How to make Hawaii-style Portuguese bean soup

This hearty and satisfying comfort food can be found at festivals, fairs and restaurants throughout the Islands.

Malasadas aren’t the only Portuguese food tradition that made it to comfort food staple-status in Hawaii.

When waves of Portuguese families immigrated to the Islands between the late 1870s and 1915 to work on Hawaii’s sugar plantations, ranches and dairy farms, they also brought a taste for pao duce (sweet bread), spicy linguica (Portuguese sausage) and rich and hearty Portuguese bean soup. Shared at multi-cultural plantation meals, these foods became some of the popular and representative Portuguese options that then gained wider popularity to become local mainstays.

Today, Portuguese bean soup, meaty and laden with ham hocks, linguica, kidney beans and potatoes, can be found served alongside or over heaping spoonfuls of steamed white rice at festivals, fairs and restaurants throughout the Islands.

Portuguese Bean Soup. Photo: Olivier Koning.

Here, we bring you a recipe from the personal collection of Upcountry Maui resident Rose Cambra Freitas. Freitas is a descendant of Portuguese immigrants, rancher and paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy, or in this case, girl), the first and only woman from the state of Hawaii to have been inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.

The recipe is reprinted with permission from the “Look What’s Cooking in Makawao” cookbook, a curated selection of cherished historical and modern-day recipes from the residents of the town of Makawao. Spanning decades of home-cooked meals, the book weaves community-favorite recipes with details of recipes’ authors, their town and the area’s unique paniolo culture. Inside are recipes for a 1920s “war cake,” cowboy stews, pupus (appetizers) and treats from the locally popular Komoda Store and Bakery. The whole book is available for $20, a fundraiser for the Makawao History Museum. To get a copy, visit the museum in its new location or send them a message via their Facebook page.

Rose’s Portuguese Bean Soup

1 pkg (16 oz.) dried kidney beans
1/3 cups parsley, minced

1 red onion, chopped
2 cans (8 oz. ea.) tomato sauce
1 can (14 ½ oz.) crushed tomatoes, you can also use fresh tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 small carrots, diced
4 medium potatoes, diced
½ medium round cabbage, chopped
½ tsp. salt (to taste)
pepper to taste
2 tblsp. sugar, to taste
½ tsp. thyme
½ tsp. cinnamon
3 tblsp. ketchup
¼ tsp. Portuguese spices (available at Holy Ghost Church… or through recipe below)
2 beef soup shin bones
2 ham hocks, bones and ham
2 Portuguese sausages (learn how to get this where you live)

Wash dry beans with cold water and soak overnight or at least for 5 hours with cold water to more than cover. Cook soup bones with water to cover until almost done. Now add ham hocks and sausage, parsley, onion, tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, sugar, thyme, cinnamon, ketchup, and Portuguese spices. Simmer all of the above until all has cooked down to a nice saucy soup. Add hot boiling water as needed for soup as it cooks. Stir frequently. Now add carrots and cabbage. When carrots are half way done add beans and potatoes, stirring occasionally. Add additional boiling water as needed to the soup. When potatoes are done you may smash a few along the side of the pot in order to make soup a little thicker. Simmer until all ingredients are well blended.

Note: When soaking your beans, do NOT add salt to them because salt will tend to harden the beans.

Portuguese Spices

2 btls. whole anise
1 btl. stick cinnamon

1 btl. whole cloves
1 btl. whole peppercorns

Put in large flat pan and toast at 300˚ for 20 min. Grind in a blender or spice grinder. Store unused portion in an airtight container.
—Alice Phillips & Michelle Nakagawa, Makawao residents.

Categories: Food, Recipes