IMG_9186On my latest visit to Honolulu, I ventured into a local restaurant I’ve never been to before, even when I was living in Hawaii.  It is extremely popular among the locals, as well as tourists in search of authentic cuisine from the islands.  It’s called Helena’s, and much like my favorite local eatery in Waikiki, Ono’s, it serves laulau, kalua pork,  haupia, and then some — like beef Kalbi and luau chicken or squid.

I’ve never had luau chicken or squid before, so I made sure to include it in our lunch order.  We went for the squid.  It was the surprise item of our meal. It was sweet and creamy, and the calamari (squid) bits were a perfect complement to the dish.

For non-Hawaii residents, cooking this recipe at home might be a challenge because it uses taro leaves as its main ingredient, which may be rare or unavailable in the Mainland.

But I have a solution: I used spinach leaves instead of taro, and while it is always best to stick to the original recipe, it gave me the best approximation of that wonderful meal in Honolulu.

Remember, you can substitute the squid with chicken bits.


1 lb regular or baby spinach leaves

1 can coconut milk

2 cups water

1/2 tsp sea salt

2 tsps brown sugar

2 cups, cooked squid (calamari), sliced into thin rings


In a large wok or deep pan, bring 2 cups water to a boil.  Add spinach leaves and cook until tender, reducing heat to a simmer. (If using taro leaves, boiling and simmering time will be longer). Drain cooked spinach and stir in coconut milk, salt and squid bits. Add sugar and continue to cook over low to medium heat, stirring constantly until the leaves have absorbed most of the liquid. Serve warm.


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