Where Aloha is Alive and Well: My Experience Moving to the Kaumana Neighborhood

by | Aug 12, 2021 | At Home In Hawaii

The Big Island of Hawai‘i is one of the most authentic places across the state where the spirit of aloha is visibly alive and well.  You can see it in our people – in the way they approach, love, and take care of one another. It is visible at community events full of smiling volunteers and community members showing up to support whatever is happening.

Take a walk through one of our classic, charming neighborhoods and you will see the way people take pride in caring for their houses and gardens. It’s not uncommon to stumble into another friendly walker on a peaceful side street, swap smiles, and end up talking stories, when all you may have expected was a wave and “hello” when passing. People unfamiliar with our island ways drop their jaws in envy exclaiming, “I just want to move here and be nice too!”

The endless examples of love in action bring the naturally beautiful ambiance the island offers to the next level – it grows into something that you feel in your soul. It is that intentionally loving gesture at the heart of everything on the island that captures what makes Hawai‘i such a special place to be. 

When I moved into my home in Hilo, near the Kaumana area, one of the first things I remember amongst the chaos of closing, remodeling, and moving was being handed sugar cookies from one of the tutus (grandmas) on the block as a welcome to the neighborhood. I thought that stuff only happened in the movies!

 Another tutu soon came over with anthurium, hydrangea, and other keiki garden starters from what seemed like their 50-year collection of orchid varieties. My heart completely melted when I found a handwritten letter left in the mailbox from the girl growing up next door, who has a more imaginative vocabulary than most English professors I found talking story over the fence.

Once I settled into a routine walking through the neighborhood and started to get to know the familiar faces, I commented to one of the tutus on the block how I liked the way she grew her kabocha squash on a trellis trailing up onto her lanai. She told me all about how she loves to cook with the kabocha and make a version of pork pumpkin, a popular local dish.

The next time I was walking the circuit, on a day I felt a little off for no good reason, she stopped me on the street asking, “Are you that sweet girl with the dog, Kalakoa? After talking about it last time, I made you some chicken pumpkin to try.” She went on to share how most people make it with pork, but how she likes making it with chicken, covering every ingredient and good substitutes for what you don’t have in your pantry.

Getting home, warming it up, and getting to enjoy the surprise signature dish, I was truly touched and felt the love. I wanted to share this special neighborly moment with you, so give the recipe below a try to find out for yourself how delicious this dish is!

Pork and Pumpkin


  • Kabocha – cut into cubes
  • Pork or chicken – cubed or shredded
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 2 tbsp shoyu
  • 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce (or 1tbsp fish sauce)
  • 2 tbsp sake or dry sherry
  •  1 tbsp sugar

  • 1 cup chicken stock

  • Ginger

  • Garlic

  • Onion

  • Hawaiian hot chili Pepper

Cooking Instructions

Step 1

In a mixing bowl, combine pork/chik with shoyu, sake/sherry, and sugar; mix well.

Step 2

In a wok over high heat, stir fry pork/chik in oil until browned.

Step 3

Add pumpkin, stock, remaining sauces, stocks and, spices ; stir to coat.

Step 4

Add sugar, bring to a boil.

Step 5

Reduce heat; simmer for 15-20 minutes; until pumpkin is tender.

Step 6

Garnish with green onion & peanut

The recipe, depending on the amount of pumpkin you choose to use, could yield many servings, so pass some along to an unsuspecting neighbor, a friend who could use a pick me up, or a family member who could use a night off from cooking. Sharing is the heart of aloha after all. 


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