Food and Drink

All You Need Is This Simple Hawaiian Mac Salad This Summer

This side dish is quick, uncomplicated, and easily a winner at every cookout.

Photo courtesy of Keeping It Relle
Photo courtesy of Keeping It Relle
Photo courtesy of Keeping It Relle

Come noon, plate lunch specials land on tables throughout Hawaii where many sit down to eat kalua pig, lomi lomi salmon, lau lau-ti leaf-wrapped pork or fish-alongside a scoop of rice. It’s the ultimate comfort combo. What’s rarely missing from these plates is a mound of mac salad.

The creamy accompaniment to plate lunches is a classic side dish that native Hawaiian food blogger Relle Lum has perfected. “My grandma made mac salad all the time,” says Lum. “I’ve adjusted it slightly, but it’s pretty much what we learned how to make growing up.”

The Maui-based blogger spent a lot of time in the kitchen with her mom making stuff-snacks to bring to teachers, holiday treats from Easter candies to Christmas cookies. “And of course, in Hawaii, everything is about potlucks and family get-togethers and you can’t show up empty-handed.”

That’s why this mac salad is an easy summer cookout crowd pleaser. You can find her grandma-approved mac salad recipe on her blog, Keeping It Relle, which she launched in 2019. As a full-time nurse and mom of two, the blog is her way of sharing both Hawaiian and local recipes. “Hawaii is such an amazing place and the culture and the cuisine here is just so diverse and so different than anywhere else, so why not share it?”

Lum thinks some folks may be misinformed about Hawaii and its food culture. It’s not all poke bowls and Spam. “Putting pineapple on your pizza doesn’t make it Hawaiian,” she laughs. Through her recipes, Lum educates readers about her food and culture. “In the end, my goal is to [have readers] sit down around the table, enjoy a good meal, spend time with your family and friends…and of course eat good food.” Such as a mac salad you need to have in your potluck arsenal at all times.

Photo courtesy of Keeping It Relle
Photo courtesy of Keeping It Relle
Photo courtesy of Keeping It Relle

Hawaiian Mac Salad Recipe

Ingredients:
• 225g elbow macaroni
• 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
• 1 cup mayonnaise
• ½ cup milk
• 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 1 carrot, grated
• 2 tablespoons onion, diced

Directions:
1. Heat a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add salt and a splash of oil to the water. Then cook the macaroni according to package directions. You’ll want to cook the noodles just until al dente.
2. Drain the noodles and rinse with water. Toss the warm noodles with apple cider vinegar and set aside.
3. In a large bowl add mayonnaise, milk, sugar, salt, and pepper. Whisk to combine.
4. Then add the mayonnaise mixture to the macaroni noodles and stir to combine.
5. Add in carrots and onion, and stir until well combined.
6. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 4 hours until cooled, or overnight.
7. Serve chilled and enjoy.

Note: The mac salad will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.

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Rosin Saez is the senior editor of Food & Drink at Thrillist.

Food and Drink

Why Makrut Lime Makes a Star Ingredient in Cocktails

The Southeast Asian citrus is intensely aromatic and pairs with rum, gin, tequila, and more.

Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks
Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks
Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks

I grew up with a makrut lime tree in my backyard, admiring the double leaves and dimpled citrus fruit that frequently made their way into our family dinners. Makrut limes, which are sometimes referred to kaffir limes (although the term is controversial and has been widely retired), are native to Southeast Asia, but somehow my mom willed a tree to grow in our Southern California home with great success.

To me, makrut meant savoury Thai food: steamed fish curry wrapped in banana leaves and sprinkled with chiffonade makrut, simmering tom kha gai with floating bits of the hand-torn citrus leaves, and glistening green curry accentuated by the plant’s aroma.

But to others, makrut is an ideal ingredient in cocktails and other drinks. Such is the case for Fish Cheeks, a Thai restaurant in Manhattan known for its seafood dishes and eclectic, complementary cocktail menu. Beverage director Beau Fontano knew he had to include makrut in his creations, especially because the ingredient is so prominent on the food menu. Makrut lime finds its way in several drinks, most notably as a garnish atop the Thank You Kha, a riff on the acidic coconut stew tom kha gai, and the Manao Mao, a rum-based drink that uses makrut lime bitters.

“I don’t love using the word tiki, but if you think of those tiki rum cocktails, makrut definitely works well in those,” Fontano says. “But I also love it in martinis-there’s something really clean about it. And with makrut lime, if you’re just using the leaves, you can do a lot of rapid infusions.”

Fontano only uses the leaves, because the rinds and juice of makrut limes are famously bitter. “Regular lime has a little bit more sugar content, so that’s why it’s much more approachable in cocktails. Makrut limes tend to be more dry,” he explains. “But when you use the leaves in cocktails, you just smack it to wake it up a little bit and it gets that nice citrusy, refreshing aroma which is really fun.”

The leaves are cut fresh, so each drink has the scent of makrut lime leaves wafting off of them. “I’m sure at one point I will get around to it and try to figure out how to use the juice,” he laughs.

Further north at Paper Tiger in Portland, Maine, makrut lime leaves are also prevalent in a cocktail called Something Scandalous, a tequila-based drink intended to be, in the words of bartender Nick Reevy, “crushed easily.”

Paper Tiger
Paper Tiger
Paper Tiger

“I went with tequila, specifically, because in Maine it’s 80 degrees and humid pretty much all summer,” Reevy explains. “So I made something you kick back easily. Agave has a really nice softness that elevates the makrut lime, and the main flavour in that drink is the Thai basil.”

The drink is an alluring shade of green and is rounded out by cinnamon syrup and falernum. “Makrut lime is really herbal and bright in a way no other citrus is,” Reevy adds. “It’s interchangeable with other limes, but it just adds this whole other depth of flavour.”Makrut lime has even made its way into hard seltzer, albeit a limited edition drop from Lunar. Founder Kevin Wong knew he wanted to add another citrus drink to his rotation as he witnessed the successes of hard lemonades, but already had a yuzu iteration. Makrut lime seemed like a natural follow-up.

Photo courtesy of Lunar
Photo courtesy of Lunar
Photo courtesy of Lunar

“It has a very intense citrus fragrance, almost perfumey or soapy,” Wong ponders. “Like I could see Le Labo putting out a makrut lime fragrance. It has such a commanding presence and body.”

To tamper down some of the boldness of the makrut lime, the hard seltzer uses makrut lime leaf extract, lime juice, and cane sugar. The aromatics of the lime are present without too much bitterness; instead, the seltzer is grassy, acidic, and dry. Wong recommends pairing the can with spicy foods, especially Szechuan dry pot.

The makrut lime seltzer is currently sold out, and Wong is unsure whether or not another batch is in the works. “I feel like makrut lime is the greatest secret unknown to the Western world,” he says. “It’s in medicine, candy, herbal drinks, cosmetics and aromatherapy. I think we did the seltzer too early, and I don’t know if the world is ready for us to bring it back yet. Maybe in a couple of years.”

But judging by the growing popularity of makrut lime in beverage menus, the comeback might be sooner than he expects.

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Kat Thompson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @katthompsonn.

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