Whole Foods Eats: Taro Delight Smoked Taro Dip

What’s with it that this is the second product I walk out of Whole Foods with that has Olives in it? Perhaps it’s the interior design of the store that puts me into “Mediterranean Mode”. Who knows.

Anyhow, this past weekend I paid (dearly) another visit to Whole Foods while on the same Kahala Mall excursion day that took me to The Counter Custom Built Burger restaurant. This time at Whole Foods getting what I promised myself I’d return for from the last visit, which is this Taro Delight Smoked Taro Dip.

Doesn’t SMOKED TARO sound intriguing to you? Well, it does to me!

So there I was again in the Kahala Mall Whole Foods like a kid in a candy store going ga-ga over all the cool exotic groceries I’ve never seen in any other supermarket, returning back at that refrigerator case isolated in the back section of the deli area near the sushi counter, where they have an entire line of Taro Delight Smoked Taro Dip varieties.

With exotic flavors such as Sun Dried Tomatoes, Curry and “Taronnaise”, I could not resist picking one of these up to try myself.

What Whole Foods needs to consider with so many unusual products on their shelves is having sample stations on a regular basis like Costco. I heard they have them on Sundays, but I didn’t see any when I was there. What if this sucks? Then what? I hope you have a good return policy or I’m gonna’ be very upset. Especially after being left $8 in the hole for it. Or should I say “whole” for it. I mean where else do you have to spend over $16 for dip and crackers? Only at Whole Foods! They should just rename this supermarket “Whole Wallet” or “Whole Spending Cash”, as that’s what it’ll cost ya’ to shop there. lol

Just kidding. Seriously though, yes this dip costs $7.99 plus tax, then add the La Panzanella Croccantini crackers to go along with it, and it indeed all rang up over $16 for crackers ‘n dip. Ouch.

Of course this isn’t your everyday Joe crackers ‘n dip. We’re talking here Croccantini and SMOKED TARO DIP. Well, ehem, OK, now you’ve got my attention!

Here’s the Croccantini crackers I bought at Whole Foods to accompany this dip….

Here it is unwrapped….

Notice on the package it says ROSEMARY. Yum, one of my favorite herbs. You can see distinctive pieces of Rosemary sprinkled throughout the surface of the cracker that’s been mixed into the dough, and taste it too! While $8 is a chunk of change to pay for a package of crackers, I must say, these certainly have the crispness, flavor and quality to just about justify the cost. Depending on your perspective of course. La Panzanella is based in Seattle, Washington, so that’s good too, as we’re supporting made in the USA products.

OK, back to the star of the show, the Taro Delight Smoked Taro Dip. As you see I chose “Olive the Above”. No, not all the flavors they have in stock, as I’d certainly be in the “Whole” if I did that! lol No, it’s cleverly named “Olive the Above”, which essentially is the core smoked taro dip with minced olives in it. Here’s a view of the 12 oz. container from top view…

Here’s the ingredients…

Let’s open it up and take a look…

Wow, I wish Poi nowadays were this thick! Actually this was the only flavor that had a similar purplish-gray color like poi. Most of the other flavors took on their said type such as light green, light pink and tan.

Nothing else to do now but spread some on the Croccantini and sample some, cuz!

It certainly tastes like what it’s labeled as, with a distinctive flavor combination of lightly-smoked taro and olives, yet it’s not too outspoken, but more on the mellow side.The smoked flavor is very subtle as well, yet you can certainly tell it’s there, giving the dip a full-bodied flavor, which would certainly be missed if it weren’t smoked. The olives actually match quite well with the taro. I was skeptical at first, but now after trying it, I’m convinced the Olive the Above flavor combo is a keeper.

The taro flavor is a bit strange in combination with the rosemary-infused Croccantini, but after a few bites, your palate acclimates to it.

The slight essence of garlic salt in it, as well as the consistency of the dip as a spread also sort of reminds me of hummus, so this should work equally well on Pita Chips. Probably wonton chips too. Whichever cracker or chip you get to accompany it, make sure it’s low sodium because the smoked taro dip has enough garlic salt in it already.

Here’s another sample at a different angle…

No shortage of minced black olives in it, that’s for sure.

Let’s try jazzing it up with some roasted red bell peppers and fresh chopped scallions…

Oh yes, that’s money right there. The peppers and onions really bring more life to the party here, not just visually, but flavorwise as well. This is definitely a pupu you could serve at a VIP party.

One more sample…

That’s pretty.

According to Tom Purdy, the man behind this product, you can also make this into a creamy salad dressing by whisking it together with Olive Oil and Vinegar. That sounds interesting. I think I’ll try that next and will add it here after I do so.

I’m thinkin’ a smoked taro and olive dressing might also taste good tossed with pasta like say, linguine or fetuccine.Perhaps just add some fresh herbs like Italian Parsley and Basil.

Tom uses Chinese Dryland Taro for this product, which he claims yields the right poi-like creaminess, even after the addition of the various flavorings.

As mentioned earlier, there’s a variety of flavors that Whole Foods carries, including Taronnaise, Poke (yes, Poke!), Smoked Salmon, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Thai Chili and a few others I can’t remember. I’m glad I chose Olive the Above. It makes me feel like I got all of them in one container. lol They’re all $7.99 each per 12 oz. container.

Diner AC bought a container of the Smoked Taro Dip Poke flavor, which she said was delicious. Da’ buggah even get ogo inside… how’s dat?!

According to their website, Tom also sells his Taro Delight products at the Kapiolani Community College Farmer’s Market on Saturdays. I’m not sure if it’s cheaper there than at Whole Wallet Foods, but that’s one venue I seriously need to attend soon (maybe tomorrow if I can get up early enough) and blog it.

Here’s the store front of Whole Foods at Kahala Mall…


Whole Foods Kahala Mall

Now that I think about it, on this last visit, I didn’t lock my radar on what next to try at Whole Foods, but once I walk in there again, it won’t take long to find something expensive and interesting!

What? Taro Delight Smoked Taro Dip – Olive the Above flavor
Where did you buy it and how much? Whole Foods Kahala Mall, $7.99/12 oz. container
Big Shaka to: Distinctive mildly-smoked taro and olive flavors work together quite well. Good body (thickness). A good foundation for creative cracker toppings (see one example above). Can also be used to make a creamy salad dressing and other creative culinary applications. The “Smoked Taro” name can garner high price tag as a menu item (if you’re a restaurant manager or owner). Made in Hawaii.
No shaka to: Relatively expensive (especially at Whole Wallet Foods). Olive the Above flavor doesn’t include all of the above flavors. lol No sample stations in the store so I can try before I buy.
The Tasty Island rating: 3 SPAM Musubi

What? La Panzanella Croccantini – Rosemary flavor
Where did you buy it and how much? Whole Foods Kahala Mall, $7.99/8 oz. package (includes eight 4″x7″ Crocantini)
Big Shaka to: Very crispy and fresh tasting. Distinctive Rosemary flavor featuring real chopped Rosemary blended in. Nicely toasted. Marries well with most spreads, including the smoked taro after you acclimate to it. Sturdy enough for thick spreads like the Smoked Taro dip. Breaks apart into smaller pieces cleanly (doesn’t crumble). Made in the USA.
No shaka to: Relatively expensive (especially at Whole Wallet Foods). Not made in Hawaii.
The Tasty Island rating: 3 SPAM Musubi

Related links:
Dip into extra-tasty taro with many hip flavors – Star Bulletin
Nouveau taro – Honolulu Weekly
Poi Dip – HawaiiBusiness.com
About Tom Purdy – FirstFridayHawaii.com
KCC Farmers Market website information
www.LaPanzanella.com

3/1/09 Post edit: Following are photos I took yesterday at the KCC Farmers’ Market…



Tom Purdy of Taro Delight, Taro Delight Smoked Taro Dip products, Smoked Taro Dip Poke, Smoke Taro Dip Poke version 2

Kukui Sausage Company

Taronaise, Red Chili & Coconut, Chipotle Mustaro, Evil Jungle Taro Green Thai Churry Smoked Taro Dips

Gold Fire!!! Yellow Curry with Sage, Olive the Above, Sun Dried Tomato Smoked Taro Dips and Chinese Dry Land Taro

All these smoked taro dips were offered as complimentary samples to try along with tortilla chips…

Redondo's Arabiki Hot Dog & Sausage


Redondo’s Arabiki Hot Dog pack

Strolling through the Kaheka Don Quijote the other day, I noticed they had these Redondo’s Arabiki Hot Dogs on the shelf next to the Arabiki sausages. Oh, something new? The Hawaii Winter Baseball theme on the packaging had me presuming these were some sort of limited time promotional offer, so I checked both the Redondo’s and the H.W.B. website to get more information about this product, to no avail.

Therefore, I ended up calling them by phone to see what’s da’ scoops. According to the person at Redondo’s who I spoke with, it turns out the Arabiki Hot Dogs are indeed a new, permanent item added to their product line that began distribution to stores some time late last year 2008.

Since as of yet there’s not much online coverage of even the original Arabiki Sausage from Redondo’s (which has been around for some time now), I figured this was a good opportunity to try them both side-by-side and do a comparo’.

I actually did a little featurette on Redondo’s Arabiki Sausage way back when in the infamous “Great Portuguese Sausage Shootout“, but this time we’ll get a bit more in-depth.

Arabiki are described as Japanese style coarse grind sausages, which are also touted on Redondo’s TV commercials for having a juicy, snappy crunch when you bite into them.

Here’s how Redondo’s Arabiki Sausages are packaged…


Redondo’s “Mo ‘Ono Selection” Arabiki Sausage

Let’s remove them from the vacuum packaging and see how their appearance is, starting with the Arabiki Hot Dogs…


Redondo’s Arabiki Hot Dogs (unheated)

Yes, count them: there’s EIGHT HOT DOGS included in each pack – not ten like many of the leading national brands. So finally we have the correct pairing with the standard package of EIGHT HOT DOG BUNS. A-ha!

If you remember the film FATHER of the BRIDE, Steve Martin got arrested for tearing open hot dog bun packages in the grocery store, frustrated about the fact that hot dogs are often packaged disproportionate in quantity to buns. That was probably my favorite part of the movie. LOL!

Here’s how the Redondo’s Arabiki Sausages look unpacked…


Redondo’s Arabiki Sausages (unheated)

Notice there’s just 6 sausages here, which is fine, as these are intended to be eaten by themselves as a pupu, not inside of a bun, although we’ll see about that a little later! Also note they’re a bit smaller than the standard-sized Arabiki Hot Dogs. To provide you an idea of their actual size in scale, here they are next to a Blu-ray disc (I would have preferred to use a Betamax or 8-track cassette, but couldn’t find any)…


Arabiki Sausage on far left and Arabiki Hot Dog to the right of it, shown in scale next to a standard DVD-sized Blu-ray disc. No Horton, you can’t have any Arabiki sausages… you’re an herbivore, remember?

One less obvious, yet very critical difference between the Arabiki sausage and Arabiki Hot Dog is that the sausages have a natural sheep’s casing on them, while the Arabiki Hot Dogs have no casing at all; they’re removed at the factory and packaged “caseless”. We’ll see how that weighs in a little later.

I could have cooked (actually heated) them the “normal” way, which is to boil them in water for a few minutes, but decided to kick up the flavor a notch by “grilling” them on our Yakiniku-style indoor propane gas grill top. Heating it this method gave some nice sear marks on the casing, while providing an overall more browned finish, hence mo’ flavah’.

Here’s the Arabiki Hot Dogs, served-up in toasted hot dog buns, with the one on the left garnished in my own Japanese style creation, and the one on the right a more traditional American style…


Pomai’s Tonkrazy! Dog on the left, and an American style Arabiki Hot Dog on the right. The hot dog buns are standard Love’s Bakery brand

Before I explain the Tonkrazy Dog, let me explain the taste of the Arabiki Hot Dog weiner itself. It tastes very similar to the Arabiki sausage, with both of them having a distinctive Teriyaki-like (there’s shoyu and sugar in it), lightly-smoked pork flavor profile. The pork-based filling isn’t as dense and tightly packed as the sausage, and they don’t have the snap and crunch afforded by that natural casing, so you’ll have to compensate that by jazzing it up with enhanced cooking methods and garnishes like I attempted to do.

Now you probably think my Arabiki Tonkrazy! Dog on the left looks either really scary, or really oishii, depending whether or not you’re a fan of Japanese pickled vegetables called Tsukemono. Obviously I am.

The Tonkrazy! Dog is easy to make. Simply place finely-julienned cabbage inside a toasted hot dog bun as a bed. Then place a grilled Arabiki Hot Dog on that, then garnish it on one side with juleinned slices of Takuwan (pickled Daikon radish; the yellow stuff) and on the other side Beni Shoga (Umezu-picked ginger; the red stuff), then finish it off by drizzling some Tonkatsu sauce (Ikari brand) down the center.

Here’s a cross-cut view of my soon-to-be famous Arabiki Tonkrazy! Dog…


Pomai’s Arabiki Tonkrazy! Dog

In planning this Arabiki Tonkrazy! Dog out, My train-of-thought was that since these sausages are pork-based with a sort of Japanese theme to it, I’d simply apply how traditional Japanese Tonkatsu is served and transpose that into hot dog form. Well I’m happy to report the Tonkrazy! Dog ROCKS! Well I think it does. You try make one yourself and you be the judge.

I was afraid the tangy Beni Shoga and/or pungent Takuwan (a.k.a. Takuan) would dominate all else, or simply just taste GROSS when combined, but somehow they both sort of just blended right in like one happy family.

I think the Tonkatsu sauce was the “glue” that brought it all together. That, while, just like a plate of Tonkatsu, the bite and crispness of the bed of cabbage underneath in the bun offers a refreshing contrast to the meaty hot dog above it. I tell you, try making this. I’m willing to bet at least 55% of you out there will really dig it.

Actually, the blending of these kind of ingredients in a hot dog is nothing new, as Hank’s Haute Dogs has several similar offerings, with their Lobster Hot Dog using Takuan, and their Kobe Hot Dog using Napa Cabbage and Daikon.

As for the other Arabiki Hot Dog with the dill relish and deli style mustard, NEXT. Nope, those condiments do not match at all with the Teriyaki-like Arabiki Hot Dog. Adding ketchup kinda’ helped. Next time I’ll try it without the mustard, which is what I think was the deal-breaker in this particular application. And I LOVE mustard on hot dogs, so it’s not me.

Now let’s try the Yakiniku-grilled Arabiki Sausages…


Arabiki sausage served with various Tsukemono

This may look simply like the Arabiki Tonkrazy! Dog, sans the bun, except the Arabiki sausages themselves are much better than the Arabiki Hot Dogs. The clincher being that the Arabiki sausages do in fact have that SNAP and CRUNCH, along with just a little burst of juice that explodes in your mouth upon each bite. As advertised and good stuff!

This all comes down to the casing, where the smaller Arabiki sausages reap the flavor and texture benefit of that natural sheep’s casing, while the course-ground pork filling also seems to have a tighter, denser “bite” to it. In contrast, the Arabiki hot dogs almost seem “mushy”. They’re still acceptably-good and certainly unique hot dogs in their own right, yet just can’t compare to the better quality filling and “snap” of the casing the smaller sausages offer.

Here’s a cross-cut view of the “cooked” Arabiki sausages…


Redondo’s Arabiki Sausage – cut view

I tried them with three different condiments to dip, including Deli-style mustard, Cocktail Sauce (ketchup and horseradish based) and Tonkatsu sauce….


Dipping condiments to the left include deli mustard, cocktail sauce and tonkatsu sauce

Like the Arabiki Hot Dogs, the deli mustard didn’t work with the sausages. The cocktail sauce wasn’t bad with it. Not bad. Yet still again, the Tonkatsu “fruit & vegetable” sauce is the magic that worked so great with these little sweetened pork sausages. It’s the perfect marriage.

Try setting a huge platter of grilled Arabiki sausages (if you can afford it), along with tonkatsu dipping sauce (served in a squeeze bottle) on the side on the pupu table at your next party and see how long that lasts.

The reason why I say “if you can afford it”, is because they’re not exactly cheap, at just around $3 regular retail price for a small 5 oz. package of six sausages. Costco and Sam’s Club carry them in a bulk 20 ounce size, with the cheaper per-pound price that goes with it, so definitely go there if you’re feeding a crowd. Otherwise most (if not all) Hawaii supermarkets carry the 5 oz. package shown here.

While the “regular” Arabiki sausage is the most popular, Redondo’s also makes this Lemon & Parsley Arabiki sausage variety…


Redondo’s Arabiki Sauce Lemon & Parsley variety

These are not as widely distributed as the regular Arabiki, so you may not find them in your neighborhood store.

Notice they’re much lighter in color than the regular Arabiki. Here they are out of the wrapper…


Redondo’s Lemon & Parsley Arabiki Sausage (unheated)

They’re the same size and same price as the regular Arabiki. Here they are heated up, this time by boiling in water for a few minutes as instructed on the label…


Lemon & Parsley Arabiki Sausage (heated up), served with Tonkatsu sauce and Beni Shoga

Trying them out, they’ve got the same snap and crunch as the regular arabiki, thanks to having the same natural sheep’s casing, and also equally juicy. It’s the creamy white (fat) colored filling inside that tastes rather strange in my opinion, which also lacks the teriyaki style shoyu-sugar flavor profile of the classic Arabiki. It also tasted more artificial than natural. Especially when eaten by itself without the help of the Tonkatsu sauce. I think the high amount of back fat its made with has a lot do with these attributes. As for the addition of lemon and parsley, it’s there, albeit very subtle, and otherwise couldn’t balance it out as an entire package.

So for the non-smoke flavored Lemon and Parsley Arabiki, I’ll just say, glad I tried it, but no thanks next time. I’ll stick with the regular Arabiki sausages, thank you very much.

Putting my Dr. Frankenstein coat back on, since my girlfriend had just broke open a fresh canister of Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuit Dough for breakfast the prior morning, I decided to take some the leftover dough and make Pig-in-a-Blankets out of these babies…


Arabiki Hot Dog and Arabiki Sausage Pig-in-the-Blanket style, ala Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuits

Those may just go down as being the UGLIEST Pig-in-a-Blanket examples ever posted on the web. lol Yet know what? They were all pretty darned TASTY! I think with a little more experimentation as far as type of dough, as well some honing of my PITB dough-wrappin’ skillz, we just might have some potential here! The fresh-baked biscuit “bun” takes on some of the fatty juices that sizzle out of the Arabiki sausage casing and hot dogs as it bakes, making the entire thing just packed with flavor as you bite through it.

Summing it up, Redondo’s new Arabiki Hot Dogs pretty much have the same teriyaki style, mildy-smoked pork flavor as the Arabiki sausage, sans that signature snappy-crunch, while also being much cheaper per given ounce due them not having that more costly natural sheeps casing on them. There’s certainly some tasty applications for it as you seen by my Tonkrazy! Dog creation. If anything, pick up a pack and try that one out!

While I’m glad I tried the Parsley Lemon variety of Arabiki, it’s rather odd flavor profile and higher fat content makes it one I’d likely not buy again.

The winner here, and probably one of my favorite products to come out of the Redondo’s factory to date is their now-classic Arabiki Sausage. The teriyaki style, tightly-packed pork filling, along with the snappy-crunch of that natural casing and subtle smoked accent sets it apart from the rest.

What? Redondo’s Arabiki Hot Dog
Where did you buy it and how much? Ward Marukai, $3.29 reg. retail price/12 oz. package (8 hot dogs)
Big shaka to: Very tasty “Teriyaki-ish” smoked pork flavor. A very unique hot dog with potential. Excellent when grilled and placed in a bun with shredded cabbage, Takuwan, Beni Shoga and Tonkatsu Sauce (Tonkrazy Dog). 8 hot dog count in package matches 8 hot dog bun count in package. Steve Martin as Father of the Bride. Supporting local sports and local products.
No shaka to: Really missing that crunchy-snappy natural casing of the smaller sausage version. Pork not as tightly packed and tastes more “filler-like”. Leading brand of hot dogs’ standard 10/package count doesn’t match standard 8-hot dog bun/package count.
The Tasty Island rating: 2 SPAM Musubi (plain), 4 SPAM Musubi as a Tonkrazy! Dog

What? Redondo’s Arabiki Sausage
Where did you buy it and how much? Ward Marukai, $2.79 reg. retail price/5 oz. package (6 sausages)
Big shaka to: Snappy crunch. Juicy. Hint of smoke, yet not overpowering. Tightly-packed, lightly sweetened pork filling. Tastes like a high quality product (with price that reflects that). Excellent with Tonkatsu sauce.
No shaka to: Not big enough to fill a standard-size hot dog bun. Doesn’t match with Deli Mustard. Partygoers eating them too fast. High fat and sodium content and 0% essential vitamins & minerals (like most sausages)
The Tasty Island rating: 4 SPAM Musubi

What? Redondo’s Arabiki Sausage Lemon & Parsley
Where did you buy it and how much? Ward Marukai, $2.79 reg. retail price/5 oz. package (6 sausages)
Big shaka to: Snappy crunch. Juicy. Tightly-packed pork filling.
No shaka to: Strange, non-descript flavor. Scary-looking color. Lemon & Parsley rather subtle and doesn’t help it much. Much higher fat content than regular Arabiki sausage.
The Tasty Island rating: n/a

Related links:
Redondos.com – official site (English version)
Arabiki – Kitchen Forager blog review of Redondo’s Arabiki

Punahou Carnival 2009

Yesterday my girlfriend and I went over and checked out the fun and festivities at the 2009 Punahou Carnival. This popular annual event took place this weekend on Friday and Saturday, February 6th and 7th from 11am to 11pm. The theme this year was “Lights! Camera! Carnival! Keepin’ it “Reel”” and hosted by the class of 2010. Man, that makes me feel OLD!

Contrary to the reputation of it notoriously RAINING whenever the Punahou Carnival takes place, this year it was nothing but clear skies. And the HOUSE was PACKED…

Being this is a food blog, I try to stick with that theme first and foremost, and along with the rides, skills games, displays and entertainment, the Punahou Carnival certainly got da’ grinds!

By far the most popular food item everyone seeks out at the Punahou carnival are the Malasadas, and there was no shortage of a supply of them at that tent…

Notice the price on the sign says it’s 2 scrips (25 cents/scrip) for 1 Malasada, or 20 scrips for a dozen. So you get 2 free if you buy by bulk. There’s also two types of lines: one of which you can only buy up to 1 dozen at a time, and the other 2 dozen at a time, max’.

The supplies and manpower (or should we say student body power) required to keep up with Malasada demand is logistically intense…


Punahou Carnival’s Malasada Factory

We didn’t buy any to eat while there, but took a few dozen home to share with family. Here’s how it looks…


Punahou Carnival’s famous Malasada, 2 scrips (50 cents) each or 20 scrips ($5) per dozen

Notice it’s shaped like a doughnut with a puka in it, which is different than the oblong ball shape with no puka in it sold at Leonard’s and Champion Bakery, yet it tastes fantastic. It has a little bit firmer, denser texture and chewiness than those aforementioned eateries , yet an undeniably true Malasada at the core of the recipe. Punahou could probably open their own Malasada shop to operate year-found and do quite well with it. Perhaps run it by their own students studying accounting, business and/or economics (free labor!).

Another popular food item at this event is their Portuguese Bean Soup…

The Portuguese Bean Soup is available in three sizes…

I purchased the 32 oz. size to go, which comes out to $5.75. Here’s how it looked when I plated it at home (so you can see all the ingrediments in it)…


Punahou Carnival – Portuguese Bean Soup (served at home in a china bowl)

As you can tell by the photo, this soup is very hearty and full of all the right goodies, including generous cuts of Portuguese Sausage, Kidney Beans, diced carrots, celery, macaroni, kidney beans and cabbage. Plus, they’re all tender and and al dente, not under nor mushy and overcooked. My only complaint would be that it was slightly undersalted (which is good for those watching their sodium) and could have used a little more smokey ham-hock flavor in the broth. After adding just a dash of table salt at home, it was all good. Actually, really ono! I’m glad I have a big tub of it. That’ll be good to have for lunch in the upcoming work week.

Then there was a noodle stand…

These are chinese style noodles, served either with Charsiu or vegetarian…

Here’s the vegetarian bowl of noodles…


Punahou Carnival – Vegetarian Bowl of Noodles, 11 scrips ($2.75)

If dry noodles aren’t your thing, there’s always saimin…

Notice the Saimin brand is Okahara, which they were selling that large bowl for just $1.75 each. Those huge triangle musubi are just 75 cents each, the maki sushi (wrapped in white wax paper) just $1.50 each, and cone sushi also just $1.50 each. The prices here are really good!

My girlfriend bought a few rolls of the Maki Sushi, as well as the Barbecue Chicken Plate from another booth. Here’s that plate…


Punahou Carnival – BBQ Chicken Plate ($6) with Maki Sushi ($1.50) on the side

Got saimin? Good. Now all you need is a burger to go along with it!…

Again, very good prices…


PC exchange rate: 1 scrip = 25 cents

So before leaving, I also picked up a teri burger to go. Here it is…

Pretty much your average May’s Teri Burger. Could have used more teri sauce on it, that’s for sure. Also more seared edges on the patty. After doctoring it at home by adding some mayo, lettuce and tomato, it was all good. Especially for just $1.75, a price for burgers practically unheard of anywhere else nowadays.

Gotta’ love the fun design of these nostalgic portable carnival concession stands…

I didn’t ask this lady what was in these grape and Ninja Turtle-shaped bottles…

That wraps up all the food booths I took photos of, although there was more than that there, including Corn on the Cob, Gyros, Hawaiian Plates, Tacos and Nachos, Ice Cream and Smoothies.

Before we move along to the rides and skill games, let’s look where exactly everything is on this handy-dandy 3-D foam core map of the carnival grounds they provided…


Punahou Carnival 2009 grounds map

By far the most imposing structure erected here was the towering Century (Ferris) Wheel…


Punahou Carnival ’09 – Century Wheel c/o E.K. Fernandez

Another E.K. Fernandez staple, the Zipper…


Punahou Carnival ’09 – Zipper c/o E.K. Fernandez

and the Wave Swinger…


Punahou Carnival ’09 – Wave Swinger c/o E.K. Fernandez

the Inverter…


Punahou Carnival ’09 – Inverter c/o E.K. Fernandez

the Fire Ball…


Punahou Carnival ’09 – Fire Ball c/o E.K. Fernandez

Pharoah’s Fury…


Punahou Carnival ’09 – Pharoah’s Fury c/o E.K. Fernandez

Cliff Hanger…


Punahou Carnival ’09 – Cliff Hanger c/o E.K. Fernandez

Getting dizzy yet from all these rides that spin ‘n turn you up, down, around and upside-down? Let’s take a breather in the middle of the midway and take in what’s going on around this action-packed place…

Now we’ll take a look at some of the rides geared more for the keiki…


Punahou Carnival ’09 – Speedway c/o E.K. Fernandez


Punahou Carnival ’09 – Merry-Go-Round c/o E.K. Fernandez

Helicopter…


Punahou Carnival ’09 – Helicopter c/o E.K. Fernandez

Crazy Plane…


Punahou Carnival ’09 – Crazy Plane c/o E.K. Fernandez

Traffic Jam…


Punahou Carnival ’09 – Traffic Jam c/o E.K. Fernandez

Then there were the skills games…


Ducks


Ring Toss


Freaky Froggy


Fish Swish

If US President and Buff ‘n Blue Alumnus Barack Obama ever attends a Punahou Carnival in the near future, chances are this is where the media photo ops will take place…


Basketball


Strong Man

Prize items for sale (no game-playing necessary)….

Haku Leis for sale…

Here’s this year’s theme carnival t-shirt design “Lights! Camera! Action!”…

Complete the look with a matching pair of shorts!…

and cap…

and if you’re a wahine, matching hand bag…

As mentioned earlier, as well as most know by now, Punahou is the alma mater of U.S. President Barack Obama, not to mention AOL founder Steve Case and golf phenom Michelle Wie. Which brings on an even more inspiritional feeling upon looking around the campus grounds here, which is absolutely beautiful. Here’s a few photos of the buildings on this side of the campus…

I need a wide angle lens…

As for parking, we lucked-out, scooping up a legal vacant parallel space on a neighborhood side street. It seemed most folks were able to find somewhere to park, based on the droves of folks walking towards the campus along with us.

Well that was a fun and action-packed, yet relaxing way to spend a sunny and cool Saturday afternoon.

Related links:
Punahou: Carnival (official site)

Progresso vs. Harry's New England Clam Chowder Showdown

Soup is perhaps one of my favorite comfort foods. Either by itself as a meal, or part of a 3 or 4 course lunch or dinner, the likes of a good ‘ole bowl of Portuguese Bean Soup, Miso Soup or New England-style Clam Chowder always warms and sooths the soul. And interchangeably depending on mood between those just mentioned, New England Clam Chowder often turns out my number one choice. Love the stuff.

The tomato-based Manhattan style is OK, but nothing can beat the creamy, hearty, rich character of the New England style. That, along with some crispy crackers or toasted baguette and it’s all good.

Here I was impulse-shopping at the Hawaii Kai Costco yesterday, when as usual, some kind of soup lands in my cart. Besides, it was due time I stock back up on my supply of Progresso brand New England Clam Chowder, something I usually have on-hand, which Costco sells an 8-pack of 18.5 oz. cans (148 total ounces) for $10.99. That calculates to $1.37/can. That’s a very good price, especially when compared to individually sold cans in the supermarkets that go for around $2 each.

Seeing this in the dry aisle reminded me of the other brand I just looked at moments earlier in the refrigerated section. Going back there, I see it’s Harry’s brand, which was more than twice the price based on quantity at $10.65 for two 30 oz. tubs.

Of course, when it comes to eating good, I’ll take quality over quantity any day. A virtue I’m assuming is the case with the higher-priced Harry’s label. Since I’m always up for a brand A vs. Brand X taste-off, decided to pit the higher-priced, more obscure Harry’s brand against the well-known and established Progresso; a competitor Campbell’s execs probably wish would just go away.

So, as that whacky host on Iron Chef America always says, “Let the battle begin!”. That guy cracks me up, I swear. lol

Here you see Progresso provides a handy-dandy pull-tab lid, no can opener required…

And gosh darned it, we better have these in our pantry the next time there’s a extended blackout! Always the case, when you need it most, no moah. lol

And here’s a 30 oz. tub of Harry’s Chowder…

If you notice on the label, it says, “Once open, used promptly”. I’m guessing within 2-3 days. So you must commit to 30 oz. of Clam Chowder once you pop the top, which is vacuum-sealed for freshness by a plastic liner under the lid. Not sure if you could freeze the unused portion.

Most of you will probably agree that heating food (especially canned soups) on the stove top tastes much better and has better texture than the lazy way of nuking it, therefore that’s how I heated both brands up. Hot enough to be scalding, which also bought some time to take photographs before partaking in the taste test.

Without further ado, here’s a hot bowl of Progresso New England Clam Chowder…


Progresso New England Clam Chowder, 9 oz. serving

and here’s a hot bowl of Harry’s New England-style Clam Chowder…


Harry’s New England-style Clam Chowder, 9 oz. serving

Now looking at the two, which have both been standing in the bowl less than a minute since being dished, you can see the Progresso looks chunkier due to the large diced potatoes that remained piled on the surface. While the clams and smaller-diced potatoes in Harry’s chowder have, for the most part, sunk below the surface.

Now let’s look at a spoonful of what lies beneath…


Spoonful of Progresso New England Clam Chowder

and here’s a spoonful of Harry’s…


Spoonful of Harry’s New England-style Clam Chowder

Here you can sort of see the Progresso has larger potato chunks, with smaller, sparser pieces of clams in it. While Harry’s has smaller dices of potatoes, yet more clams in it. Much more clams. In fact, while trying both in this side-by-side comparison, I’d say Harry’s is a Clam Chowder that just so happens to have potatoes in it, while Progresso is a Potato Chowder that so happens to have clams in it.

And that abundance of chunky, meaty clams vs. chunky potatoes, along with its thicker, creamier, hint of butter ‘n bacon soup base sets Harry’s several laps ahead of Progresso in the “best store-bought chowdah” race.

On the back of Harry’s packaging, they describe this product like this: “Our New England-style Clam Chowder is loaded with Eastern sea and ocean clams and russet potatoes in a cream-based stock with a hint of butter.”

That description is pretty much what you get. “loaded with clams” being very much true. There indeed also is that hint of butter, yet not so rich that you’d feel sick after eating half a bowl.

Back to the viscosity, here you can see how each one coats the back of a spoon, first looking at Progresso…


Progresso New England Clam Chowder spoon-coating viscosity check


Harry’s New England-style Clam Chowder spoon-coating viscosity check

You can tell just by looking at it that Harry’s has a much thicker viscosity, along with the more abundant pieces of clamd sticking to it. Yum.

Not to knock on Progresso though, as it’ s still respectably delicious and authentic to the dish, and if I didn’t have the more upscaled Harry’s side-by-side to shadow over it, I’d be just as content with that, as I have been for years now. There’s also a few obvious advantages to the Progresso, with one being much more affordable, and two being much easier store due to it not needing refrigeration.

The only thing disappointing about the Progresso now that I have Harry’s to compare it with is its lack of bacon flavor, which is reinforced by it not being listed in the ingredients on the label. Harry’s has that essential ingredient, if for just a hint which it gives Harry’s that much more savory depth.

There’s probably an even better brand out there that I’m not aware of, which you’re more than welcome to comment and bring to our attention. And I know there’s serious chowder enthusiasts out there who’ll scoff at me for giving acclaim to Progresso, or any other store-bought chowdah for that matter. In fact, they have major, highly publicized Chowdah cook-offs up on the east coast that I’ve seen featured on the Food Network. I wonder if I entered one of those competitions with a vat full of Progresso or Harry’s in the pot, if they’d be able to tell. Ya’ think? lol Progresso for sure, but the Harry’s could probably fool many, as it has that real chef-prepared restaurant taste.

One last note, you may have noticed I used Diamond Bakery Soda Crackers to go with these soups instead of the more traditional Oyster Crackers. Sorry, but that’s where I keep the “Hawaiian Connection”, as Diamond Bakery Soda Crackers are my favorite and usual choice to go along with soups.


Diamond Bakery Original Hawaiian Soda Crackers (unsalted tops)

You can get these crackers in a large bulk-size box at Hawaii Costcos and most other grocery stores, but we prefer the one packaged like this in individually wrapped packs of four crackers. We find they’re crispier and stay that way longer. I like the saltine version too, especially with a slice of Lumber Jack, Gouda or Brie Cheese on it.

My other favorite brand is Sky Flakes from the Philippines.

What? Harry’s New England-Style Clam Chowder
From where and how much did it cost? Costco Hawaii Kai. $10.65 for two 30 oz. tubs
Big Shaka to: Choke, big, chunky pieces of clams. Creamy, thick soup base. Hint of butter. Hint of bacon. Chef-made restaurant quality and taste. Ready to serve (no water necessary). Especially ono with Diamond Soda Crackers thanks to abundant clams and thick texture that coats the cracker beautifully.
No shaka to: Relatively expensive. Not enough potatoes (but I’ll take the trade-off for the clams!). Potatoes a little mushy. Requires refrigeration. Being scoffed by Chowder enthusiasts. Being called a “Chowdah Head”. lol
SPAM Musubi rating: 4

What? Progresso New England Clam Chowder
From where and how much did it cost? Costco Hawaii Kai. $10.99 for eight 18.5 oz. cans
Big Shaka to: Plenty big diced pieces of Potato. Potatoes are nice and al dente, not mushy. Smooth, milky-creamy broth. Distinct clam flavor. Acceptably authentic to the dish (*yet see below). Relatively affordable price. Ready to serve (no water necessary). Long shelf life and easy to store (no refrigeration necessary). Easy to open, pull-tab lid.
No shaka to: Not enough clams. Broth a little too thin, which also makes it less ideal to eat off a Soda Cracker. *Lacking hint of bacon flavor in the broth. Being scoffed by Chowder enthusiasts. Being called a “Chowdah Head”.
SPAM Musubi rating: 2

What? Diamond Bakery Soda Crackers
From where and how much did it cost? Long’s Ala Moana on sale at $2.49 for a 13 oz. package, which includes 7 packs of 4 crackers each
Big Shaka to: Crispy & fresh, thanks to being wrapped in individual serving sizes. Neutral, very basic baked cracker flavor that compliments nicely (doesn’t overpower) with soups and sliced cheese toppings. Relatively cheap. Made in Hawaii.
No shaka to: Big box size, which often goes stale before you can finish them. Not (as of yet) being available in “oyster” shape/style. Being called a “cracker”. lol
SPAM Musubi rating: 5

Project Dry Mein


The Tasty Island’s Project Dry Mein, exhibit C (mixed)

Ever since recently hearing about and seeing first-hand photo accounts of Sam Sato’s famous dry noodles, also referred to as “Dry Mein”, something about it had me bent on recreating the dish at home. Perhaps it’s the purely simplistic concept the dish seems to have. “Seems” being the operative word, that increases my curiosity even further, along with the “Duh! Why didn’t I think of that?!” thought slapping me across the face. This, compounded by the many sentiments of high regard and enthusiasm over the dish made in comments by readers here over the surrogate review I did a month ago on Sam Sato’s, makes it that much more intriguing.

Since I’m on Oahu, not Maui, and can’t just conveniently drive on over to Wailuku to get some myself, the next best thing I can do is attempt to deconstruct the dish in order to recreate it.

And all I’ve got to work with are a few photos, as well as a few fellow diners’ first-hand accounts of how the dish is presented. Along with the flavor profile of the broth side dish, and most importantly, the flavor and texture of the noodles.

Let’s take a look once again at the real McCoy, a serving of Dry Noodles from Sam Sato’s…


Sam Sato’s Dry Noodles, $4.95 (small)

Now look at my attempt at recreating the dish


The Tasty Island’s Project Dry Mein, exhibit C

Notice I named this one “exhibit C”, as this is my third attempt, and the best one yet.

Color-wise, my broth is obviously darker and less neutral-looking, if you will. An attestment to perhaps a little too much dashi in the chicken stock? Dunno’. Still ono though! My Sun Noodle Saimin-based noodles also aren’t as fat and could use a little more oil to coat, but still, it worked. Completely. Absolutely! According to those recently trying Sam Sato’s, spot on.

Which reminds just how complex this “seemingly” simple dish can be. Not quite as easy as just cooking the noodles in boiling water and serving it on the side with a dashi-based saimin broth. I tried that initially-assumed method, and It turned out rather bland and just, eh, OK. Surely not as good the one everyone raves about over at Sam Sato’s.

I was confident I already had the right noodles for the dish, which is the superior Hawaii’s Original Saimin Old Style from Sun Noodle…

Since I wasn’t satisfied with the first attempt, I went on to plan B and searched online for recipes, coming across really what was the only one I could find that sounded close, posted over at AlohaWorld.com.

Reader Jocelyn left a comment mentioning she thought the noodles are flavored with oyster sauce, dashi and oil.I also noticed one reviewer of Sam Sato’s who didn’t speak so highly of the dish mentioned the broth tasted like chicken broth. Which actually sounded like something worth trying!

So using ALL those ingredients, as well as the basic method of preparation from Aloha World’s recipe, I set off to refine it.

One mistake I made in following AlohaWorld’s recipe was to use ALL the sauce ingredients as instructed when tossing the cooked noodles in the bowl, which turned out too salty and over-flavored. So much for exhibit B.

Finally I came up with a winner on my third attempt with exhibit C. Here’s the recipe!…

Dry Mein Project Exhibit C recipe
Noodles:
1 serving Sun Noodle brand Hawaii’s Original Saimin Old Style (including dashi broth packet)
1 14 oz. can chicken broth
2 cups water

Sauce:
2 tablespoons shoyu
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon dashi or saimin broth powder diluted with 2 tablespoons hot chicken broth
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil

Broth:
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon powdered dashi saimin broth
Chopped green onions

Garnish:
Charsiu, cut into strips
Kamaboko, cut into strips
Bean Sprouts
Green Onions, chopped

Bring entire can of chicken stock to a boil in a medium-sized pot. Pour about a half-cup of the hot chicken broth in a small serving bowl on the side. To this, add 1 tablespoons of the powdered dashi saimin broth (in the packet) and stir to fully dilute and combine. Garnish with green onion (this also adds flavor!).

To the chicken broth pot, add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil once again. Once its boiling, add the fresh saimin noodles and cook until al dente, about 3-4 minutes. Drain noodles thoroughly (you can save the hot chicken stock & water to cook another serving by pouring it out into another pot).

While the noodles are cooking, in a small cup or bowl, combine the shoyu, oyster sauce, diluted dashi saimin broth and oil together using a spoon, whisking briskly to infuse the oil with the other ingredients. This is the key component in the dish, so the better you mix it and taste it to your liking, the better!

Immediately after draining, place hot, cooked noodles into a large mixing bowl. Now drizzle the soy, oyster, dashi and oil sauce mixture slowly (emphasize SLOWLY!) onto the noodles and toss to evenly c0at. Add just enough to taste, better underdoing it than overdoing it. Go by the feel of the force, Jedi master. lol But seriously, do that.

Then add sauce-coated cooked saimin noodles to serving bowl and top with all your garnishes. Serve immediately while hot along with the side bowl of broth. Enjoy.


The Tasty Island’s Project Dry Mein

In summarizing this Dry Mein’s deconstructed and reconstructed project, the noodles are absolutely the star of the dish, to which the Sun Brand “Nama” style saimin is the preferred choice, to the best I’d consider based on what I’m told about it. It’s not quite as thick or same in profile as Sam Sato’s, but close enough to pull it off. Especially the flavor and texture of it.

Another key is getting the “sauce” that you toss the noodles with, right. You can most certainly play around a bit with the recipe to make it your own. Perhaps add ginger. Less shoyu. More Oyster Sauce. In fact, I even added a dash of Chinese style abalone sauce to mines, and it was really ono!

But those core ingredients listed in this recipe should get you on your way to a great Dry Mein. I thought so.

It would be great to hear from all you Sam Sato Maui regulars on your take on the Dry Noodles, and how you would decontruct the dish, and whether this recipe sounds on the money.

Until I get to Sam Sato’s myself, I think it’s darned close.

Kalihi Eats: Kamehameha Bakery


Kamehameha Bakery’s claim to fame: the Haupia Doughnut, 60 cents each

Hope you all had a great Christmas. Hey, but it’s just the day after, so while still basking in the moment, let’s continue sharing what’s been landing on the dining table in celebration of the holiday spirit. Which brings us now to two full-sized boxes of a variety of pastries from Kamehameha Bakery, courtesy of Diner E…

while most of what you see here are pretty much what you could get at most other bakeries around the island, What sets Kamehameha Bakery apart besides that fantastic signature Haupia-filled Doughnut is their PRICES.

According to Diner E, both these boxes packed full with a variety of pastries came out to well under $20. Try doing the same from the bakery at your favorite supermarket. Need some for that presentation you got scheduled for the first week of January? At just $6 for a dozen glazed doughnuts (or 50 cents each), that’s one of, if not THE lowest going rate in town. The twisted glazed are not much more at just 6.60 per dozen (or 55 cents each). Or get your custard on, with size to boot with a few Long Johns thrown in the mix at just 75 cents each.

Really though, if you ask my opinion, the Haupia Doughnut, at just 60 cents each, are the ones to impress the recipients or guests. If you look at the filling in the first photo shown, you can see there’s actual minced shreds of coconut in the sweetened gelatinous filling. The dough is light and fluffy, yet chewy enough to have substance. It’s basically a shortened, rounded, yet oblong version of the Long John, including being topped with confectioners sugar, sans the custard in exchange for that delicious, slightly lighter Coconut “haupia” filling.

I haven’t been there personally recently, but do remember there being ample parking behind the building. They’re open very early in the morning during the week at 2am. If you get there during the peak morning rush hour, expect to wait in line. Of course for large orders, phone them in.

So for a “winnah” Haupia Doughnut, plus many other ono, fresh-baked pastries at one of the best prices in town, with the early hours to accommodate your pick-up schedule, check out Kamehameha Bakery. Another one of Kalihi’s decades-old institutional eateries.

Kamehameha Bakery
1339 N School St (and Houghtailing)
Honolulu, HI 96817
Tel. 845-5831

Soon-to-be-Famous Chip & Cookie™ Cookies

While the Kellogg company continues to manufacture and sell the Famous Amos® brand of chocolate chip cookies, Wally Amos – the Godfather and namesake behind that brand – is back in the business once again with a new product line called Chip & Cookie™.

There are currently two brick ‘n mortar Chip & Cookie stores on Oahu where you can get them: in Waikiki in the Royal Hawaiian Center, and in Kailua, where Wally Amos calls home. So there’s probably a likelihood you’ll meet Wally in person if you visit that Windward Oahu shop.

In fact, I had the chance to say hello to him once when he was promoting his Muffin line at the Hawaii Kai Costco. Super nice guy. I’m not sure if the Chip & Cookie product line is available in Costco (yet), but if it’s not, he surely must be working on it.

Speaking of which, offering a product for sale at a membership warehouse retailer means packaging a product in bulk, which is already addressed at Chips & Cookie, where you can get all five cookie varieties they currently offer to go in one neat carry box…

I like the logo. Simple, yet unique font style, with the usual coconut tree to signify it’s a Hawaii product.

It says right on the package that they’re handmade, although surely not all by Wally himself. While that’d be nice, If it were the case, after just two months of sales in Costco, he’d probably have to retire due to carpal tunnel syndrome. lol

Actually, his name isn’t emblazoned on the label at all, except for just a signature following this description of the product on the side of each package:

You are about to enjoy America’s Best Tasting Cookies. At least, that’s what people tell me My Chip & Cookie handmade cookies remind me of my Aunt Della’s homemade cookies; made with lots of love, using the best ingredients.

I hope you enjoy them often. Share with your family and friends. Or, share with a stranger and make a new friend!

Please send your comment and suggestions to: wallyamos <at> chipsandcookie.com

Thanks a lot,

Wally Amos, The Cookie Man

Wow, that’s quite a statement to call your product “America’s Best”; especially by cookie bakers all across this great nation who think the same of their own wares.

What is emblazed on the label are two tag lines: “Delicious” and “All Natural*”, along with “O grams Trans Fat”.

Well let’s have a taste for ourselves and find out if all this holds true, starting with the “base model” Chocolate Chip…

Mmmm. Crispety-crunchety. Very fresh-tasting. And there’s no shortage of chocolate chips in it. I’m not a chocolate chip cookie enthusiast per se, but FWIW, I’d say this one is way better than a Chips Ahoy.

While I don’t have a Kellogg’s-manufactured Famous Amos cookie on-hand to compare it with at the moment, to the best of my memory eating them (which was within the past year), I do think this recipe is a bit different.

Moving on, we have Oatmeal Raisin…

As expected, it’s, well, very “oatmeally-rasiny”. lol The oatmeal causes this one to be less crisp than the chocolate chip version. I have an idea where I think this could really work… Chip & Cookie™ Ice Cream Sliderwich™! Basically a miniaturized ice cream cookie sandwich. Miniaturized due to the size of these cookies, which are no more than an inch-and-a-quarter to an inch-and-a-half in diameter. Perhaps I’ll email wally with my suggestion.

Next up, we have the Chocolate Chip with Pecans…

This one returns to being very crispy-crunchy, yet the Chocolate Chips overpower the Pecans. It either needs more of the latter or less of the former to be in balance. Still ono though!

Next we have the Butterscotch Chip with Pecans…

Ding ding ding ding ding! We got the winnah right here. I prefer the butterscotch chips over the chocolate, which really help punch out the flavor of the pecans – not overpower them. My only problem with this one was it wasn’t as crispy as the chocolate chip models. Not a problem though. A quick dunk in some cold milk and it’s all good. All good. Yup, if I go back and get more Chip & Cookie™ cookies, the Butterscotch with Pecans will be the first one in my shopping basket.

Finally we have the Chocolate Chip with Macadamia Nuts…

This one had the same issue as the pecan version, with the chocolate chips overpowering the rather tiny chopped pieces of nuts mixed in it. If he makes the Macadamia nut pieces bigger, that would really help. I’d be willing to pay extra for that. Also, this particular bag tasted almost stale. I think there’s some packaging issues that need to be addressed. But that was only for this particular one, which might just be an isolated incident.

Again, my favorite is by far the Butterscotch Pecan. Ono.

If there’s two suggestions I would make should I decide to email Wally, one will be to offer a Butterscotch Chip with Macadamia Nuts (with bigger Macadamia nut pieces) and, as said earlier, make the Chip & Cookie™ Ice Cream Slidewich™. Man, I should go into the product development field. Well, I sorta’ do that with my day job already.

Anyway, stop by the Waikiki or Kailua Chip & Cookie store and pick a few up to try for yourself, then come on back and comment what you think. Wally Amos’ Chip & Cookie cookies are also available online at their website at:
www.chipandcookie.com

P.S. Mahalo to Shannon and gang for this tasty holiday omiyage!

Christmas Colored Kamaboko


Amano (Hilo’s Finest) Kamaboko (Steamed Fish Cake), $1.79 each (sale price @ Marukai)

When I spotted this green-colored Kamaboko sitting in the refrigerator case next to the standard pink ones at Ward Marukai the other day, I immediately thought “Oh cool, they got a Christmas theme goin’ on!”  I’ve never seen Kamaboko this color before – whether it be Okuhara or Amano brand.  Therefore,  I called the Amano factory in Hilo (the company who makes this one) to find out whether the green version is indeed a special limited Christmas holiday edition, to which they confirmed it is.  So no more green ones after December.

Of course holiday-themed colored food ain’t nothing new – especially in candy land – with the likes of M&M’s first in mind, making orange ones for Halloween, green ones for St. Patrick’s Day, and, like these Kamaboko, red and green ones for Christmas. Speaking of that, I remember at a Generation Kikaida event a few years ago, they had Blue & Red frosted cookies for sale. Toh!

Let’s take a closer look, starting with the packaging…

As you see, they’re vacuum-sealed, extending their shelf life.  If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can read the ingredients, where you’ll see they included the green version’s food coloring information so that it’s a one-label-fits-both deal (cheaper production). Other than that, the main ingredient in both versions is Surimi paste, the same “mystery fish” stuff used to make imitation crab.

The best part of all, now let’s cut a few slices of each one and have a taste!…

Any difference between the two? Yes: the green one tastes like Peppermint and the pink one tastes like strawberry. Nah, just kiddin’.  Ya’ think that would work though? A sweetened, mint or fruit-flavored fish cake? I don’t know and am not in any hurry to find out. lol

No, actually, there’s no difference in flavor. The only way you might think otherwise is if you let your mind trick you to think otherwise based on their outer appearance. Quite honestly, the green one by itself looks kinda’ unappetizing to me. Mainly, probably because I’m used to pink Kamaboko. Yet when they’re presented side-by-side, they instantly both become festive and full of holiday cheer.

If you’re not familiar with Kamaboko made in Hawaii, it tastes similar to imitation crab (you HAVE tried that I hope), except, well, just not as “crabby”. More “meaty-fishy”,  yet obscure of exactly what it’s made of thanks to that Surimi paste its mostly comprised of. Texture-wise, it’s like medium-soft rubber, yet easy to cut through and chew.

Now all you creative cooks out there are probably already rubbing your hands together, thinking of the culinary possibilities available using these holiday-themed Kamaboko. Especially in the flexibility in how Kamaboko can be sliced up for different types of presentations. I’ll be showcasing three of them here.

The very first dish that came to my mind when in the store was a Christmas-themed Somen Salad, so that’s exactly what I did…


Pomai’s “Everthing but the Kitchen Sink” Somen Salad Platter, Christmas Holidays Edition

Hey, gotta’ admit, that does look full of holiday cheer!

The two green blobs on the corner are dollops of Wasabi paste, while the light pink stuff on the bottom left corner is Sushi Shoga (sweetened pickled ginger), and on the top right Beni Shoga (tart pickled ginger).

I had all kinds of debates within on how I was gonna’ arrange this, settling on keeping the green on one side and red (pink) on the other. From there I mixed it by putting the red charsiu on the green side and green cucumber on the red (pink) side.

My other option was to either alternate the Kamaboko red/green/red/green///, or to itemize each type in their own section like this other one I made as a take-out plate for my niece…

That’s how Zippy’s arranges their Somen Salad…

My next thought was making the classic local style bowl of Saimin with the red and green Kamaboko, and here’s how it turned out…


Sun Noodle Saimin with holiday-themed Amano Kamaboko, charsiu and green onions

That looks pretty good. Shucks though, I should have used my red or green pair of  Hashi (chopsticks).  It also would have been cool to have green-colored charsiu to go along with the classic red charsiu. I must note, this Sun Noodle brand “Hawaii’s Original Saimin” is fantastic. The best I’ve had yet. The noodles’ texture and flavor rules!

Finally I decided on making my very own Kamaboko Sashimi Platter. I came up with this idea during my days of singlehood, when finding anything in the kitchen to make a quick meal was a common occurance. One day I was craving sashimi, and was too lazy to run to the store for some fresh Ahi, then when I spotted the open package of Kamaboko in the fridge, I was like “Bingo!”. So I shredded some cabbage on a plate, sliced the Kamaboko thin like Ahi Sashimi then just whacked it like that along with my “why clear just one nostril when you can clear your entire sinus cavity out” hotter-than-hot wasabi shoyu dipping sauce. Sashimi purists would probably frown upon my Wasabi-choking madness, arguing that too much will kill the flavor of the fresh Ahi, but I don’t care. That’s how I like it.

Here I present a Christmas version of my  Kamaboko Sashimi Platter…


Kamaboko Sashimi Platter, Christmas Holiday Edition

Notice the ratio of Wasabi paste compared with the amount of shoyu in that shallow sauce dish. No scade… go for it!

How’s the contrasting colors of the Kamaboko slices? Again, quite festive. Looks like you could almost put them on a string and decorate your Christmas tree or house with it. lol  Well, you probably could, but your house will smell funny and be full of ants the next day.

Seriously though, you should try making this budget-busting Kamaboko Sashimi Platter. Winnahz! While of course it can’t touch fresh, top grade, expertly-sliced ahi, it’s a tasty twist on the dish, and best of all will set you back just $2 for a full platter.

Getting back to the Somen salad adventures, here’s a couple of Somen Salad plates I made (for family members) at the same time WITHOUT the green Kamaboko, so you can compare the two from a presentation aspect…

That’s a dollop of Wasabi on top in the center.

Actually, the Somen salad already has enough green in it from the lettuce, cucumber and wasabi, but hey, the green Kamaboko does bring a little more excitement and Holiday theme to the plate.

If you’re not familiar with Somen Salad, it’s a “localized” take on a traditional Japanese noodle dish that just goes by the name “Somen”. Instead of being in a hot broth like most ramen, the noodles are served cold and dry (cooked al dente, but dry).  There actually is a hot, broth-based version of somen called Nyumen. What makes Somen now a “salad” are the addition of sliced charsiu (or ham or SPAM), egg omelet, Kamaboko, cucumber, greeen onion and lettuce. Those toppings are unique to Hawaii, and most likely you will not find somen in such form in Japan. This evolution is similar to what happened with Saimin.

Somen noodles are made with wheat flour and are much finer and more delicate than ramen or saimin noodles, especially when boiling them. They cook quickly, from dry to done within 2 minutes, to which you must rinse them thoroughly after cooking in cold water to “shock it” and stop the cooking, as well as get any starch out, so they don’t stick after the water is drained.

Here’s a package of Somen noodles I purchased from Don Quijote…

What I love about Japanese food (and products in general) is their attention to detail, right down the packaging. Especially with noodles such as ramen and somen, they often portioned in single serving bundles (or packets)…

This package of 5 portions was just $1.29 on sale. That’s a lotta’ bang for the buck!

If you watch Soko Ga Shiritai (KIKU-TV), then chances are you’ve (virtually) visited tons of ramen shop kitchens (as well as every other type of specialty restaurant) throughout Japan. There, you may have noticed that many of them cook ramen in huge vats of rapidly boiling water using individually-portioned strainer baskets. That’s the same method I used to cook each individual portion of somen in this package…

I don’t have one them cool ramen baskets (yet), so I made do with a regular screen collander. After just a quick 2 minute boil they’re done. You can tell by tasting some as it goes. They’ll from al dente to soggy quickly so stay right there while they’re in the boiling water.

Once they’re done, lift up the collander and shake it to get as much hot water out and back into the boiling pot, then take it straight to the kitchen sink and thoroughly rinse the cooked Somen under cold running water. You can also shock it in ice water to make it cold quicker. This stops the cooking process and keeps them at optimum al dente doneness. After they’re thoroughly rinsed and cool, shake as much water out as possible. Then, a trick I learned from my girlfriend (who she learned from a Japanese coworker), is to coat the freshly-cooked somen noodles with just a little sesame oil. Just a small drop will do, otherwise the sesame oil will overpower it.

Just a small drop is enough. Then take your chopsticks and thoroughly, yet gently toss the somen noodles to evenly coat them with the sesame oil. This will prevent them from sticking.

Now it’s ready for service, just add toppings.

To eat somen salad, you need the proper dipping sauce called Somen Tsuyu…

This Aloha brand Somen Tsuyu is concentrated, so you must add an equal portion of water to dilute it. I also added  a little wasabi in mine, just because I like it that way. You could also add grated ginger, sesame oil and/or green onion. Everyone has their own style.  For serving, some folks prefer pouring the Somen Tsuyu sauce over the entire salad like you would any other salad dressing, but I prefer dipping the salad in the sauce.

Chances are if your favorite supermarket sells somen noodles, they sell Somen Tsuyu. Otherwise make your own from scratch. There’s tons of recipes online.

Here one more time is that massive Christmas Somen Salad platter I prepared the other day…


Pomai’s “Everthing but the Kitchen Sink” Somen Salad Platter, Christmas Holidays Edition

Another dish I thought of making using the green and pink was a Kamaboko Salad. Perhaps next holiday season.

Any other ideas using red (pink) and green Kamaboko? Leave a comment and let’s hear about it!

As mentioned earlier, Amano Fish Cake Factory in Hilo are only making the green Kamaboko for a limited time during the holiday season, while supplies last. Check your local (Hawaii) supermarket for availability.

Kamaboko freezes well, and I’m not sure if Amano plans to sell them in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, but if that holiday is one you like to festively observe, this is a good opportunity to stash a few green Kamaboko in the ice chest for that lucky day next March.

By now you should have noticed I’m a huge (see platter above) Somen Salad fan. Kamaboko too.

Mochi Crunch Holiday Omiyage Basket


A mochi crunch “mega mix” consisting of every type of mochi crunch and senbei
from one gift basket.

Similar to the fundraiser drives that were recently pointed out, Hawaii folks share a unique variety of foods and snacks as a token of goodwill and giving during the holiday season.

Everything from boxes of hot Manapua from the favorite dim sum shop, Sunnyside Pies fresh from Wahiawa, to those absolutely mouthwatering chocolate-dipped Macadamia Nut shortbread cookies assortment gift boxes from Big Island Candies.

Then there’s them gift baskets of all sizes and varieties, with everything from an assortment of flavored Kona Coffee blends, to mixed-themed cookies, candies and snacks.

Just to name a few.

It’s no secret Japanese culture and cuisine has a major influence in Hawaii, especially during the holiday season, when one of the most endeared terms, “Omiyage”, meaning “gift” is taken to a whole new level.

That in mind, one of the favorite snack foods here from the homeland of Sony® and Sushi® is Arare™, which in its simplest translation can be called “Rice Cracker”. Yet us Hawaii folks most often (arguably) call it “Mochi Crunch™”;  I personally call it both interchangeably.

That said, you can bet the arrival of this Mochi Crunch omiyage gift basket was the darling of our eyes when it was brought into our office…


A dozen long stem red roses ain’t got nothin’ on this as far as I’m concerned!

Ooooh! What get? What get?  Let’s take a closer look at each package…

Looks oishii. Now let’s open it up and try it!…

Iso peanuts. Senbei. Arare. Wasabi peas. This one is my favorite. Best balance.

Next…

The contents…

Not bad, but no can touch da’ first one. The golden-colored coated peanut on the bottom right had a curry-like flavor to it, which was interesting in how it added an extra dimension of savoryness to this mix.

Next…

Notice it says “Premium” Mixed Arare, which I buy. To date, I still stand by Tomoe brand as my “Premium Choice”. Tomoe has just the right balance of shoyu, sugar and nori to my palate. Not to mention being fresh and cripsy, not stale. This Wholesale Unlimited, Inc. version certainly was in contention and deserving of the “Premium” title. Guaranz good fo’ make Hurricane Popcorn.

Next…

These look like Wasabi covered peas or nuts, which we all thought they were at first glance, yet upon close inspection of the ingredients, you see there’s no sign of Wasabi at all.

What they are is the same coated “Iso style” peanuts, except instead of sweetened shoyu glaze coating on the outside, it’s tinted green with just salt on the outside. And instead of a peanut, there’s a Pistachio in it…

What’s neat about these is that they’re individually packaged in portions of 4 “nuts”, as shown above. If you like Iso Peanuts, and you like Pistachio nuts even better than regular peanuts, than imagine taking the best of those worlds and making it one. There ya’ go. That’s how these taste. Light, yet cruncy and aromatic in a Pistachio bits ‘n pieces kinda’ way. Good stuff!

Finally there’s this Senbei…

These are lighter and fluffier than typical Arare, and also much, much larger…

They also have a similar sweetened shoyu-flavored coating, yet are less dense and crunchy; more airy and crispy. Not my favorite, yet still acceptably good.

Once again, my favorite in this gift basket are the Assorted (arare style) Peanut Crackers…

There was also these delicious dried and pickled ume snacks in this basket, but we all ate them quicker than I could get to it and take photos to share with you. I’ll buy some later and retrofit them here next time I go to Marukai or Don Quijote.

Goodness. When I see this much Mochi Crunch, I just can’t help but think of this and a good movie…


Hurricane Popcorn

Fundraiser Grindz: Manapua


Regal Food Fundraiser 4-Pack Char Siu Pork Manapua, $5

The kid’s little league, Pop Warner, or soccer team. Canoe club. School trip. Church. Community organization. Like just about everything else in life, they need funds in order to operate. When membership fees, donations and other contributions just aren’t enough, they hold fundraisers. One way to do that is to render services, such as holding a car wash, carnival or festival, yet the most common method is to sell products – most often food – at minimum cost and high mark-up for maximum profit.

While everyone in the US has probably bought Girlscout cookies, boxed M&Ms and chocolate-covered almonds at one time or another, Hawaii has its own unique Fundraiser grindz.


Huli Huli Chicken (photo courtesy of Charlotte)

The first that comes to mind is Huli Huli Chicken. I mean REAL Huli Huli Chicken. Da’ kine they cook outside on those big, flat, charcoal-burning, motor-driven rotisseries (see photo above), where when you walk up to pay for some that just got bagged, the smell from the smoke wafting over as the chicken’s fatty skin fuels the fire reminds you of the oncoming deliciousness about to take place in your mouth. Oh yeah, you know what I’m talkin’ about! Damned, just writing that, I want some Huli Huli Chicken like NOW! Unfortunately I don’t see Huli Huli Chicken for sale that often in the urban Honolulu area. Mostly out in the country like North Shore and Waimanalo side. IIRC, the last time I bought Huli Huli Chicken, it was being sold at Maunalua Bay Beach Park in Hawaii Kai, and was $8 for a half chicken. Something like that.

The next (and probably most publicized) one that comes to mind is Zippy’s Chili. The last time I bought some was a few months ago for a coworker’s kids school, which it was $5 for a 2 lb. tub. Not a bad deal actually. One thing nice about the Zippy’s Chili Fundraiser is you buy the ticket and pick it up yourself, so you can choose exactly which Zippy’s Chili you want: either frozen or hot and fresh, bean or no bean, and meat or vegetarian. I like the vegetarian chili. Good stuff!

At a place I worked at a long time ago, one guy was selling SPAM Musubi to raise funds to help his kid with something. That’s too much labor though, if you ask me. Imagine making hundreds of SPAM Musubi by hand? Laters with that. I’d rather just selling Zippy’s Chili tickets.

A few  years ago, another department where I work held a fundraiser by selling Beef Stew with Rice and Mac’ Salad plates for $5. That’s pretty easy to do, as the stew, rice and mac can all be made in one pot bulk jobs.

Other grindz I’ve seen sold for fundraiser were Portuguese Sausage, Laulau, beef jerky (or “Slim Jim” sticks), mochi crunch and home-made cookies.

Yet this is the first time I’ve been offered Fundraiser Manapua. It must be a popular new thing with schools, because both my coworker who’s from Ewa Beach and my girlfriend’s coworker who’s from Kaimuki were recently selling them.


Regal Food Fundraiser 4-Pack Char Siu Pork Manapua, $5

Actually I’m surprised Manapua wasn’t around as a Fundraiser ever since it’s been around. This being Chinese Dim Sum, you  figgah ‘dem Pake’s smart make money. I guess they nevah like Fundraisah, they like keep all da’ money. lol

At $5 for this package of 4, that comes out to $1.25 each, which ain’t bad, considering Libby Manapua Shop sells theirs within that ballpark for 85 cents, and a deal if you compare that to Chun Wah Kam, who sells theirs for $1.50. I don’t know what the cost Regal Food charges for each Fundraiser package, but I’m guessing it’s lucrative for the organization, and tax deductible for the manufacturer.

The best part about this one is the Manapua is really good! Good enough to hold its own against Libby’s and Char Hung Sut, my all-time favorites. They’re sold refrigerated, not frozen. To eat it, just put it on a plate, cover with a wet paper towel and nuke it for about 30 seconds. The buggah comes out piping hot, with a nice, good-as-fresh supple bun and moist, flavorful Char Siu-flavored pork filling. The Char Siu filling doesn’t deviate either from what you’d expect it to taste like. I’ve had other Manapua where I was like “what’s in this?”.  You know, that kinda’ weird taste. The ultimate mystery meat. lol

Anyway, if someone hits you up to buy these Regal Fundraiser Manapua, get it. Good stuff.

One day if I hold my own fundraiser, I’d like to sell my Big Island Smoked Meat. I’m pretty confident it would sell out. I wanna’ learn how to make really good smoked marlin. That would sell out quickly too for fundraiser. At least I couldn’t resist someone who asked me, “Like buy Smoked Marlin? My kid’s soccah team get fundraisah fo’ go up mainland”. Brah, do I? I’ll take $100 worth!

Here’s a poll for you to vote for your favorite Fundraiser grindz. Choose the ones you buy enthusiastically because you enjoy eating it, not just because you want to help out the organization or person selling them.