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


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

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

Sunday & Monday

The Tasty Island rating:

(2) Good. I’m glad I tried it. (Ono)

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!

Hormel GÖTEBORG Kauai Label Design

Hot off the heels of the Hormel SPAM Hawaii Label Design Contest (which voting for the best one has just ended last night), I present to you my first attempt at a label design in an effort to promote Hormel’s other “Crazy Tasty” mystery meat,  their Göteborg Sausage.

“What in the heck is Göteborg Sausage?” you may ask?  If so, there’s quite a bit of information and discussion about it that both I and my wonderful readers have posted and commented about in the past, both here and here.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it once again, one of my absolute all-time favorite comments made to date on this blog has to go to “Anahola Tita”, who gave her two cents (and then some!) about Göteborg Sausage, where back in 11/09 she wrote…

“OMG Guteberg! Yummo !! I am Kaua’i girl born/raised from Anahola Hawaiian Homes … My mom used to work at Kojima Store in Kapa’a–and the meat market in the back of the store was Da Bes’ Meat Market on the island … they were, and still are known for their marinated Kal Bi — and GUTEBERG !! Already sliced in the perfect 6mm cut, plastic wrapped in foam trays –you can just walk in the store and pick it up in the meat section … along with trays of marinated kal bi … just down the road, literally, at Pono Market, you can get Guteberg Musubi–gotta go early or else sell out … whenever I go back home … those two stops are a must! And of course Hamura’s, Hanamaulu Cafe, and if I can make it to Lawai Store.

I’d like to share what I remember from either someone sharing with me or perhaps reading about, or maybe a combination of both–The History of Guteberg on Kaua’i evidently traces back to GERMANY. It is a German Sausage or Salami — similar to Italian sausage, etc. — it’s a European-style deli sausage. It was introduced to the island of Kaua’i when a German Stone Wall builder moved there back in the plantation days, and was hired to build stonewalls for the plantation owners, mostly on the West side of the island — as is evident by all the old, man-made stone walls that are strewn around the island. The story goes that he introduced the sausage to the plantation owners he was hired by … and they introduced it to the plantation workers — at lunchtime — the one thing that every culture had in common — FOOD … it became customary for all the different cultures to share food … it became sort of a fun way to get to know each other and have respect for different cultures. People couldn’t speak to each other — they all spoke different languages — so food became a universal language … and that is how they started to learn about each other. Guteberg was the “Haole” man’s “kokua” or contribution to the lunchtime pot luck.

Anyways–I live on O’ahu now…married with child. My husband is from NY and looooves Guteberg–he’s part-German…I looooove German sausage…(and Guteberg too…ahem!)–my mom lives with us now…she’s the one that used to work at Kojima’s…gotta have her saussage…so we satisfy our Guteberg urges @ Marukai Dillingham. Although we found it in other stores, she looooooves the butchers there … and they loooooove her too — she’ll grab a long thing of sausage and walk up to the butcher’s sliding glass windows and press their button … and they slide the door open with big smiles on their faces … and she’s holds the sausage up in front of her — like, facing longways towards them … and she says … “I like ‘em t’ick (thick)” … aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahahahaha !! Crack Up!! Yah!! One Full-On Potagee Gramma asking the butchers at frickin’ Marukai if they can give her “6″ — serious !! She go, “You Can Do 6?” aaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahaha !! Da guys look at me and dey turn all red — dark-skinned filipinos !! you can see ‘em blushing !! aaaaaaaahahahahaha !! And they have no idea that my mother has no idea … hahlarious !! frickin’ cartoons I’m tellin’ you!! A bunch of deers with no eyes (no eye dear…no idea…never mind)…alrighty then–

btw … having a brain fart right now — wanna address the comment about the difference between UFOs and Flying Saucers …. Das Right !! ONLY ON KAUAI !! No other island has Flying Saucers … Kaua’i people know the difference … Kaua’i may be full of spacey people, but the upside of that is, they can tell the difference between UFOs and Flying Saucers … that’s what happens when you live on another planet …

kden — gotta get going — long over due for a visit to marukai…my mom was just saying she hasn’t “had it” in awhile … aaaaaaaaahahahaha!! aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahaha !! hoo boy … classic … hey–at least she’s free entertainment … toodles all !!”

~ Anahola Tita

LOL TO DA’ MAX! CLASSIC! I swear, I almost fell of my chair in laughter, as well as enlightenment after first reading that. So cute, you gotta’ love her!

Seriously though, note that she mentions “Flying Saucers” and “UFOs”, which (given my readers provide accurate information), come to find out “Flying Saucers” are NOT a slang name for Kauai’s beloved Göteborg Musubi, but actually a type of saucer-shaped pressed hamburger sandwich. Which another reader named “Roger” explains like this, “Well as for the flying saucer, I remember it only at Bon Dance time and some other time. Two slice of bread, ground beef with a slice of cheese inside, toasted over heat in a saucer shape. Loved those at Bon Dance time… could eat a dozen of them.”

So anyhow, as you may now have read in those links all about Göteborg Sausage, this is truly a “Kauai thang”, that’s slowly making its way across Oahu, and perhaps the other neighbor islands and beyond, thanks to the internet no doubt. I seriously think Hormel should consider boosting their marketing strategy for this otherwise obscure, yet absolutely “Crazy Tasty” sausage!

Therefore in light of their SPAM Hawaii Label Design campaign, I hereby propose to Hormel this “starter” idea for an exclusive Hawaii label design to help market and boost sales of their Goteborg Sausage. Above you see a mock-up of how it would look on the product. Here’s another pulled back view (it looks crooked, but that’s how the original label was placed, which my label design covering superimposed)…

Yes, that Göteborg Sausage measures about 17″ in length, and weighs in at an equally quantifying 3¼ pounds. Whoah! Which is about the average size, as each sausage varies just a bit in weight, hence the meat produce label from Times Supermarket which gives the specific weights and measures price.

Speaking of supermarkets, the Kaheka Don Quijote currently has Göteborg Sausage in stock at a cheaper price than that, running $5.49/lb. vs. $5.99 in this example, which I purchased a few years back from the Times Supermarket’ Kahala location.

Here’s how the current Hormel Göteborg Sausage label looks like…

As for my Göteborg Sausage exclusive Kauai/Hawaii “rough draft” label idea, I pretty much “cockaroached” (borrowed/stole) the design concept from my SPAM Hawaii label design, which once again looked like this…

With that, here’s a proof copy version of my “Kauai’s Favorite” Hormel Goteborg Sausage label design proposal…

While that comment by “Anahola Tita” was certainly playful and comical, underneath it all, it was VERY informative, and the most information I could dig up yet online about the history of Göteborg Sausage on the “Garden Isle” of Kauai.  So I took the core information from her comment and did a little “history blurbage” on my “Kauai’s Favorite” Hormel Goteborg Sausage label design. I’m going to copy and paste that “blurbage” into text form here, mainly so I can eventually quickly find it on Google…

“Goteborg Sausage is said to have been introduced to the Hawaiian
island of Kauai by a German stone wall builder, hired to do work
on the lavish estate homes of wealthy plantation owners living
primarily on the west side of the beautiful “Garden Isle”.

Upon savoring the great taste of this European Sausage delicacy,
these plantation owners then shared it with their multi-cultural
plantation workers, and the rest is history.

Similar to the iconic “SPAM® Musubi”, one of the most popular
ways Kauai folks enjoy this “Crazy Tasty” Swedish sausage is as
“Goteborg Musubi”. An East-meets-West fusion sushi type of morsel,
made simply by topping sauteed slices of Goteborg Sausage with
tightly-pressed, flattened balls of rice,
and then sprinkled with Japanese
Furikake Nori for that
flavorful finishing touch.

Enjoy with Aloha!”

That’s the “blurbage” part. As for the graphical elements, notice I made the “Hawaiian” Tapa print stand out a bit more on the yellow gradient bordering each side of the vertical label design. I also threw in the widely used and abused Lauhala mat as a background for  the Göteborg Musubi “serving suggestion” image. Most important of all though with my design is the trademark “look” of the classic SPAM label design, with the blue vertical band coming from the top, while using the “Cooper” font to spell out GÖTEBORG.

Oh, speaking of “Ö”, in case you’re wondering what those two dots are above the letter Ö, it represents the German Umlauted form of O, which is best explained in this Wikipedia article.

Last but not least, I threw in my favorite design element from my SPAM Hawaii label design, the “SPAMWICH ISLES”. I was going to superimpose Goteborg Sausage as the islands’ background, but didn’t think “Goteborgwich Isles” had the same “ring” to it as “SPAMWICH ISLES”, so left it as that, while making reference to the widely known SPAM product in that final part of the “blurbage” (we like to use that term a lot in the advertising biz).

Anyways, that’s my design, to which of course still needs some tweaking and other ideas thrown in or tossed out. I’ll play with it more both graphically and conceptually if Hormel Foods decides to contact me on this and/or take it to the next level.

I’ll just finish this post with some photos of Goteborg Musubi that I’ve featured here on The Tasty Island in the past…

JOBO’s Goteborg Musubi from The Poke Bowl at Ward Farmers Market (on Oahu)

This is the photo I “pathed out” in Photoshop and used in my label design. Note, “The Poke Bowl” in Ward Farmers Market is no longer there, but they are indeed still around under the name “Paina Cafe”, located right across the street in Ward Warehouse. I must also note, ever since “The Poke Bowl” came around, it seems there’s been plenty of COPY CATS around town doing the same thing they introduced, which is namely as advertised, “Poke Bowls” and what we have here in the form of “Goteborg Musubi”.

Take for instance, you can now find deli-prepared Goteborg Musubi on Oahu at select Times Supermarkets, as well as even Tanioka’s in Waipahu!…

Goteborg Musubi from Tanioka’s Seafood & Catering

Notice Tanioka’s totally flipped the “Jobos” Poke Bowl Goteborg Musubi design upside down to make it “their own”. Essentially “different but da’ same”, and still mighty tasty thanks to that wonderfully savory-meets-salty, absolutely onolicious Goteborg Sausage.

Here’s a good cross-cut view…

Simplicity at its best. Still, if you ask me, I’d throw an Ume in the middle!

Speaking of which, I did one “epic” post in the past here titled the “Goteborg Musubi Project“, where I took a variety of Japanese picked vegetables and other side dish specialties called “Tsukemono” (which I LOVE) and topped them on Goteborg Musubi for the ULTIMATE sampler plate. Ch-ch-check ‘em out…

Goteborg Musubi – a specialty from Kauai – with 7 varieties of toppings

From front to back, that’s Beni Shoga (the red stuff), Kim Chee, Goma Konbu (the black stuff, second row on the far left), Kyuri Zuke, Iriko/Beni Shoga, while on the back row is Ume/Nori Wrap and finally the classic Kauai classic Furikake-topped Goteborg Sausage.

In that same post, I also provided a bunch of photos of what a Goteborg Sausage looks like unwrapped…

All jokes and innuendo comments you may want to make aside, rest assured (or lest you have sleepless nights), this is indeed one HUGE honkin’ log ‘o meat!

Here it is all chopped up and ready to hit da’ frying pan (or ehem, excuse ‘em wah, “Saute Pan)…

Here’s a closer look at each slice

Where there’s salty meat, gotta’ get rice!…

Fry ‘em up…

A key thing to note here is how the Goteborg sausage slices naturally become concave in shape, forming a “cup” that conveniently holds the soon-to-be-added rice!

While you let the piping hot Goteborg sausage slices drain on a paper-towel-lined plate, now’s the time to make some Musubi to add to it. Do that by taking freshly cooked rice that’s been cooled to room temperature and pack it into tightly into ball-shaped form about the size (or a little larger) than the diameter of the Goteborg slices, “creatively” using your hand that’s been wet with lightly salted water (for seasoning and so the rice doesn’t stick). Then flatten the small ball of rice into a thick wafer-like shape, as a fully-spherical rice ball shape symbolizes death in Japanese custom. Just squash it and you’re good, where you’ll live a long and prosperous life. Then top your thick wafer-shaped ball of musubi rice on the inner-cup of each fried (sauteed) Goteborg Sausage slice, which should then look like this…

There’s nothing that “glues” the musubi rice to the Goteborg Sausage “cup”. It just kinda’ sits on it, yet it works, no worries.

At this point,  you can either eat da’ buggah plain laddat (eat that sucker plain, just like that). Or top each Goteborg Musubi with your favorite ‘kine stuffs (types of garnishments), which as previously mentioned, may look somethin’ like this…

The Tasty Island’s Goteborg Musubi Project

Mmm, mmm, MMM! Crazy Tasty!

Alexis Jordan – Happiness

David Gilmour – Then I Close My Eyes (live)

David Gilmour – Where We Start (Live)

Hormel SPAM Hawaii Label Design Contest

Hormel Foods is currently holding a contest, asking Hawaii residents (must be a Hawaii resident) to submit a winning exclusive Hawaii label design for their SPAM 25% Less Sodium canned luncheon meat. The deadline to enter the contest ended this Friday, but online voting by the general public to choose the best design begins today!

This follows the success of the Hawaii Collector’s Edition they offered exclusively to the Hawaii market back in 2003, which looked like this…

The back of the can…

Here’s how the Hormel SPAM 25% Less Sodium can label currently looks…

Most SPAM varieties (turkey, bacon, garlic, etc.), including their competitors (like TREET) include a suggestive recipe or way to use their product on the back of the label…

Well, I hereby exclusively present to you my dear Tasty Island readers, my original submission for the Hormel SPAM 25% Less Sodium Hawaii edition 2011 label design…

A profile angle of how the can would look…

Here’s the label template that was provided by Hormel (as a PDF)…

which I imported into various art programs to fill in the blanks with my design…

Click image to enlarge. For the originally-sized (and very large due to DPI) image of the design, click here

Keep in mind that one of the rules is that “Designers can work in all white space (front and back of label), but must leave brand trade dress information on the label as is.”

Now let me explain my design. First of all, there’s COUNTLESS possibilities and ways to go about this. You could go the “Hawaiian Host scenic box” approach, and simply plug in a montage of beautiful scenic spots around the islands (beach, waterfalls, attractive hula gal and/or guy, etc.). Or you could go the gallery art “Cristopher Lassen” approach, which of course would entail hours upon of hours of work.

Then of course you could simply just show a nice shot of SPAM Musubi or other original SPAM dish that has a local spin to it on the front. Because everything has to be original and/or royalty-free, if you were to show a hula doll, tiki statue or some other typical Hawaii tourist trap stuff, it would either have to be your own, or you’d need permission from the manufacturer or person who made it. I’m not sure where Hormel got that Hula Girl Doll on the 2003 edition, but it’s certainly a great piece, so kudos to them for that design.

Whenever I create something that requires an artistic mind, such as say a masthead for a website, usually my FIRST concept is the one I find works the best. That said, the concept I propose here was the very first thing that came to mind, and I just rolled with it (or surfed it if you will).

My girlfriend highly recommended I think “outside the box” and get away from SPAM Musubi, but you know what? No matter what, there’s no denying SPAM Musubi is THE defining icon of what SPAM means to Hawaii, period. SPAM, eggs and rice? Sure. SPAM Katsu, absolutely. SPAM in Saimin and fried noodles? Most definitely. Yet, by far, SPAM Musubi tops them all, and is truly as much a top-of-mind icon to Hawaii as the North Shore and/or Kilauea, just to name a few. No matter what, the venerable SPAM Musubi continues to be a an absolute REQUIREMENT on a SPAM label that will be mass-produced to honor Hawaii.

So a “SPAM Surfer” you ask? Absolutely! Why not?! There’s actually a key subliminal message behind that. With this being the 25% Less Sodium version — having 580mg of sodium versus regular SPAM’s 790mg — the reason Hormel is using this version is simply because, while Hawaii still enjoys being the largest consumer in the nation of SPAM per capita (with Guam actually beating us, but they’re a territory, not a state), the 25% Less Sodium is a better seller here than the regular SPAM. From a marketing standpoint, this ideally reflects Hawaii residents as a whole being at least somewhat health conscious. So “SPAM Surfer”  is intended to represent an active, outdoor lifestyle on the beach in Hawaii, and surfing is certainly a healthy sport that keeps you fit. Hence, a “SPAM surfer dude”. Adding to that, the graphic of the wave splashing and barreling right underneath the “25% LESS SODIUM” ribbon banner provides an underscoring way of giving the impression that salt is being washed away … even though sea water is salt water, but you get the drift. lol


I might also add, with the rebooted Hawaii Five-0 v.2.1 enjoying renewed TV network success, the barreling wave can also be associated with that (from the opening theme song). Or at least I’d like to think so.

Then of course he’s giving da’ shaka, the universal sign language gesture of Aloha.

Thrown into the design is a Hibiscus silhouette with a simple gradient blend, which as you may know is the official flower of the state of Hawaii. I actually want to redo that using an actual photo and vectorize it, which if my design were to be used, I’d certainly change that out in the final version. I also want to redo the wave illustration a little bit (simplify it more) if given the opportunity to do so.

Now the back of the label is really my favorite part! One idea was to take a block of SPAM and carve it into the shape of Diamond Head Crater, yet I took that eight steps further and “carved” the entire Hawaiian Island chain out of SPAM! Au-right! You know it! lol In Photoshop of course, by clip masking the text over a photo of a slice of fried SPAM. So if you look closely at the surface of the islands, it looks like they’re made of SPAM, which I’ve affectionately renamed in honor of Captain Cook’s “Sandwich Isles”, “DA’ SPAMWICH ISLES”. Clevah (clever) eh!

With that, my idea of a serving suggestion is: take some slices of SPAM and cut them out into the shape of the Hawaiian Islands, fry ‘em up and present it on a flattened bed of rice and furikake on a plate, garnished with Teriyaki sauce and green onion to make the plating presentation complete. I bet your guests will be FLOORED! In fact, I’ll do it myself and blog it here in a post coming soon!

The first paragraph of the text copy is my own, while the rest is directly from Hormel SPAM’s history web page.

The two SPAM Musubi on the bottom left corner were (stress WERE, until I ate them both) mine, which I bought from the Kaheka Don Quijote, made by Tokyo Bento. 5 SPAM Musubi on them, as they were “Crazy Tasty” indeed! lol Believe it or not, I took the photo of that SPAM Musubi (duplicated on the label and rotated) on the dashboard of my car right before eating it at the beach. Au-right!

Finally, if you look closely, the gradient yellow and aqua blue band wrapping the top and bottom of the label has Tapa print embedded in it, sealing the “This is a Hawaii label design” deal.

So anyways, that’s my design and I’m sticking to it, Teriyaki sauce and all. Voting opens to the public today, Presidents Day, Monday, February 21 to Friday, February 25, 2011.

If you like/love/adore my design, please vote for me at www.HawaiiSPAMCan.com. My design is located seven rows up from the bottom on the far right, under the name “Pomaika’i Souza” (my real name of course). Note, when you click the vote button, the website will automatically generate and send an eMail to the address you provided, which you must open and click a link in that eMail to confirm your vote. Please make sure you do this so the vote is counted.


Grindz of the Day: Ilima Restaurant & Catering, Hana No Sato, Kahai Street Kitchen, Young's Fish Market, Don Quijote & OnoPops

Ilima Catering – Saimin Supreme: garnished with Teri’ Beef, Ham, Tofu and Green Onions (double order). $6

Well that’s a long post title. But eh, whatevahz. lol

Anyhow, back in November, Diner E took me to have lunch at Ilima Restaurant & Catering, a truly “old school, Triple-D” kinda’ place, located in the heart of industrial Mapunapuna near HNL airport.  According to Ilima’s successive owner (as of 1978) Paul Suyap (and his lovely wife, Florence), the original owner, Masaji Uyehara, opened Ilima Restaurant & Catering for business 57 years ago in this very same Mapunapuna spot…

FIFTY-SEVEN YEARS AGO (1954)!!!!!!!! Wow.

With that, check out Ilima’s relatively “50’s-like” value-priced menu…

Wow, what a selection of local favorite comfort foods, all at GREAT prices!

There’s a small dining area to the right of a narrow galley fronting the service counter….

See, I wasn’t kidding when I said this place is “old school”. Seriously OLD SCHOOL! Notice the brown plastic catering warmer cube transport containers on that back wall.

With that, on this visit, Diner E decided to try Ilima’s Veal Cutlet plate…

Ilima Restaurant & Catering – Veal Cutlet Plate. $6

Good Lord and Hail Mary in Jesus’ name. Looking at that, I just wanna’  light up the fireplace (pretending I have one) on a chilly winter night and curl up on my sofa, pop in a Blu-Ray and eat that VERY slowly, savoring every bite as I enjoy the movie from beginning to end. lol Seriously, if that doesn’t make you hungry, I don’t what will! Looks SO ONO!!!!!!!!

A “profile” angle…

Last but certainly not least for this mouth-watering Veal Cutlet plate, the ever-important “cross-cut” view of the cutlet itself…

Sheesh, I tell ya’, I wanna’ drink TANK that GRAVY just looking at it! lol

And how is it? “Diner “Saimin Kaukau” E immediately gave it a thumbs-up, super-solid 3 SPAM Musubi of approval, which to you and I would either be 4 or 5 SPAM Musubi. All I know is I hope tonight I have a wonderful dream of savoring a plate of Ilima’s Veal Cutlet by my fireplace while watching a movie. lol

On this particular late November day entering our “chilly” (at least by Hawaiian standards) winter season here in the islands, I remember I was “jonesing” for either saimin or ramen, and thankfully Ilima’s had me covered, where I immediately set my sight on their “Saimin Supreme”. Saimin Supreme? Great name! HOOK. ME. UP! Yet for just $3, I assumed it wasn’t going to be enough to fill me up, so I requested to double my order in the same bowl, which the owner was more than happy to oblige…

Ilima Catering – Saimin Supreme, garnished with Teri’ Beef, Ham, Tofu and Green Onion. $6 (double portion order; $3 regular order)

I asked the owner how they make their broth, and he said it was simply dashi-based, which is absolutely A-OK with me, as, quite frankly, I’m not particularly a fan of saimin broths that taste heavily like shrimp shells,  which some other saimin houses tend to make theirs. To note, like most restaurants that serve saimin or ramen here on Oahu, Ilima sources their noodles from Sun Noodle Factory, which I’ll say time and time again, I’m a HUGE fan of.

That said, the broth was spot-on, with just enough dashi to give it that  depth and “Umami” factor, while the noodles were cooked perfectly al dente. Ultimately, the most important thing to point out about this particular bowl of Saimin is how the Teri’ Beef actually ADDED to it, and wasn’t a distraction.  I  was afraid the Teri’ Beef flavor would overpower the saimin broth and noodles, but it turned out very COMPLIMENTARY. Sweet. While I would have preferred the more traditional Chinese style Charsiu over the American-style ham, for what it’s worth, it worked. I also missed having Kamaboko in it, yet the Tofu was nice, albeit an obviously neutral-flavored garnishment touch.

Summing it up, I give Ilima Restaurant and Catering’s “Saimin Supreme” a super-solid 3 SPAM Musubi. Where if I may, my only suggestion to improve on, would be to switch out the American ham for Chinese Charsiu, and add Kamaboko. To which I’m most confident this would then easily achieve 4 or 5 SPAM Musubi Saimin “Supreme” stardom. Yay!

While on the subject of “oriental noodle soup”, moving along to our next venue, we land smack the center of Waikiki on Koa Street behind the Hyatt Regency & Spa Hotel over at Hana No Sato, where on this also first time visit, I couldn’t resist trying their Shoyu Ramen…

Hana No Sato – Shoyu Ramen. $8.00

Remember what I said a moment ago about curling up on the sofa with the fireplace lit, while watching a movie and DEVOURING that incredible looking, gravy-covered Veal Cutlet plate from Ilima’s? Well, OK, if you want, simply switch out the Veal Cutlet plate for this bowl of Shoyu Ramen from Hana No Sato and I’d be just as happy a camper! Seriously! lol

First I observe the bowl and go into my usual deep spiritual trance as I take in the “mana” (spirit) of what I’m about to partake on. Because, you know, Japanese Ramen is DEEP STUFF. Breath in the aroma of the hot, steaming broth. Appreciate it. Let it uplift your heart. Your “Tamashii”. OK, hai, itadaki masu….

Sugoi! Oishii-to-da’ max desu yo (my new hybrid word)!  Oh man, this is some mighty onolicious Shoyu Ramen! I won’t say it’s Tokyo style, because it ain’t. Yet for what it’s worth, this one is rockin’ it!

The (again) Sun Noodle Factory-sourced ramen noodles were cooked perfectly, while the broth had a complexity, yet simplicity all its own. I’d almost go on a limb and say it tasted “saimin-like”, yet in a GREAT WAY, that quite honestly I don’t think any local saimin house in the islands could ever achieve. Reason I say that is because owner Shogo-san is from Japan, and Nihonjin just have an understanding of the complex ingredients that make a great ramen that us local folks would never understand unless we lived there and/or worked in an authentic ramen-ya.

Anyhoo, let’s try the Charsiu…

Not bad. Can’t touch Goma Tei’s superior, melt-in-the-mouth, oh-so-fatty-good rolled pork belly Charsiu, yet for what it’s worth, this thinly-sliced simmered pork loin works. Thankfully Hana No Sato also includes Menma (marinaded bamboo shoots), which of course add an extra dimension of “Umaminess” to the broth, as well as the stringy-rubbery texture while you chew it along with the soft noodles. I am SUCH a menma fan, you don’t even know! Between that and mushrooms, I don’t need any meat. Just that and I’m good!

Here’s the main man of Hana No Sato, chef/all-around-cool-dude Shogo-san…

Hana No Sato’s main dining counter…

Up next we return once again to what is probably my ichiban favorite “hole-in-the-wall plate lunch joint-gone-gourmet”, over at the ALWAYS FAN-TA-BULOUS Kahai Street Kitchen in the ever-so-scenic and picturesque industrial area of Kalihi Kai. This time around, where on two recent visits I tried their Nori-rolled Kataifi-wrapped Mahi Mahi plate…

Kahai Street Kitchen – Nori Rolled Kataifi Wrapped Mahi Mahi: Mahi Mahi rolled in Nori and Shredded Phyllo Dough, Fried to a golden brown Served with Wasabi Tartar. Choice of White or Brown Rice & Potato Mac or Tossed Salad. $8.50

Are you kidding me? This would EASILY run you three times that price in a Waikiki restaurant, yet don’t let the price fool you. Kahai Street Kitchen owner/Chef Nao Iwata has already proven he really KNOWS his stuff, and this was absolutely no exception, where it was PERFECTLY EXECUTED.

Behold this beauty…

Melts-in-the-mouth tender, moist ‘n flaky Mahimahi? CHECK!…

Then factor in the blast of “Umami” from the Nori that’s generously wrapping the Mahimahi filet, along with that delicately golden crispy ‘n stringy texture of the Kataifi, bringing it all home with the fat-meets-zesty heat punch of the Wasabi Aioli sauce and POW! That is seriously GOOD EATS (mahalo A.B.). No better way to put it. Nothing else to say but 5 SPAM MUSUBI for Kahai Street Kitchen’s Kataifi Mahimahi!

Several weeks later I decided to try their “Hamburger Club”…

The “profile” angle…

A quarter-slice…

The verdict? Unfortunately the burger patty was overcooked, while there was just too much going on. Thinking positively, now if they would just stuff this Club Burger with Crab and Artichoke, then wrap it all up in Nori and Kataifi and then deep fry it, then we’ll be TALKIN’! lol

Summing up KSK’s Club Burger, 1 SPAM Musubi.

Finally, I returned to Kahai Street Kitchen for yet another take on Mahimahi, this time in the form of being (as suggested above) crusted with Crab, Artichoke and Spinach…

Kahai Street Kitchen – Crab, Artichoke and Spinach Crusted Mahi Mahi. Served with White Wine Sauce. $8.50

Common now. If you seen “Mahi Mahi crusted with Crab and Artichoke” listed on the menu, could you resist? You can’t! At least I couldn’t!

Check it out…

The verdict? Yum! (I couldn’t say “ono” lest I confuse you with whether this is Mahimahi or Ono the fish lol). It didn’t have as much “impact” as the Nori and Kataifi-wrapped version, yet the added fattiness from the mayo-based Crab and Artichoke, along with the generous garlic in there had plenty-oh-punch on the palate. 3 SPAM Musubi.I also must note the Linguine pasta was cooked perfectly al dente, simply flavored with a light drizzle of EVOO, finely-chopped parsley, salt ‘n pep’. Nice. The slices of perfectly toasted French Baguettes were also a welcoming touch.

Next we have a BROKE DA’ MOUT’ Kalua Pig and Lomi Salmon plate from Young’s Fish Market, compliments of a private invitation to a product expo’ by IKON OFFICE SOLUTIONS (mahaloz Cynthia!)…

While I personally find eating Hawaiian food with RICE almost a tragedy (if not an insult) vs. with POI, I understand the cost and demand/popularity considerations for not providing the latter. Thankfully Young’s completely REDEEMS any hangups I have on that by providing absolutely BROKE DA’ MOUT’ ONO Kalua Pig! It’s super moist thanks to copious amounts of pork fat, while being perfectly smoked, having a truly genuine Imu (traditional Hawaiian underground oven) flavor. I don’t know if Young’s actually does Imu-roast their pig, as this just as well may be oven-roasted with the help of liquid smoke and Ti leaves, yet for all I care, Young’s NAILS Kalua Pig (that didn’t sound right, but you know what I mean). lol

They also hit a home run on the Lomi Salmon, with generous chunks of salt salmon, immediately reminding you this is Lomi Salmon and NOT “Lomi Tomato”. Perfect balance of salt as well. What’s nice is the Lomi Salmon sort of is a psuedo-replacement for Poi, where the combination of the salted salmon along with the savory, smoked pulled pork flavor compliment each other in a truly “Hawaiian style” way eating experience. Ya’ know?

Summing it up, solid 5 SPAM Musubi for Young’s Kalua Pig and Lomi Salmon plate. 10 SPAM Musubi if had Poi!

Speaking of Young’s Fish Market, one of Oahu’s most respected purveyor of Hawaiian food, lately their Laulau hasn’t been quite up to snuff, with the Luau leaves being under-steamed and tough, while the filling hasn’t been seasoned with enough Hawaiian salt, and basically overall disappointing. That said, my Kuliou’ou cousins recently made a batch of homemade Laulau for a family fundraiser that was OFF THE CHARTS AMAZING!…

I didn’t get a photo of it cut open for service, but I’ll just say again, it was OFF THE CHARTS ONO!!! WOW LAU “Kuliou’ou” LAU!

Speaking of foods in wrapped-up form, one of my all-time favorite meals-on-the-go is Musubi. More specifically and simply, UME MUSUBI. That’s it. I don’t need no SPAM or this or that (although there is a time and place for it).  Just Ume and I’m GOOD! Where thanks to convenience, I regularly get myself an Ume Musubi from the Kaheha Street Don Quijote Omusubi counter, which is located adjacent to their meat and fish department…

Like the absolutely AWESOME Musubi-Ya Iyasume in Waikiki (next door to Hana No Sat0), DQ’s Omusubi uses Premium-grade rice…

Where’s the beef? Or actually, the Ume? Have a bite and you shall see, grass hopper…

Ahh, oooohhhh, aaaaahhhh.

My only complaint is that they don’t add ANY seasoning (salt) to the rice, so it depends entirely on the saltiness from the Ume and robust undertone from the Nori for flavor. Otherwise the premium-grade rice is cooked to perfection, with just the right amount of “stick”. All-in-all, 3 SPAM Musubi. Or, err, make that 3 Ume Musubi! lol

Finally for today’s “Grindz of the Day”, we’re back yet again at KCC Farmers’ Market this past Saturday morning to try another flavor. Where on this visit I decided to sample yet another NEW FLAVAH!…

I asked Joe which one he liked more, to which he immediately pointed me to the Apple Banana-Mac Nut,  where here they are chillin’ in the chest…

I’m shivering just looking at that (a good thing)! lol

The selling point for me on this was the fact that Joe said these were generously laced with real chunks of Macadamia Nuts, which you shall soon see he wasn’t kidding!

Here’s OnoPops all-new for January ’11 “Apple Banana-Mac Nut” flavor, unwrapped and about to be completely DEVOURED by yours truly…

It certainly has a “Banana-ish” color to it, along with what appears to be chunks of Mac Nuts in it.

The “profile” angle…

It also looks frosty-cold, which is a welcome sight on a hot Hawaiian Saturday morning at the foot of Diamond Head crater (where KCC is located).

OK, let’s do this…

And?  It’s definitely “Banana-ee” in flavor profile (the other descriptor to “Banana-ish” lol), with a hint of acicidity due to it being sourced from Apple Bananas, which have that edge of tartness to them.

As for the Macadamia part of the equation, Joe was not kidding when he said there’s CHOKE NUTS in this Banana Pop (that didn’t sound right lol). Check it out…

See it? Here’s more as I eat my way through…

Summing it up, this is DEFINITELY A KEEPER and needs to make OnoPops already long list of regular menu items. I can just imagine this being dipped in Chocolate, either milk or dark variety for added “oomph”. Rating? 5 SPAM Musubi! WINNAH WINNAH MAC NUT ‘BANANA POP DINNAH.. or, err, dessert, that is. Or in my case this past Saturday morning, breakfast.

Big Island Eats: Roy's Smoked Marlin & Smoked Ahi

Upon my usual Saturday morning stroll through KCC Farmers’ Market this past weekend, I came across an absolute TREASURE CHEST of dried and smoked fish at the Tropic Fish & Vegetable tent.

You may remember Tropic’s Market, who was a prominent anchor tenant at the Ward Farmers Market for decades. While they no longer have a retail store, they’re alive and well, located in the same Ward warehouse area behind the Farmers Market, where they continue to operate a fish and produce wholesale distribution business to local and overseas markets.

Getting to the ono ‘kine smoked fish grindz we’re reviewing today, come to find out, according to the girl working at their booth, Tropic’s is a partnership business with Hilo Fish Company on the Big Island. It’s through them that Tropic’s brings in these Smoked Ahi and Smoked Marlin products, which are manufactured by Roy’s Fishery (no affiliation with Roy Yamaguchi the restaurateur), also located on the Big Island at the south tip in Na’alehu, near Ka’u.

So let’s check out what we’ve got here, beginning with Roy’s Smoked Marlin…

As you see on the label, that’s a 5 oz. package, which costs $2.79 (great price!), vacuum-sealed for maximum freshness and shelf life. The ingredients are: Marlin, Soy Sauce, Brown Sugar, Salt, Garlic Powder, Canola Bean Oil and Red Crushed Pepper.

Hmm, interesting that they use Brown Sugar. I’ll have to try that next time I make my Big Island style Smoke Meat (pork). Usually I use unrefined cane sugar, which has a natural brown color, but doesn’t taste quite as molasses-like as brown sugar. I also notice the absence of Ginger, which I use generously in my Smoke Meat recipe, and after tasting this Smoked Marlin, I really think it would benefit with the addition of Ginger in Roy’s marinade.

Let’s unpack it and take an inventory of all pieces included in this 5 oz. package…

That would be 9 sticks of Roy’s Smoked Marlin, with each one measuring on average 5½” long x 5/8″ thickness. They were also mostly center cuts, with only a couple that were from the more stringy tail end.

As in usual Tasty Island fashion, let’s have a look at a cross-section cut…

How does it taste? Oishii, broke da’ mout’ winnnahz! I found it tasted even better after letting it get to room temperature vs. being refrigerator-cold. Like eating fine cheese, letting it get to room temperature allows the fats to “melt” out of their congealed state, providing maximum flavor impact. And man, are these packed with flavor. It has the perfect balance of marinade penetration, without the marinade taking away from the natural “meaty” flavor of the inherently-lean marlin.

That leanness makes most smoked marlin waiver on the dry side, and this one is like that as well, yet I think Roy’s reaches just the right dry-to-moist ratio. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being raw to 10 being “jerky” dry, I’d put Roy’s Smoked Marlin at about 6½. Which is perfect, as if I want Fish Jerky, I’ll buy fish jerky. When I buy Smoked Fish, I want it to still have some moisture and tenderness and not be so tough, and Roy’s NAILS it. This is EXACTLY how Smoked Fish should be on the dry-to-moist scale.

Back to the flavor profile, it’s kinda’ shoyu-ee-sweet, but not where it tastes like I’m eating Teriyaki, yet just enough where the Shoyu and sugar brings out the “Umami” factor in the smokey, meaty Marlin. It says there’s Chili Pepper Flakes in it, but I detected practically no heat whatsoever, where this would probably wouldn’t even register a single unit on the Scoville Scale.

The smokiness of it is at just the right balance as well, where you know this marlin has been smoked, yet not to the point like you’re biting into a piece of burnt Kiawe wood, if you know what I mean.

Summing it up, I give Roy’s Smoked Marlin a very solid, supah’ ono 4 SPAM Musubi. WINNER! Add some ginger and crank up the heat from the Chili Pepper Flakes in the marinade a couple notches and this would definitely earn the top 5 SPAM Musubi prize!

Next up we have Roy’s Smoked Ahi…

Roy’s Smoked Ahi costs about a dollar more than the Smoked Marlin at $3.79 for this 5 oz. vacuum-sealed package. The ingredients are: Tuna, Soy Sauce, Brown Sugar, Salt, Garlic Powder, Canola Bean Oil, Artificial Food Coloring and Red Crushed Pepper.

Let’s unpack it and take inventory…

These were cut a bit smaller than the Marlin, with each strip of Smoked Ahi measuring on average about 4″ in length x 1/2″ thick. They were also mostly cut towards the tail, with only two pieces that were more forward on the fish in the center area. Also notice the second one from the right is cut from the dark meat near the bone of the fish.

Let’s check the cross-section cut…

How is it? Roy’s Smoked Ahi’ marinade flavor profile was totally identical to how I described the Smoked Marlin above. Where it differed in was of course the fact that it’s Ahi, which is inherently a fattier fish, hence the Smoked Ahi was considerably more moist and less dry than the Smoked Marlin. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being raw to 10 being “jerky” dry, I’d put Roy’s Smoked Ahi at 4½. Like the Smoked Marlin, I also think this would have benefited by having more heat factor from the Chili Peppers, as well as some added pizazz from the ginger.

Its considerably more moist texture was certainly its best attribute, as was the freshness and clean taste of the Ahi itself, where it didn’t taste “fishy” at all; surprisingly even that dark meat piece didn’t taste fishy like it does in raw form, but fairly neutral. And even though the cuts were predominantly from stringy areas of the fish, it didn’t have any stringy attribute at all when chewing it.

Summing it up, I give Roy’s Smoked Ahi, again, 4 SPAM Musubi, again also noting more kick from the Chili Pepper along with some ginger in the marinade would elevate this easily to 5 SPAM Musubi.

Oh, did I say these go GREAT with an ice cold beer? Well they do! A St. Pauli Girl to be exact, wheah’, ho brah, whack one piece smoke fish, den’ chase em wit’ one sip of da beeah, buggah stay so ono! The smokey, mildy salty “meaty” flavor of the fish when combined with the hops in the ice cold beer are like peas in a pod. I GUARANTEE you one thing: you put a plate of this Smoked Marlin and Smoked Ahi on the table at a party and GAURANZ’ that’s going to disappear first, before everything and all else on the pupu spread.  GUARANZ. Well, at least it would get wiped out if I were there! lol

With Christmas 2010 quickly creeping up on us, surely most of you have already made your gift wish list for Santa. Well here’s mine: “Dear Santa, please get me a whole box just like this from Tropic’s”…

That’s like several POUNDS of Smoked Marlin, Smoked Ahi and Dried Aku. Truly a treasure chest of da’ most ono kine grindz! “Ho Om Nom Nom Ho, Merry Christmas! Om-nom-nom-nom-nom-Ho”. lol

Before we leave Tropic’s KCCFM tent for some Tasty Island bonus content, here’s a few cases of Kahuku Papaya they had for sale…

Moving along to some bonus content for this post, it isn’t uncommon to run into local celebrity chefs and movers ‘n shakers of Hawaii’s culinary scene at the KCC Farmers’ Market, and this weekend was no exception, where Honolulu celebrity chef Alan Wong set up a booth to promote his new cookbook ‘The Blue Tomato‘…

Here’s a video by Watermark Publishing on Chef Wong’s new cookbook…


Ironically, he was also selling his signature Li Hing Mui Dressing, which I featured here in the form of Alan Wong’s Hamakua Tomato Salad a while ago in my write-up of my Godmother, Aunty Nalani’s 75th Birthday at Washington Place

According to Chef Wong, his Ling Hing Mui dressing is only available exclusively at his restaurant, and currently not available for retail sale in stores. Foodland? Tamura’s? Don Quijote? Times? Safeway? Costco? Hello?!!!

They were giving out samples of the dressing drizzled on Yellow Grape Tomato halves…

This is how Chef Wong serves his Li Hing Mui dressing in the restaurant…

Alan Wong’s Hamakua Tomato Salad with Li Hing Mui Dressing

I LOVED this dressing so much when I tried it the first time at my Aunt’s birthday party several years ago, that I went as far as recreating it myself at home, which is really easy to do. Check it out…

Learn how to make Alan Wong’s Li Hing Dressing at the post, “Li Hing Everything“. Or better yet, buy a bottle of the real deal at his restaurant!

Man, just saying “Li Hing Mui”, let alone looking at the red color of that dressing always makes me slobber and drool. lol

Finally, in honor of loyal Tasty Island reader Debbie-chan, we stop by Ono Pops KCCFM booth once again to try yet another flavor…

“Spock” my Foodland SPAM Musubi Reusable Shopping Bag sitting on the table, which is full of fresh produce and French Baguettes for my Banh Mi Sandwiches.

Here’s brother/co-owner of Ono Pops, Josh…

Josh is a Punahou grad and super nice guy. There were a couple flavors that weren’t listed on the menu board, including an Okinawan Sweet Potato Pie Ono Pop and Lemon Peel Ono Pop. Also not listed was the one I decided to try, which Josh calls “Ginger Tanical”…

Let’s unwrap it and have a better look…

Like many of the other Ono Pops flavors, Josh came up with the recipe for his “Ginger Tanical” Ono Pop himself, and boy is this thing a “doozie”, with ALL KINDS of stuff going on in it. According to him, the “Ginger Tanical” Ono Pop includes the following ingredients, which he also points out are mostly locally-produced and/or organic: fresh ginger, lime juice, orange juice, Big Island honey, Holly Thai basil, lemon grass, Lemon Verbana, Sea Asparagus and Chamomile.

Whoah! I’m not sure whether to eat this or rub it on my head get to rid of my bald spot and grow my hair back. LOL!

Seriously though, Josh said he won some kind of award last weekend with his new “Ginger Tanical” Ono Pop at an Herbal Convention? here on the island. Sorry, I forgot to write that down in my notes. I’ll ask him next week if I see him.

While it may not cure male pattern baldness or get rid of wrinkles on your skin, the “Ginger Tanical” Ono Pop certainly TASTES medicinal, yet incredibly, in an appealing and not off-putting way. That really is the best way I can describe it. It also seemed to have sort of a mood-enhancing and energizing effect, kinda’ like Prozac-meets-Red Bull, all conveniently frozen and ready to eat in one handy-dandy, very delicious and refreshing stick!

Ginger is certainly the most definitive flavor element happening here, which has a medicinal quality about it all in itself, along with a complex herbal thing in a “green way” going on in the background, thanks to all those unusual ingredients. Some of which I had to “Google” for just to spell correctly, let alone ever consuming them in my life before trying this. The addition of Kahuku Sea Asparagus is arguably the meanest “left curve” thrown into this pitch of a popsicle.

Overall, I really, really DIG this flavor, giving Josh’s new ‘Ginger Tanical” Ono Pop creation an invigorating, well-executed. wonderfully exotic and unique 4-SPAM Musubi. You gotta’ try it. Highly recommended! It’s CRAZY TASTY, both literally and figuratively!

P.S. If anyone out there has a good recipe, as well as making process for ono ‘kine Smoked Marlin (or any other fish), please share! I’m specifically looking for instructions on how to properly cure and/or brine and/or dry the fish, as well as what is the proper temperature to smoke it and how long? Mahalo in advance.

Time for Tako Poke

Happy belated Thanksgiving ya’ all.  Hope you had a great FEAST.

At this point, if you now don’t want to see Turkey for the next week at least, here I offer something entirely different and from the ocean in the form of Tako! A.K.A. “Squid”, or more technically, (an 8-legged) Octopus, which is a cephalopod. This, from a guy who had just arrived on shore with his catch as I arrived at Kuliou’ou Beach Park in Hawaii Kai, after having caught them right on the reef in Maunalua Bay.

The very first thing I asked him was, “What brah? Tako Poke?”, to which he (essentially) replied, “You know ‘dat cuz!”. lol

Check out this set of really cool pics I took (as always, click on each photo to enlarge it) just last weekend of his AWESOME, BEAUTIFUL catch, which are estimated to weigh between 3 to 4 pounds for each Tako (Octopus)…

The underside, where the “beak” is (hidden in that hole are the teeth the Octopus uses to crush small crabs and shrimp, which are its ideal food source)…

The Octopus’ ink sack (that black thing)…

Pretty neat, and truly one of them “Lucky We Live Hawaii”, priceless moments! I love the texture of the Octopus’ skin, as well as the complex parts inside and around its head.

I must admit, those were some GREAT photos. Which brings to mind this parody logo I created a while ago…

Those two Tako (the Japanese term for Octopus) got me so jazzed-up and “psyched”, I just had to go get me some Tako to eat, so I immediately headed back to town, down Kapahulu Avenue, and dropped by none other than the POKE KING of kings, queens and all other royalty in Honolulu over at Ono Seafood!…

I swear to God, this is by far, THE BEST place to get Poke on Oahu. Absolute BROKE DA’ MOUT WINNAHZ!

Ono Seafood’s Smoked Scallops…

Ono Seafood’s Dried Ahi…

Ono Seafood’s Smoked Marlin…

Dried Dark Meat…

Ono Seafood’s Sashimi…

Ono Seafood’s Smoked Tako…

Ono Seafood’s Opae (dried shrimp, which is ONO by itself with POI!) and Dried Tako…

Ono Seafood’s ‘Seafood Combo’…

Ono Seafood’s Pickle Onion (notice it’s singular “pickle onion” not “pickled onions”) and pickle ogo…

Ono Seafood’s Namasu and Kini Lau…

Ono Seafood’s Taegu, Usu Aji Kyuri and Dried Poke…

Ono Seafood’s Kukui Nut and Limu Kohu (gold!)…

Ono Seafood’s EXCELLENT Boiled Peanuts…

Ono Seafood’s Chili Pepper Water (a.k.a. “Chili Peppah Watah”)…

Ono Seafood’s current menu (as of 11/19/10)…

Notice the menu says “Poke Made to Order”. Big difference my friend. HUGE difference. That’s what makes them DA’ BEST-EST, EST, EST, EST, EST, ESTES.

This sounds familiar

Ooh, now on Facebook!

This is Mrs. Sakuma, Ono Seafood’s owner/operator/”Poke Chef” (because, really, it truly is a very technical profession to make EXCELLENT>>Honolulu’s BEST Poke as they do!)…

Here’s a closer look at those BEAUTIFUL slices of Tako, just waiting for a dash of Shoyu, Chili Pepper, Kukui Nut, Hawaiian Salt and everything else that makes it the FANTABULOUS Poke that it shall become…

And finally, after it’s all dressed-up in said “ingrediments”, Ono Seafood’s MADE-TO-ORDER Tako Poke!…

How is it? AWESOME! So tender, and not rubbery at all. Fresh-tasting, while being perfectly seasoned with just the right level of salt, sweet, hot and spicy. 5 SPAM Musubi Tako Poke, right here at Ono Seafood. So, so ono! Om-nom-nom-Tako Poke-nom!

Rounding it out, I also grabbed a package of Ono Seafood’s Smoked Tako…

How is Ono Seafood’s Smoked Tako? Umm, can someone get me another package? EXCELLENT! Not too smokey, where I can still taste the Tako flavor, while being perfectly seasoned and sliced thin, so it was naturally easy to chew. Good stuff! 5 SPAM Musubi. Heck, probably everything that rolls out of Ono Seafood’s tiny hole-in-wall door is probably 5 SPAM Musubi stuff!

Ah yes, nothing like savoring the memory of super-fresh, made-to-order, broke da’ mout winnahz Tako Poke after a day of Turkey, Turkey, and more Turkey.

Happy Black Friday everyone!