Getting Salty Is So Tasty; Going Korean

Laura Cristobal was a bit of a salty kid.

“I made my first salt seasoning when I was about 11 years old,” says the founder of Salty Wahine, a Kaua’i-based business that’s spreading Aloha through grains of Hawaii-sourced salt. “I’ve always loved cooking and making my own seasonings,” she adds, “and when I retired from the travel industry after 30 years, I wanted to see where the salt would take us.”

Already in more than 100 mom-and-pop stores throughout Hawaii and the Mainland, Salty Wahine products were showcased last week at the American Logistic Association Food Show, and will now be found in commissaries statewide. It will mean an increase in production for the Salty Wahine family business, but it also means exposure to the benefits of Hawaiian salt to hundreds of thousands of consumers.


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Sean Cristobal and Jessika Montoya with founder Laura Cristobal. Photos from Jo McGarry.

“Hawaiian salt doesn’t just flavor foods,” says Cristobal. “It contains minerals and antioxidants that are health-giving. Our black lava salt, for example, naturally contains charcoal, which is good for people with acid reflux.”

Local island chefs love the seasonings, particularly Cristobal’s herb and fruit infusions. “We use fruit a lot,” she says. “Passion fruit, guava, mango – each kernel of salt has a splash of something special.”

Top-selling salts – there are more than a dozen on the market – include a kiawe-smoked salt, guava garlic and the original sim ple-but-fabulous Hawaiian rub. One of the Cristobal family favorites is the Mango Java Rub – one tablespoon rubbed into meat and left to infuse for an hour or so results in remarkable flavor. “It’s crazy what coffee does for meat,” says Laura.

You’ll find Salty Wahine products at local stores, and there’s more information at saltywahine.com …

Dozens of world renowned chefs are in town this weekend for the second annual Hawaii Food and Wine Fest. In an extraordinary four-day event that focuses on local farmers, fishermen, growers and chefs, the festival also pays homage to Hawaii’s rich agricultural history and invites attendees to take part in daytime events sponsored by Kamehameha Schools. Feisty British chef Robert Irvine is here and will make a number of appearances, including a guest-chef gig at Hilton Hawaiian Village for the signature Saturday night Makahiki Festival. Irvine is no stranger to the Islands, having visited a few years ago to film Late for The Luau, an episode of his popular TV show Dinner Impossible. It’ll be interesting to see if he remembers his luau lessons – taught to him by Sam Choy – this time around.

And here’s a fun behind-the-scenes fact about the Food and Wine Festival: Anyone who thought super-successful chef Roy Yamaguchi was ever in danger of resting on his laurels or losing his competitive spirit might think again. The founder of more than 30 restaurants worldwide has made two trips to Korea in the past six weeks. Coincidentally, he meets with famed Korean-fusion food master Roy Choi this weekend in a street food extravaganza.

“It’s interesting to travel and to taste new foods,” says the fiercely competitive Yamaguchi with a grin, admitting that perhaps his upcoming “battle” with the hip Los Angeles restaurateur might have had something to do with his recent travel and interest in contemporary Korean cooking …

Locally, Korean food continues to be one of the best deals when dining out. I can’t imagine how a restaurant like Camellia Buffet continues to offer all-you-can eat Korean food for just $17.95. The price of food and the escalation of utility costs make managing a restaurant tougher than ever, and while the 20-year-old Camellia Buffet might not be the most glamorous restaurant in town, it’s hard to beat its value and even harder to best its famous kalbi sauce. It’s located at 930 McCully St., call 951-0511.

Whether you’re eating Korean food local-style or Korean food with a 21st-century twist, there’s an incredible weekend of food and wine in store.

Happy eating!