What better way to ring in the holidays than to celebrate with food.  This month, we decided to feature food enthusiast and local author of Aloha Kitchen, Alana Kysar. We asked Alana to share a favorite recipe from her book and answer some questions about her passion for cooking. We hope you enjoy!



    BUTTER MOCHI by Alana Kysar


    4 large eggs 
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
    2 cups skim milk 
    One 1-pound box mochiko flour
    2 cups sugar 
    2 teaspoons baking powder 
    1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt 
    1⁄2 cup unsalted butter, melted 
    One 13 1⁄2-ounce can coconut milk 
    1⁄2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut 
    A few pinches of flaky salt (optional) 


    Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with butter or oil. 
    In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and milk. In another larger bowl, whisk together the mochiko, sugar, baking powder, and kosher salt. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and, with a wooden spoon, stir until well combined. Add the melted butter and coconut milk and mix until fully incorporated. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and rap the pan on the counter a couple of times to bring any air bubbles up to the surface. Evenly sprinkle the shredded coconut on top of the mixture, a handful at a time, being careful not to jiggle the pan too much, as you want the coconut to stay on the top. Then sprinkle on a few pinches of flaky salt, if desired. 
    Bake until the mochi is set and golden brown on top, about 1 hour. Set the pan on a wire rack and let cool completely before slicing into rectangles using a plastic knife to minimize sticking; I cut four columns and five rows to make twenty 2 1⁄4 by 2 1⁄2-inch pieces. If the knife seems to be sticking, rub it with a little unsalted butter or neutral oil. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. 




    Where did your love for cooking originate?
    I grew up in the kitchen—both of my parents are excellent home cooks. What’s cool is that my mom is from Hawai‘i and my dad’s from California, and we did a fair amount of traveling when I was younger, so I learned how to cook all sorts of cuisines at home with them. As with most kids, I didn’t appreciate my time in the kitchen with my mom and dad until after I moved away and realized what a great skill they had helped me develop!


    If you had to choose one type of cuisine to cook for the rest of your life, what would it be?
    Hands down local (Hawai‘i) food! There’s something about the food you grew up with. It’s so comforting, transporting, and cozy and the local food culture of Hawai‘i is so diverse.


    What is your biggest source of inspiration for the dishes you create?
    Nowadays, I’m most influenced by my travels. Whether it’s to another state or even another neighborhood, my cooking constantly evolves. It’s exciting to go to a new restaurant and have your eyes opened to a new possibility, a new way of looking at a familiar ingredient.


    Is there another female in your industry whose work you look up to?
    Gosh, there are too many to count. Nigella Lawson, Ruth Reichl, Alice Waters, Nancy Silverton, Samin Nosrat. It’s amazing to have so many inspiring women in the food world who have really paved the way for the rest of us.  


    If you had to choose an alternative occupation, what would you choose?
    I think in another life, I’d be a graphic designer. Or maybe an interior decorator. I’ve always loved creating beautiful things and makes spaces flow. Who knows, maybe that’s my next chapter?



    What is one piece of advice you would give yourself 10 years ago?
    Be brave--create the role you’re looking for.


    Name three things in your kitchen that you could not live without.
    A cast iron skillet, a chef’s knife, and a whisk.
    Your cookbook has been very well received, what did you learn about yourself, or the culinary field, along the way?
    Thank you—it was a long road. The thing that no one tells you, or maybe they do and you choose not to listen, is that writing a cookbook is hard work. Styling and photographing all the food in a cookbook is also a lot of work. Putting your heart into something that lives outside of yourself, that’s also a challenge. At the end of the day, I learned that I had more to give than I thought.


    What is your absolute favorite ingredient?
    Shoyu—it’s just got so much going for itself. Salt and umami, what’s not to love?


    Do you have any exciting things in store for 2020?
    I’ve got a lot of ideas—we’ll see what actually pans out!


    Thank you so much for sharing with us, Alana, and thank you to our readers for following along! To learn more about Alana and her recipes, visit her BLOG or follow her on instagram @alanakysar
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