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Hawaii Chef’s Choice: Favorite ahi poke and Portuguese Bean Soup recipes

Chef's Choice: Favorite Hawaii Comfort Foods

Wade Ueoka
Chef de Cuisine, Alan Wong’s Honolulu
Born and raised: Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii


Portuguese Bean Soup

As a line cook at Zippy’s early in his career, Ueoka had carte blanche daily to select just about anything off the Hawaii comfort-food haven’s vast menu as his employee meal. When Portuguese bean soup was the day’s special, the choice was easy. “Talk about comfort food. You get ham hocks, sausage, beans, cabbage and a lot of vegetables. And everything just comes together,” says Ueoka. “I remember having it at family parties. My uncles would make it.”

Before long, Ueoka was crafting his own version, with a pungent, spicy Hawaii twist: kim chee-prepared cabbage instead of fresh cabbage.

“Many times when you eat Portuguese bean soup, there’s no heat to it or spice,” he says. “This adds both. I liked it. Plus, I like eating kim chee, too.” 

The kim chee’s acidity, says Ueoka, balances with the smokiness of the soup’s braised ham hocks, Portuguese sausage and corned-beef brisket. At parties with fortunate friends and family he invites over, “I always like having it ready for when everyone goes home, so they can have a nice comforting bowl of soup,” he says. “But it’s really good any day.”

How to make Chef Wade’s Kim Chee Portuguese bean soup:


2 lbs.               ham hocks
2 lbs.               corned beef, uncooked
2 lbs.               Portuguese sausage, diced large
2 pc.                bay leaf
3 pc.                garlic cloves
1 ½ gallons     water
1 tsp.              dried oregano
½ tsp.             dried chili flakes
1 cup              onion, diced large
¾ cup             carrot, diced large
1 cup              tomato paste
2 cups            diced canned tomato
3 cups            canned kidney beans with liquid
1/2 cup           dried macaroni pasta, uncooked
4 cups            won bok (Chinese cabbage) kim chee


1) Place the ham hock, corned beef, bay leaves, garlic cloves, and water into a pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium heat and let simmer for 2 1/2 hours.

2) When the corned beef is fork tender, remove it from the pot, cut it into large cubes and set aside.

3) In a separate pot, over medium high heat, sauté the Portuguese sausage until it is lightly browned. Add the oregano and dried chili flakes and stir to combine the ingredients. Cook for about two minutes then add the onion, carrots, and corned beef cubes. Cook for another three minutes then add the tomato paste. Mix the ingredients, making sure they are combined well.

4) Add all the contents from the first pot (stock and ham hock) to the second pot (Portuguese sausage, corned beef, carrots, etc.) and bring to a boil over high heat.

5) Reduce to medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the diced tomato and macaroni pasta and simmer until the pasta is cooked: about 8 to 10 minutes.

6) When ready to serve add the kim chee, bring to a boil and serve in soup bowls.

Recipe serves: 20 (You can, of course, halve or even quarter the recipe. But nobody in Hawaii ever really makes a small pot of Portuguese bean soup.)

Enjoy Chef Wade’s cooking at: Alan Wong’s Honolulu, 1857 S. King St., Honolulu, O‘ahu, (808) 949-2526, www.alanwongs.com

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Check out these related HawaiiMagazine.com posts:
HawaiiMagazine.com's best Hawaii food and cocktail recipes ... so far
How to mail order Hawaii-made Portuguese sausage on the Mainland
Make Hawaii-style ahi poke wherever you are. Here's a recipe.

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