You may think you know everything that can be rendered from coconuts: rope from husk, bra from shell, curry/poolside sipper from nectar. You can even stick a lime inside one for to relieve your bellyache. Or so I hear. But chicken?
Yes, it’s true: thick shreds of coconut flesh, when prepared the right way, make for an amazing tasting, perfectly textured dethroner of chicken.
Coated with a delightful (and, of course, top secret) blend of spices, this is just one of the eye-catchingly original dishes you’ll come across at Abundant ‘Aina Café—an all vegan, mostly raw food stand in Kahului that serves as an oasis of sorts among the greasy gridlock of Dairy Road.
Eating a meal consisting almost entirely of raw, organic ingredients may be unfathomable for some. Yet dwelling within a culture that views deep-fried Snickers bars as a delicacy does not mean we should live and die by the battered drumstick.
That said, it’s certainly easy to focus on what Abundant ‘Aina, now rounding out its first year in business, is not. Everything that Chef Marlene DePierre serves up Tuesday through Saturday between the hours of 11am and 6pm is sans meat, gluten, wheat, dairy, and sugar.
Yet the focus here is not what’s absent but rather what’s there: flavor, originality, color, quality, quantity, vibrancy and more.
What will strike you first about pretty much anything you order—whether smoothie, kimchee, or enchilada—is the way DePierre and crew use color to create something that appeals to both the taste buds and the eyes. The bright orange butternut squash soup I ordered, for example, was sprinkled with edible flowers and sprouts.
Also running the spectral gamut were the nori rolls. It’s pretty difficult to find vegan nori rolls to begin with, so Abundant Aina’s take on them was a welcome sight. Their contents included manna (sprouted) bread, fresh avocado, buckwheat sprouts and cucumber.
Then there was the “pizza,” loaded with pesto and olives (the good kind), which may possibly be the most flavorful thing I have had in a long time, raw or otherwise.
Abundant Aina staff member Lauren Harris tells me that the newest menu item, coconut-based gelato, is tasty to an insane degree. (They had just run out when I was there.)
Adding to this place’s already abundant appealing factors is the ethical aspect of eating here. Patronizing an establishment that uses 90 percent local ingredients is a painless way to show one’s support for the environment as well as the local economy; to put a few bucks behind all that green talk.
“While people are drinking Tropicana orange juice there are oranges on the ground,” owner Daniel Hunt said.
While this aspect may be drawing in more and more people, tourists and residents alike, it’s the food that keeps this place going. Visiting once will likely result in subsequent visits, especially after a conversation or two with the extremely friendly staff. I myself am thinking about ditching Clif bars in favor of their cacao drink for workout fuel. The drink is a delightful blend of sesame, coconut and hazelnut butters, cacao, maca (an herb that is said to boost vitality), goji berries and a pinch of cayenne. Then there’s the ginger turmeric shot, which sounds like a killer detox combo (too bad they’re not open on Sundays).
DePierre says that “adventuresome spirits” constitute much of the clientele here. It’s hard to imagine why someone gutsy enough to inhale fried chicken or goose liver pâté would want to avoid their tasty, grease-free and exponentially more ethical counterparts. MTW