Eating Local, Hawaiian-Style: Sea Asparagus and Ahi Poke Omaraisu

poke omelet

I’m reveling in spring break (thanks, kids!) in Hawaii and exploring local flavors. Whenever possible, we try to cook in our kitchen instead of eating out all the time both for nutrition and budget. But I am having fun exploring local flavors.

I recently read an excellent New York Times article about ways to prevent food waste. The simplest way to consider this advice: don’t overbuy, menu plan, and learn to reuse your leftovers! For lunch yesterday we got poke bowls (Hawaiian sashimi over rice) at the amazing Whole Foods in Kailua, near the unbelievably beautiful Lanikai Beach, where the Obamas vacation annually.



Our eyes were just a bit bigger than our stomachs, as usual, so we had some left over (everything survived the drive back to Honolulu because Whole Foods had kindly offered a huge bag of ice to keep our milk cold).

For breakfast, we could have taken the short drive to Leonard’s Bakery for a malasada (Portuguese doughnut/beignet/fried dough rolled in sugar), but we decided to make a better choice. Inspired by a recipe that a Japanese student had contributed to my kid’s classroom community cookbook a few years ago, I decided to use our 1/2 cup of leftovers to make a rice omelet, known as omaraisu. In the Japanese version, a regular egg omelet gets filled with cooked white rice. Since we didn’t have that much rice, I decided to incorporate the rice into the egg batter itself (this itself was inspired by the Italian method of putting leftover pasta into omelets), and then once that was fully cooked, put the remaining poke (raw, marinated fish). Looking around in our veggie bin, I decided that locally grown sea asparagus would make a great briny, crunchy, and local addition, so I sprinked a bit of that over the top as well.

sea asparagus

With a side of fresh local fruit (sweet Hawaiian papaya and pineapple), this made a quick and tasty breakfast for my family of four (and a much better choice than the malasadas we were craving).

Making good choices can be difficult, not only when on vacation but also when on a budget, and when cheaper and quicker choices are abundant.  I thought about this a lot when I had the wonderful experience of visiting Ho`oulu `Aina (the Kalihi Valley Nature Preserve), part of Kokua Kalihi Valley (KKV) on Oahu, where my college classmate practices primary care in the most holistic environment imaginable. Ho`oulu `Aina is managed by the health center with the aim of improving the health of the community by restoring the land. I saw taro plants, koa trees, ti leaf plants and breadfruit trees on my stroll through the preserve. I also saw the vibrant organic community garden, which supplies fresh vegetables (including several varieties of kale) to the cafe in the health center’s adjacent wellness center. It was a great chance to see what primary care and preventive medicine can be, even in a underserved, resource-poor environment.  Lots of food for thought in how possible, how delicious, and how nourishing, eating local can be.

street art planting taro garden kkv

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Omaraisu with Ahi Poke and Sea Asparagus

Serves: 4 with a side of fruit, 2 if you’re very hungry


6 eggs

freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup sea asparagus

1/4 cup ahi poke (fresh chunks of ahi tuna, a light drizzle of soy sauce, sesame oil, and diced raw white onion)

1/4 cup cooked white rice


1.  Beat eggs in a bowl. Add rice and break up any chunks, then stir together.

2.  Heat a large nonstick frying pan with a tablespoon of olive oil.

3.  Pour egg and rice batter into preheated pan.  Swirl to spread evenly and reduce heat to low-medium. Cover if necessary for a few minutes until omelet is fully cooked.

4.  Evenly arrange poke pieces and sea asparagus and serve, open faced or folded over. Divide into four portions and enjoy!