photo by Daniel Lane/Pono Photo

I asked my fellow writer and namesake Marta Lane whom I met during a food writers workshop to share on The Ethnik Plate one of her festive fish recipes. She conjured up a Hawaiian paella and a personal story behind this exotic dish. Here is her post:

My mother was born and raised in Barcelona, Spain, where paella is the National Dish. Each paella is made in a large paella pan and starts with a base called sofrito. My aunt begins by buying the freshest ingredients possible and, in her 4-foot diameter pan, cooks meat and shellfish. Setting those aside, she adds onions, tomatoes and garlic and simmers until the mixture is transformed into a sweet and unctuous paste. At this point, she stirs the rice through and tops it with water. It bubbles, uncovered and untouched, until most of the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Five minutes before serving, she adds the meat and shellfish, covers the pan with a dishcloth, and lets the steam rewarm, but not overcook, the shellfish.

While I was growing up in Colorado, my mother made her version of this classic dish at least once a month. Mom left out the seafood because dad didn’t like it. Instead, see filled it with chicken and vegetables. Sometimes, she’d add rabbit if she found it in the frozen section of the grocery store.

Today, I live in Hawaii, so my version has fresh Hawaiian fish and local shrimp. To give it a Hawaiian twist, I add fresh pineapple, which plays well with Spanish olives. Kauai Shrimp come with their shells and heads still attached, which is how the Spanish eat them. You can of course remove them to make eating easier, but you’ll lose a lot of flavor. In addition, I believe getting your hands dirty while eating is fun and adds to the enjoyment of a meal.


“In my family, this one-pot dish was served for large gatherings and celebrations,” recalls Marta Lane. “The pan was brought to the table and everyone scooped out just what they wanted.” And here is Marta's inheritance with a Hawaiian twist:

recipe by Marta Lane

Serves 6

1 pound fresh ono (or other white fish)
1 pound Kauai Shrimp, shells and heads left on
6 Kauai Fresh Farms tomatoes
1 cup cubed Kauai white pineapple
1 ½ cups Bomba rice
6 cups fish stock
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Spanish olives, halved
1 large pinch of saffron
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon Hawaiian sea salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper, or to taste
extra virgin olive oil

Simmer saffron in stock and keep it warm. Cut tomatoes in half; using the large holes on a cheese grater, grate tomatoes into a wide brimmed bowl.

Sprinkle fish with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add a tablespoon of oil to a hot pan set over medium high heat. Sauté fish, about two minutes on each side, until the flesh is opaque and the top has a nice golden crust. Set aside until cool then break into bite sized pieces.

In the same pan, add more oil, if necessary, and sauté shrimp until pink, about 5 minutes. Set aside with fish.

Add a small splash of oil, if necessary, and sauté onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add grated tomatoes, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until it becomes a thick paste.

Stir in rice, cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add stock, olives, pineapple, sea salt, pepper and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook uncovered for 15 minutes, until rice is soft.

Five minutes before the rice is done, arrange cooked ono and sautéed shrimp on top of rice and cover the pan with cloth towel. 

Serve with a fresh salad of market greens, a crusty baguette and plenty of wine.

Marta Lane, a Kauai-based food writer since 2010, offers food tours and is the author of Tasting Kauai: Restaurants - An Insider’s Guide to Eating Well on the Garden Island. For more information, visit TastingKauai.com.


  1. Marto, paella na Hawajach... rozmarzyłam się. Oczami wyobraźni już widzę słońce, niebo, ocean i stolik na tarasie z pięknym widokiem. Przede mną talerz paelli, a ja oblizuję palce po obgryzaniu krewetek :-)

  2. Małgosiu, gorąco polecam Hawaje. Zarowno jedzenie jak i krajobarzy są tam jak z bajki.