Alan Wong helms three acclaimed eateries in Hawaii: Alan Wong's Restaurant, The Pineapple Room and Amasia. The winner of a James Beard Foundation Award, he is also one of the 12 chefs who spearheaded Hawaii Regional Cuisine, a two-decade-old movement that highlights the island state's locally grown ingredients and various ethnic influences. Recently, Globe Style spoke to him about what he would serve at a dinner party, whether or not his guests get lei-d and what exactly a pupu platter is.
If you were to host a Hawaiian-style dinner party, what dishes would you serve and why?
Most local-style dinner parties are set both outdoors and indoors. There is usually a hibachi or a grill going in the backyard while the sun is setting. On the grill, I would have steaks, chops and some fish. There would be some cocktails and pupus and a large, entrée version of the "clams in da bag" dish (steamed clams with kalua pig and shiitake mushrooms in foil) that's made in our restaurant.
What kind of drinks would you serve?
A pineapple martini to start, a selection of wines and some of our private-label champagne.
Would your guests receive leis or are the floral necklaces too touristy?
I'd only provide leis for a special occasion like a birthday, anniversary or going-away party.
Is there one dish that no Hawaiian dinner is complete without?
Hawaii is very ethnically diverse, so it would depend on who is coming to dinner. In the past, there would almost always be steamed white rice on the table.
Are there any entertaining customs in Hawaii?
In Hawaii, people remove their shoes before going into someone's home.
In Canada, it's customary for guests to bring their hosts a small token of appreciation, like a bottle of wine or flowers. Are guests responsible for bringing anything when they come for dinner?
No, guests don't have to bring anything when they're invited to dinner.
Do children tend to eat the same food that everyone else is served at Hawaiian dinner parties?
It depends on the age of the child. Most older children will eat the same things as the adults, but almost all of the food at these parties is kid-friendly.
U.S. President Barack Obama and his family dine at your restaurant every year during their annual vacation. Does he have any special requests or favourite dishes?
The President is a very adventurous eater; when he dines in our restaurant, he always gets the tasting menu [which includes Chinese roast duck, Maui Cattle Company beef tartare and butter-poached Keahole lobster, among other dishes].
The term "pu pu platter" often elicits giggles. What exactly is it?
Pupus simply means appetizers or hors d'oeuvres that are almost always cooked, served and eaten before dinner. Pupu platters consist of all of the appetizers plated on one dish. A common phrase is, "Let's go out and have drinks and pupus," especially during happy hour.