The theme for Heart of the Matter this month is Retro Dishes. When Ilva and I decided on this theme, the first thing that came to my mind was rumaki. Rumaki was found at nearly every American party in the 1950s and 60s and I can’t think of anything more retro for my entry!
Rumaki is an appetizer that is thought to have originated with “Trader Vic” (and no, that’s not the Trader Vic of Trader Joes), whose full name was Victor Bergeron. There’s some controversy here though…Trader Vic owned some so-called “mock-Polynesian” restaurants in San Francisco, but according to Wikipedia, the earliest known reference to this little delight is on the 1941 menu of the “Don the Beachcomber” restaurant in Palm Springs…one of Trader Vic’s big competitors. Makes the history a little more interesting, huh? Check out the link on the Wikipedia page because it actually has a scan of the menu!
The variations on rumaki are vast, but in general, it’s always got water chestnuts that have been wrapped in bacon and marinated in a soy-sugar mixture before being broiled or baked. Many rumaki have chicken livers as a major component, but I left them out because the first rumaki I had (my friend Kristin introduced me to it) didn’t have them and so I’ve developed a taste for the simple bacon-water chestnut flavor. However, to throw my own spin on it for HotM, add a little Hawaiian flair (and some more Polynesia to it), and to give this little pupu (Hawaiian for appetizer) some extra vitamins, I added pineapple to the mix. To make it heart-healthy, I lowered the amount of sugar, adding sherry for a sweet flavor, and used turkey bacon to decrease the fat content. Let's revive this delicious yet forgotten appetizer! Though you might want to make a double batch – these disappear quickly!
Here’s the recipe:
¼ cup pineapple juice (preferably freshly squeezed; or at least not from canned pineapple)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp ginger, finely grated
1 tbsp dry sherry
1 tsp brown sugar, packed
1 small can (8 oz.) of water chestnuts
1 cup of pineapple, cored, cut in ¼ slices, then cubed (preferably fresh)
10 strips of turkey bacon, cut in half and lengthwise and crosswise
Preheat the oven to 375F (or broil, if you can - I can’t because ours doesn’t work). Cover a cookie sheet with foil. Combine the pineapple juice, soy sauce, ginger, sherry, and brown sugar in a medium bowl and whisk together. Add the water chestnuts and soak for 1/2 hr in the refrigerator.
Dump the pineapple/soy mixture into a small saucepan and boil gently until reduced to about half – about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, wrap each water chestnut and a piece of pineapple in the turkey bacon and secure with a toothpick. Using a pastry brush or simply drizzling, coat the outside of each little parcel with the thickened mixture, then bake for 20-25 minutes (or broil for 5-6 minutes) or until the bacon is crispy.