Keith Apana laughs as he shares his stories about his inspired barbecue crawl through Texas, hitting towns with names such as Elgin for German sausages, and Lockhart for briskets smoked fourteen hours. He says, “Toni, my wife, knew that if we planned to call ourselves barbecue [specialists] here on Maui, we had to eat lots of Texas barbecue.” In 2016, they set out to sell Texas-style barbecue at Maui’s various Friday-night events, but someone had beaten them to the smoker. “No, sorry,” the organizer said. “We already got a barbecue food truck.”
That’s when Keith dug deeper into his chef whites, remembering his sifu (kung fu instructor and mentor), Buck Sam Kong, and their many travels through Hong Kong and Mainland China. “He invited me on eating trips. It’s all we did and I’m able to draw on my [food memory bank] from my trips with him.” He adds, “My mother is Hakka Chinese, but was raised in Tahiti and was a business woman on Maui. Before she retired, she owned Miki’s at the Match, and her oyster rolls were the party favorite at all the family gatherings.” He also shares childhood memories of precious, long summers in Tahiti at his Chinese grandmother’s side, helping her prepare the family meals. Keith says, “The rest of my cousins would be playing outside while I was inside, cooking with her. I honestly enjoyed it more.”
With these experiences in mind, Keith went back to the Friday night event organizers and said, “Chinese barbecue. That’s what I’ll make!” His Chinese roast duck and crispy-skin pork belly have left an indelible mark on my life. Maybe he’ll put the oyster rolls on his dim sum and den sum menu.
Recipe for Mama Apana’s Oyster Rolls
Only Ono BBQ
Mama Apana’s Oyster Rolls
Servings: 50–60 2” rolls | Prep time: 5 hours for reconstituting dried oysters, plus 1–2 hours’ assembly with helping hands
OYSTER PREP INGREDIENTS
- 8–10 pieces dried oyster (rinsed and soaked in hot water for 5 hours)
- 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 5 sprigs green onion, sliced into 2” pieces
- 10 garlic cloves, crushed
- 10 slices of unpeeled ginger
- 5 lb. ground pork
- 1 lb. fresh fishcake reconstituted and sauteed oyster (above)
- 2 pieces jung choy (preserved turnip ball), rinsed, soaked in water for 5 minutes, and minced)
- 8 sprigs green onion, green and white parts sliced into 2” pieces
- 6 sprigs green onion, finely chopped
- 1 extra-large egg
- 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. white pepper
- 2 Tbsp. chicken bouillon
- 2 Tbsp. oyster sauce
- 1 lb. thoroughly rinsed caul fat (lace fat used to encase the oyster filling to form a sausage)
- 1/4 c. water
- 3 sprigs green onion, cut into 2” slices
- 3 sprigs Chinese parsley (cilantro), chopped
Remove the oysters from the soaking liquid and rinse to remove any grit. Strain the soaking liquid through two layers of cheesecloth, reserving 1 cup.
Heat vegetable oil in a medium saucepan till lightly smoking. Carefully add the oysters, stirring gently for 5 seconds. Add the crushed garlic cloves, sliced ginger, and 5 sprigs of sliced green onions, and stir-fry until fragrant and vegetables are wilted, approximately 7–8 minutes. Lower heat and add the reserved oyster water. Simmer on low for 1 hour, adding more water if necessary.
Remove braised oysters from the pan and set aside to cool. Discard remaining ingredients. Once oysters are cool, chop to a rough mince.
GROUND PORK–OYSTER FILLING
In a large bowl, add the ground pork, fishcake, chopped oysters, chopped jung choy, egg, cornstarch, garlic powder, chicken bouillon, white pepper, the remaining 3 sprigs of sliced green onions and oyster sauce, and mix by hand.
OYSTER ROLL AND CAUL WRAP
Spread the caul fat on a clean work surface. Place 1. Tbsp. of the filling on a 5” square of the caul fat and wrap like an eggroll, folding in the sides, then rolling to enclose. Trim off excess caul fat. Repeat with remaining filling and wrap.
Heat wok to medium heat and add 1 tsp. vegetable oil, swirling to cover bottom. Add eight rolls and brown all sides, about 5 minutes. Set aside on a platter. Repeat. Once all the rolls are fried, return them to the wok with juices, add . cup water and cover with lid. Reduce liquid by ., about 7 minutes. Place rolls in a bowl and garnish with chopped green onions and Chinese parsley [cilantro].