Gluten-free in Waikiki

I’ve discovered very quickly that vegetables are sparse in the tourist mecha of Honolulu, Hawaii. Eggs and burgers, you’ll find those on every street corner. But a pile of green stuff? That’s harder to come by.

(Don’t ask how I’ve come to find myself in a tourist hotspot…just know that I am grateful to find myself anywhere that brings me in contact with new cultures and copious salt water no matter how uncomfortable I am by being surrounded by traditional tourists. I got in touch with my inner tourist and did some “tours” this week across the Oahu island and that was fine. Beautiful and incredible even. But my inner nomad was happiest today when I let the rest of the family traipse off on a Pearl Harbour tour while I spent the day in peaceful inner contemplation. In silence but surrounded by a cacophony of sounds of people living. I was with no one yet everyone. I was alone but I was with a tiny Japanese boy who giggled with me as I flipped up into a headstand in the Kapiolani Park, with the traditional Hawaiian dancers shouting guttural primal cries from deep in their hibiscus adorned feet, with the gentle old man that carried my grocery basket, with the hipster who tried to buy my Indian pants from me until her partner told her that I’d have nothing to wear home, with the tiny bird who was so curious as to jump onto the book I was reading and fix me with his pale blue-ringed eyes like 80s makeup. My peaceful heart was content to take leave from the war memorial and immerse itself in a park full of ancient Hawaiian Banyan trees with tall spindly roots like a curtain of snakes, my book of changes the “I Ching” of Chinese wisdom, and my yoga mat. I meditated until I was no longer aware of where my body ended and the earth and air begun. A vortex of heat and cool breeze, noise, smells, and soft and itchy grass in feelings of transition against my skin.)

So the food? Well obviously, the lack of twelve cups of veggies a day is a big deal for a primal wellness nomad. The situation called for a trek into the deeper recesses of Honolulu, a nutrient-density hiking expedition away from the Waikiki strip.

On a modest side street called Lewers, all my Paleo dreams came true.

Gyu-kaku (with restaurants across America) boasted beef tongue on a busy menu in their window. Obviously, I was sold.

The little Japanese BBQ restaurant was better than I could’ve imagined. I asked “can the beef tongue be gluten-free?” and the reply was “of course maam”. Oh. Mahalo. When you walk in the door the petite waitress calls out to the kitchen staff in Japanese and the whole restaurant replies “ALOHA!”

I cooked my own beef tongue in salt and lemon juice in a BBQ embedded in my table and was awash with the pleasure of politeness at the hands of my gentle waiter, the smooth texture of edamame and a bowl of steaming seaweed soup.

The kitchen staff and the wait staff were wonderfully patient and accommodating of my nutrition choices. The miso soup had wheat flour in the paste so I asked for seaweed in boiling water and they were only too happy to oblige my new soup creation. I had the green salad that arrived as partner to the beef tongue, minus any dressings except a plate of fresh lemon wedges to do with as I pleased.

Beef tongue is a good source of iron, zinc, and B vitamins. Tongue is primarily fat so it is tender and incredibly delicious. Like I’m-moaning-the-entire-time-I’m-eating delicious. With the emphasis on carbs (fruit, rice, other grains) in Hawaii I was seriously craving some fat to feel satisfied and full. A million mahalo’s.

The music was super cool too – circa 2009 with all the nostalgia of my university days.

Happiness ensued.

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