Who would have thought that here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean chili would be king? That’s right, America’s favorite cowboy grub is also the staple of choice for local folks. Nothing is more satisfying than a bowl of chili over steamed rice with a side of mac salad. It’s so versatile, you can even ladle it onto hamburgers and hotdogs, spoon it into a bowl as a side dish, serve it with barbequed ribs or just enjoy it by itself.
With Texas laying claim to inventing chili in the early 1800s, and Native Americans claiming they did so earlier still, how did those meaty recipes make it to the melting pot in the Pacific? No one really knows for sure, but my guess is some rogue cowboy made his way to the islands to herd cattle and in the meantime taught his chili-making skills to the Hawaiian paniolos.
Anything goes with chili. It’s a smorgasbord of ingredients, including meat, veggies, peppers and spices. Some say you must add beans to chili; others say true chili has everything but beans. Some places take their chili seriously, making it from scratch using carefully guarded home recipes; others just open a can of Dennison’s and enjoy. But true Hawaiian chili is pretty basic, following the moderately spicy with beans model and then served over steamed white rice.
Need a hearty bowl right now? Try the chili at Cool Cat Cafe served over a grilled dog, or the local style chili plate at Cupies with a side of mac salad. You won’t be disappointed.
Cool Cat, 658 Front St., 667-0908; Cupies, 134 W Kamehameha Ave., 877-3055. (JR)