Kani Ka Pila Chef’s Specialty

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - July 07, 2010
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Kani Ka Pila Grille at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach is known as the home of Hawaiian music. From its opening at the landmark Waikiki resort more than a year ago, it has attracted Hawaiian music fans, hula dancers and aspiring musicians. That’s because the name of this establishment is its promise.

Kani Ka Pila means “let’s play music.”

There’s plenty of that every night at the tropical garden setting of this indoor-outdoor restaurant. The aloha that flows and the ambiance that prevails is not unlike the old days in Waimanalo when Gabby “Pops” Pahinui had informal backyard gatherings at home. Folks dropped in, played music with the slack key legend, ate stew and rice, and maybe stayed overnight. It was open mike, open house and open arms at the Pahinui hale.


It’s no different at Kani Ka Pila Grille. In fact, two of Gabby’s sons - Cyril and Martin - are regulars on the gazebo stage. Waikiki never sounded so good.

But no matter which day of the week you choose, live Hawaiian music is center stage. It goes well with the island-style food fare that’s offered for lunch, happy hour specials, evening pupu and dinner until 10 p.m.

A hearty thanks to Executive Chef Harold Beltran for sharing one of his house specialties with MidWeek readers. It’s music to our ears and aloha to our appetites.

Note: You may double recipe for two, or triple, etc., for more portions.


* 6 ounces kalua pork
* 1 cup steamed rice
* 1 teaspoon furikake
* 4 tablespoons tomato, 1/2-inch dice
* 4 tablespoons Maui onions, 1/2-inch dice
* 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fish sauce
* 1 teaspoon diagonal-cut green onion
* 6 red bell pepper strips
* 1 large leaf green lettuce
* 1 orchid, for garnish

Flatten and roast kalua pork in a sauté pan on medium-high heat until golden brown and crispy on both sides. Meanwhile, scoop the rice on a round plate and sprinkle with furikake.

Set the lettuce leaf on the open area of the plate. Combine the tomato, onion and fish sauce in a separate pan. Spoon the tomato-onion mix onto the leaf lettuce.

When pork is done, set on cutting board and cut into 1-inch pieces and arrange over the tomato-onion mix. Drizzle excess sauce from the tomato-onion mix over the pork.

Garnish pork with diagonal onions and peppers. Tuck the orchid between rice and pork. Makes one serving.

(See midweek.com for a banana lumpia recipe.)

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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