Cookbooks - Pacific him

In Roy's Fish and Seafood: Recipes from the Pacific Rim (Ten Speed Press, $35), Roy Yamaguchi, the James Beard award-winning chef who pioneered Hawaiian fusion cuisine, introduces seafood rarely celebrated outside Hawaii: Opihi, Moi, Opah and Hapuupuu. Yamaguchi laces recipes with island lore, but leaves out some of the best anecdotes.

He doesn't mention that the Uku, or Hawaiian gray jobfish snapper, is a hard sell in Hawaii because "uku" means "lice." (The word "ukulele" literally translates as "jumping lice," referring to how quickly the guitarists' fingers fly over the tiny frets.)

The largest section of the book is devoted to tuna. But Yamaguchi omits that the word "ahi" comes from the Hawaiian word for "fire." Ancient fishermen in wooden canoes would long-line 200-pound big-eye tuna. During the fierce run, the friction of the rope against the canoe would cause smoke or fire.

Cooking in Yamaguchi's flagship Roy's Honolulu for six years, I learned that signature dishes rely on great sauces. Of 18 vinaigrettes, one stands out: the Filipino Sizzling Soy. It smells and tastes like a stir-fry, with perfectly minced pieces floating like jewels on the plate.

A few details more might help readers replicate the sauces just as they're prepared at Roy's. For example, he instructs you to slice garlic for the Thai Style Garlic Nam Pla Vinaigrette, but neglects to mention that a truffle slicer gets the garlic oh-so paper thin.

I also wish he'd gone beyond discussing the recipes as just pristine portions. As an owner of 37 restaurants worldwide, Yamaguchi is brilliant at using fish scraps to make sausage and dim sum — a whole dimension of his cuisine that maybe he's saving for another book.

Overall, though, Roy's Fish and Seafood reveals the mastery behind Hawaiian fusion, a cuisine that captures many of the best qualities that Asian and island cooking have to offer.

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