Bookcover for Merrimans Hawaii

MERRIMAN’S HAWAI’I: The Chef, the Farmers, the Food, the Islands

Peter Merriman and Melanie P. Merriman

Story Farm
October 2015
ISBN-13: 978-0-9905205-8-0

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Portrait by Charla Thompson

Portrait by Charla Thompson

Peter Merriman has been a culinary pioneer in Hawaii for over 25 years and is chef/owner of a growing group of restaurants, including Merriman’s Waimea on the Big Island, Merriman’s Kapalua on Maui, Merriman’s Fish House and Merriman’s Gourmet Pizza and Burgers in Poipu on Kauai, Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman on Maui and in Ko’olina, Oahu, along with Moku opening in 2015 in Honolulu. His menus, which showcase island grown and harvested foods, reflect the flavors of Hawaii’s many climates, rich history and unique array of cultures. Dubbed the “Pied Piper of Hawaii Regional Cuisine” by The Los Angeles Times, Chef Merriman was inducted into the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s Hall of Fame for his pioneering work in fostering small-scale agriculture throughout the state.

Best known in Hawaii, Chef Merriman has followers across the country.  He has been featured in The Los Angeles Times (“Peter Merriman: The Aloha Alice Waters”), San Francisco Chronicle (“Peter Merriman: Sustaining Hawaii’s Seafood”) and in several New York Times articles, including “36 Hours on Maui.”  Chef Merriman has also appeared on the Food Network’s Extreme Cuisine and Chef Hunter, and most recently in 2014 on Bravo’s Emmy-winning Top Chef .

MERRIMAN’S HAWAI’I brings the bold flavors of the islands to home cooks, no matter where they live.  Every recipe, including signature dishes from Merriman’s restaurants, plus personal favorites Peter makes for family and friends, has been adapted for and tested in a home kitchen. Written and presented in an approachable style, these deceptively simple preparations of vegetables, fish, shellfish, lamb, beef, chicken, or pork yield deep, complex flavors.  Each one features ingredients native to Hawaii, but widely available everywhere—pineapple, coconut, papaya, fresh greens, mushrooms and sweet potatoes—and spices that reflect the many cultures of Hawai’i—soy sauce, garlic, ginger, chili peppers, coriander, and curry.

MERRIMAN’S HAWAI’I is more than a cookbook—it offers readers a chance to experience not only the food but also the special people and spectacular places of Hawaii through the eyes of chef/restaurateur Peter Merriman. Chef Merriman shares his early days as an ivy-league football player-turned-cook who arrived on the Big Island in 1983 with one suitcase and $75 in his pocket, and decided to stay. After learning invaluable lessons cooking at a large resort, he launched his flagship restaurant, Merriman’s Waimea. Through delightful stories and 75 delicious recipes, Chef Merriman recounts his efforts to bring the ultra-fresh flavors of the islands to his own menus, introducing us to the farmers, ranchers, cooks and local characters who made it all possible.

Coconut Fish Chowder

Serves 6 as an appetizer or serves 4 as a main course

Coconut Fish Chowder

All three of my kids attended Seabury Hall, a prep school located high up on the beautiful slopes of Maui’s Haleakala. Every spring the school held a fundraising fair, and we participated with a Merriman’s booth. Jessie, my youngest, says that the teachers would start pestering her right after the first of the year. “Is your dad coming to the fair—and is he going to make the fish chowder?” Now that my kids are out of school, I wanted to make sure the Seabury faculty could cook the chowder themselves. And by the way, this soup base is also great with lobster or tofu.


  • 1 cup clam juice
  •  (1/2-inch) piece fresh galangal or fresh ginger root, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, white stems cored and finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons) green tops kept whole
  • 1 tablespoon nam pla or nuoc nam
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha or sambal oelek
  • 1 (13-14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 12 large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed
  • 12 sea scallops, abductor muscle removed
  • 1 pound halibut or other mild, firm white fish


  • 4 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves or cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts, whole or large pieces
  • 1/8 medium red onion, julienned
  • 1/2 cup fresh bean sprouts

Place clam broth, galangal and lemongrass stems and tops in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add nam pla, sriracha and coconut milk. Stir to combine and simmer for 5 minutes more.

About 10 minutes before serving, bring broth to a boil and add the seafood. Return mixture to boiling. Roll or crumble lime leaves, if using, and add. Kaffir lime leaves are not edible. Cover, reduce heat as low as possible and simmer for 5 minutes. While the chowder cooks, toast peanuts in a dry skillet until just fragrant.

Remove lemongrass tops. Ladle chowder into bowls and top each serving with a quarter of the mint, peanuts, red onion and bean sprouts, or serve garnishes in separate dishes and allow diners to help themselves.

Pork Adobo

Serves 4

Pork Adobo

I first tasted pork adobo at a potluck after a canoe regatta. I knew if I ever had my own restaurant, I wanted to serve flavors like this—bold, complex and yet so well blended they seemed comforting and familiar. We don’t actually serve pork adobo in the restaurant, but I make it often for family and friends and use the flavor profile in any number of other restaurant dishes. Here we put the pork on a bed of fresh spinach for a bit of color, but in Hawai‘i you will only see pork adobo served with short-grain white rice, also called sticky rice. I love a cool, crunchy side dish, like kimchi or Pineapple Cole Slaw.

Pork and sauce

  • 1½ pounds pork shoulder (also known as Boston butt or pork butt)
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil, divided
  • 5–6 large cloves garlic, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
  • ½ cup onions, chopped

For assembly

  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

Marinate pork

Remove and discard large pieces of fat from pork. Cut pork into 1-inch cubes. Place pork cubes into a resealable plastic bag and place bag into a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix soy sauce, water and vinegar. Divide the liquid into 2 equal portions. Set 1 portion aside. Add the other portion to the pork, close and seal the bag, and knead gently to ensure pork is thoroughly drenched with marinade. Marinate in the refrigerator for 4 to 8 hours. Marinating longer will mean more flavor in the final dish.

Cook pork

Add bay leaves, coriander seeds, cumin, paprika, and peppercorns to reserved soy sauce-vinegar mixture, and set aside.

Remove pork from marinating liquid, drain, and dry cubes on paper towels. Discard marinade. Heat a heavy skillet with a tight-fitting lid on high heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Season drained pork with salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the skillet, and brown about half of the pork. Don’t crowd the pan. Turn pork cubes individually so each piece is nicely browned on all sides. (See note below.) Re­move browned pork to a plate, and repeat the browning process using remaining oil, until all pork is browned. (You may need to re­duce the heat to medium-high to avoid burn­ing.) Return all pork to the skillet. Add garlic and cook on high heat until garlic is golden brown. Lower heat to medium, add onions and cook for 1 minute. Add reserved spicy soy sauce-vinegar liquid, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir and if pork is get­ting dry, add ½ cup water. Continue to simmer, covered, until pork is fork-tender, about 20 minutes more.


Remove the pan from the heat, add lemon juice and stir to combine. Place in a large bowl to serve family style and sprinkle with cilantro.

Note: Browning the pork is a critical step. The pan must be hot, and heavy enough that it won’t lose too much heat when the meat is added. Using tongs, place pork cubes one at a time, leaving space between and turning each piece individually. Wait for each side to brown before turning so that all sides are evenly browned. Yes, this takes longer than stirring, but that’s cooking with aloha.

These recipes may be reproduced with the following credit:

Recipes from MERRIMAN’S HAWAI’I: The Chef, the Farmers, the Food, the Islands by Peter Merriman and Melanie P. Merriman. (Story Farm, October 2015; $39.95/hardcover; ISBN: 978-0-9905205-8-0).

Contact: Elizabeth Ferrer
Public Relations Director
Merriman’s Restaurants/Monkeypod Kitchen