By Request: Balancing good nutrition with favorite flavors By Smart Nutritional - 7th October 2020 0 4 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Royce Arakaki’s first job in food service, making takeout sushi as a high-schooler, taught him a couple of things. One, he could learn to like raw fish. And two, senior citizens could teach him a thing or two. When he signed on at Little Tokyo in Windward Mall, he was not an adventurous eater, Arakaki recalls. “I wouldn’t touch sushi, sashimi, nothing. I wouldn’t touch anything fish-wise, except maybe a tuna salad.” But in that part-time job, he made a connection with cooking, thanks in large part to his kupuna customers. “They would come back every day, talk story and they would teach me to take pride in even simple sushi.” The experience set him on his career path. After graduating from Roosevelt High School in 2004, Arakaki went on to the Culinary Institute of the Pacific and the Culinary Institute of America in New York, interned at Thomas Keller’s Per Se, then worked a number of restaurant jobs. In 2018 he signed on as chef at the ‘Ilima at Leihano senior living facility in Kapolei. “I finally came around full circle to why I came to culinary in the first place.” Arakaki is also an active member of the Hawaii Army National Guard, returning from a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan in April, returning to work in the midst of the pandemic. The approximately 100 residents of Leihano have mostly been unable to visit with their families over these last few months, so in many cases the staff fills that gap. “We’ve definitely grown closer to them,” Arakaki said. His operation provides close to 100 meals three times a day in an around-the-clock operation. Each menu item is a balancing act to stay within nutritional boundaries and still give the residents their favorite foods, which largely hearken to comfort meals of the past. “Enjoying food … that’s a big thing for morale,” he said. A meal that reminds them of their childhood, “brings them back to the good old days.” His menu is big on local standards: oxtail soup, laulau, wonton mein, pork adobo … You’ll notice these dishes tend to be high in sodium, but Arakaki has his tricks for bringing that down. Take one of his most popular dishes, miso butterfish: To start, he marinates the fish just a few hours instead of the usual two to three days, then rinses it to remove excess salt and sugar. In the end, he sets the fish under a broiler to give it a bit of a crust. “While not as, say, potent, being able to torch the fish itself, to caramelize the fish, can heighten that flavor.” He also tries to serve fresh produce in bigger portions relative to protein. With older eaters, it’s a priority to keep their appetites up so they consume the calories they need, he said. To that end, he tries to give them the flavors they crave, “rather than saying, ‘Here’s a light piece of fish with a lemon.’” THIS LIGHT alternative would never be mistaken for deep-fried Chinese orange chicken. But the dish is tasty in its own right, with a sweet-tangy sauce served over tender nuggets of chicken. I’d maximize this recipe by baking twice the amount of chicken, then serve it with different sauces over a couple of meals. One day, orange sauce over cubed chicken, another, perhaps teriyaki or a spicy barbecue sauce over sliced chicken. Shred whatever’s left for a chicken salad. If you’re clever about it, no one will think of it as leftovers. BAKED ORANGE CHICKEN 2 pounds chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces >> Sauce: 1/4 cup ketchup 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar 1/3 cup orange juice 1 teaspoon orange zest 3/4 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon shoyu 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup water 2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil or parchment. Arrange chicken pieces on pan and bake 5 to 10 minutes, until cooked through. Remove to a bowl. Meanwhile, make sauce: In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients except cornstarch. Bring to a boil, then whisk in cornstarch mixture, whisking until sauce thickens. Pour sauce over chicken; toss well. Serves 6. Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 300 calories, 3.5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 90 mg cholesterol, 300 mg sodium, 33 g carbohydrate, no fiber, 29 g sugar, 32 g protein. Write By Request, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813; or email requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.