One of the “hot” booths at Taste and the ag trade show was Kaiulani Spices. Here the aroma of exotic curry and cinnamon beckoned attendees to come and “take a whiff.” What they got was a delicious sample of Curry Fried Rice with Cranberries, grass-fed short ribs seasoned with Kona Coffee Rub or yummy Hawaiian-seasoned pasta.
Doing the cooking with the aromatic spices was O‘ahu’s Kaiulani Cowell, founder of the spice company that bears her name. A native of the Philippines, Cowell got her culinary training at Honolulu’s Kapiolani Community College and the famed Culinary Institute of America in New York. Cowell says she “seasoned” her cooking skills at the Hilton Hotel in Guam and at the Stanford Court Hotel in San Francisco. She started her spice company after finding “a need” for natural rubs and seasoning collections.
“Having cooked with spice rubs while in school, I learned how easy they were to use and how much they could enhance the flavors of so many foods,” details Cowell. “I wanted to expand and improve on the existing spice choices, so, early in my cooking career I experimented with natural herbs, spices and sea salt, all of which quickly enhanced the flavor of my recipes.”
After extensive research, tasting and experimentation, Cowell created her self-described “just right” rubs for meats, poultry, vegetables, stews and casseroles. She uses island favorites such as ginger, garlic, chives, Chinese parsley, onion and a total of 22 different spices.
“Today, I am thankful that recipes made with Kaiulani Spices are enjoyed in restaurants and homes throughout Hawai‘i and beyond,” she adds.
Spices Boast Medicinal Uses
The more Cowell studied spices, the more she discovered their uses beyond tempting the palate.
“In India, they call turmeric the ‘holy powder,’ because it helps fight infections, aids in wound healing, is high in antioxidants and helps prevent Alzheimer’s,” she shares.
Cowell reports cinnamon is considered the world’s most important medicinal spice. “Cinnamon helps the digestive system, controls blood sugar levels, soothes stomach ulcers and fights yeast infections.”
Forumulating Spice Blends
Each Kaiulani Spice blend contains eight different spices, with the exception of the Chinese 5 Spice. Cowell uses fresh, raw spices for individual roasting and grinding. Spices are then mixed and bottled by hand in Honolulu.
“I’m proud to say we are one of the few organic, locally made spices in Hawai‘i,” she notes. “We are anxiously awaiting our organic certification.” Cowell ensures her spices are free of preservatives, gluten and MSG. They are non-irradiated and no animal, fish or peanut products are used in their preparation.
Flavor Without the Labor
Kaiulani’s offers six choices of rub/seasoning mixes: Exotic Curry Medium, Exotic Curry Hot, Hawaiian Spice, Kona Coffee, Chinese 5 Spice and the new Hawaiian Cajun. They are for sale at Foodland/Sack ‘n Save on the Big lsland and numerous locations on O‘ahu and Maui. To order online, visit Kaiulani Spices.
Grass-Fed Beef Cooking Tip
Cowell suggests using her Kona Coffee Rub and Seasoning for beef. “It’s a favorite steak rub for chefs in Waikiki,” she notes.
Cowell suggests “sprinkling 1.5-2 tablespoons on the whole steak (both sides). Then rub olive oil on the meat and marinate for an hour. To cook, first sear the steak, followed by your choice of grilling or broiling.”