’Tis The Season To Make Mochi
Wednesday - December 27, 2006
Fumiko Saito loves making mochi
at Fukuya Delicatessen and
We celebrate New Year’s in a big way in the Islands. Besides fireworks, there are ethnic traditions that add color and festivity to the occasion. Preparing mochi - pounded rice cake - is ceremonial and symbolic.
The time-honored ritual calls for the use of wooden mallets to pound glutinous steamed rice in a stone or wooden mortar. A brave soul leans over the bowl to turn the mound of rice by hand. One must establish a rhythm with the pounder and have the dexterity of a magician.
The rest of us simply pound the pavement to our favorite Japanese okazuya or retail store to buy mochi. This lacks a bit in ceremonial authenticity, but if you do it with the right spirit, it’s fine.
For Asians, mochi is the most important New Year’s food. The sticky texture of the rice cakes symbolizes togetherness. It also represents longevity, wealth and prosperity.
On New Year’s Day, the first meal in Japanese households is ozoni, a clear soup with mochi and vegetables. Families also enjoy mochi confections, filled with sweet bean paste, or strips of mochi (chi chi dango) with delicate fruit flavors such as strawberry, blueberry or lilikoi.
Mochi also is placed on an altar or other place of honor as an offering at New Year’s. Two large mochi mounds are stacked on top of each other, topped by an orange or tangerine. The fruit symbolizes the togetherness of the generations and a continuing life of prosperity.
Meet the mochi merchants of our town:
454 Waiakamilo Road Phone: 845-2921
Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Saturday, 7 a.m.-2 p.m.
Melissa Onishi, Anne Hose and Kim Onishi show off colorful
mochi at Fujiya Ltd.
Henry Onishi owns and operates Fujiya, which produces 7,000-10,000 pieces of mochi and manju daily. For three days leading up to the New Year, Fujiya transforms 20,000 pounds of cooked processed rice into mochi.
Besides mochi filled with red or white bean filling, there is chi chi dango, bite-sized mochi strips in regular, blueberry and haupia flavors. Get them wrapped ($6.40 for 17 pieces) or unwrapped ($3.15 for eight pieces).
Mochi with bean (an) filling or peanut butter are 50 cents each, or you can get an assortment box for $6.25 (12 pieces) to $18.25 (36 pieces). Party trays start at $30.45 (60 pieces), requiring advance orders.
New Year’s mochi range from $3.90 (8 ounces) to $11.10 (28 ounces) each. At the busy storefront counter, you’ll also find senbei tea cookies, arare snacks, cookies, and preserved seeds.
Fukuya Delicatessen & Catering
2710 S. King St. Phone: 946-2073
Wednesday-Saturday 6 a.m.-2 p.m.
Chloe Dooley enjoys a Suama mochi at
Mikawaya in Shirokiya at Ala Moana
Honolulu’s oldest okazuya has excellent Japanese takeout and mochi for special occasions or munching at lunch. Proprietor Arrison Iwahiro continues a family tradition of feeding the plate-lunch masses, started 67 years ago by his grandparents Jihei and Tsuya Takayama.
A common sight at this Moiliili landmark is platters of food being wheeled to waiting customers who maneuver into its scant parking space on South King Street. There is usually a tray of pastel-colored mochi included in the order.
Mochi platters are $23 (40 pieces) to $34 (60 pieces). Selections include habutai, handmade mochi with sweet azuki bean filling; chichi dango, slightly sweet treats made with mochiko sweet rice flour; and yaki manju, baked bean pastry.
Boxed mochi range from $4.75 (9 pieces) to $14 (25 pieces). Komochi or frozen mochi is $5 a dozen. Kagami mochi for the New Year’s displays are $5 for a small set to $30 for extra-large set.
Shirokiya Ala Moana Center. Phone: 973-9111
Open daily, holiday hours from 9 a.m.
The one-stop shop for Japanese ware and food is venerable Shirokiya at Ala Moana Center. If a food festival is going on, check out the mochi demonstrations and seasonal offerings.
Otherwise, head over to the confectionery section on the second floor where well-known brands of Japanese sweets are offered in artistically packaged splendor.
My favorite counter for mochi is Mikawaya, named after a prefecture in Aichiken, Japan. Mikawaya also stands for the finest name in wagashi or traditional Japanese pastries since 1910.
Its U.S. plant in Los Angeles ships exquisitely made mochi confectionery to Shirokiya every week. Choose individual pieces at $3.50 each or a set from $31.
Pretty pastel creations are molded into flowers, birds and fruits for a most attractive presentation. This is truly eye candy.
Mikawaya is also known for mochi ice cream, available in the refrigerated case at the store. This east-meets-west dessert was developed in 1993 by combining the unlikely duo of hot mochi with frozen ice cream. Enjoy yummy flavors of vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, azuki bean, green tea and coffee.
Made in Hawaii Foods’ Saturday Grandma
KCC Farmers Market. Phone: 484-0052
Saturday, 7:30-11 a.m.
Zhong Sheng Chen prepares
some Habutai mochi at
One of the best broke da mout’ mochi finds is at Saturday’s farmer’s market at Kapiolani Community College near Diamond Head. At the Made in Hawaii Foods stall, you’ll find Don Akiyama hawking delicacies such as Island preserves, Hashimoto Farms Maui per-simmons, and Saturday Grandma’s ono mochi.
If there’s a classification for gourmet mochi, this would get my vote for bes’kine. I drool just thinking about fresh strawberry mochi, chocolate truffles wrapped in mochi, peanut butter, sweet potato haupia, cheesecake and a variety of chichi dango including strawberry, lilikoi, blueberry, green tea, strawberry walnut, and chocolate haupia.
For the uninitiated, try a variety pack of three pieces for $4.50 and be ready to be impressed. Saturday Grandma’s recipe comes from Alice Yamanishi, who once owned Taniguchi Store on Beretania Street.
Today, Akiyama and his wife Kyoko faithfully guard the family recipe and technique for making melt-in-your-mouth mochi and other delicacies. Go to the farmer’s market and celebrate mochi magic.
Moiliili Mochi & Candies 1619 Liliha St. Phone: 523-8511
Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
(from left) Calvin Yim (owner),
Naomi Bennett (manager),
Russell Park (owner) and Gilbert
Olayan (owner at Moiliili Mochi
I love this neighborhood store because it’s a geographic enigma. It’s the Moiliili candy store in Liliha. But customers find their way to this treasury of sweets.
In an old-fashioned wooden case, trays of freshly made mochi are displayed like an okazuya window. You can point and pick mochi, like a child in a candy store, or simply order a box of assorted and save yourself the agony of choosing.
One thing’s for sure, each piece is lovingly hand-made for the daily walk-in trade who know a good thing when they see it. This is a mom-and-pop type shop that time has not changed, although its ownership evolved from a family enterprise to an investment hui known as Only in Hawaii.
Traditional white mochi, tsumami (green mochi with white bean filling), and ohagi rice balls are among the selections at 70 cents a piece. Or choose chichi dango at 30 cents each in multicolored bits.
Gift packs come wrapped in a bow for $27 (two dozen pieces) or $37 (approximately three dozen pieces). These require a 24-hour advance order.
My favorite is the peanut butter mochi, which you can get in a creamy consistency or crunchy. It takes so little to make me happy.
Nisshodo 1295 Dillingham Blvd. Phone: 847-1244
Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m.
This is the kingpin of mochi makers, established in 1918 and maintaining a standard of quality and consistency over eight decades in the business. Reigning over this stalwart enterprise is Richard Hirao, who at 80-something still rolls out mochi and only takes time off for church on Sundays.
Seems that loyal customers just won’t let him quit. This is not a business, they say, Nisshodo is a tradition. The plant in Kapalama, adjacent to Honolulu Community College, is an annual stop at Girl’s Day, Boy’s Day and New Year’s for celebratory mochi.
Mochi is made in three seasonal colors: white representing the snow of winter, red or pink for the flowers of spring, and green for the fresh abundance of summer.
If you’re buying them as gifts or omiyage, assortments start at $6 for a dozen pieces. Individual selections, including sakura (cherry blossom) mochi and kuri manju with chestnut filling, are 50 cents to 70 cents each. Kinako dango, dusted with toasted soy flour, is $5 a pound.
Probably most popular is Nisshodo’s individually wrapped chi chi dango, small pieces of unfilled mochi that are soft and dusted with katakuriko (potato starch). Like candy kisses, these tidbits are perfect for tucking into lunch boxes, snack trays and gift tins. Refrigerate them for a refreshing treat as well.
The Friendly Flavors Of Wahiawa
Wednesday - May 17, 2006
From left, Conhita Valera, Marceline Pesana and
Perla Alonzo help Elena Salvador celebrate her
birthday at Dong Yang Inn
Wahiawa is a special place. Two generations of my family have roots there and fond memories of life in pineapple suburbia. Wahiawa has been around for more than 100 years and is the oldest settled area in Central Oahu. The name means “noisy place,” referring to the rough seas said to be heard there at one time.
Wahiawa is a charming country town that’s folksy, self-contained and easy-going. Its hospitality is genuine and warm, exemplified by town ambassador Yuki Kitagawa. He met us to talk story about his neighborhood and the Wahiawa Pineapple Festival.
The annual festival - Saturday, May 20, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Wahiawa District Park - showcases the historic area that once represented a major slice of Hawaii’s pineapple industry. To celebrate that heritage, Wahiawa has an occasion that’s spirited and fun to the core.
Hometown heroes like chef Alan Wong return to recall memories of small-kid time. Wong attended Leilehua High School and worked summers in the pineapple fields. Earning $1.60 an hour, he recalls the hard, back-breaking work of being a picker in the Dole fields in Wahiawa.
Wong will be cooking this Saturday and sharing the feeding frenzy with Fred DeAngelo of Ola at Turtle Bay Resort, Elmer Guzman of the Poke Shop, and Randal Ishizu of JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa.
Other attractions at this year’s Pineapple Festival are:
* Pineapple creations from Leeward Community College culinary chef instructors and students.
* Free narrated trolley tours of the Wahiawa area.
* Free pineapple dipping station and chocolate fountain.
* Pineapple parade along California Avenue.
* Keiki “pineapple ohana” art contest
Chris Lum flips burgers at North Shore Cattle Co.
* Historic displays by Dole, Del Monte and agricultural organizations, including an old-fashioned pineapple cutting machine.
* Reunion of pineapple field and cannery workers.
* Book signings by Richard Dole and Betty Shimabukuro.
* Musical entertainment by local school and community groups.
* Pineapple flipping contest and geta races.
* Pineapple dessert contest. * Arts, crafts, and food booths.
You’ll also meet three Wahiawa food vendors. Sample their offerings at the Pineapple Festival or visit the actual restaurants.
Dong Yang Inn 546 Olive Ave.
Daily, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
We don’t know what Dong Yang means, but we do know that the Korean food here is great. Loyal patrons keep the place buzzing day and night, and the take-out counter seems like a community gathering place. Neighbors and friends exchange hellos while waiting for orders of meat juhn, kalbi ribs, barbecue chicken, and Korean delicacies.
Owner Yong Suk Potts started the restaurant in 1975 with American husband Henry Potts Jr. of Wahiawa and two sisters from Korea. Today, the family operation continues with the involvement of her eldest son, Henry III, and many relatives.
Recalling the restaurant’s inception, Potts said, “I don’t like open restaurant. I know restaurant is a hard job.” Thirty-one years later, it hasn’t gotten any easier, but every day is a labor of love to keep customers fed and satisfied. In addition to the restaurant, there is a thriving catering business for parties, weddings and other special occasions.
The Dot’s crew, from left, Iris Johnson, Erleen Galbiso,
Jim Harada, Becky Fukiwara and Joyce Esteban
Meat juhn ($5.75) with hot sauce is a best-seller. The “tender-inside, crispy-outside” marinated ribeye beef sits on a mound of white rice and salad. The generous serving could easily be two meals. Also popular is single-bone kalbi ($7), delicately seasoned short ribs grilled over kiawe charcoal.
Special dishes include Tok Kook ($7) or rice cake soup, combination Mandu-Kook Su noodles served hot or cold ($5), and Bibimbop with Egg ($5.75) or mixed rice with meat, vegetables and special sauce.
At the Pineapple Festival, look for Dong Yang’s combination plates, meat juhn, and fried mandu. You’ll be shouting, “Dong Yang! That sure is tasty.”
Dot’s Restaurant 130 Mango St.
Daily, 6:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. “Next best place to home,” brags its menu. This landmark restaurant in Wahiawa dates back to the mid-1930s, when it was the site of a roller skating rink. Eventually, it expanded to become a full-service restaurant, serving local residents, visitors, and military personnel from Schofield. The family owned enterprise today includes Marian’s Catering, which was started in the mid-‘60s at the site of Jameson’s By the Sea (formerly Haleiwa Sands).
Dot’s is known for its Japanese and American food, as well as broke-da-mouth house specialties. Proprietor James K. Harada raves about Sizzling Hamburger Steak ($9.75) that comes out of the kitchen smoking and sputtering with flavor. The eight-ounce homemade patty is topped with onions and gravy. He also recommends Large Shrimp Tempura ($10.95).
Steak and seafood, including Porterhouse Steak ($16.45) and Grilled Butterfish (market price), are popular choices. Other entrees (from $7.15) are local grinds such as beef stew, tripe stew, chicken katsu and a Special Plate of spareribs, teriyaki chicken and minute steak.
Look for Dot’s local plate lunches and combination platters at the Pineapple Festival.
North Shore Cattle Co.
At Dole Plantation Daily, lunch.
Located on the grounds of Dole Plantation is a hamburger and hot dog stand that beats any of those fast-food places. North Shore Cattle Company serves 100 percent Hawaii-grown, healthy beef that tastes great and is free of antibiotics and hormones. The company, co-founded by Calvin and Kay Lum, raises grass-fed
Angus cattle at its sprawling ranch above Haleiwa.
North Shore Cattle Company’s beef is dry-aged to enhance flavor and texture. The beef has a rich “beefy” flavor not normally found in grain-fed beef. The all-natural beef is featured at Alan Wong’s restaurants, Pizza Bob’s Haleiwa, Kona Brewing Co., Town, and Waimea Falls Grill.
Tourists making a stop at Dole Plantation can’t resist the aroma of beef cooking on the grill. At a canopied kiosk, Chris Lum is flipping burgers and cooking beef sausages for the hungry crowd. One-third pound ($4) or half-pound ($3) patties fill a soft bun, to which diners add a choice of condiments. One-fourth pound all-beef sausage ($4) or regular hot dogs ($3) are also available. Teri beef or teri chicken sandwiches ($4.50) are special orders.
Also found at the food stand are tropical fruits, such as papaya, mango, coconut and sugar cane. I particularly like the variety pack that has slices of each fruit and is a perfect car snack while touring the North Shore. There was something so genuinely friendly and symbolic of the tropical fruit combo. You can’t buy it at a grocery store. You’d only find it in the country.
Look for the North Shore Cattle Company at the Pineapple Festival, and taste its extraordinary beef. It’s as special as the place known as Wahiawa.
Honolulu’s Best Signature Dishes
Wednesday - February 15, 2006
Stephanie Brown serves a
Shack chicken salad
“Geez, I no see da Zigzag anymore. U pau, or wat?” a reader asks.
“Jus lazy,” I reply.
Welcome to the column that happens w’en evahs. This week we offer an honor roll of house specialties at our town’s hole-in-the-wall nooks and roadside eateries.
That’s what the Zigzag Guide is all about.
Jo McGarry gets all the fancy, full-service restaurants with charming maitre d’s and fine linen. I eat out of Styrofoam boxes.
But I digress ...
Shiro Matsuo lives up to his reputation as the ‘King of
Sigall is professor at Hawaii Pacific University who had his graduate-level students research more than 150 local companies.
They collected such fascinating stories, Small Business Hawaii decided to publish them.
The book is delightful reading about 450 of Hawaii’s best-known companies. Want to know why Lex Brodie says “thank you very much” or where the plate lunch came from and how macaroni salad came to be on it?
You’ll find out in this book.
My favorite section is titled “Signature Dish - Specialty of the House.”
Many of Hawaii’s restaurants are famous for a particular item, it states. How many of the following onolicious “bests” have you tasted? You can’t call yourself a true kamaaina unless you know the specialty item at these places.
Evelyn Valdez loves her
Sampling each of these classics A to Z should keep you busy for a while.
Aiea Manapua: pizza manapua
Barbecue Inn: pork chops
Big City Diner: kim chee fried rice
Boots & Kimo: macadamia pancakes
Byron’s Drive Inn: broasted chicken, shrimp burger
Café Laufer: chocolate banana Oreo cake
Char Hung Sut: manapua, mai tai soo
Isaac Waters with a big plate of kim chee fried
rice at Big City Diner in Kailua
Columbia Inn: oxtail soup
Da Big Kahuna: garlic cheese balls
Deb’s Ribs & Soul Food: barbecue ribs
Doug’s Gee a Deli: pastrami sandwich
Elena’s: adobo fried rice
Flamingo Restaurant: double-crusted banana pie
Grace’s Inn: chicken katsu
Gulick Delicatessen: butterfish
Helena’s Hawaiian Food: pipikaula short ribs, butterfish collars
Irifune: garlic ahi, breaded tofu, ahi boat
Kilani Bakery: brownies, banana pie
Kimuraya Bakery: cake doughnuts
Leonard’s Bakery: malasadas
Liliha Bakery: coco puffs
Matsumoto’s: shaved ice
McCully Chop Suey: kau yuk
Mitsuba Delicatessen: sweet potato crumbles
Mitsu-Ken: garlic chicken
Rainbow Drive-In: mushroom chicken, slush float, teri beef
Royal Kitchen: baked manapua
Ruger Market: poke, boiled peanuts
Shiro’s Saimin Heaven: won tun min
Sunnyside: chocolate cream pie
Ted’s Bakery: chocolate haupia pie
The Olive Tree: souvlaki
The Shack: Chinese chicken salad
Waimalu Chop Suey: gau gee
Windy’s: teri burger
Yama’s: lau lau
Young’s Fish Market: lau lau
Savas serves a fish souvlaki
at the Olive Tree
As for the origin of the plate lunch, the book says it started on the plantation.
Field workers needed a big lunch that wouldn’t spoil. Macaroni salad was first popularized around 1900 at Delmonico’s restaurant in New York and became a craze, according to the source.
Many Hawaii hotel chefs were trained in New York and brought it with them.
So, there you have it.
With this list of house specialties in hand, get out this week with friends and family to patronize these humble, yet iconic hole-in-the-wall places.
Try one place, then another. That’s right. Zigzag ‘round the town.
A Vegetarian Voyage Around Town
Wednesday - November 30, 2005
If you invited Richard Gere, Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz to lunch, where would you bring them? They’re all vegetarians.
There are tasty and meatless dishes on most menus these days, thanks to a healthier eating trend. But it’s likely that veggie dishes are the exception, rather than the rule.
Natural, all-vegetarian establishments are rare. They are still considered off-beat places that cater to hippies or strange cults.
Frankly, that’s a silly, outmoded notion. Vegan meals are delicious, creative, and really quite stylish these days. There are even vegan plate lunches to satisfy the local soul. For the newly initiated, think of it as spa cuisine - lean and clean.
According to the Vegetarian Society of Hawaii, vegans are healthy, ecological and compassionate. They have the lowest rate of atherosclerotic heart disease of any group in the U.S. Supposedly if acreage now being used for grazing cattle were growing trees or fiber plants to burn for energy, we would have no need to import foreign oil. (Are you listening, President Bush?) Vegans do not eat animal products and therefore, according to the Society, do not contribute to the suffering of animals raised for food.
Here are some venues for vegetarian meals:
Tandis Bishop, Down to Earth nutritionist,
marketing/community outreach assistant, serves
up a plate in the Moiliili deli
Down to Earth Natural Foods and Deli
Kailua at 201 Hamakua Drive, Pearlridge Center, Moiliili at 2525 S. King St. Daily 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The only all-vegetarian natural foods grocer in the country was started 28 years ago in Wailuku, Maui, by friends. They believed in “simple living and high thinking.” With three locations on Oahu, the store focuses on vegetarianism, healthy living, respect
for the environment and sustainable organic farming.
The array of fresh produce, natural foods and deli selections is amazing. Salad and hot food buffets are especially popular at $6.99 a pound. On the self-serve counters are 20 fresh vegetable items including avocado, tofu, beans, sprouts and choice of dressings such as papaya seed, tofu tahini and green goddess. Hot entrees might include meatless stroganoff, steamed choi sum, Hawaiian sweet potatoes and black bean chili.
The deli offers South of the Border specialties, sandwiches and natural wraps ($3.99-$5.99). Fresh Mex Burrito has black beans, brown rice, cheese, olives, green onions, and lettuce and enchilada sauce on whole wheat tortilla. The Reuben has vegetarian salami, Swiss cheese, sesame seeds, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, stone-ground mustard and vegenaise on rye. Or try an Indonesian wrap of marinated tofu, mung sprouts, peanut sauce, carrots, and cilantro on whole wheat tortilla.
Yu Lee offers dim sum at Legends
Vegetarian Buddhist Restaurant
Legends Vegetarian Restaurant
Chinese Cultural Center, 100 N. Beretania St. Lunch 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Closed Wednesdays.
Tucked into Chinatown, this is one of the few completely meatless and vegan restaurants in Honolulu. An extensive menu of 70 dishes and a dozen different dim sum daily make this a haven for the hungry lunch crowd. Supposedly, the owner of Legend Seafood Restaurant next door built this restaurant for his mother, who is a Buddhist and vegetarian.
Mock meat dishes ($8-$10) include deep-fried gluten shrimp in mashed taro, braised vegetarian butterfish, and stir-fried eggplant with oyster mushrooms. Great textures and fresh ingredients are keys to Legend’s delicious dishes. Dim sum choices (from $2.50) are vegetarian bao, vegetarian pork hash, stuffed look funn noodle, stuffed bean curd and stuffed mochi rice wrapped in lotus leaves.
Ono Pono caters to UH vegetarians on campus
UH-Manoa, Kuykendall Courtyard. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Ono Pono’s lunchwagon is part of UH’s Sustainability Courtyard, dedicated to earth-friendly principles and practices. Delicious vegetarian meals are made with organic, locally grown produce.
Menu changes daily, but favorites are coconut curry tofu, wild rice and walnut loaf, and red miso hummus with eggplant sumac ($4-$6.50). Maui taro burger, Mediterranean and Mexican whole wheat wraps, and potato-broccoli chowder also get high marks. Smoothies are a special treat, including soy, chocolate, peanut. Organic drinks - soda, juices, coffee - also are available.
There’s always a line for Govinda’s Vegetarian
Cuisine on the UH campus
UH-Manoa, Kuykendall Courtyard. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Also located at UH’s Sustainability Courtyard is Govinda’s, serving two different entrees daily, such as sweet-sour mixed veggie medley and broccoli-carrot-tomato in lightly spiced cream sauce ($4-$6.75). Servings include entrée, brown rice, salad and dessert.
Popular a la carte items are Samosas ($2) a vegan turnover that’s baked or fried, and avocado-cheese sandwich ($3.75). Samosas is a common Indian street food that is enjoyed plain or with chutney. A Govinda cookie (75 cents) is a crispy, delightful treat to go with your meal.
Todd Brown prepares a zen macrobiotic plate
at Well Bento
The Well Bento
2570 S. Beretania St. #204. Daily, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Husband-wife team Todd and Kristine Brown operate Well Bento, a “macro-biotic fusion” eatery. Three vegetarian plates are offered. Best-seller is Zen Macrobiotic ($6.95), their healthiest offering with boiled root vegetables including kabocha, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, onions, daikon, beans and hijiki (seaweed).
Tempeh Scallopini ($7.95) is sautéed with mushrooms in a white wine and lemon sauce. Tempeh is fermented cooked soybeans that has been a favorite food and staple source of protein in Indonesia for several hundred years. Grilled tofu, seitan or tempeh ($7.50) can be prepared Louisiana style in homemade cajun seasonings, western barbecue with maple barbecue sauce, or with temari teriyaki sauce.
Aunty Debbie McGuire serves Mohammed Ralph
with a smile at Andy’s
2904 East Manoa Road, Daily, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Closed Saturday.
This is a favorite of MidWeek senior photographer Nathalie Walker. We can see why she drives over the Pali to Manoa for a meal here. Andy Rodrigues’ sandwiches, smoothies and Sunday breakfasts are terrific.
A popular choice is the Manoa Delite ($5.85) sandwich that layers avocado with mushroom, tomato, melted cheese and papaya seeding dressing on homemade whole-wheat bread. The Eggplant Melt ($5.85) offers slices of baked eggplant, mushrooms, tomato and cheese. Green Chili Melt ($4.25) combines a soy patty with green chili, tomato and cheese. Top it off with one of 20 freshly made smoothies, like guava-banana-strawberry-papaya ($3.95).
Next time I’m there for Sunday breakfast (very popular), I’m ordering blueberry wheat pancakes ($3.99). I saw several orders of these fluffy pancakes come out of Andy’s kitchen, and they looked outstanding. The empty plates going back to the kitchen confirmed they are. Andy makes great veggie omelets, too.
Cruising For Meals On Wheels
Wednesday - November 09, 2005
The city knows who’s important at
Wherever you find surfers, construction workers or hungry office workers, you’ll find lunch wagons. These are meals on wheels at a great price. No frills, no fuss. One simply walks up, checks out the menu board, and carries away Hawaii’s state meal, da plate lunch.
The concept originated in the plantation days when trucks would bring boxed meals (bento) to the field workers. Lunch wagons flourished during World War II as dockyard and military workers grew weary of institutional food. My brother Gary Kang remembers the days of paper plate lunches at 50 cents.
Tradition is deeply rooted in our Island lifestyle. The lunch wagon is a dining icon that remains long after trendy bistros and sophisticated restaurants have come and gone. Quick service out of the side panel of a truck, friendly patter of the proprietor, contentment from a local-style meal ... these ingredients never change.
Warren Dabalos of New Eagle’s lunch wagon
hands a mahi/ribs mixed plate to Mario
However, other changes are taking place, we found out on a recent tour of wagons. Fancier fare is being offered along with carbo-loaded favorites for which lunch wagons are known. Dash the thought of beef-stew-and-rice and hamburger-and-gravy meals. Today you can get prime rib, steamed mullet, teppanyaki steak, and even lobster tail at a lunch wagon. Would I kid you at lunchtime?
Here’s a roundup of lunch wagons in our town.
Operating hours are generally 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (or when the food runs out). Let us know where your favorite is - there are 571 permitted lunch wagons on Oahu.
Serge Canesco hands a mini stew to Victoria P.
Lum at Nicky’s
Lucky’s Island Plate & Shrimp
Pensacola and Hopaka streets
Loveal Sing’s claim to fame is that she was on the KHON 2 Morning News with Manolo Morales. A little media exposure put her lunch wagon on the map, which is a good thing because it’s not easy to find - but worth seeking out. Lucky’s is parked on the side of the Auto Audio shop, behind the Blackfield Building and a half-block diamondhead of McKinley Car Wash. Plate lunches range from $5.50 for stuff like Sweet Thai Chili Chicken, up to $11 for Salmon & Steak. The Surf & Turf Bento is a best-seller ($6) with tempura, garlic shrimp, fried chicken, steak, Spam on furikake rice.
Pu‘uwainani does a brisk lunch business
New Eagle Café Queen Street, near Ward Avenue
This lunch wagon is wedged between a pink building and a fence. It looks like an abandoned vehicle or a major parking goof. But the hilarity ends there, because there’s seriously good food here. Taking orders from the back door of the white truck, Creighton Wong and Susie Nakashima offer delicious meals prepared by New Eagle Café on Nimitz Highway. Amazing choices listed on the menu board include Mongolian Beef, Ahi Poke, Short Ribs & Shrimp, Prime Rib, and even escargot. Pot Roast Pork, Teriyaki Meat Balls, Lasagna, and Garlic Chicken are available too. If they’re not, it’s because you’re there too late. Regular: $4.50, mixed (two choices) and daily specials $5.
Nathaniel Hasegawa picks up some meat jun
plates served by Martha Botelho Simply Ono
Nicky’s Mililani and King streets Downtowners know about the two lunch wagons on Mililani Street, near the Kamehameha statue. This one’s on the mauka corner in a faded blue truck, or is that pale white? Sergio Caneso helps you and chats while you decide on Garlic Chicken, Lamb Curry, Pork Gisantes, Kim Chee Fried Rice with Shoyu Chicken, Beef Tomato, or Grilled Ahi. Menu changes daily. Sandwich and soda at $2.75 is a best-buy. Regular plate: $5, mixed plate: $5, mini: $4, bowl meal: $3.
Pu’uwainani Halekauwila and South streets
Kevin Ahakuelo is ready to take your order at
OK, my secret’s out. This is a “find” I was keeping to myself and my frequent-diner card. But now I’ll reveal this treasure operated by Marcos and Lendy Rebisis. French cuisine-trained chef Rebisis bought an old Al Phillips the Cleaner truck three years ago and converted it to a lunch wagon. Garlic Ahi with sweet wasabi sauce, Furikake Mahi in wasabi tartar sauce, Fried Ahi Poke, Misoyaki Butterfish, and Crab Stuffed Salmon with white wine sauce defy typical lunch wagon fare. Priced $5-$6.75, it’s ono haute cuisine on Styrofoam, sans snobby maitre d’. C’est tres bon, with two scoops of aloha.
Simply Ono Kewalo Basin and Behind Honolulu Municipal Building
Doris Nabarro serves Gaylord Mook at the
Tsukenjo lunch wagon - The’Queen of Lunch
Voted best lunch wagon on several occasions, it’s hard to ignore an operation that offers Beef Wellington, Rack of Lamb, and Steamed Mullet-Chinese Style. Co-owners Cora Stevens and Harris Sugita left the formal kitchen of Kahala Hilton 10 years ago to pursue a dream of serving gourmet kau-kau out of a lunch wagon. You’ll find Simply Ono at the Diamond Head end of Kewalo Basin and behind the Honolulu Municipal Building, corner of King and Alapai Streets. Menu changes daily, but selections (from $4.75) could include Herb Roasted Chicken, Fishcake Patties with ponzu sauce, Okinawa Pork, fresh catch of the day, and home-style Baked Spaghetti. Winnah mixed plate at Kewalo Basin ($6) has hamburger steak, chicken, hot dog, and spaghetti.
Tae’s Teppanyaki Daiei-Kaheka Street Kalani grad Kevin Ahakuelo was Restaurant Suntory’s chief teppanyaki chef at one time. Today, he prefers to “turn and burn” on the grill in a lunch wagon parked behind the Pan Am Building. There’s a steady stream of patrons who savor his unique Ribeye Steak Rolls. For $5.50, there’s a choice of freshly grilled steak done one of five ways: Wasabi, Garlic, Spicy, Teri or Salt-and-Pepper. Each comes with white rice, ponzu sauce, romaine lettuce and steak wrapped around julienne potatoes. Wasabi steak gets my vote for best plate lunch presentation in town.
Lou Aquino picks up beef stew and teri chicken
from Tommy and Daniel Kwon at Tommy’s
Tommy’s Mililani and Queen streets This is the second lunch wagon parked behind the downtown Post Office and Court House Building. In businesslike efficiency, patrons line up to declare choice of entrée, portion, beverage; pay and leave. Sort of like the Soup Nazi in Seinfeld. But it works beautifully, and the food’s really good. Try Teri Chicken, Meat Loaf, Roast Pork, Pork Adobo or Tripe Stew with requisite rice-andmac-salad. Regular plate: $4.50, mini: $3.50; and mixed (two choices): $5.50. Don’t dally, or you’ll be trampled.
Queen Street and Ward Avenue
Drum roll. Now, for the undisputed Queen of Lunch Wagons. The familiar red truck with white trim is a landmark in Kakaako, parked at the corner of Ward Avenue and Queen Street. Tsukenjo Lunch House was started 46 years ago by Tetsu and Mitsuko Tsukenjo. Today, daughter Doris Nabarro runs the Cooke Street diner and its popular lunch wagon. Roast Pork is the perennial favorite, but there are other fine choices (all under $6) such as Hawaiian Plate, Corned Beef Hash with Chow Fun, Curry Stew and Swiss Steak. Same rotating menu at the Lunch House is offered at the wagon. Check out the autographed picture of Teddy Randazzo at the wagon. Sigh.
Island-kine Grinds In Las Vegas
Wednesday - September 28, 2005
Matthew Pichay prepares char siu bao,
‘Hawaiian hot pockets,’ at ‘Ale’as Manapua
LAS VEGAS - “Welcome to the ninth Hawaiian Island,” the voice says as my flight arrives at McCarran Airport. “Over to the left you’ll see our state Capitol, the California Hotel.”
The planeload of Islanders chuckle and scurry out of the aisles to their favorite getaway, where “what happens here stays here.” We’re not so secretive because we’re here on a mission. We’re on the prowl for local kine grinds in Sin City. Buddy, can you share a Spam musubi?
Las Vegas observes its 100th birthday this year, and it’s a good time to thank it for the memories. The desert-turned-megatropolis is a tourism phenomenon for essentially transforming sand into an adult playground with every distraction known to man. It’s a living tribute man’s creativity and craziness.
Explorer John C. Fremont put Las Vegas on the map in 1844. He directed pioneers to oasis-like Las Vegas Valley as an important stop to the golden West. Las Vegas means “the meadows” in Spanish.
Aloha Kitchen patrons Lance Rivas from Aiea
(right) and Nevada Beverage Co. co-worker Dan Isaacs
Nevada was the first state to legalize casino-style gambling. Capitalizing on the opportunity, a building boom took place in the late1940s including construction of several hotel-casinos fronting a two-lane highway into Las Vegas from Los Angeles. The most celebrated of the early resorts was the Flamingo Hotel built by mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel.
Today, gambling is a sideshow to the vibrant kaleidoscope of attractions and entertainment that spell f-u-n and p-a-r-t-y ‘round the clock. The 1.9 million population - and growing daily - is comprised of 80,000 ex-pats who bring their aloha spirit and cosmopolitan tastes to the ninth Hawaiian island. Three-hundred thousand of us fly there annually.
Nothing counters homesickness like home cooking. In Vegas, ono kau-kau is just around the corner, and you can get everything from manapua to chicken katsu plate lunch with two-scoop rice and mac salad.
With saimin and mixed plates at Aloha Specialties are
(from left) David Gois, Jessica Thomlinson, Joji Corpuz
and boss ‘Mr. Hawaii’ Larry Yamagata
Join our Zigzag trek to roadside eateries in Vegas:
`Ale`as Manapua 3650 E. Flamingo Road “Da Hawaiian hot pocket” a sign advertises outside this shop. Inside, former Pearl City resident Matthew Pichay makes manapua while his mother Marilynn Gonzalez of Waipahu tends to customers.
Steamed barbecued pork and teriyaki chicken buns ($1.25) as well as pork hash (65 cents) are favorites here. Buy two dozen manapua, and you get a dozen pork hash free. Mini ($3.95) or massive ($4.95) meals also are popular, including homemade chili-franks, kalua pig, Borinque Chicken in Puerto Rican marinade, and mixed plate. Sweet treats are custard pie; Bula Boy tart of guava, mango and custard filling; Goodie Goodie ice cream and empanadas (beef and Portuguese sausage turnovers).
`Ale`as is between Pecos and Sandhill roads, a few minutes from Roy’s Hawaiian fusion cuisine restaurant. Here today, Pichay says he plans his next manapua venture on Maui.
Aloha Kitchen crew (from left) Joseph Hataishi,
Charmaine Reyes, MaryJo Nakao and Grant Arakagi
Aloha Kitchen 4745 S. Maryland Parkway There are three Aloha Kitchens in Las Vegas. The one at Maryland Parkway caters to local neighbors and students attending UNLV. Its bird of paradise logo beckons diners who enjoy meals reminiscent of Zippy’s, L&L, and Rainbow Drive In back home.
A Banzai Pipeline surf scene dominates the dining room, as patrons enjoy combination plates, bowl meals and daily specials. Adobo fried rice omlette ($6.49), beef stew ($6.49), and pork laulau ($6.99) are among the choices. Local Plate ($6.99) offers teriyaki chicken, beef and two Spam musubi. A student special ($3.99) is a delicious teriyaki chicken bowl meal with soda.
Lumpia Shanghai ($2.49) is an appetizer favorite. Mini egg rolls are filled ground pork, chopped onions and carrots, served with sweet chili sauce. Forget potato chips and popcorn for Monday Night Football. Score with Aloha Kitchen lumpia.
Michele Teanro prepares taro leaves for
‘bes kine’ laulau at Hawaiian Hale
Aloha Specialties California Hotel, 12 E. Ogden Ave.
Larry Yamagata is “Mr. Hawaii” in Las Vegas. Island entrepreneurs regard Yamagata as the trail blazer of island-kine eateries in Vegas. He started Aloha Specialties at the California Hotel in 1985 after retiring as executive chef with Sheraton in Hawaii. But true retirement was not in the cards for Yamagata, who celebrates 20 years of feeding hungry gamblers and nightlife patrons in downtown Las Vegas.
A steaming bowl of saimin, Spam musubi, and ono plate lunches are standard fare at Aloha Specialties. The Farrington High School grad says 300 bowls of saimin are prepared daily, and 3,500 pieces of Spam musubi are sold weekly.
Regular patron Kay Miyano with Island Style
restaurateurs Gina and Dave Heo
Things have not changed much over the two decades, Yamagata says. “We still have coffee for 50 cents, and our plate-lunch prices hardly change.” Try the tripe stew ($6.85) or chicken tofu saimin ($4.75) for a special treat.
Diamond Head Teriyaki Grill 4440 S. Maryland Parkway Directly across from the UNLV campus is a favorite Islander gathering spot and take-out place. Diamond Head Teriyaki Grill was started by former Oahuan Clifford Uyehara, who has ties to the old Liberty Grill and C&G Luncheon operations in downtown Honolulu. This location also has the first and only organic kava bar in Vegas.
A perennial favorite here is the Aloha Bowl ($4.66) filled with teriyaki chicken, fried rice, macaroni salad, and served with a 12-ounce drink. Other bowl meals (from $2.50) include hamburger steak, chicken curry and mahi-mahi.
Saimin ($3.50) goes well with a side order ($1.50) of teriyaki chicken, beef, or chicken katsu. You’ll also find oxtail soup ($7.50) and fried saimin ($4.50). If you can see Diamond Head, call us.
Hawaiian Hale 2439 S. Valley View Blvd. On the day we visited, proprietors John and Michele Teanro were preparing luau leaves for laulau. A weekly shipment from Kauai makes their delicious, juicy laulau among the best you’ll find in Vegas.
Pork and chicken laulau tops the Kanaka Specials (from $6.75) that includes chopped steak plate, loco moco, and a Hawaiian Luau ($17.50) of kalua pig, laulau, lomi salmon, poke, and chicken long rice. An extensive eat-in or take-out menu is featured with Oriental selections, “Manong Preference” such as pork adobo, and “Haole Favorites” such as grilled pork chop.
Proprietor Clifford Uyehara offers ono grinds
at Diamond Head Teriyaki Grill
Familiar fare offers Hale Min like Zippy’s zipmin and veal cutlet like Diners. Ahi, mahi and poke are available and market-priced. But don’t expect food displayed on a counter (okazuya style). Nevada law prohibits this, and all meals are cooked or prepared to order. Next door to Hawaiian Hale is Hawaii Store, a retail shop with hula gear, fresh lei, and souvenirs.
Island Style 3909 W. Sahara Ask former islanders Derek and Kay Miyano where to find local grinds, and they turn immediately to Island Style restaurant on Sahara
Avenue, not far from their Century 21 real estate office. Local delicacies and Korean specialties attract kamaaina here like a magnet.
Owners Gina and David Heo tend to hungry appetites, offering delicious kal bi short ribs, Korean cold noodles, and homemade kim chee and mandoo. Kay salivates at the thought of their tofu soup, and I discovered an outstanding hot rock bi bim bop with charred rice, minced meat, and vegetables.
Masters of chicken katsu at L&L Mission Center
(from left) Kenny Weng, Yong Guo,
Hua He and Yan Ling
Island-style meals are reasonably priced (starting at $5.75) with generous servings. Try the combination plate for variety, and Spam foo young for kicks. Korean patrons eat here, so you know the Korean food is excellent. But pidgin is also heard in these parts.
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue 4030 S. Maryland Parkway
There are five L&L locations in Vegas, and probably more on its way if Eddie Flores has anything to do with it. Hawaiian barbecue is sweeping the Mainland fast food fanciers. This franchise at Mission Center on Maryland Parkway is a typical L&L, with familiar menu and cheerful island-kine ambiance.
Its award-winning menu offers plate lunches and Asian fare such as saimin and kim chee. Naturally, chicken katsu is king and you can get it a la carte, in a combination plate with beef or short ribs, and Atkins style with no starches.
Everything comes with white rice, of course. But we were amused at the special promotion when we dropped in. It was “French Fries” week. Wat dat?
For a comprehensive list of Las Vegas restaurants with local-style food, go to http://www.alohavalley.com
Foraging A Few Farmers’ Markets
Wednesday - June 03, 2005
Kanoe Burgess of Ma‘o Organic Farms shows
Dawn Staszkow and Rebecca Woodland
the farm’s mescalun salad mix at the Farmers’
Market at Kapiolani Community College
Gourmet magazine puts it well: “An adventurous traveler hungry for local flavor and passionate about authentic tastes would never limit his eating to upscale restaurants. When you want to eat like the locals you have to hit the streets.”
Street food is my beat. Da Zigzag Guide explores roadside eateries, food stalls and hole-in-the-wall nooks in neighborhoods. It’s an adventure I wouldn’t trade for all the champagne and caviar in Kahala.
This week, we visit three farmers markets where locals mingle and shop for homemade goodies and Island delicacies. Ingredients are fresh from a farm or straight out of someone’s kitchen, where the personal touch is a key ingredient.
These food bazaars are presented weekly by the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation. It is a true gathering of farmers who truck in fresh produce from all over the island, including specialty items not normally found in supermarkets. So get your market sacks, and let’s go grazing.
Christine Yano, Richard Law, Shannon Funatsu
and Rick Wong try some fried green tomatoes
at the KCC farmers’ market
Farmers’ Market at Kapiolani Community College
Saturdays, 7:30 to 11 a.m. 4303 Diamond Head Road
Neighbors meet neighbors at this Saturday morning “happening” in the shadow of Diamond Head Crater. The event, co-sponsored by KCC’s Culinary Institute, brings farmers, chefs and foodies together in a casual, park atmosphere. Parents arrive with kids in strollers. Pet owners bring their dogs. Gourmands are on a safari for exclusive food items.
It’s a great time to “talk story” with farmers, such as Dean Okimoto of Nalo Farms, and David Chinen, who grows Kahuku papayas. Or, you might confer with Rhea McWilliams of the Hawaii Beekeepers Association about freshly harvested honey. Ed Miyashita of Growing Creations can tell you about potting herbs.
Get a “Tip Sheet” that lists vendors at the event, or from the Internet at www.hfbf.org. More than two dozen vendors display and sell products each week.
Select from a wide variety of seasonal fruits, vegetables, flowers, beef, aquacultured seafood, fresh baked breads, homemade pastas, tropical jams and jellies, unique snack foods, honey, specialty seasonings and more.
Breakfast is a special treat here. Guest chefs from Hawaii’s finest restaurants are up at the crack of dawn to feed you. Fred DeAngelo of Olino Events was there last week, and Will Henry of Aqua Café cooked the week before. Chef Henry wowed the crowd with haupia-stuffed French toast.
While music from a guitarist or flautist fills the air, one wanders from stall to stall, finding tasty gems along the way. There’s mochi shortbread from Keith’s Cookies, teriyaki ahi from Ohana Seafoods, Kapolei sweet honeydew melon and Thai watermelon from Aloun Farms, and Italian breads and homemade sauces from C&C Pasta.
Specialty produce from the Neighbor Islands is found there too. Wailea Agricultural offers durian, pulusan and other tropical fruits from the Big Island. Hydroponic tomatoes from Kawamata Farms are always popular, as are Kula strawberries.
Bring your appetite to Saturday’s Farmer Market. But leave your credit cards at home. All purchases are cashonly.
Business is brisk at the Mililani Farmers’ Market
for Johnny and Kristie Sanidad of Green Corp.
first in line is JoAnn Takahashi
Mililani Farmers’ Market
Saturdays, 2-4 p.m. Mililani High School parking lot.
For Central Oahu residents, this is an afternoon delight. Presented by the Farm Bureau and Mililani High School, the Mililani Farmers’ Market is a popular gathering place for Central and Leeward Oahu residents.
North Shore and neighboring businesses bring their wares to market, and the event takes on a regional flavor. North Shore Cattle Co., for instance, grills burgers and sausages on site. It also sells frozen cuts of hormone-free, grass-fed beef.
Souk Hoang from Souane Farms arranges
pineapples and melons at the Kailua Farmers’
Country Comfort Catering offers Hawaii Island goat cheese, lumpia and beignets. Hawaii’s Homemade Taste brings sweet delights, such as cranberry macadamia nut cookies. Then, there’s broke-da-mouth Hawaiian Style Chili. Or, combine Hauula tomatoes with Dean’s Greens from Nalo Farms for a great salad. Mililani High School
Future Farmers of America sells fresh produce from its campus farm.
Dayne Rego of
Hawaiian Style Chili Co.
fries up some garlic
shrimp at the Mililani
Kailua Farmers’ Market
Thursdays, 5 to 7:30 p.m. 609 Kailua Road, behind Longs.
Windward residents stop by the Kailua Farmers’ Market on Thursday to pick up dinner. Tasty treats are sure to be on the menu when guest chefs do the cooking.
Recently, it was Ryan Lum of the North Shore Cattle Co., who grilled teriyaki steak. Or it could be Southern-style barbecue ribs from Deb’s Ribs & Soul Food. C&C Pasta always has a line of patrons, waiting for fresh pasta with choice of sauces. Pastry chef Joslyn Benn of The Sweet Stop tops off a meal with haupia cream puffs and Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate petit fours.
Kimberly Clark and Gabrielle Welford
get their Just Add Water stand ready for
business at the Kailua Farmers’ Market
At the Xian booth, you find spicy salsa, Da Boy’s butter mochi, flourless oatmeal and pina colada cookies, as well as sugar ’n’ spice pecans. Rainbow Farm has creamy Kona avocado, sweet Sunrise and Rainbow papayas, Manoa lettuce, and Waialua red potatoes. Maunawili Greens sells hydroponically grown red leaf and butter lettuce.
Other made-in-Hawaii products are available, including potted plants, preserves and even doggie biscuits. Bring the family for a fun outing and informal dining on the street. There’s something about dining in an open-air atmosphere, amid the chatter and clatter of hawking vendors and people encountering one another.
Island life is truly ono.
A Stroll On Fort Street Mall
Wednesday - April 29, 2005
Ono grinds are found where there are office ladies in line and students milling around. We found such a gathering place Downtown at the corner of Fort Street Mall and Pauahi Street. Some refer to this location as Upper Fort Street Mall, adjacent to the brown exterior Frear Center Building. No need to scurry around. Sidewalk cafes are all in a row.
From sushi to sandwiches, there’s convivial dining on mall benches and umbrella tables. Many opt for take-out to the office or to a nearby park, like Iolani Palace. Food’s the way you want it at lunch break — fast, cheap and portable. Operating hours vary, but generally these vendors are open Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Here’s what’s cooking at this nifty, thrifty kau-kau corner:
2-Go BarBQ cook Young Ae Hwang
specializes in Korean food
2-Go Bar BQ
1138 Fort Street Mall
Korean food is the specialty at this corner spot with a cool, inviting setting. There are tables for indoor dining, although more people are hovered at the glass-covered okazuya where one can select items for takeout. It’s perfect for a what-you-seeis- what-you-get meal for indecisive types.
Barbecue short ribs, chicken, and beef are popular, along with meat, fish or oyster jhun. Shrimp tempura, shoyu chicken and fried mandoo also are tasty treats. Assorted Korean and Japanese vegetables complement entrée choices. There are mini (from $4.75) and regular plate lunches (from $5.75), along with 10 hot soup dishes (from $3.75) including mandoo kook soo (noodles and dumplings) and yook gae jang (beef vegetable). Best value is 2-Go Special ($7.75) heaped with barbecue short ribs, chicken, beef, meat jhun, fried mandoo, four vegetables and two scoops rice.
Thelma Yadao cooks up fried squid with a
smile at Rada’s Piroscki
1146 Fort Street Mall
This downtown landmark is perhaps the only place where one finds the delicacy known as piroscki (peh-RAWSH-kee). These Polish meat turnovers predate Hot Pockets. Forget those frozen dough things for a while and try these fantastic, deep fried dumplings.
Three types of piroscki are offered: beef-cheese-cabbage, beef-mushroom, and chickencheese- mushroom ($1.60 each). It reminds me of a savory meat-stuffed malasada. Yummy. Lunch specials ($3.75) offer combos such as tossed salad, fried squid, and piroscki. Wanna take mini piroscki home for pupu? You can buy a dozen for $7. Fried squid is $1.40 per order.
David Fritti and Alexia Detoisien enjoy plates of chicken
Thai curry and barbecue chicken at Fort Street Cafe
Fort Street Café
1154 Fort Street Mall
OK, you fried rice connoisseurs, here’s a gem. Fort Street Café has the critics’-choice “best fried rice in town.” Chinese rice is flavorfully enhanced with bits of shrimp, egg, green onion, Spam and a special Asian sauce that gives it a hint of sweetness. Kick it up a notch with some Sriracha hot sauce. It’s a meal in itself at $5.25 per plate.
There are plenty of other choices at this busy food stand offering Vietnamese and Thai cuisine. Daily specials (from $5.25) can be green curry, stir fried eggplant and tofu, Thai sweet and sour hot wings, or oxtail soup. Of course, there’s Vietnamese “pho” with its fragrant broth made from fresh marrow bones and brisket flanks that are simmered overnight. Noodle dishes (from $5.25) are served with fresh mint, bean sprouts, shredded lettuce and cucumbers and garnished with crushed roasted peanuts, onion flakes and parsley.
Popular plate lunches (from $4.25) are barbecue boneless chicken or pork with spring rolls, spicy lemon grass chicken, and Pad Thai with shrimp, chicken or pork.
Bale Sandwich proprietor The Nguyen
prepares a fresh French bread sandwich
1154 Fort Street Mall
This is a franchise of the popular Bale French Sandwich & Bakery chain. Its warm and toasty sandwiches on French bread or croissant are distinctive and delicious. They call these bahn mi or Vietnamese sandwiches.
Meats such as steamed pork, barbecue pork or meatball are placed in a freshly baked baguette with crispy, crumbly crust. Crunchy julienne vegetables such as pickled daikon and carrots are added to make a tasty treat. Deli meats such as smoked turkey, pastrami and roast beef also are available. The lemongrass chicken sandwich ($3.50) is a winner, as is the special sandwich ($4) of ham, pate, cheese and steamed pork.
Deep-fried vegetable, meat and fruit (banana) rolls are available from the take-out counter, as well as sweet treats such as sweet potato or taro tapioca pudding ($1.25).
HPU student Porter Macpherson enjoys his daily sushi
while manager Kumson Kim takes care of business at Korean Sushi
1154 Fort Street Mall
This is a hole-in-the-wall store in the lobby of historic Blaisdell Hotel. It offers freshly made sushi and bento that are perfect as a mini meal or snack. Good choices are Korean sushi ($3 for 10 pieces), shrimp tempura sushi ($1.75 each), and spicy ahi bento ($2.75-$4.25).
Korean sushi is different from Japanese sushi. Korean sushi doesn’t have raw fillings, besides the raw vegetables. The rice is seasoned with a little sesame oil and salt. Fillings are thin slices of marinated beef, spinach, egg and carrots. All are wrapped in nori (seaweed).
Owner Young Yoo personally rolls each sushi, welcomes customers, handles orders and transacts sales. Don’t you love it when there’s a staff of one — the proprietor?
Bon Bon manager Mandy Tong offers aromatic
coffee drinks and fresh pastries
Bon Bon Café
1154 Fort Street Mall
Next door is Bon Bon Café, a coffee and pastry stand in the lobby of the Blaisdell Hotel building. A Starbucks it is not, but aromatic coffees and mocha brews attract a steady stream of customers. House coffee is made from 100 percent Molokai, Kauai or Kona coffee beans.
Coffee drinks (from 96 cents to $4.50) include espresso, latte, cappuccino and mocha variations. Chai latte, Tazo tea, Italian soda, spiced cocoa and Tropicolada also are available. They go well with a sweet roll, bagel or bun from the pastry counter.
Once here, you won’t be able to ignore the main attraction in this building. It’s the original birdcage-style elevator that serves the four floors of the Blaisdell Hotel Building, now occupied by Hawaii Pacific University facilities. The ornate, fleur-de-lis accented elevator with marble tile flooring is the only one of its kind in the Islands. It requires an operator who pushes the brass handle that lifts and lowers the elevator. Three sides of the elevator are wrapped in wrought iron so you can see the floors pass by.
Yes, the elevator still works, but there are specific hours of operation six days a week. No operator, no operation. In today’s modern world of push-button technology, this is a pause that refreshes.
P.S. Local Express at 1148 Fort Street Mall, offering local plate lunches, will undergo renovations and menu revamping. The owner says the new format is “secret” until May reopening.
Sampling Readers’ Choice Eateries
Wednesday - March 18, 2005
The really gratifying part of this assignment is not sampling food, as ono as that is. It’s getting comments from readers about their favorite eateries. Talking story about food is a form of friendliness in the Islands. It’s instant rapport.
I was at the dentist the other day. I was nervous, knowing a major procedure was about to take place. Dr. Darin Iha entered the room, and I quivered with fear. I grabbed the arm rests on the dental chair, braced myself and grimaced. Slowly I parted my lips to open my mouth. Dr. Iha adjusted a mask over his face, pulled on protective gloves, and leaned over to me.
“Read your article about Korean food,” he said.
A man after my own heart, I sighed. Life is good.
Well, the agony is over, and soon I’ll be chewing vigorously again. But it reminds me that I’m not alone in the quest for good places to eat. Readers discover new places to eat all the time. It’s time that we share your feedback.
(Feedback. Get it? Nevah mind.) Here are Readers Choice entries for your hole-in-the-wall dining directory. Keep those cards and letters coming.
Tapioca Express co-owner Mark Fujiawa displays
some customer favorites
1726 Kapiolani Blvd., across from
Tracy Morita wrote: “I relocated from Los Angeles and just found out that they opened Tapioca Express in Hawaii. This is the most famous boba (tapioca drink) shop on the Mainland. I found this spot very warm and comfortable to go eat and kinda just relax. They have a good variety of food and over 100 different drinks to choose from.”
Tapioca drinks combine tea, milk, juice or coffee with small marbles of tapioca. Known locally as bubble tea or pearl drinks, it originated in Tai-Chung city, Taiwan, around 1981 and spread across Asia. In the late ’90s, it traveled to North America and became a trendy beverage on the West and East coasts.
Tapioca Express is the ultimate creator of these drinks, offering every flavor imaginable and even a choice of tapioca pearls. There’s regular tapioca, white tapioca, coconut jelly, red bean, and egg pudding. Chewy, gelatinous pearls burst with delightful flavor to enhance cool drinks.
Try grapefruit green tea, honeydew milk, Brazilian coffee snow bubble, or starfruit tea. Or, how about Earl Grey milk tea, icy taro drink, or caramel macchiato coffee?
Food choices include local plates ($5.75) like crispy chicken and hamburger steak with onions, Philly cheesesteak sandwich ($4.99), and Nathan’s hot dog ($2.50).
Daniel Kwon cooks up a shrimp
stir-fry at Tommy’s Coffee Shop
Tommy’s Coffee Shop
1010 S. King St.
It might be a well-kept secret because of its hidden location. But local plate fans Albert and Meredith Ching told us where to find this gem. It’s across from Thomas Square, in the basement of the Medical Arts building. Yummy and inexpensive plate lunches are the daily fare, along with popular specials.
Mini ($3.50) or regular plates (from $4.25) include teri-beef and chicken combo, butterfish with grilled veggies, and barbecue squid. Specials include stews, corned beef and cabbage, pork adobo and roast turkey. Can’t decide between two entrees? Ask for a mixed plate ($5.50) of two choices. Natch, you’ll also get rice and mac or tossed salad.
Since Tommy’s is open early — 6 a.m. on weekdays, 6:30 a.m. on Saturday — there are breakfast items as well. Choice of breakfast meat, two eggs any style and rice or toast ($3.45) starts the morning off well. Loco moco ($2.50) is a bargain for a scoop of rice, a hamburger patty, an egg, and of course, brown gravy.
Sandwiches (from $1.50), ramen (from $4.25) and Korean delicacies such as bi bim bap ($4.50) and mandoo soup ($4.50) round out the take-out menu.
If you don’t make it to its King Street location, check out Tommy’s lunch wagon. It is parked on Mililani Street downtown (makai of Iolani Palace). It’s the one with the line of hungry diners during the lunch hour.
Jack Lin fires up some ‘hot’ kim chee ramen at
Sapporo Rai Rai Ramen
Sapporo Rai Rai Ramen
124 Oneawa St., Kailua
760 Kapahulu St.
Ph: 230-8208, 737-3877
“I love this place,” wrote Leandra Miyashiro about Sapporo Rai Rai Ramen in Kailua. “ All of their ramens are good … try the mabo tofu yakisoba and the seafood crispy fried noodles.” We can vouch for the mabo tofu yakisoba ($6.25). It is outstanding with its spicy sauce, chewy noodles, and delicate cubes of tofu. You won’t be able to put down the chopsticks once you get started.
But why hesitate when there are tempting menu choices like oxtail ramen ($7.25), wakame ramen ($6.25) and shrimp katsu shoyu ramen ($6.50)? Supposedly, the broth (dashi) takes eight hours to prepare.
The other attraction at Sapporo Rai Rai Ramen is fried rice. Miyashiro claims it’s the best in town. Variations (from $5.75) include kim chee, chicken katsu curry and seafood rice. Mabo tofu rice is a crowd-pleaser too. There are two locations of this noodle shop: one in Kailua, next to Taco Bell, and another in Kapahulu, next to Pizza Hut. The one in Kailua is closed Tuesday, but Kapahulu is open seven days a week.
Eun Sook and Kwae Jung Kim own Jong Ga Restaurant,
recommended by Christine Camp Friedman
Jong Ga Restaurant
512A Piikoi St.
Christine Camp Friedman told us about this hard-to-findbut- easy-to-love restaurant after reading our report about Korean restaurants. She claims many fast-food places localize their Korean recipes. For authentic Korean dining, Friedman says, one should go to Sorabol Restaurant on Keeaumoku Street, Shilla Won at the Pacific Grand Hotel, or pick up delicacies at Palama Market or Queen’s Market in Kalihi.
She also directed us to Jong Ga on Kona Street, ewa of Piikoi Street. If you can find it, you can eat there. It has fabulous — and authentic — Korean cuisine that is hot and spicy, just the way Koreans like it. You’ll find standard kalbi, jun and mandoo fare, but why stop there?
Try a real taste of Korea, with items such as big pot stew ($10.95), grilled mackerel pike (from $8.95) or stir fried octopus and noodles ($14.95). An extensive menu lists food items in Korean and English languages. A take-out menu scales down the choices to typical plate lunch meals (from $5.75), served with four vegetables and rice. Or ask for the Jong Ga special ($7.95), which is the variety pack.
Friedman, a development company principal and chair of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, particularly enjoys Jong Ga’s kong kuk soo. She describes it as “thin noodles served in ice cold Korean version of soy milk (soybeans freshly ground in a blender) with a pinch of rock salt, slivers of fresh cucumber, and sprinkles of pine nuts. The mild soup base counterbalances all of the spicy side dishes. It takes 15 to 20 minutes to make the soymilk so a bit of patience is needed.”
If the kitchen mama is not too busy, special order su je bi (think dumpling flakes) in hot broth with potatoes, green onions and squash.
801 Alakea St.
Smells of the frypan lure lunch customers to this quaint eatery on Alakea Street at Queen’s Plaza. It’s a favorite stop for busy downtown execs like Stu Glaubermann of Aloha Airlines. The popular item at Mr. Frypan is croquettes.
Croquettes are made of mashed potatoes mixed with sautéed onion and ground meat. Oval patties are deep-fried and savored as a side dish or minimeal in itself. Variations on the theme at Mr. Frypan are hamburger katsu (89 cents) and salad croquette (79 cents). The latter is macaroni salad ingeniously molded into a crisp clump.
Japanese deli items, such as tempura, nishime and shoyu chicken, also are available. For bowl meals, there is oyako, shoyu beef, pork katsu, and chicken katsu heaped on steamed rice ($2.39-$4.99).
Can’t go very far in local plate lunches without curry. Mr. Frypan accommodates the curry-over-rice crowd with beef, croquette, hamburger, pork and chicken combos ($2.59-$$4.79).
Mr. Frypan takes orders for uncooked patties if you want to prepare croquettes at home. If you’re having a party, this is a perfect pupu. Invite Glaubermann, and thank him for the tip.
A word of warning: The folks at Mr. Frypan are so shy, they wouldn’t even allow a photo to be taken.
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