In January of this year, Ashley Baxter and her husband Rangihoro Walker opened Kai Cuisine. The word “kai” means ‘food’ in Reo Māori, and the word “kain” means ‘to eat’ in Tagalog, which is a beautiful combination of Ashley and Rangi’s heritages. Kai quickly became an Instagram sensation with their beautiful pasta shapes and specialty and made-to-order flavors. Kai pasta can been found in small specialty stores such as Waimea Butcher Shop, Honoka’a Country Store, Kohala Grown Market, and Hilo Bottle Shop- and now they have their own storefront! Offerings were initially for dry pasta unless you placed a special order or got in on an Instagram special, but now that they have a storefront (346 Kilauea Avenue), they offer to-go fresh and dried pasta.
Kai has gained the appreciation of many local chefs and home cooks for the quality of their pastas and the fact that they are vegan-friendly. Most of the pasta is made from just three simple, quality ingredients- semolina flour, water, and Hawaiian sea salt. They often have specials, so it’s a good idea to check out their Instagram feed daily. I recently visited the store to meet Ashley and Rangi in person after having followed them for months on Insta and having bought their dried pasta from their friend and shop neighbor Courtney at Hilo Bottle Shop. I was very excited to see fresh bucatini in their fridge (one of my favorite pastas), the perfect vessel for the duck egg carbonara I had been wanting to make. While in the shop talking story, I was the beneficiary of a complementary “Coffee & Waffles” cookie from Doughmo’s Cookie Co. Wow- that was one heck of a cookie! They offer these cookies on a pretty regular basis, so watch their feed to get one.
As Kai continues to grow in their space, they are adding more and more local offerings and partnering with quality small businesses. Some other recent highlights include house-made ho’i’o/warabi pesto, compound butters, take and bake garlic bread, tea from Waimea Herb Company, cards from Prowlanu, elixirs from Wholistic Pantry by Nadine, and Bolognese sauce from Waimea Butcher Shop.Stop by Kai to welcome Ashley and Rangi to Hilo. Pick up some delicious pasta and accompaniments while you’re there- you won’t be disappointed. As for my duck egg carbonara, it was amazing thanks to the beautiful bucatini from Kai.Make sure to follow them on IG @kai_hilo and on Facebook at Kai Cuisine.