By Sofia Wilt
A reprieve from our sometimes tired-out restaurant options are the food vendors at open markets. One such vendor who’s doing extremely delicious food, homestyle Russian & Ukrainian food (with a slight American influence), is Larisa Skripchenko. She doesn’t have a business name, she’s often just referred to as the “Russian Lady” or the “Crepe Lady”. Larisa was raised in the Ukraine and while she doesn’t have any restaurant experience, she grew up cooking alongside her mother and aunties. When she married and had a family of her own, she started experimenting and broadening her cooking skills. She moved to Hawaii with her family in 2005. In 2010 she decided to see if folks might like her food at the SPACE (Sea View Performing Arts Center for Education) market near her lower Puna home. And boy do they.
Larisa is now at SPACE Saturday market, Wednesday at Uncle Roberts in Kalapana and Sundays at Makuu Market. Her offerings vary depending on the market – Makuu is earlier and has more breakfast options while Uncle Roberts being a night market has dinner specials. Regardless where she is, her food is beautifully presented, extremely tasty, comforting and wholesome. She uses organic when possible, supports local farmers and is uncompromising about things being fresh. She manages to do nearly all the shopping and prep work single handedly. Most of it is made to order, exactly how you’d like it.
So what does she make? Let’s start with crepes, one of her signature dishes. She makes smoked salmon & cream for $5 and a variety of others all for $4 including ham & cheese, just cheese, berries and cream, macnut lilikoi, and banana chocolate.
At Uncle Roberts she’ll do a variety of dinner specials, including shepherd’s pie with a side of cucumber or beet salad for $8. Ceviche with avocado and chips for $10, coconut-crusted fish with mashed potatoes and choice of salads for $10. She makes cabbage rolls with Big Island beef, buckwheat and vegetables served with a tomato sauce with choice of salad for $8.
If you catch her at a morning market you can get two eggs any way, crispy bacon and a stack of Russian pancakes with toppings like lilikoi syrup and macnuts, strawberries, cinnamon sugar or honey for $8. She also makes quiches for Makuu, like spinach and feta or cheddar and bacon for $3 a piece.
She makes pierogi, both vegetarian and meat, and Russian potato pancakes both served with a buttermilk-dill dressing. She makes a heavenly pickled cabbage condiment or salad, I’m not sure which it is but it’s delicious. Her cucumber salad is heavy on the dill and scallion and can have olive oil or buttermilk dressing on top. Her roasted beet salad also has dill plus toasted sunflower seeds. You can also get a sampler platter with a cabbage roll, 4 pierogi or potato pancakes with the buttermilk dill sauce and salad for only $9.
How about ooey-gooey yummy grilled cheese sandwiches? She offers a variety of breads, cheeses and extras to build your own. Some of her most popular combos are the brie, smoked salmon and artichoke for $7 or the bacon, pesto & tomato with your choice of cheese for $5. She has ham, turkey, roasted eggplant, capers, and all kinds of other goodies including goat cheese, provolone, cheddar and monterey jack to choose from. She even does a “garlic rub” if you like where she takes a clove of garlic and rubs it over the golden friend crust of the sandwich when it comes off the griddle.
Pies. All butter crust, all made from scratch. Apple and caramel, apple and berry (including ohelo) peaches and cream, and mango berry. She also does savory pies too, including a sweet potato and blue cheese pie or a chicken vegetable pie. Does this woman ever stop?
Frozen cheesecake on a stick? In a multitude of flavors, all handmade? Why not. Mocha, pumpkin, lilikoi, lemon poppy seed, hazelnut, cappuccino, cookies and cream, and plain. There were more she said, she just couldn’t remember them all. I think that’s plenty, Larisa.
When I interviewed her and asked her if she had anything she wanted to add, she only said she was extremely grateful to her trusty assistant Terra Robbins who works with her each market – and also how much she loves and appreciates her patrons. YOU are appreciated Larisa, thank you! If you’d like to contact Larisa, she can be reached at Larisamkm@yahoo.com.