe...something grilled perhaps, but haven't found a recipe I really like. The lualuas look good, but maybe a little work intensive. We sometimes have dinners with really really complicated recipes...and I thought we should be a little more relaxed and kick back more for this dinner. The cool part will be using new ingredients and trying new dishes.

              thanks for the help!

              1. re: rowjo

                you can always do a pineapple wine and as far as another drink, i love lava flows

            2. Trader Joe's or Whole Foods for the salt. Definately Maraukai for anything else - they have a whole Hawaiian section. It would probably be worth an excursion since it's right off the freeway.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Rizza

                Just remember, Aloha brand shoyu has a sweeter taste than other brands of Japanese or Chinese soy sauce. Therefore, it is a must in local style recipes, because it really brings out the flavor in many of those dishes. Those recipes just won't taste right with other brands of shoyu.

              2. Is there a Hilo Hattie near you? Though they don't carry produce, they have grocery items like Aloha Soy Sauce, Taro Chips, Hawaiian music, li hing mui, etc. The one I occasionally visit is @ the Block in Orange.

                Hilo Hattie
                20 City Blvd W, Orange, CA 92868

                1. Marukai would probably the place to go for Hawaii-type food since they import a lot of products directly from Hawaii distributors. You can get the Hawaiian salt with alae which is red clay mixed in with raw sea salt. At one time, the plastic bag warned and discouraged people from consuming the salt since it was considered unsanitary. It was salt with the sea water evaporated from it. Then the red clay was added to it for color and possible taste.

                  Aloha Shoyu differs from Kikkoman in taste because Kikkoman is considered brewed soy sauce and is a little saltier. Yamasa is probably closer to Aloha but I still like the taste of Kikkoman for Japanese cooking. Somehow teriyaki taste better with Japan soy sauce rather than Hawaii made kind. My own preference.

                  Marukai has fresh ogo or edible seaweed from the islands flown in every week. Ogo is used in making poke (pronounced po-kay) with raw fish and toasted kukui nut which can be also purchased in the refrigerated section along with lau laus (pork or chicken tamales wrapped in ti leaves with taro leaves. This along with kalua pork make up the traditional luau mainstay in the islands. You can also supplement the menu with lomi lomi salmon, haupia, chicken long rice, dried aku, and of course poi.

                  12 Replies
                  1. re: Clinton

                    The poi at Marukai goes pretty fast when they get it. I believe they only get a shipment once a week. Haupia is a great idea, and very easy to make. Chicken long rice is a childhood favorite along with manapua. And don't forget the Hawaiian Sun drinks.

                    1. re: Vegasbuff

                      Went to Marukai in Gardena on Saturday...Wow! That was great fun. Found a lot of items I needed (and some I didn't!). They didn't have Ti leaves, so I guess I'll opt for banana leaves to wrap the Kalua pork in. I got the dried seaweed for the poke...didn't see fresh...and I also forgot to check on the kukui nut. Maybe I'll give a call and go back this weekend. I also loaded up on Hawaiian Sun drinks...thanks for the tip! Since the dinner is mid-day, I thought those would be great to just throw in a big tub of ice.

                      So the menu is:

                      *Blue Hawaiians
                      Appetizers with Cocktails:
                      *Macadamia Nut Hummus with Taro & Sweet Potato Chips
                      *Shoyu Chicken Drummettes (or maybe Huli Huli Chicken Wings...anybody have a preference?)
                      *Spam Musubi
                      First Course:
                      Ahi Poke
                      Main Course:
                      Kalua Pork
                      Sticky Rice (on a plate lunch, do you put ANY seasoning in the sticky rice, or just plain?)
                      Macaroni Salad
                      Roasted Okinawan Sweet Potatoes
                      Fresh Fruit...Maybe with some Mango Mui?
                      Pineapple/Banana Upsidedown Cake
                      MAYBE...Azuki Bean Ice Cream

                      One thing my friend and I wondered when making up the menu...are there are popular Green veggies fixed as sides. It's a very starchy meal overall (except for the fruit)...wondering if there might be something a little greener to throw on the side? Any suggestions are welcome!

                      Thanks everyone!

                      1. re: rowjo

                        no seasoning on the rice.

                        And I love the soy sauce/green onion chicken drumettes!!

                        1. re: rowjo

                          ok..notice you have spam on the list already...what about
                          Portuguese sausage?

                          1. re: rowjo

                            Yeah, huli-huli is a pain unless you bought one of those freaking rotisserie machines from Ron Popeil. ("Huli-huli" means "turn-turn" and is a reference to spinning the chicken over fire, or in a rotisserie oven). Go for shoyu, definitely.

                            Mmmmmmm kalua pig... YUM. Want eat!!

                            1. re: rowjo

                              ok, went to my sam choy's cookbook...
                              -black goma (sesame seeds) asparagus
                              -cabbage salad/island style coleslaw
                              -lin hing mui powder for your fruit-you can buy the powder at marukai, that's the stuff on the mango, but is good on most all other fruits
                              -grilled pineapple
                              -kona coffee w/dessert
                              -malasadas-not sure if you can get them anywhere around her, but oh how I wish there was a Leonard's near by

                              1. re: rowjo

                                Substitute roasted kukui nut with dark sesame oil to give the nutty taste. They don't sell that here on the mainland and only in very few places in Honolulu. That's one of the few things I always hand carry back when visiting the islands. I don't remember what day Marukai receives fresh items from Hawaii but the ogo (fresh seaweed) is located in the refrigerated section next to the fresh fish.

                                1. re: rowjo

                                  "wondering if there might be something a little greener to throw on the side? Any suggestions are welcome!"

                                  How's about Chinese chicken salad? Or an exotic green salad with miso dressing? Costco had the fancy greens already packaged. Have you ever tried lomi lomi salmon which is a common staple at luaus as well as chicken long rice? Hulu huli chicken wings are always a crowd pleaser and easy to make.

                                  1. re: rowjo

                                    Maybe some steamed cabbage to go with your Kalua pork

                                    1. re: rowjo

                                      You can julienne some haricot verts, jicima, red and orange bell pepper, and mix with some sesame oil/rice vinegar. Add shredded or flaked coconut, and some toasted macadamia nuts or almonds or peanuts... I've added bay shrimp as well as sliced gravadlax to this mix... goes pretty well with Hawaiian food as it lightens up the starch and protein (and of course fat and salt too!).

                                      1. re: rowjo

                                        Thought of something else. Ramen cabbage salad. Easy to make and most people like it.

                                        1. re: rowjo

                                          longaniza is great ( i cannot keep it long in my house <available at 99ranch>). It's really easy and you said you were looking for a girlled menu. all you do is throw it on the bbq we like ours a bit crunch. it's great. as far as veggies anything you can make stay on the grill works. make island slaw. (it's a tropical coleslaw) another thing you can do is find papaya seed dressing you can put it on fruit or veggies. i just noticed you already did you party. but you can always use more recipes. ;o)

                                    2. Kona Brewing Co. is pretty readily available--at least their Longboard Lager, which is a favorite summer beer of mine. Also, for another polynesian brew, try Hinano Tahiti if you can get your hands on it-- a little heavier than the Longboard Lager. Your meal sounds like a lot of fun!

                                      1. Yep! Marukai is your one stop place to shop. You know?
                                        http://www.Alohaworld.com has many recipes that you can use to help with your "luau". I live in Murrieta & make the treak to Gardena to get all my local style needs. You can sub tin foil for the banana leaves. Also Philipino markets have some of the things you might need too. Good luck on your luau. I too am planing a 1st Birthday Luau for my grandson so I know what you mean.

                                        1. Just wanted to thank everyone for the help tracking down the ingredients for my la'au. It was a big success. The only problem is that I have been eating leftover kalua pork, rice and mac salad all week. I just can't stop eating it!

                                          Best dishes were the pork, the poke, the roasted Japanese (purple) sweet potatoes with lime butter and the banana-pineapple-macadamia upside down cake. YUMMY!

                                          Right now, fyi, Kona has a limited edition wheat bear with passion fruit out that is quite tasty.

                                          Also, one last question. I have some Ti leaves leftover and thought about making another batch of kalua pork this weekend. I certainly don't need to be eating it every day, however, like I have this week! Can I freeze the pork for later use after I have shredded it? I have a Food Saver, so I was thinking of pre-freezing it in chunks (so it doesn't have too much "loose juice") and then vacuum sealing it to use in the future. Will that work? Anyone done that? I know there probably aren't any leftovers usually, but I thought about making some more just to freeze.


                                          Thanks again everyone!

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: rowjo

                                            I usually make kalua pork in 15-20 lbs batches. I let the "juice" sit in the fridge overnight and skim off the fat the next morning. I then distribute the kalua pork and juice evenly in serving sized containers and freeze them. They seem to freeze very well without losing any flavor or texture.