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S&S Old Time Island Style Saimin

We complete our three-part “Saimin Series 2011″ today with a product review of Sun Noodle’s NEW S&S Old Time Island Style Saimin. This, following the first and second installments of saimin stand reviews over at The Old Saimin House and Palace Saimin, both truly “old school” institutions that’s been serving classic Hawaii Saimin to generations over the decades, dating back to the 1940’s.

As mentioned in the previous “Saimin Series” reviews, I visited “OSH” and “Palace” to reacquaint my palate to what “old school” Hawaii Saimin should taste like.

Those of you who regularly eat the current S&S Saimin, yet remember the older formula, may notice that the current S&S’s broth is essentially a packet of slightly modified Hon-dashi, which is a Bonito-based soup stock. Whereas, if you also visit the local stand stand that still uses  an “old school” broth recipe, you’ll notice the old school saimin broth is based on shrimp, not the bonito-source Katsuobushi. Some may also use a combination of shrimp and katsuobushi, along with kombu, pork, chicken and/or who knows what else, as of course they’ll never give away their broth’s secret recipe!

Well enter Sun Noodles all-new “retro chic” S&S Old Time Island Style Saimin. Where right there on the front of the package it touts a “Traditional Shrimp Soup Base” that’s a “Favorite taste of your past”. Hmm, we shall see about that!

Let’s check out the back of the package, looking specifically at the ingredients…

S&S Old Time Island Island Style Saimin
Soup Base Ingredients: Salt, Sugar, Monosodium Glutamate, Corn Starch, Krill Extract, Soy Sauce (Soy Bean, Wheat, Water), Hydrolized Soy Protein & Flour Enhancer (Nucleic Acid).

Yep, this one’s packin’ the MSG, as it is in just about every other instant noodle soup broth, not to mention the numerous other food products with at least some form of glutamate in it. Which, not surprisingly, one full serving of this Saimin with a packet of the broth powder mixed in the water-based soup will bombard your system with a whoppin’ 2,740mg of sodium, burying the daily value meter dial into the redline at 114%. Good Lord, someone please pass me another Lisinopril tablet. lol

Getting beyond its health “benefits”, as far as flavor factor, notice there’s Krill Extract in it, which is entirely absent in the current “standard” S&S Saimin broth packet, which uses, as mentioned above, Bonito (dried fish powder). Krill are micro-sized shrimp-like crustaceans that swim in huge swarms, with its primary prey being whales, seals, penguins, and of course, humans. As for the shrimp-based broths the local saimin stands make, I’ve heard they use either regular shrimp shells (after the meat has been removed and consumed in other dishes, or dried shrimp, a.k.a. Opae.

Shiro’s Saimin Haven, the home of “everything including the kitchen sink” saimin, should come out with a saimin called “The Donald Trump”, where the broth is made from the shells of Maine Lobster, Alaskan King Crab, Conch and Abalone.  Imagine how that would taste! Sounds interesting, anyway.

Let’s “depackage” it and check out what’s inside…

If weren’t for the broth packets in the shot, you may have thought those were two old mop heads. lol

S&S Old Time Island Island Style Saimin
Ingredients: Enriched Wheat Flour, Water, Salt, Potassium Carbonate, Gluten, Enriched Flour & starch.

Like the dreaded MSG “mega-sodium” in the broth, the noodles use enriched flour, which as you may know is essentially flour that’s been stripped of its fiber, vitamins and minerals to improve shelf life and texture. This “empty calorie” food ingredient plays havoc on your blood sugar levels that can lead to type-2 diabetes and obesity. But that’s another story for another day (even though I just talked about it today lol).

Like nama ramen (fresh noodle instant ramen), you must cook it by boiling these S&S noodles in water for 3-4 minutes and then DRAIN the water, as the water will take out and take on the extra flour and cornstarch that the raw, uncooked noodles are coated in for packaging (so it doesn’t stick together). Before you put the noodles in the boiling water, pour cups (boil six cups total) in your serving bowl, along with the Ebi Dashi powdered soup broth and stir to dilute it.

Here’s how the broth looks in powdered form before getting hit with the boiling-hot water…

Some powdered dashi broths also have dehydrated green onion already mixed in it, but not this one, which is good, as I’d rather add my own fresh toppings and garnish.

Speaking of toppings, I rightfully complained how The Old Saimin House and Palace Saimin, for some reason, didn’t included Kamaboko as a topping in their Saimin, which is even more perplexing considering Okuhara Kamaboko factory is right down the street! WTH???

O.K., O.K., fine then, be like that. I’ll get my OWN Kamaboko, dammmm it! lol

Since I’m now at “Diner P’s Saimin Stand” (my kitchen), I included Okuhara Kamaboko…

Here it is outta’ the package…

Cuting it in half (on the bias), you see I got the one that has the visually appealing swirl in it…

Okuhara also makes the Kamaboko with the built-in wood chopping block base, but I think this one looks better in saimin. They both taste the same though. If you haven’t tasted local Kamaboko before, it’s a steamed Japanese fish cake made with surimi paste, so it tastes very similar to imitation crab, albeit not “stringy” in texture, being more solid and firmly gelatinous. While in taste, it’s a little more salty, and well, not as “crabby”, is the best way I can describe it. It definitely provides a pleasant, contrasting balance alongside the savory, meaty Charsiu (Chinese roast pork) topping, adding that always welcome “surf” with the “turf”.

Getting everything ready for “plating” (actually “bowling” lol), here’s my saimin toppings ‘ garnish spread all prepped and eager for a hot bath in broth…

Whoah, whoah, wait, wait, wait, back the truck up, BACK THE TRUCK UP! Where’s the green onion? Ack! I forgot the green onion! I cannot believe this. I ALWAYS have green onion on me, and this one time I’m doing a saimin review and I don’t have green onion. Daaaaaamm it!

Oh well, at least I have sliced egg omelet, so I suppose that will make up for it, although I’d prefer if it had green onion, too!

Also in this spread is my homemade Charsiu pork, which I made myself using, of all brands, the NOH dehydrated package stuff. But you know what? That stuff is pretty darned good! I was impressed! Once you add the water, it tastes just as good as the liquid bottled stuff. I usually doctor my store-bought Charsiu marinade anyway by adding honey and shoyu to it, which really kicks it up a few notches.

Let’s do this.

Add the hot water to the broth in the serving bowl and stir, boil the nama saimin noodles for 3 minutes and drain, add cooked noodles to hot soup broth in bowl, add toppings and garnish, and voila! S&S’ all-new Old Time Island Style Saimin, featuring Traditional shrimp Soup Base…

That’s a nice presentation, but once again, it SURE IS MISSING SOMETHING WITHOUT THE GREEN ONIONS! But hey, we’ll make due with what we have, after all, saimin was a peasant’s food dish, and surely back in the plantation days, they must have used what little they had in their kitchen to garnish their saimin. I mean, you know, a $1 bunch of green onions is beyond my budget at the moment. lol

Let’s taste the broth, where in this next photo, I took before adding the noodles and toppings…

Ding-ding-ding, have a WINNER! If you want the next best thing to Palace Saimin, this right here is pretty much “Palace in a Package”. It’s no doubt comes across as a “Traditional Shrimp Soup Base” and definitely deserves its “Favorite taste of your past” tagline on the label. Slightly “shrimpy”, slightly savory just like Palace, whereas, where Palace gets its savory element from pork bones, this “retro” S&S Saimin broth gets its savory counter-balance from Shoyu.

On the other hand, if you DON’T like anything that tastes even remotely like shrimp, you won’t like this broth, nor will you like the saimin broth at Forty Niner Restaurant, Old Saimin House and Palace Saimin (to name a few).

For me, I LOVE IT! 5 SPAM Musubi, ’nuff said.

Let’s try the noodles now…

Unlike the OTHER S&S Saimin, which has a much different flavor and texture, the noodles in this S&S Old Time Island Style Saimin seem to be the same one used in Sun Noodle’s “Hawaii’s Original Saimin” featuring “Old Style Oriental Style Noodle”…

Man, Sun Noodle really wants to corner the saimin market, don’t they? That makes THREE different saimin products from the same manufacturer. Not that I’m complaining, as you know how highly I think of their products.

Apparently though, Palace Saimin and The Old Saimin House rather source their noodles from Eagle Noodle Factory, which I’ve been told doesn’t use Potassium or Sodium Carbonate (Kansui) in their noodles. The Kansui is what gives the noodles that “egg-like” flavor, and these sort of have that going on, although thankfully not as much as their Japanese ramen noodles. They’re also a bit more firm and glutenous like Japanese ramen noodle then the relatively more “pasty” noodles from Eagle Noodle Factory served at OSH and Palace. Which of course “Saimin Purists” might scoff at, but me being on the other side of the fence and being a Japanese “Ramen Snob” actually prefer the Kansui element going on in the noodles.  As always, that’s subject to your own personal opinion, of course. :-)

Let’s hit the Charsiu and Kamaboko in one fell swoop…

The combination of the subtle shrimp flavor from the broth, along with the punch of the Charsiu and mild fishy element from the Kamaboko works EXCELLENT together. The green onion (here I go again on that tangent) really would have hit it outta’ the park, but just these two garnishes alone were fantastic, which I need to have a talk with the owners of OSH and Palace on SERIOUSLY considering adding Kamaboko to their Saimin. It’s a MUST!

Let’s hit the sliced egg omelet…

Oh yea, that’s the icing on the cake, right there, bringing all the meaty toppings into a full circle. Sometimes I put in a sliced boiled egg, which works great too.

Summing it up, solid 5 SPAM Musubi for Sun Noodles all-new “retro chic” Old Time Island Style Saimin. If like or miss Palace Saimin, or your favorite “old School” saimin house, this is as close as you can get to the real deal. The only thing that may come off different are the noodles, that a little more on the side of Japanese ramen, yet don’t get me wrong, it still tastes like Saimin noodles. The broth here is what really nails it.

Oh, one last thing: when you go grocery shopping, don’t forget the Green Onion!

What? S&S Old Time Island Style Saimin
Who makes it? Sun Noodle Company/H&U Inc. Tel. (808) 841-5808
Where can I buy it? Currently at Don Quijote and Times Supermarket Oahu store locations only (call them for more updated info’)
How much does it cost? $1.59 regular price ($1.19 sale price at DQ) for 2-serving 9.5 oz. package
How do I store it? In the refrigerator (up to 1 week) or in the freezer
How do I cook it? Read the instructions
How should I garnish it? Sliced Charsiu Pork, Kamaboko (steamed fish cake), boiled egg or omelet and green onions are the usual toppings, but you can put your entire kitchen pantry in the bowl if you want lol
The Tasty Island rating: 5 SPAM Musubi
Notes: The broth nails it, with it’s subtle hint of shrimp and savoriness. Noodles are a bit firmer and “eggy-er” than traditional saimin noodles in a good way. If you want Palace Saimin in a Package, this is as close as you can get.

For the sake of convenience and comparision, let’s do a sub-review here of Sun Noodle’s OTHER S&S Saimin product that’s been around for DECADES (including before Sun acquired the brand), which includes an even more instant noodle than the already instant nama noodles in the new product…

Unpacking it, you see how much whiter and thinner these noodles are than the new S&S Saimin…

Unlike the new S&S Saimin, where the raw noodles must be boiled SEPARATELY for 3-4 minutes, these here are actually already cooked, requiring you to only heat them up to loosen it by placing in a bowl of boiling hot water for 20 to 30 seconds (from frozen state), then you add the powdered Bonito-based soup broth straight to the same bowl of water with the noodles. You can also mircowave this to prepare it, which is great as a convenient and satisfying lunch at the office, which is why I like to say S&S also must means “Sustenance and Satisfying”.

A-ha, I have green onion topping this one! But now no more da’ egg omelet. Whoah man, da’ sacrifices. lol

Here in heated and served state, you see how much thinner and whiter in color these noodles are…

They’re also more “pasty” and not “eggy” at all like the new S&S Saimin noodle (which is actually the same noodle used in their OTHER saimin product; I know, it gets a little confusing). Personally I prefer the slightly thicker, firmer, subtle egg-like flavor of the new noodle, but this works, especially considering the convenience that it’s already cooked and microwavable.

While I love the new “retro chic” shrimp-based broth, I’ve always enjoyed the Bonito-based broth that’s been served with local package saimin ever since I can remember.

Speaking of broth, here’s the ingredients for the S&S classic…

S&S Saimin “classic”
Soup Base Ingredients: Salt, MSG, Glucose, Powdered Soy Sauce, Powdered Bonito (Dried Fish Powder), Disodium Inosinate and Powdered Seaweed.

And the noodles…

S&S Saimin “classic”
Saimin Noodle Ingredients: Enriched Flour, Water, Salt, Potassium and Sodium, Carbonate, Cornstarch.

What? S&S Saimin “classic”
Who makes it? H&U Inc, DBA Sun Noodle Factory
Where did you buy it and how much did it cost? I forget. I had it in my freezer for a couple a months now, but it’s available at most Hawaii grocery stores in the freezer section.
The Tasty Island rating: 3 SPAM Musubi
Notes: See review above

P.S. If you’re wondering why I changed the “look” of The Tasty Island, is because my original “Tarski” WordPress theme (which I ‘ve been using since day 1) was giving me problems (more like HEADACHES <see photo inset).

So I decided to apply a new theme, using a popular one called “Weaver 2010″, which is much more flexible, in that I can now use sub-themes and manually edit the CSS to really customize it. Over time you may notice I’ll be making changes and tweaks here and there, including experimenting with different colors, fonts, layout, interactive widgets, and of course the all-important masthead design. Hopefully my web host will get with the program and update their PHP on the server, as I think that’s at least partially what’s causing my site to load slowly. If you’re having problems with load speed or access to this website, please let me know.

As always, big mahalo for your readership and cool comments. :-)

Kalihi Eats: Palace Saimin

We continue with part 2 of 3 in our current “saimin series”, hot on the heels of the last stop at The Old Saimin House, where we’re here today at Palace Saimin, which is pretty much right across the street from there. King Street that is, in the heart of historic and scenic Kalihi, or as we like to say here at The Tasty Island, “The Center of Hawaii’s Food Universe”, a.k.a. “God’s Country”.

Palace Saimin is located at 1256 North King Street on the mauka side, not far down the street Daimond Head-bound of the Kapalama (Kalihi) Post Office. It’s on the ground floor of a walk-up nondescript apartment building, making it truly a hidden gem that you could easily pass by if you weren’t looking for it.

There’s very limited parking in the front of the building, and this place tends to pack a lunch hour rush crowd, so if you plan to eat here, it’s highly recommended to arrive early if you want a stall. Arrive in the heat of the noon-time lunch hour rush, and chances are you’ll also have to wait in line outside to get a seat inside, where notice they have stools in front, which indicates just how busy they get! Seriously.

Once inside, Like The Old Saimin House — or any hole-in-the-wall gem for that matter — you’ll find a very small dining room that can seat I’d estimate no more than 30 people at a time…

Similar to Hamura’s on Kauai, Palace Saimin has at least one communal table in the center that you share with anyone and everyone who’s there, which I think is great, as you get to meet the Palace Saimin “regulars” (and really nice folks) as I did on my visit.

You notice whenever I review restaurants, along with the food, I also I like to showcase the artwork they decorate with, which truly reflects the owners’ background and interests that they want to share with their customers, family and friends…

Speaking of owners, the history of Palace Saimin goes like this

THE PALACE SAIMIN STORY

Palace Saimin was the vision of Kame Ige, who immigrated from Okinawa in 1924. Mrs. Ige named the restaurant “Palace Saimin” after the Palace Theater on Beretania Street. The shop was opened in 1946 near the theater and the Palace Saimin experience began.

In 1950 Palace Saimin moved next to Tamashiro Market on King Street and again in 1960 to the existing location. In 1975 Mrs. Ige decided to offer the stand to one of her trusted waitresses Felice “Setsuko” Arakaki (“Mama”).

Mrs. Arakaki has been working hard with Mrs. Yoshiko “Aunty Yoshi” Takahashi, (waitress for over 40 years) and the rest of the friendly staff to serve the customers and keep the tradition alive. In 2010 Mrs. Arakaki’s son-in-law agreed to support the business and put forth his best effort to keep the tradition alive. We look forward to keeping Palace Saimin around for the generations of the past to enjoy, and the future generations to experience.

Keeping the tradition alive for generations to come, indeed. In fact, “Aunty Bobo”, a Palace Saimin regular who I met and sat next to on that communal table on one recent visit, told me she’s been coming here regularly for almost 50 years (her whole life). She pointed out the vintage baby chair they still have there is the same chair her daughter sat in when she was just a baby…

Her daughter is now an adult, and now HER baby daughter (Aunty Bobo’s grandaughter) sits in that very same baby chair at Palace Saimin. AWESOME! Passing along the Palace Saimin legacy from generation to generation to generation of loyal ohana (family).

Enjoy central air conditioning? Of course you do. Well, Palace Saimin has that, albeit done the old school way…

Classic! Cool, too, as it sorta’ feels like there’s this tradewind effect swirling around in what would otherwise be a very arid and muggy, closed room environment (no A/C).

Now that we have the history and place covered, let’s check out Palace Saimin’s menu…

That’s pretty darned GREAT prices. Most of which are a bit lower than The Old Saimin House, which was already very good, save for the BBQ Stick, which is 35 cents more here at $2.25 each vs. The Old Saimin House which are $1.90 each. BUT, at least here they really GRILL it! More on that later.

Now you might be asking yourself , “What the heck is “Saidon”?” Well, it’s pretty easy to figure out: SAI(min)+(u)DON=SAIDON. Which is essentially Palace’ Saimin, along with the much fatter-profiled Udon noodles in the same bowl, in about an equal proportion of each other.

Then what’s the mathematical formula for the “Combination” you may ask? Easy: SAI(min)+(u)DON+WONTON=COMBINATION. In other words, EVERYTHING they have to offer, all in one bowl, sans the BBQ Stick. Shoots, they should just throw that in there too! lol

And that’s pretty much it. No plate lunches, nor burgers, nor candies ‘n snack ‘n shave ice, nor — God forbid — “fru fru fancy-smancy” stuff.

This is a Saimin Stand through and through and to the core. Hardcore. All you’ll find on the other half of the menu are their business hours, phone number and customer appreciation message…

You have to love this place already without even haven eaten yet.

Reading over the numerous positive Yelp reviews, the bottom line appears to be unanimous that if you’re looking for truly “Old School Saimin” done the way it should be, Palace Saimin is where it’s at. Shoots. Hook. Me. Up.

Before we get to da’ grindz, let’s see what we have for table condiments here at Palace…

Same as The Old Saimin House, where I must note here they use my favorite shoyu brand, Yamasa, as I find Y amasa strikes a good balance between the more milder taste of Aloha and the salty, bold flavor of Kikkoman.

But does Palace Saimin’s broth NEED condiments to kick it up? Or is it fine just the way it is, OEM? We shall soon find out!

Hai, itadakimasu (let’s eat)!

First to arrive at the table are the standard saimin stand “tools of the trade”, a set of hashi (chopsticks), renge (soup spoon) and (Coleman’s) mustard, which you of course add shoyu and stir thoroughly for use to dip your noodles, charsiu garnish and/or wontons into.

And here it is in all its glory, my Palace Saimin’ Saimin (small order) and (Teri’ Beef) BBQ Stick…


Palace Saimin – small Saimin and BBQ Stick (with Coleman’s mustard and shoyu dipping sauce)

Tell me you wouldn’t want to be sitting where I’m sitting at this moment in time, with this staring at you, just seconds away from devouring it? Good LORD, there is a heaven.

Let’s zoom in…


Palace Saimin – small Saimin, $3.75

I immediately notice the broth here at Palace has a richer, more colorful tone than the light-looking broth at The Old Saimin House. Come to find out from 47-year regular “Aunty Bobo”, they use shrimp AND pork in the broth here. Ex. Cel. Lent! Surely there’s other secret “ingrediments”, but if that’s the gist of it, I’m already a happy camper.

As for garnish, there seems to be a trend that Kamaboko and sliced egg omelet is out of the picture at both Old Saimin House and here at Palace. That’s the only thing I scratch my head at, as I think those two are important ingredients that truly complete the dish. What’s even more perplexing about that is the fact that Okuhara Kamaboko factory is right down the street! Wassup’ wit’ ‘dat?!!! Next time I going come here da’ kine “BYOK” (bring your own Kamaboko). I bet da’ waitress and guests would trip out. lol!

Oh, before I continue, here’s Aunty Bobo’s Wonton Min…


Palace Saimin – large Wonton Min, $5.25

Getting back to my Saimin, note I took this shot after already having eaten the saimin, but can surely attest, based on broth alone, I have definitely found THE BENCHMARK OLD SCHOOL SAIMIN right here at Palace!…

There’s certainly a background hint of shrimp, while the pork bones “umamifies” it, or in other words, gives it an added dimension of “meaty-ness”. Yet it’s all still subtle and not as much a predominant element like it is in Japanese Ramen, where the broth is the central focus.

Here, the broth more like gently cuddles the noodles and garnish than it does take it along for the ride, if you know where I’m getting at.  It definitely DOES NOT need any of those table condiments unless you’re really starved for more salt and spices. It’s pretty much perfect, “OEM”, just the way it is straight outta’ the kitchen. I’m not saying you shouldn’t add anything else, but that you really don’t need to. Benchmark “old school” saimin stand broth FOUND!

Rewind back now, and let’s slurp some saimin noodles done “Palace style”…

Like The Old Saimin House, Palace Saimin also sources their noodles from Eagle Noodle Factory.  And the noodles here are indeed cooked a little more on the softer side than at OSH. It’s still acceptable, but if I had a choice, I’d take I’d prefer it cooked like OSH does it. Flavor-wise, Also like OSH, Palace’ noodles are somewhat neutral in flavor, without any of that egg-like undertone from the potassium and sodium carbonate (Kansui) that Sun Noodle uses.

Moving along to the garnish, as mentioned earlier, since there’s no kamaboko (steamed fish cake) or sliced egg omelet to be had here, all’s left to try is the sliced Charsiu pork and green onions…

Spot on in flavor, moist ‘n tender Charsiu. She go. I must note they also are a little more generous in portion compared to OSH in that regard.

How’s the sliced green onion? Like sliced green onion. lol

Summing up Palace Saimin’s Saimin, solid 4 SPAM Musubi, with a broth that taste just how “old school” Hawaii saimin broth should taste. If it had Kamaboko and slice egg omelet, I’d give it a 5.

I enjoyed it so much that I “polished’ the bowl….

Moving along, let’s try the BBQ Stick…


Palace Saimin – (teriyaki beef) BBQ Stick, $2.25

Of course I didn’t eat the BBQ Stick AFTER the saimin, but along with it, as you should.

Come to find out from Palace Saimin regular Aunty Bobo, you can request to have your BBQ Stick “Koge” or burnt on the edges, a.k.a. “Papa’a”…


Palace Saimin – BBQ Stick done “Koge” style (seared edges, free service upon request)

What I also found out is that the way they “Koge” their Teri Beef BBQ Sticks is by searing it with a handheld propane torch, an old trick chefs use to make Crème brûlée. Hey, whatever works! All I know is next time I’m gettin’ mine BBQ Stick “Koge’d” like Aunty’s are.

Let’s have a bite…

Oishii (delicious). It’s not heavily marinaded in Teriyaki sauce, which I like, as I want to taste the beef. The medium-cooked beef itself is a little tough, but tolerable. While I didn’t ask, my guess is this is cut is no better than your average top round choice. Huge thumbs-up for serving it on a plate in a puddle of the (thin) Teriyaki sauce, which also has little bits of burnt beef in it, as that helps to add moisture to the medium-cooked beef, so every bite is tasty, moist ‘n juicy from start to finish. Nice.

3 SPAM Musubi for Palace Saimin’s BBQ Stick.

I enjoyed my lunch so much at Palace Saimin, that I returned a week later with Diner A and E to join me! This time around, Diner A ordered the Large Saimin and BBQ Stick, where both he and I requested some “Koge action” for our “sticks”…


Palace Saimin – “Koge” BBQ Sticks and large Saimin

A closer look at his large Saimin…


Palace Saimin – large Saimin, $4.50

Deciding to try something a little different, Diner E ordered Wonton Udon…


Palace Saimin – small Wonton Udon, $4.00

And yours truly went for the Combination (Saimin, Udon and Wonton)…


Palace Saimin – large Combination (Saimin, Udon & Wonton), $5.25

Zoom in on my Combo’…

Here I dug up all the three different types of noodles so you can see it better…

Talk about carbo’ load. Makes you wanna’ run the 26k just looking it. lol

This time around I added some black pepper, as that’s what I usually add to my saimin when not in taste-testing mode…

Very, very consistent. The broth tasted EXACTLY the same as on my previous visit, save for my personalized addition of black pepper.

Let’s try the Wonton (notice the spelling, where as OSH spells it “Wun Tun”)…

Like the softer-cooked saimin noodles, the wonton are also cooked on the soft side. Which one diner who was waiting outside told me he prefers The Old Saimin House’s Wun Tun better because it’s firmer and has a better filling. Although he prefers the broth here at Palace. Sounds about right.

The pork filling was kinda’ “manini” (skimpy), but I suppose adequate enough to validate it. It was also pretty basic, tasting simply like ground pork and that’s it. No green onions, onions or other veggies in it. Good though. I have no complaints. I definitely need to try OSH’s Wun Tun Min so I can compare the two, but that’s a different story for another day.

Let’s go for the Wonton dunk in the hot mustard shoyu…

Oh yeah, ‘das da’ winnah’ right deah’ ( that’s the winner there lol)! So funny how no matter what, once the food hits that Coleman’s Mustard and Shoyu, you get immediately transported to a Chinese restaurant.

Let’s try the Udon now (this next shot is actually Diner E’s bowl, but I had Udon in mine too)…

Diner E agrees with me that the Udon, while good in and of its fat, fat noodle self, doesn’t quite work as a substitute for traditional Saimin noodles. I think because the mild nature of Saimin broth doesn’t quite cling or absorb well into the fat, slick Udon noodles. So when you eat the Udon, that’s all you taste is noodle, as the broth just slips on back into the bowl, barely clinging any of its flavor on the Udon. That’s pretty much the best way I can describe it.

The finer, more absorbent nature of traditional Saimin noodles holds onto the broth like glue in comparison when you slurp it up.

You can hear “SLURP, SLURP, SLURP” just looking at that.

Overall, the combination of textures between the thin Saimin noodles, fat Udon noodles and slippery-soft wontons made for a very, very, VERY unique “noodle soup” eating experience and certainly an option other saimin stands should follow.

Let’s try some Saimin noodles and Charsiu in the Coleman’s…

Winnahz. Dig that “clear-your-sinuses” effect that hits you first, then you taste the noodles and Charsiu soaked in Shoyu that immediately follow and it’s like POW!

Moving along to our “Koge” BBQ Sticks, you see how much more seared they are then on my previous visit…

Here you can see on this visit they’re also cooked to medium doneness…

Personally I would have liked it even more “koge” then that,, where it looked more like the ones Aunty Bobo had on my previous visit. So if you like REALLY “koge”, tell them so. I know I will. Still, those seared edges added a whole lot more flavor and put the BOLD in BBQ. Winnahz.

Summing it up, I give my Combination Saimin/Udon/Wonton Min at Palace Saimin a very solid 4 SPAM Musubi, and once again would give it a 5 if had Kamaboko and sliced egg omelet. Diner E gave his Udon 2 SPAM Musubi, while I must note, he and I ate here a few weeks prior where he ordered the saimin, to which he gave a very solid 3, which to you and I would be either a 4 or 5.

Diner A gave his Saimin a 4, and surprisingly, the BBQ Stick a 3, which I think is because both he and Diner E prefer their Teri Beef SOAKED DEEP with Teriyaki marinade, whereas I’m opposite in that regard.

As for service, very, very friendly and quick, where on all three recent visits, my/our order landed on the table within a 5 to 10 minute window.

So the benchmark of what old school Hawaii saimin should taste like has been found right here in beautiful downtown Kalihi at Palace Saimin!

Now with my taste buds educated on “Saimin 101″, next up, a review on Sun Noodle’s new S&S “Old Time Island Style” Saimin featuring “traditional shrimp soup base”.

Palace Saimin
1256 North King Street
Honolulu, Hawaii  96817

Tel. (808) 841-9983

Business Hours
• Tuesday to Thursday: 11am – 3pm lunch, 8pm – 10pm dinner
• Friday & Saturday: 11am-11pm
• Sunday & Monday: closed

The Tasty Island rating:

(4) Excellent. Worth another visit or purchase. (Winnahz!)

Kalihi Eats: The Old Saimin House

We’re back again at the “Center of Hawaii’s Food Universe” in the heart of historic and scenic Kalihi, this time sampling some truly “old school” saimin at The Old Saimin House.

This is actually part 1 of a 3 part series, leading up to a review on S&S Saimin’s new “Old Time Island Style Saimin”. Which makes it seem even more apparent that just like cars, ‘retro’ is the “new cool” in the food industry as well.

Notice on this label it touts “Traditional Shrimp Soup Base”, differentiating it from Sun Noodle’s Hawaii’s Original Old Style Saimin product, which uses the bonito-based dashinomoto saimin soup stock more commonly used nowadays.

That said, the reason this is a series, is that I needed to refresh my palate on what is the benchmark representation of Hawaii’s truly classic saimin taste in order to compare with S&S’s (under parent company Sun Noodle) latest attempt to replicate the “Traditional Shrimp Soup Base” broth flavor. Therefore I chose two old school saimin stands as my benchmark source: The Old Saimin House and Palace Saimin, both almost within a stone’s throw of each other in Kalihi.

How “old school” is The Old Saimin House? Well, they were established by Okinawan nisei (second generation) in 1963. Whereas Palace Saimin right across the street on King was also established by Okinawans in 1946.

Not to forgot the many other classic saimin stands around the island, including Forty Niner Restaurant out in Aiea, who was established around the late 40’s. Then there’s Boulevard Saimin, which has since changed to “Dillingham Saimin”, who got their start in 1955, while over on the Garden Isle of Kauai, Hamura Saimin set up shop in 1952. Not to leave out a few more places still in business that feature saimin as their signature dish, including Shiro’s, Shige’s and Zippy’s.

So we’re here today at The Old Saimin House, which is located at 1311 North King Street (nearby the Kalihi Post Office), in a tiny strip mall next to New Diner’s Drive Drive-In, with another notable neighbor being Kiawe Grill.

Without further ado, let’s check out The Old Saimin House tableside menu…


The Old Saimin House menu (current as of June 2011)

As is “standard” on the menu at most old school Hawaii saimin stands, The Old Saimin House has the requisite basic option of either Saimin or Wun Tun Min (the latter often spelled in various ways), along with a (teriyaki beef) BBQ Stick to go along with it. Think of the BBQ Stick to Saimin as what Gyoza is to Japanese Ramen. From there, the menu can vary quite a bit at each place.

The table condiments often say a lot about what type of cuisine is being offered. Where like most local style food restaurants in Hawaii, The Old Saimin House has the usual Shoyu, Tobasco, Salt ‘n Pepper. While indicating their Japanese/Okinawan influence, there’s also a shaker bottle of Shichimi Togarashi, which is a ground mixture of chili pepper and several other unique ingredients that make its spicy flavor unique…

One thing you hardly see anymore at local eateries on Oahu is Hawaiian Chili Pepper Water, whom Hamura Saimin on Kauai still includes on the tables in their condiments set.

The Old Saimin House was founded by Okinawan nisei Tomizo and Mitsue Ikei in 1963, where today you see their “Uchinanchu Pride” up in the form of a painting of what I’m assuming is their family’s home town of Henza Island in Okinawa…

As for the restaurant space, like most saimin stands, The Old Saimin is rather small, while being very clean, with a rather newly renovated look to it…

There’s a decent amount of designated free parking in the front of this tiny strip mall, although of course it does become tight during peak dining hours.

Getting to my order, on this solo mission, I stuck with the bare bones basic Saimin, this one being the large…

A closer look…

Now this truly is your bare bones basic Saimin, with just sliced Charsiu pork and green onions garnish, and that’s it. Not even Kamaboko nor sliced egg omelet is to be had here, making this a far cry from the “everything, including the kitchen sink” approach at Shiro’s Saimin Haven.

The reason I didn’t order the more popular Wun Tun Min, which is essentially the same dish with the addition of ground pork-filled wun tuns in it, is because I didn’t want the wun tun to muddle or change the flavor of the basic broth.

As for not ordering the usual BBQ (Teriyaki Beef) Stick as an accompaniment, upon asking how they were cooked, my server told they were griddled on a flat top, so I passed. No probs, as this large bowl of saimin by itself was plenty enough to fill me up on this lunch hour visit.

Hai, itadakimasu. Let’s begin with a taste of  what appears to be rather clear-toned, mild looking broth…

And? Definitely yet another shrimp shell based broth, albeit not particular “shrimpy”, while being seasoned with salt (possibly of the Hawaiian rock salt variety), and that’s about it. I don’t think there’s any katsuoboshi stock enhancement or dashinomoto in it, nor pork or chicken bones in the stock-making process. Overall, It’s very much back-to-basics to the core, not being under nor overpowering.

As long as you arrive with your palate in a neutral state (like you didn’t just get done snacking on some chips or anything salty), the broth should be acceptably seasoned without any further enhancements. Yet it is still on the very low key end as far as saimin broths are concerned, leaving the broth door wide open to add that shoyu and/or tobasco and/or Togarashi and/or Salt ‘n Pepper condiments provided on the table to suite your personal taste.

Let’s slurp some saimin noodles…

As others on Yelp have mentioned, the noodles here are on the firmer side of al dente doneness, which I actually prefer over softer-cooked noodles, whether it be for saimin, ramen or pasta.  Come to find out, unlike many other noodle houses around the island who source their noodles from Sun Noodle Factory, The Old Saimin House sources theirs from Eagle Noodle Factory. The latter of which I’ve been told doesn’t use chemicals in their noodles. With that, they’re somewhat neutral in flavor, without any of that egg-like undertone from the potassium and sodium carbonate (Kansui) that Sun Noodle uses.

Only thing left to try here is the rather sparse sliced Charsiu pork and green onion garnish…

The Charsiu was spot-on in sweetness and overall authentic flavor profile, while being very moist and tender. Thumbs-up, except for all that saimin noodles in the large bowl, they need more charsiu to accompany it. I suppose at $5.25 for the large, an additional 50 cents is worth the additional garnish needed to fully complete the dish in and of itself. Or of course order the BBQ Stick to offset the carbo load.

But yeah, this broth is certainly on the low-key side, and it had room for some shoyu to kick it up…

Ah, perfect! The (Aloha) shoyu really enhanced and “umami-fied” the subtle shellfish base of the broth’s flavor profile.

I also tried dipping the noodles and charsiu in the included (Coleman’s) mustard (and shoyu) sauce, which totally makes it taste Chinese.

The large saimin by itself was the perfect portion to sate my lunchtime hunger, while the addition of just a drizzle of shoyu was all it needed to make The Old Saimin House a good choice at the right price. So much so, that I had no problem polishing my bowl…

This was a good refresher start to get a benchmark taste of what true “old school” saimin should taste like. Next stop, right across the street over at Palace Saimin!

The Old Saimin House
1311 North King Street
Honolulu, Hawaii  96817

Tel. (808) 842-7697
www.TheOldSaiminHouse.com

Business hours:
Lunch: 11:00 am – 2:00 pm
Tuesday to Saturday

Dinner: 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday

Dinner: 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Friday, Saturday

Closed:
Sunday & Monday

The Tasty Island rating:

(2) Good. I’m glad I tried it. (Ono)

3rd Annual 'Up in Smoke Challenge'

The 3rd Annual “Up in Smoke Challenge” is an all-out “bong-fest” produced and hosted by Cheech and Chong, where folks compete for who grows the best “buds”, who can smoke the most Pakalolo (weed) without passing out, and last but not least, who can eat the most doughnuts from “da’ munchies”.

Nah, just kidding. lol

This is the third year for this very successful event, which took place this past Father’s Day Sunday, June 19th, 2011 at Aloha Stadium’s makai-side auxiliary parking lot. Brought to you by the good folks at Fresh Catch, with owner and chef Reno Henriquez at the helm here, the talents of home and pro cooks from all over the state of Hawaii compete for the BEST SMOKED MEAT, while adding to the attraction is a car show, vendor booths, a HUGE “bouncie” for the keiki, live entertainment, and of course ONO KINE GRINDZ, particularly of the smoked variety.

It must be noted that, due to “Hawaiian Sunday time contraints”, I arrived towards the end of the “People’s Choice” tasting segment, which took place from 11:30am to 1pm, so some of the smoked meat samples were nearly wiped out, yet thankfully all the competitors’ booths still had something to sample. I also left before they announced the winners, so I don’t currently have the results, yet I’ll contact the organizers to get the scoops and retro-post it here later.

In the mean time, what I DO have is the list of this year’s “Up in Smoke” contestants and the categories they competed in. Here they are:

UP IN SMOKE 2011 Contestants
Booth #3) VRM Pit Crew – chicken, pork, beef, anything goes
Booth #4) Dee Dee’s – fish
Booth #5) Always Smok’n - chicken, pork, beef, anything goes
Booth #6) Moana – pork, fish, anything goes
Booth #7) Guava Smoked – pork
Booth #8) All Game – pork
Booth #9) B&A Smokers – pork
Booth#10) Koa Alii – beef, fish
Booth #11) Maui Wowie – pork, anything goes
Booth #12) Black Velvet – chicken, pork
Booth #13) Flamin 7’s – pork
Booth #14) Big Boyz – pork, fish, anything goes
Booth #15) Gemini – pork
Booth #16) Buck Wild – beef
Booth #18) BK Smokers – pork
Booth #19) Hard to Beat – pork
Booth #20) Kealoha – chicken, pork, fish
Booth #21) Transplanted – pork
Booth #22) All Stock Meats – pork

The general public are given a ballot slip with a list of all the contestants, along with a checkbox for each category of meat — chicken, pork, beef, fish and anything goes —  where you circle to vote either OKAY (1), GOOD (2) or BEST (3). Now if I were the organizer, the event would be using The Tasty Island 1-5 SPAM Musubi voting (rating) system. Ha ha!

What’s great about the “People’s Choice” segment, is that the general public gets to sample all the competitors’ wares for FREE, where many of whom are more than eager to practically SHOVE their smoked meat entries down your throat in an effort to win your approval and “People’s Choice” vote. I tell ‘ya, when I left the place, I was absolutely STUFFED from smoked meat samples!

It must be noted that since I arrived “Hawaiian time”, I was in a rush to get as many photos as possible in a narrow time frame. Therefore, for the most part, I was unable to make notes of whose dish was whose. So the following photo coverage is a walkthrough with no team identification or other specifics on many of the entries. Also note, I didn’t have my high end camera on me, but just a bare bones point ‘n shoot model that I wasn’t familiar with the proper exposure settings for the best shot. Yet at least, you get a generalized visual idea of what this event is all about.

Enjoy.


“Q’d” Pork Spare Ribs


“Q’d” Pork Spare Ribs


Smoked Chicken Thighs (meticulously trimmed!)


VRM Pit Crew Chief and BBQ Master Chef “Crash” (www.HiBarbeque.com)


VRM Pit Crew has won numerous awards at BBQ competitions across the United States. Cool (well, actually smokin’ hot) trophy!

What was most impressive is that many contestants really went “all out” and brought their “A Game” to this competition, including having professional banners with their own custom team logo, along with matching team logo t-shirt uniforms for their entire crew!…


Team “Guava Smoked”


Team “Dee Dee’s” (she’s on the right with the pink visor)

Speaking of which, I LOVE smoked fish, whether it’s marlin, salmon or whatevahz. Bagel Locks? Hook. Me. Up. Here at Dee Dee’s booth, her daughter “Sassy” (shown in photo above on the left) had her own special Smoked Salmon that Dee Dee deemed “Sassy Smoked Salmon”…


Team “Dee Dee’s” – Sassy Smoked Salmon


Sassy Smoked Salmon being cut up for People’s Choice service

Smoked salmon from Team “Big Boyz”…


Team “Big Boyz Smoked Salmon


Team “Big Boyz” Smoked Halibut


Smoked fish?


Smoked Marlin


Smoked Marlin


Smoked Marlin


Smoked Marlin


Smoked Lomi Tako (smoked octopus with diced tomato)


Smoked Lomi Tako (smoked octopus with diced tomato)

Time to head back to shore and up the mountains with this “Anything Goes” entry, smoked venison (deer)…


Smoked Venison (deer)

Of all the entries at this year’s event, I find it somewhat ironic that probably my favorite dish in overall flavor and texture was this Smoked Sausage…


Smoked Sausage

Bacon-wrapped turkey legs in the smoker


Bacon-wrapped Smoked Turkey Drumsticks


Beef Brisket


Beef Brisket wrapped in lettuce


Beef Brisket wrapped up in lettuce. This one is being presented to the judges.


Beef brisket


Beef Brisket


Smoked Pork, presented on a Ti Leaf and a traditional Hawaiian Poi Pounder

My question is: WHEAH DA’ POI? Da’ bes’ way fo’ eat smoke meat is wit’ poi!!!


Smoked whole Pork shoulder, cut into cubes


Smoked Pork


Smoked Pork


Smoked Pork


Smoked Pork


Smoked Pork


Smoked Pork


Smoked Pork with Sauteed Onions


Smoked Pork


(left to right) Smoked Marlin, Smoked Lomi Tako and Smoked Pork

That’s pretty much the gist of the “People’s Choice” tasting segment of this event. I should have gone to the judges table and got photos of the entries in their most presentable form, but I got caught up “wala ‘au’ing” (talking story) with folks at each booth, I couldn’t make it.

At least I got a group photo of the judges…


2011 3rd Annual “Up in Smoke Challenge Judging panel

While I can’t name everyone, I do know standing in the center in black is Fresh Catch owner and chef Reno Henriquez, who is the event producer. Second from the left looks like it could be Russell Yamanoha of KHNL News’ “Cheap Eats” segment.

Another rather fascinating highlight of the event was the arrival of a team of local wild pig hunters, with 5 pigs that had just been hunted earlier the same day, with the heaviest weighing in at 105 lbs…


Oahu Wild Pig Hunting Crew winners

The OTHER main attraction at this event is the The ‘Nobody Cares’ Car show, which also had a “People’s Choice” voting slip, where you write down your favorite “ride” under HUNTER TRUCK, CLASSIC CAR, STREET ROOD, DRAGSTER, MOTORCYCLE, MUSCLE CAR and IMPORT categories.


There was also a few vendor booths, such as Fresh Catch, who was selling their new Signature sauces…

Other vendors also had t-shirts, car collector memorabia and a few other goodies.

Plus a giant “Bouncie” for the keiki…

I was asked by Reno’s mom last year if I’d like to judge last year’s competition, which I just didn’t have the time for and turned the offer down. Admittedly, I have to “humbly” say, I think MY smoked meat tastes better than any of the offerings here. lol Therefore I should seriously consider ENTERING the competition next year. I have a few “tricks” up my sleeve that I think will make mine stand out. He he.

Rounding it up, this year’s 3rd Annual “Up in Smoke Challenge” was lotsa’ fun, with plenty sights, sounds and, most importantly, ono kine smoked meat grindz! See you there next year!

For more information about this event, visit:
www.UpinSmokeHawaii.com
www.FreshCatch808.com

The Tasty Island related links:
First Annual Smoked Meat Competition a Big Hit
Big Island Style Smoked Pork
Big Island Eats: Roy’s Smoked Marlin and Smoked Ahi
Backyard Kiawe-smoked Pastrami
Kiawe-smoked Pastrami Ba-Le Banh Mi
Whole Foods Eats: Taro Delight Smoked Taro Dip
Kalua Pig roasted in a Barbecue Grill

P.S. Happy 4th of July everyone. Be safe and enjoy the fireworks!

Li Hing Pickle Mango

Drooling yet?

We’ll keep today’s post short and sweet. Well, and kinda’ tangy, too, along with plenty of “zippity-zip-zap POW”!!!

I recently got a couple good sized green Haden-Pirie hybrid mangoes from my coworker’s yard, who noted this season hasn’t yielded much mature fruit on his tree worth harvesting. As you know, summer is mango season in Hawaii nei, which according to a news report, this year is expected to be  “junk” for mangoes (and lychee) due to “unusual weather” conditions. Kinda’ unnerving, actually.

So anyway, with those two still-green mangoes, I decided to make Pickle Mango, this time with a major Li Hing twist.

My recipe for this here absolutlely “supah onolicious, broke da’ mout’ winnahz!” Li Hing Pickled Mango is as followed (an adaptation from Sam Choy). Note this recipe doesn’t have the star anise and Chinese 5-Spice like I’ve used in the past, as the Li Hing powder makes up for that.

Li Hing Pickle Mango

2 or more large green mangoes (whatevah kine you get), peeled and sliced into long, skinny and thick bite-sized pieced
1 cup rice vinegar
2 cups water
2½ cups light brown sugar
3 tbsp. Hawaiian salt
2 tbsp. Li Hing powder (I used Jade brand, which is my favorite)
Red food coloring (optional, yet highly recommended for that drool-inducing appearance)
1 small package Sweet Li Hing Mui (I also used Jade brand, which is my favorite)

In a small pot boil 2 cups water, turn off heat, then add the 2½ cups light brown sugar and salt and stir to to dissolve it. Add more water if needed to loosen it up. Remove from heat and add Rice vinegar, Li Hing Powder, and just a few drops of the red food coloring, to the point where it has a “dramatic” red color to it. For the Li Hing powder, go by taste.

In fact, go by your own taste with EVERYTHING. If you want it more sweet, add more sugar. More acidic, add more vinegar. Use that recipe as a basic guideline and go from there.

Once the finished Li Hing Pickle Mango “juice” is completely stirred and incorporated, let it cool in the fridge (or quickly in the freezer). Place peeled and sliced pickled mango in an appropriate sized jar and tightly pack it in to displace as much volume in the jar as possible, then pour cooled Li Hing Pickle Mango “sauce” into jar with green mango and fill to top and cover tightly. Let it sit in refrigerator for at least 3 days to fully soak up the Li Hing pickling “juice”.

Whack ‘em ‘n enjoy.

Related Tasty Island links:
Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Mango
There’s Pickled, Then There’s Shoyu Mango
Mayo’ Mango Madness
Mango Bruschetta

Grindz of the Day: Tatsuo's, Chef Hardy's Veal Burger, McD's Saimin & Filipino Faves


Tatsuo’s Hamburger Steak & Smoked Chicken combo’ plate

We begin today’s “Grindz of the Day” with a spread we enjoyed several “Aloha Friday’s” ago at Tatsuo’s, which is pretty much your typical plate lunch joint, albeit, kicked up notches unknown to mankind, of course, located in the heart of the industrial Sand Island area of scenic Kalihi Kai.

Here at Tatsuo’s on this visit, I ordered a combination Beef Stew and Harm Ha Pork plate…


Tastuo’s Beef Stew & Harm Ha Pork combo’ plate

What is “Harm Ha Pork”, you might ask? Well, Harm Ha is a Chinese fermented shrimp paste that has a VERY pungent odor akin to Filipino Bagaong, along with a flavor profile that must be acquired in order to be appreciated. My mother LOVES Chinese food, and with that, I grew up eating stuff like this. Like Tripe (stew), Harm Ha smells pretty nasty to the uninitiated as it’s being heated in the pan. Yet, once you TASTE the final result in a dish such as this Harm Ha Pork, you quickly >>>at least should<<< appreciate it, if not LOVE IT! I know I do!


Tastuo’s Beef Stew & Harm Ha Pork combo’ plate

In this version made by Tatsuo’s, they used ground pork, which was the only thing I didn’t care for, as I’m used to this dish using whole pieces of pork, not ground-up. Aside of that, the Ung Choy (Chinese Water Spinach) was  cooked perfectly al dente if you will, while the balance of salty “shrimpiness” from the Harm Ha was pretty much spot-on.


Tastuo’s Beef Stew & Harm Ha Pork combo’ plate

As for the Beef Stew, pretty standard fare, with a basic tomato-based taste, yet I think could have used either beef stock or simmering longer to extract more savory goodness from the cuts of actual beef cuts in it. The celery, carrots and potatoes still had al dente integrity and weren’t rendered to “mush”, so thumbs-up on that.

Rice was cooked perfectly of course. Greens were crispy-fresh, served with an also standard fare Thousand Island’s Dressing.

Off to a good start, I give Tatsuo’s Harm Ha Pork & Beef Stew Plate Lunch combo 2-SPAM Musubi.

Next up we have Diner E’s Hamburger Steak “Gauge Plate”, by which he uses to measure every joint in this genre for their “Plate Lunch Savvy”…


Tatsuo’s Hamburger Steak mini plate

Sauteed onions? Check. Deep (and I mean DEEP), rich ‘n savory brown gravy? Check. Two char-grilled hand-formed beef patties? Check. Rice? Check. Game on!

Notice for the salad, for the most part, we all choose the tossed salad nowadays, as, well, we’re not getting any younger, and Mac’ Sal’ isn’t so kind in maintaining our “girlish” figure. Not that a heaping helping of hamburger smothered in gravy over white rice is so kind to that either, but hey, we gotta’ make some concessions somewhere. lol

And how is Tatsuo’s Hamburger Steak? Diner “Saimin Kaukau” E gives it a solid 3 SPAM Musubi, which to you and me would be FIVE!!!

Finally from Tastsuo’s on this visit, we have a combination Hamburger Steak and Smoked Chicken (yes, SMOKED CHICKEN) combo’ plate…


Tastuo’s Hamburger Steak & Smoked Chicken combo’ plate

O.M.G. That smoked chicken is AWESOME! Broke da’ mout’! I was skeptical about it before tasting it, because it was an item that had been sitting in a warmer on the deli line, yet one bite and I was absolutely HOOKED! Smoked meats (whether pork, beef, poultry or seafoods) can either be on or off-putting, depending how well the smoke-infused flavor comes across on your palate. In this case, the chicken is extremely tender and juicy inside, with the just the right balance of smokiness and seasoning on the skin, while being permeated just a little within the meat fibers.


Tatsuo’s Smoked Chicken

I’m most DEFINITELY going to have to try smoking some chicken on my next “run”. While I didn’t ask, I’m guessing the “secret” is in the brine.

I also got to try a taste of the gravy from the Hamburger Steak, and WOW. Also AMAZING, and most definitely one of the best Hamburger Steak gravy I’ve had in my most recent collective memory..

That said, Diner A gives his Smoked Chicken and Hamburger Steak combo’ plate from Tatsuo’s an “I’ll be back for more!” 5 SPAM Musubi!

Next up, from KCC Farmers’ Market, we have a Gourmet Veal Burger by Michel’s Executive Chef Hardy…


Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger

Awwwe, ain’t them Hibiscus’ adorning the display model “purdy”?! lol

Here’s mine…


Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger

Witness the beautifully grill-toasted Onion Roll Bun…


Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger

Let’s do this…


Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger

The finely-chopped red peppers laced within the veal certainly had an impact on the flavor profile, giving it a sort of south-western appeal if you will. It was surprisingly juicy, considering how lean veal is, yet can’t compare with good ole beef.


Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger

There was also a distinct seasoning either coating or mixed within the veal patty, yet ironically, I couldn’t quite pinpoint exactly what the parts of its sum were. The cucumber was certainly a welcome and refreshing, crispy touch, and something I’d certainly try doing in a home burger-making project. Winner!

Summing it up, I give Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger 2 SPAM Musubi.


Michel’s Chef Hardy cooks up gourmet Veal Burgers at the Kapiolani Community College Farmers Market

Learn more about Hawaiian Ranchers free range grass-fed Veal here…

Next, we stop by McDonald’s Waikiki location on Kalakaua avenue, right across Duke’s Statue, where I attempted to confirm whether their Saimin recipe truly needs help or not…


McDonald’s (Waikiki) Saimin. $2.85

That’s a cool ‘Hawaiianized” logo design with the polynesian canoe, although I think they should add the name “Saimin” in a script font going across the yellow double arches to boldly identify what exactly this is.

Let’s see what’s in the “bowl”…


McDonald’s (Waikiki) Saimin. $2.85

All the right stuff’s in there, including Kamaboko, Charsiu, Sliced Egg Omelet and Nori, except for one other standard garnish that must noted as absent is Green Onion. Ack!

Now, before I take a bite of this bowl from the Waikiki Kalakaua avenue location, you may remember about a year ago I reviewed McDonald’s Saimin from their Hawaii Kai Shopping Center location, which I was sadly disappointed by.

So let’s see if that was just a blunder, or an ongoing problem that needs fixing. Let’s do this…


McDonald’s (Waikiki) Saimin. $2.85

Meh. Still the same extremely BLAND broth, as if I’m eating “Hot Saimin Water”.  Like SERIOUSLY. The noodles are also “pasty”, while not entirely soggy, leaning more towards that end of the cooked doneness spectrum.


McDonald’s (Waikiki) Saimin. $2.85

The best part about this saimin was the single slice of Charsiu, which was very tender and packed with authentic Charsiu flavor on the edge.

Summing it up, I give McDonald’s Saimin on this second try -1 SPAM Musubi, which is a first on this blog. Bottom line, FIX the BROTH! Go visit Palace Saimin in Kalihi for the REAL SAIMIN DEAL!

Finally, hot on the heels of my previous review of Jollibee in Waipahu, we have some REAL Filipino grindz from an “unknown” vendor in the Maunakea Marketplace Food Court in Honolulu Chinatown…


(clockwise from top left) Dinuguan, Tinola, Pork Adobo and Pinakbet

A closer look, starting with the Pork Adobo (Pork simmered in Shoyu, Vinegar, Peppercorns and Bayleaf)…

Pinakbet (Bitter Melon, Eggplant, String Beans, Tomato, Pork and Shrimp)…

Dinuguan (Pig’s Blood Stew)…

Tinola (Chicken, Green Papaya, Malungay and Ginger soup)…

The Tinola could use more Malungay leaves IMO, but still, the broth ROCKED. Laced heavily with ginger, while throwing out a subtle-yet-distinguishable “chicken-ee” punch. Rounding it out, the green papaya chunks were cooked perfectly al dente, along with the malungay leaves adding that added dimension of texture and flavor to this soup that it could never do without.

The Dinuguan, Pinakbet and Pork Adobo were also all AWESOME, and as good as I’ve had from anywhere else, giving this “no name” filipino food vendor in Chinatown Honolulu’s food court a “Masarap-sarap” (really delicious) 5-SPAM Musubi!

Speaking of favorite Filipino dishes, for today’s BONUS ‘Grindz of the Day’ feature, I also recently made Chicken Tinola using my handy-dandy new Pressure Cooker, where here’s how it turned out…


Pomai’s pressure-cooked Tinola

Diner C got me the Malungay leaves from Pu’uhale Market, located in that little blue building on the corner of Pu’uhale Road and Dillingham Boulevard, where Wild Bean Espresso was located, across the street from OCCC.


Malungay from Pu’uhale Market. $1.50/bunch

I got the green Papaya from Don Quijote, which ran $1.49/lb., while for the chicken I used drumsticks that I carefully deboned and cut into chunks (Diner C recommends using a whole roasting chicken for this dish). For the broth, I first made a basic chicken stock using a miripoix (onion, celery and carrots), along with the chicken drumsticks bones. This took 45 minutes in the pressure cooker, which yielded FANTASTIC results, and tasted as if I had been simmering it for HOURS. Of course I could have just as easily used canned chicken stock, but I wanted to test my new pressure cooker out, so decided to make the entire dish from scratch.

Then to make the Tinola, to the strained chicken stock, I simply added CHOKE (plenty) ginger, along with the chicken, cubed green papaya and malungay leaves and let it cook under pressure for a speedy 5 minutes, finishing it off using the natural pressure release, after which yielded the final result you see here…


Pomai’s pressure-cooked Tinola

It turned out FANTASTIC. The chicken pieces were tender and cooked all the way through, while the green papaya was cooked perfectly al dente, leaning a little towards the firm side, which is good, as when I heat it up for leftovers, it will still have some firmness. But what REALLY separates this from any other chicken soup are the malungay leaves, which really do impart a flavor that’s difficult to describe, but you know it’s there, and it would certainly be lacking that “somethin’-somethin’ without it.

I LOVE Tinola! It’s so comforting, medicinal (think Chicken Noodle Soup), delicious, and best of all, so easy to make! Chicken, Ginger, Green Papaya, Chicken Stock and Malungay leaves and that’s it. Try it!