As the end of my stay on Kauai draws near, I’m trying to cram as many activities as possible into a long list of “gotta-dos”, the most recent being a foray into the lush forests of Koke’e to gather ho’io, an edible fern that is highly appreciated on island tables anywhere in the state. Now this is where I will go off on another tangent for the sake of discussion, because when I spoke with our hawaiian sous chef at the restaurant today, he informed me that the edible ferns go by the name of pohole so I don’t know if there are 2 different types to be had or if they go by different names on each island. The restaurant GM put in his 2 cents worth with “fiddlehead” but is there anyone out there willing to divulge some info on this?
Of course, those who know where to find ho’io/pohole will never reveal their secret location, so the only thing I can say is that this native plant has a delicate flavor which reminds me of asparagus. It is most oftened prepared in a simple salad – blanched fern tips, tomatoes, and onions seasoned with soy sauce. It’s the only way that I have ever remembered eating them. But being true to my experimental nature, I was looking for a way to incorporate japanese influences and found a package of yamaimo soba and dried shiitake mushrooms in the pantry. The idea for this fern shoots and buckwheat soba dish came on a whim and would be fine all by itself in larger portions, or preceding a main course of grilled teriyaki butterfish or salmon. Even better, perhaps some sweet prawns thrown in during the stir-frying process would turn this into a one-dish meal. Ono-licious!
Ho’io fern shoots with shiitake mushrooms and buckwheat soba
8 oz. Yamaimo Soba (buckwheat noodle with yam)
8 whole, dried shiitake, soaked in warm water for ½ hour (or use fresh)
4 cups cleaned ho’io fern tips, loosely packed (see note)*
1 clove garlic, minced
Toasted sesame oil
Lite soy sauce
1 lime (opt.)
Untoasted sesame seeds
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt lightly. Add the soba and prepared fern shoots; cook for 5 minutes or until noodles are al dente.
2. Meanwhile, drain and squeeze dry the shiitake mushrooms. Cut thinly into julienne strips. Heat 2 tablespoons or so of sesame oil in a large skillet and add the julienned shiitake and minced garlic; saute briefly (do not let garlic brown). Remove from heat.
3. By this time the noodles and fern shoots should be done cooking; drain and stir into the shiitake and garlic. Return to heat and mix evenly, adding a few splashes of soy sauce and a generous squeeze of lime juice to your liking plus salt to taste. Plate individually and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
*Note: To clean the fern shoots, carefully rinse and remove dirt and any fine, downy fuzz. Break or cut into 1-inch pieces, discarding any sections that are too tough or difficult to break easily (like when snapping asparagus stalks).