SOUP SOUL SISTERS
Loreen Matsushima, Teri-Lynn Parel and Jonelle Shimamoto, from left, stand outside the kitchen in Kalihi with bowls of fresh produce. Photos by Dallas Nagata White
Three ladies establish 3 Ladles
By Rebecca Pike
As Loreen Matsushima, Teri-Lynn Parel and Jonelle Shimamoto begin preparing for a week of hungry marketgoers, chatter is replaced by the chop-chop of knives and the clanking of spatulas. Arranged across stainless steel prep tables are locally-grown fruits and vegetables: Otsuji Farms beets in a bunch; spriggy bouquets of Nalo Farms basil, dill and cilantro; WOW tomatoes; Pitt Farms ginger, tri-color carrots, broccoli, spinach, turnips, onions and sweet Kahuku corn.
Constantly moving, the women break down the various ingredients of their creations. The mirepoix (that holy trinity of carrot, celery and onion that begins the process of cooking soup) is sizzling, and as the chowder roux (flour and butter base) begins to come together, the unmistakable aroma of home cooking fills the large room at the Culinary Incubator Kitchen in Kalihi. It’s another Saturday for the 3 Ladles.
The three friends had been sharing their passion for soup for years when they finally decided to start making their own. “There is a lot of preparation and work in this,” says Parel. “To make it successful, we have to be able to work together. The key, for us, is that everyone’s opinion and method is respected.”
Loreen Matsushima uses fresh ingredients to prepare her beef barley Bourguignon.
Each gravitated naturally toward a genre of soup, explains Matsushima, adding Jonelle likes the spicy kinds; Teri has become the chowder queen. Matsushima drew upon her own history to develop her repertoire: “Of course, we all grew up with Campbell’s,” she says. “My favorite was beef barley. It never looks quite like the picture on the can, you know. It’s missing all the fresh vegetables.”
Unlike the canned version — which is often salty and contains preservatives — Matsushima’s grass-fed beef barley Bourguignon is earthy and filling. A meal on its own, it’s one of two soups that regularly sell out at the Farmers’ Markets. The other is Parel’s corn chowder, which has already gained a cult following. There are a few secret ingredients in the recipe, but the most important element is entirely obvious: the plump, sweet, fresh corn.
“Fresh is an interesting term,” muses Parel, who recalls learning from a local natural foods store that, legally, to label a food as ‘fresh,’ it had to have spent no more than five days in transport. “Five days! I was amazed that you could use that word.”
The 3 Ladles place their order with their farm partners on Wednesdays, and it’s picked up the next day. “These farmers produce really good vegetables; we’re just amazed at what they do.”
Parel’s other mainstay is a bright green detox soup, refined over time through nutritional research and countless taste tests. It’s made with broccoli, spinach and ginger, ingredients that are good for the digestive system, according to Parel. Adding turnips, celery and onions improved its flavor and texture, and Parel drank it at night to test the effects.
“I woke up feeling fresh and ready,” Parel says. “I like that feeling.” To get the full detoxifying effect, Parel recommends drinking the soup for 10 days. Rich and decadent it’s not, but light and fresh, and your body will thank you.
Kahuku corn chowder is served in a freshly-baked bread bowl.
The 3 Ladles are loyal members of the Kanu Hawaii initiative to support local businesses and reduce waste and environmental impact by sourcing as many ingredients as possible locally. This has led to some recipe substitutions.
“I wanted my borscht to be a Kanu* soup, but the recipe called for vinegar,” recalls Mastushima. “We don’t have local vinegar, so I substituted Maui pineapple wine.” That Hawaiian touch, in concert with fresh pineapple, Kula lavender buds and mega-nutrient beet greens and stems, gives the borscht textural surprises and a sweet, flowery fragrance.
Shimamoto’s gazpacho, which includes juicy seasonal Hawaiian watermelon, is another terrific example of successful island-style substitutions: Orange juice — which comes from oranges from Ka‘u on the Big Island or from her grandfather’s tree — and lime juice stand in for the vinegar.
For her other weekly soup offering, it was a natural choice for Shimamoto to do tomato basil bisque. This aficionado of tomato basil soups experienced an epiphany when she first encountered the tomatoes from WOW farms on the Big Island. “I instantly saw the difference,” she says. “The color is red and deep, and it’s smooth-skinned and shiny. And when you bite into a WOW tomato, the flavor is there.” Those tomatoes, roasted red bell peppers, and a near-obscene amount of Nalo Farms Italian basil make Shimamoto’s tomato basil bisque put store-bought soups to shame.
In addition to the six mainstays, the Ladles constantly experiment with new recipes. “We don’t make simple soup,” explains Parel. “We make specialty soups with special ingredients and a lot of love. We make it with our hearts because we’re making what we love to eat.”
*A Kanu soup has 100 percent local ingredients. The 3 Ladles’ Island-Style Borscht, Gazpacho and Detox soups are Kanu soups.
Where to find 3 Ladles
Sunday: Mililani Farmer’s Market, Mililani High School, 8 to 11 a.m.
Tuesday: Kapiolani Farmer’s Market, Kapiolani Community College, 4 to 7 p.m.
Wednesday: Honolulu Farmer’s Market, Neil Blaisdell Center, 4 to 7 p.m.
Last Friday of each month: Eat the Street Event, 555 South Street, 4 to 9 p.m. (hours may vary)
What’s on the menu:
The six signature soups (Beef Barley Bourguignon, Island-style Borscht, Gazpacho, Tomato Basil; Kahuku Corn Chowder and Detox), plus one special “wild card” soup.
• Soup for Two: a two-serving
container of soup for $6.
• Bento: a one-serving container of soup and choice of two (out of four) salads for $10.
• “Bowl” of soup: Soup of choice in a locally-baked bread bowl for $8.