Saturday, December 11, 2021

Loco Moco

During the four years I lived in Hawaii, I managed to learn to love many of the distinctly Hawaiian foods.

Over time, I developed a fondness for spam, chili over rice and a few other new flavors. My personal favorite, even to this day is the plate lunch.

There is one quintessential Hawaiian dish I couldn’t wrap my mind around as an 18-year-old. Loco Moco.

The Loco Moco at Pounders Restaurant at the Polynesian Cultural Center 

It’s generally agreed that Loco Moco traces its roots to one of two restaurants in Hilo Hawaii in about 1949.

According to legend, the dish was created for a group of teenagers who wanted something to eat, other than American type sandwiches, but that would still be inexpensive, easy, and quick to prepare.

The dish may have been named for one of the players on the Lincoln Wreckers football club, who’s nickname was “Crazy.” One of his teammates was taking Spanish in school and suggested they use the Spanish “Loco” instead of crazy. They picked Moco, mostly because it sounded good. Whether or not they were aware, moco in Spanish can mean booger, yep, that ooze from the nose. So, in essence they created the “Crazy Booger.” Yum.

Richard and Nancy Inouye, the owners of the Lincoln Grill, used some of the ingredients they had on hand to create the dish. They served up some common American favorites, like burgers, and had various Asian items on the menu.

In their published musings about the origins of Loco Moco, they name names, mention the local football club, and have many members of the club make public statements backing up that the dish was created in their restaurant (the other restaurant offers no proof that I have seen to back up the claim they came up with the dish).

In what may be the first real fusion dish, they served up a hamburger patty over a bed of white rice and topped it with brown gravy. Later they added a sunny side up egg.

As I mentioned, at 18 I wasn’t keen on the idea of Loco Moco. I think it was the sunny-side-up egg that put me off.

On our trip back to Hawaii after over 40 years, I made up my mind to give it a try.

We spent the first part of our Hawaiian vacation in Waikiki. Having lived on Oahu for four years, we opted to spend a little time in the “city” before moving to a hotel on the North Shore.

Turned out the North Shore hotel we picked was literally in the parking lot of the Polynesian Cultural Center. Which turned out to be a great choice.

We could just walk over to the Hukilau Marketplace at the PCC and eat at the restaurants or the food trucks there.

One night we made a reservation for the Pounders Restaurant at the Marketplace. My granddaughter opted for the make-your-own pizza. I went for the Loco Moco.

The kids Make-Your-Own Pizza

Pounders has taken the Loco Moco to the extreme. I’m not sure how much rice, but they serve three quarter pound burgers and three sunny side up eggs in their version of the local classic.

Its very good, but it’s a bit much for just one person.

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