Hawaii enhances every cuisine it encounters, but the really interesting dishes are created in the cultural stew that originates on these islands. This week finds me explaining a “Loco Moco” to international visitors. It is a staple on breakfast menus in Hawaii, with each restaurant boasting its own variation.
I was back on the mainland when I first heard stories of this legendary feast. A fellow student learned I was traveling to Hawaii. He said a colleague of his had studied in Hawaii and returned with tales of a breakfast meal that included rice topped with hamburger patties, fried eggs and gravy. I’m pretty sure my mouth gaped open and I think I remember saying “No way!” or OMG!’
He smiled and shook his head. “I haven’t seen it, but he described it in detail,” my friend said. “You can buy it right on campus in the dorm cafeteria.” At this point, other students were eavesdropping. “A hamburger for breakfast?” I challenged, “AND an egg and rice?” He was grinning by now. “No” (pause for effect) “TWO hamburger patties on top of rice with fried eggs on top of them.” He took a breath. “AND you forgot the gravy.” Whatever it means to “boggle,“ my mind did it right then.
Of course when we arrived in Hawaii, I told Rick it was a traditional Hawaiian breakfast dish so he would order it. (think : the old commercial “Mikey will try anything!”) I am usually an adventurous eater, but I was fully willing to pawn this particular experience off on Rick. I kind of had a mental picture of what the ingredients were but I totally underestimated the volume of this dish. Even in its most meager presentation, this is a LOT of food!
Fortunately, Rick loved it. We’ve since seen a variety of different presentations — it’s a point of pride for each restaurant to have its own version of the Loco Moco. But even after almost two years here, and watching Rick consume a variety of versions of Loco Mocos, this is my confession: I still haven’t consumed the dish myself. I’ve experienced it vicariously and I believe it to be tasty but I still haven’t gone there. Some day….