28 Apr


“See the line where the sky meets the sea, it calls me!”

– Moana


The Setup

Another year, another BirthDay Super Munch. This year, André picked Moana for his post because he was swept up in the Oscar hype and didn’t see when else he would have a chance to watch this movie.

The titular character, Moana, got her name literally from the ocean, in that her name is translated to mean ocean, so to pay homage to the symbiotic relationship the two have, we set out to create a meal that honored and was inspired by the sea. While we easily could have made a fish dish and called it a day we pushed ourselves to use all of the aspects the sea offers and travel outside of our comfort zone. That means creating a full meal, dessert included, using ingredients from the ocean.

The Food

For the appetizer, we made a simple salad modeled after the Yam Khai Dao on their PokPok’s Portland location’s menu and dressed it with Momofuku’s fish sauce vinaigrette. Fish sauce is an incredibly complex flavor that is equal parts sweet and salty and can really transform simple dishes. We chuckled to ourselves when the recipe said the sauce was so good you could drink it on its own but we stopped laughing after we tasted it. Yeah, you could drink it on its own. Yeah, it’s that good.

We wanted to do fish for dinner, so we consulted Monterey Bay Seafood Watch to find a sustainable fish to have. We settled on long-line caught ahi tuna steaks, an expensive, work-intensive but sustainable way of catching fish. We served the tuna on a bed of fennel and leeks after a quick sear on the grill to provide a smoky flavor that went a long way in the dish. While the fish was seared perfectly, we left it to sit amongst the vegetables too long leading it to be a little overdone (we admit to our mistakes here at Munch), but the overall dish was still satisfying.

With the dessert, we had to get really creative. With the knowledge that agar, an ingredient used in a lot of gelatinlike items, comes from seaweed we figured there had to be a way to incorporate it into a dessert. We found out that Irish Moss could be used as a base for pudding, so we decided to go that route. After soaking the moss for a while, and adding sugar and cream, it took on a panna cotta consistency and flavor. We threw in some kumquats for extra tartness to make it a little more interesting. We were all blown away by the light and smooth consistency from what amounted to just a few ingredients.

The Drink

For our drink, we made Gin to Marin, a gin-based drink mixed with pear and lemon juice, along with a bit of nori to keep the sea theme going. The nori added a bit of saltiness, and that distinct umami flavor, to an otherwise sweet drink, balancing it out nicely. Add a seaweed salad ice cube and “sandy” rim and you have a perfect beach/boat drink that’s just outside of the norm.

The Rules

🎼  Drink whenever a new song begins.
🗣  Drink whenever Maui’s tattoos talk to him.
🌊  Drink whenever a wave crashes.

The Movie

It’s fair to say Moana was not what we were expecting. The movie generated a lot of buzz around Oscar season and we felt like we were missing out by not having watched it. As it turns out, we weren’t missing much.

We were most excited about seeing what Lin-Manuel Miranda did with the music in this movie, and while the music was great we were disappointed that the music didn’t have a larger role in the movie. While the movie was bookended by some great musical numbers, featuring Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ability to tell a story through music and his distinct form of singing, the middle was decidedly unmusical and rather disappointing.

The lack of Miranda wasn’t the only disappointing part about the middle. After a rollicking start, full of fun songs, visuals, and characters, the next solid chunk of the movie is Moana and Maui sailing from island to island and having a few arguments along the way, and more than a couple of detours that add nothing to the story. This is where we really started to lose interest in the movie, and the ending, while solid, wasn’t spectacular enough to win us back. The middle just took out every bit of momentum the film had going for it. Imagine a large rolling wave coming towards you and instead of getting that satisfying crash that a wave is destined to have it kind of fizzles out just as it gets going. This is the perfect metaphor for this film that we managed to work into this post just because it is related to the ocean. 😁

In the moment, Moana was just fine. Some of the songs stuck with us for a few weeks after, even if the movie didn’t. This is one Disney film that probably isn’t going to stand the test of time, especially when you compare it to the likes of Lilo & Stitch, Mulan, and other Disney classics.


The Reviews

André: A waste of my pick. I get to pick the movie once a year, and I wasted it on this? Come on. Even worse, now it’s looking like I’ll have “How Far I’ll Go” stuck in my head on repeat for the rest of my life. Not that it’s a bad song by any means, but there’s no escape.

Leanna: Just “meh.” I think the comments above and below cover pretty much all the reasons why this movie wasn’t so great, so instead I’m going to focus on one specific detail of the film that really rubbed me the wrong way. I really disliked their depiction of Maui. Although it is inaccurate based on Polynesian descriptions of what Maui looks like, I could have let that go if they made him look more like The Rock who voices the character. But Maui had a full head of hair and the proportions were all wrong. It was a weird choice that they made that I didn’t agree with.

Ben: 60%. This is a film that I absolutely wanted to like, but found myself volleying between adoration for the film and utter boredom and confusion at how it wanted to present itself. Let’s start out with what I liked: the music was incredible, and the song “How Far I’ll Go” has been stuck in my head even a month after watching the film, the eponymous character of the movie is one worthy of all praise, and at times the film is incredibly and beautifully animated. Now for the bad: the conservation message feels like an afterthought even though it easily could have been a stronger message, the large majority of the comedy fell incredibly flat, the characterization of Moana seems directly based on Nani from Lilo & Stitch, and finally, the film is ultimately disappointing in terms of how it chooses to depict its animation style opting for realism over the opportunity to let animators’ minds be creative and expansive (this is a perfect opportunity to let you know that you should listen to the podcast because I go off on this aspect of modern animation films). All of this is to say that Moana has its moments but a slow middle section and some weird choices in pacing and its comedic moments finds it in the middle of the pack. Moana just never finds its way.