Ho, ho, ho, the Mistletoe...
Growing up in the 50th, the Tatsumoto ohana didn’t really get into the holiday season. For
starters, to get into the spirit, it needs to be cold. Like Seattle winds blowin’ thru your jeans,
duckin’ into every Eddie Bauer store to find the right size thermal underwear that you can wear
RIGHT NOW cold! Somehow temperatures that simply drop into the low 80s just doesn’t cut
it. And I never really believed in Santa Claus as everyone knew he entered the house through the
chimney. Not very many houses in the 50th come with fireplaces so Mom explained that Santa
simply came through the kitchen door. Nope. Dad always checks the doors to make sure they’re
locked once it gets dark. And even as a child, I could always distinguish the “Santa” with the
black hair at Windward City Shopping Center versus the “Santa” with the brown hair at the
Kailua Times Supermarket versus the Asian “Santa” in front of Payless Drugstore. And the
Tatsumoto ohana never hosted the annual family Christmas dinner, which was the domain of
the Uchimura clan. The Tatsumoto’s hosted the annual Thanksgiving dinner.

For starters, I grew up in an era where cooking and cooking philosophy was vastly different than
our current world. Pork had to be cooked until it was brown and well done lest you chance a
bout of trichinosis. Turkey was only cooked one way, oven roasted whole to present that perfect
Norman Rockwell bird to your guests. No farm to table, no farmer’s markets, and produce
usually canned with non-traditional side dishes not seen stateside like macaroni salad, kim chee
and somen salad. Along with packaged powdered gravy.

And every family member had their usual holiday dish whether it was for the Thanksgiving,
Christmas or New Year’s feast. Auntie Itamura’s fried noodles and homemade kim chee. Auntie
Corinne’s mochiko chicken and macaroni salad (with a special container made just for me
without celery as I detested celery as a youngster), cousin Donna’s candied yams with browned
marshmallow topping, Obaachan’s hot crab and potato salad and the list goes on and on. Those
were holidays of the past when the elders simply consisted of the six Murai siblings, their
offspring and the 3rd generation. As time marched on, families got too large to host family
dinners at a single residence along with the increasing family holiday commitments with newer
generations of relatives. But we can still get a taste of the past.

The Old

Grandma always made her hot crab and potato salad for the family holiday dinners so I assumed
it was something she created until I was in graduate school. Back in the day, she would watch
family and friends making their mealtime plates always making sure they took a portion of her
hot crab and potato salad. When someone complimented her on the salad, she would say she
knew it was good “Because I made”. Not one bit shy to pat herself on the back. I guess that’s
where I get “that” from… But it was a shock when I finally realized that it wasn’t Obaachan’s
recipe at all but from the Honpa Hongwanji Cookbook series. But it’s still very good eatin’.

Hot Crab and Potato Salad

4 cups boiled salad potato, peeled and cubed
About 1 cup of frozen Bay shrimp
2 cans (about 6oz each) crab meat, drained
2 cups mayonnaise
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon Aji-no-moto
2 cups diced celery
2 cups diced sweet round onion
Chopped parsley

Mix all ingredients and place in a 13” x 9” baking pan and bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes
then place under a broiler for a few minutes to brown the top if desired. The Aji-no-moto can
be omitted. The salad can also be baked at 350 degrees for 20 minutes if you desire “softer”
celery and onions.

The Traditional

Because the Tatsumoto ohana wasn’t exactly a “Norman Rockwell” family, our holiday dinner
table didn’t look like a Rockwell painting. Yes, there was a whole roasted bird on the table but
the mashed potatoes were replaced with rice. The green bean casserole replaced with somen
salad. No stuffing or Brussel sprouts or tureen of soup. But there was cranberry sauce that was
served simply as is… straight from the can complete with the can ring markings on the side. And
because this was the only cranberry sauce I knew as a child, I consumed my fair share. Until I
sampled freshly prepared cranberry sauce. That canned variety has never made an appearance
since then… This recipe is from Sunset magazine that we discovered in 2002 and is the only
cranberry sauce we now make… It’s the perfect balance of tart berries, sweet honey and pears
balanced with the sweet and savory flavors of cinnamon and star anise…

Anise Pear-Cranberry Sauce

2 Bosc pears (about 1 lb. total)
1 orange (about 8 oz.)
3/4 cup sugar
1 star anise or 3/4 teaspoon anise seeds
1 cinnamon stick (3 in. long)
1/2 cup honey
3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (12 oz.)

Rinse, peel, and core pears; cut into about 1/2-inch cubes. Grate enough peel (orange part
only) from orange to make 1 & 1/2 teaspoons. Ream juice from orange; measure, and add
enough water to make 1/2 cup.
In a 3- to 4-quart pan over high heat, stir orange juice mixture, grated peel, sugar, star anise,
and cinnamon stick until sugar is dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in honey and pears and bring to
a boil; reduce heat to medium and stir occasionally until edges of pears are barely tender to bite,
about 3 minutes.
Stir in cranberries. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cranberries begin to pop and pears are
tender when pierced, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool. Pour into a bowl. Serve cool or cold.

The New

As I mentioned, rice was the usual starch during the holiday feast. Unless the somen salad is also
counted as a starch. But there were no mashed potatoes or stuffing to accompany the roasted
bird. After I finished graduate school, I attempted to serve stuffing complete with chestnuts and
fresh rosemary and sage that never really passed the taste test of the Murai sisters. “What’s this?”,
“Is this herb in here?”, “Me no likey”… It’s probably that bread wasn’t the favored starch for the
first generation relatives and strongly flavored herbs like rosemary and sage was a new but not-
very-welcome flavor sensation for the old-timers. But I bet this rice based dressing will work
with your older relatives this season.

Sweet Rice Dressing

One package (12oz) of lup cheong, halved lengthwise then sliced to ¼ inch sections
One can bamboo shoots, drained then cubed approximately the same size as the lup cheong
One can water chestnuts, drained and cubed as above
10 pieces dry shiitake, soaked overnight then cut as above
Roughly one cup of peeled chestnuts cut as above
5 cups of sweet rice (rice cooker cups, not the actual measuring cup)
1 bunch of fresh cilantro roughly chopped

1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
2 tablespoons shoyu

Wash the sweet rice then place in a rice cooker with the appropriate amount of water and set
aside. Cook the lup cheong over medium heat until it just starts to brown. You can either add
the drippings or drain it on a paper towel if you desire less fat. Add the lup cheong, bamboo
shoots, water chestnuts, shiitake and chestnuts to the rice cooker along with the Chinese five
spice powder and shoyu. Cook according to your rice cooker’s instructions. After the rice
mixture is done cooking and steaming, place it in a large mixing bowl and toss with the fresh
chopped cilantro.