HIFF foodie films: Our take, where to eat

Korean miso stew, French pastries in Tokyo, and honey: Three foodie films made the roster for the Hawaii International Film Festival’s weeklong Spring Showcase, which runs April 1-7 at Dole Cannery, and Nonstop scored preview DVDs. We’re stoked. Not only can we review the films (or two of them, at least; HIFF didn’t have the third sample DVD), we can also reliably direct you to places in Honolulu where you can find the featured foods.

We get you. We know foodies. You go, you watch, you hunger. Here’s what to see and where to eat after.

The Recipe

South Korea, 104 minutes
Friday, April 1 at 9:15 p.m.
Wednesday, April 6 at 9:15 p.m.

A jaded TV reporter gets a tip about a convicted mass murderer’s death chamber plea for miso stew, and the story begins. It’s a compelling angle: The freshly executed murderer is a hot news topic, and miso stew, or doenjang chige, is a humble dish as ubiquitous as Japanese miso soup. It’s what he was eating when police burst in on him in a shack in the middle of a forest. The murderous fugitive was so absorbed in the exquisite soup he never realized he was being arrested.

How can a dish can hold this power? The curious reporter journeys to the shack, overrun now by eager tourists hoping to taste the stew that tamed a murderer, but he learns the cook is a beautiful woman who has since disappeared. In searching for her he tracks down her ingredients: the soybeans that doenjang paste comes from, the crocks that held the fermenting beans, the salt that flavored it, and so on.

The hard-nosed journalist’s meticulous deconstructing uncovers a multi-layered love story drizzled with magical realism. If he has any doubts, he has only to go back to the murderer’s soup, which he comes to understand he can never re-create. Why not? The ingredients:

Crocks made of clay saturated with plum blossoms
Salt dried only in sunlight, then drained of seawater
Soybeans grown by baby pigs
Lacquer tree spring water from a deep forest
Plum wine yeast
Resonance created by crickets

You see? The perfect doenjang chige, if it ever existed at all, does not exist in this realm — and certainly not in Honolulu. This is the first time I’ve had to hunt down a dish that, despite being as ubiquitous as miso soup, hardly anybody orders because they either eat it at home or get it free with orders of yakiniku. So here, below, are the places I and several Korean foodie friends recommend for doenjang chige. Keep in mind it’s different at each place.

Sorabol — $10.50. Listed first because it’s the only one to get three votes
805 Keeaumoku St., 808-947-3113

Frog House — $9.95
1604 Kalakaua Ave., 808-951-9370

Korea House — $10.50
1625 Kapiolani Blvd., 808-944-1122

Seoul Garden Yakiniku — $9.95
1679 Kapiolani Blvd., 808-944-4803

Seoul Jung — $13.75
130 Liliuokalani, 808-921-8620

Shillawon — $10.95
747 Amana St., 808-944-8700

So Gong Dong — $9.99
1960 Kapiolani Blvd., 808-946-8206

Doenjang chige: So Gong Dong

Patisserie Coin de Rue

Japan; 115 minutes
Monday, April 4 at 6 p.m.
Tuesday, April 5 at 9 p.m.

By Ed Morita

As soon as I saw HIFF’s spring schedule, I knew I had to see “Patisserie Coin de Rue,” which centers on a brash, eager woman named Natsume, who leaves her father’s cake shop in Kagoshima for Tokyo in search of her boyfriend, Umi, who moved for a job at the prestigious Coin de Rue Patisserie.

Upon her arrival, she learns that Umi left the pastry shop after only two days. With nowhere else to go, she begs the owner of Coin de Rue to give her a job. After working in the shop, Natsume realizes that her experience in her father’s cake shop hardly prepared her for the harsh realities of the pastry world. While at Coin de Rue, Natsume meets the enigmatic Tomura, a legendary pastry chef who suddenly withdrew from the industry. Despite many offers to return to the kitchen, Tomura spends his time as a recluse, writing guide books and teaching at a local culinary school.

Food porn features prominently in the film, which is expected, considering it takes place in and around a pastry shop. There are some spectacular shots of desserts ranging from simple to elegant to elaborate. The most mouth-watering being a simple shot of a mousse being coated with caramel.

As someone who’s worked in many kitchens, I enjoyed the insider details and humor that were interwoven into the film. Some were as simple as a container of Boiron fruit puree on the table. You can’t see the label, but the signature container is unmistakable. Another was when Natsume let a pot of cream boil over, then was later scolded for working too slow because she had the flame on low for fear of the pot boiling over again.

Throughout the film, Natsumi is reminded that she is unworthy to be a pastry chef, let alone to work at the prestigious Coin de Rue. Yet, she shows the resilience required for the food service industry by working hard to learn. She spends her nights after the shop closes practicing piping rosets and writing with chocolate — mundane, yet required skills. This film does a fantastic job showing the hard work and fortitude required to make it in the food industry. Kitchens are high-stress environments and tough love is often required to be successful. Natsume receives a lot of tough love and becomes a better person for it. But in the end, she’s the one who helps Tomura and her co-workers deal with their personal issues both in and out of the kitchen. I’ll admit that I had to stop the movie halfway through because I was getting homesick for the kitchen.

It’s impossible to watch “Patisserie Coin de Rue” without getting caught up in the decadent desserts on the screen. So, if you see this film and find yourself hungry for some patisserie goodness, here are some desserts that can be found around town.

Fendu Boulangerie
2752 Woodlawn Drive, 808-354-0736

JJ’s Bistro and French Pastry
3447 Waialae Ave, 808-739-0993

Panya Bistro
Ala Moana Center, 808-946-6388

Patisserie La Palme D’or
Ala Moana Center, 808-941-6161

JJ's Bistro and French Pastry - Strawberry shortcake

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The movie opens with a sleeping girl resting her head on a work table as someone assembles a strawberry shortcake next to her. This simple, yet elegant, treat can be found at any number of bakeries and restaurants around town, but one of my favorites is from JJ’s Bistro and French Pastry. JJ’s achieves just the right combination of moist cake with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

JJ's Bistro and French Pastry
3447 Waialae Ave.


Germany, Turkey; 103 minutes
Saturday, April 2 at 1 p.m.
Sunday, April 3 at 11:30 a.m.

From HIFF (no preview available): Yusuf is an only child who lives with his parents in an isolated mountain area. For the young boy, the surrounding forest becomes a place of mystery and adventure when accompanying his father on the job. Yusuf watches in admiration as his beekeeper father Yakup hangs specially-made hives at the top of the tallest trees. With the skill of a tightrope acrobat, he must often suspend dangerously from the uppermost branches to gather honey. The strong bond that he has with his father cannot protect Yusuf from becoming an outsider during his first year of school. Yusuf’s stutter shames him in front of his classmates during oral reading assignments. Yusuf’s anxieties escalate when his father must travel to a faraway forest on a risky mission. His father gone, Yusuf slips into silence to the distress of his pretty young mother Zehra. Days pass and Yakup still does not return. Yusuf sees his mother becoming sadder everyday. Yusuf summons all of his courage and goes deep into the forest to search for his father. A journey into the unknown…

Info and online ticket purchases: hiff.org