Wailuku Eats: My Visit to Sam Sato's

Back in December of last year I did a surrogate post on my girlfriend’s visit to Sam Sato’s with her friends. Since I’m covering this place once again, this time with yours truly as a patron, we’ll add “my visit” to the title of this entry.

When I first heard about Sam Sato’s famous Dry Noodles, a.k.a. “Dry Mein”, I was so intrigued by the concept, yet frustrated at the same time that I didn’t have a first-hand taste myself of not only their noodle, but the broth on the side that accompanies it.

So I finally got my chance last week while on Maui to see and taste what the hype is all about.

As we expected on a Saturday around lunch hour, the place was a full house, with folks outside awaiting their name to be called for a seat…

Like Tasty Crust, Sam Sato’s clientele (at least during our visit) was majority all locals…

Founder Sam Sato…

An avid golfer…

An old school location…

The ohana…

Go Bows!…

While they apparently have enough business already, I really think tourists should be directed to this place, just like they’re lead to Hamura Saimin on Kauai. This truly is one of those local delicacy hole-in-the-wall gems that tourists ought to have the opportunity to discover. Same for Guri Guri, which also seemed absent of tourists clientele. Perhaps I may have simply “missed the bus”. Anyway, just sayin’.

Here’s the menu…

Since we were willing to sit at the counter, we got in quicker than other larger parties waiting outside. One of the “perks” by sitting at the counter was being able to see the dishes coming out of the kitchen service window right in front of us. While a majority of it was order-after-order of Dry Mein Noodles and BBQ Sticks, another dish that seemed to be popular here was their Spare Ribs Plate Lunch…

Sam Sato’s – Spare Ribs Plate Lunch, $7.25

Hooo, da’ buggah’ look ono!

Of course we were here for the Dry Mein Noodles, with my girlfriend getting the small order…

Dry Noodles (small), $4.95

As you see, along with the Dry Noodles, we also ordered a plate of BBQ Beef Sticks…

Sam Sato’s – BBQ Beef Sticks, $1.25

My girlfriend really enjoyed the BBQ Teriyaki Beef Sticks, but I thought they were just OK, finding them over-marinaded and over-cooked. But that’s just me.

Sam Sato’s – Dry Noodle large – $5.75

Fries go great with Saimin, and go equally as well with the Dry Noodles…

Sam Sato’s – french Fries, $2.50

Notice it’s served with mayonnaise mixed with mustard, da’ kine local style.. oh-right! They’re deep-fried to tender inside, crispy outside perfection and of course winnahz when dipped in the mayo-mustard.

Back to the Dry Noodles, here’s a closer look at my large order…

As you’ve already seen, they’re served with a small bowl of broth on the side…

O.K., let’s see what all the fuss is about. The waitress instructed me to lightly drizzle the noodles with the broth as I eat along, so that’s exactly what I did…

Winnah-winnah, dry mein dinnah!… err lunch that is. Seriously, this is some good stuff! The saimin noodles are cooked perfectly al dente, leaning just a bit more on the chewy side in a good way. They’re also thicker than the Sun noodle Original Hawaii Saimin noodle that I used in my “Dry Mein Project“, which gives it more character. Otherwise, they both pretty much share the same flavor which I think may be attributed to the Potassium Carbonate.

I took a sip of the accompanying broth to see what was in it, which to my surprise I could not taste any dashinomoto whatsoever in it. Unbelievable. Seriously, all I could detect in it was plain ‘ole chicken stock. Not even a hint of shrimp shells like that of 49 Niner Restaurant. No kombu either. The waitress wouldn’t divulge what’s in it, only saying the owner makes it from scratch.

Let’s have another bite…

Even before the broth is drizzled on it, the noodles arrive at the table with a slight sheen on them, which come to find out is the result of them being heated up with a light toss of vegetable oil, shoyu and oyster sauce. Aha! That’s what gives them that extra depth.

As for the garnishes, the bean sprouts were also al dente, with just enough crunch to give it that “veggie” contrast, along with the chopped green onions, while the sliced charsiu was tender, moist and flavorful, thanks in part to the chicken stock? drizzle.

No question though, the star of the show is the “dry” saimin noodles, which someone mentioned from my previous entry on Sam Sato’s are provided by Iwamoto Natto Factory in Paia. Lucky me, the very first day of my arrival on Maui I made a stop to Ah Fook’s Supermarket in Kahului, where low and behold, they had the Iwamoto Undried Saimin in stock!….

Iwamoto Natto Factory Undried Saimin – 1-1/2 pound package, $4.59 from Ah Fook’s Supermarket in Kahului, Maui

With several 1½ pound packages of Iwamoto saimin noodles now at my disposal in my refrigerator, I’m ready to REALLY replicate the Sam Sato dry noodle experience right here at home! Yee-haw! Oh, I mean, Banzai! **pumps both fists in the air** lol

Still, nothing can match the experience sitting down with fellow Mauiians (can I call them that?) for a bowl of the real deal at Sam Sato’s. The wait to get in may take a while, but the Dry Noodles, and what looks like everything else on the menu, along with family-friendly prices are absolutely worth it.

Sam Sato’s, Inc.
1750 Wili Pa Loop
Wailuku, Hawaii 96793
(island of Maui)
Tel. 808-244-7124
Meals: 7am-2pm
Manju pick-up: 7am-4pm

The Tasty Island rating:

Related links:
Wailuku Eats: Sam Sato’s – The Tasty Island
Sam Sato’s – Yelp user reviews
MauiOnline.com – Watch the Maui Visitors Channel 7 at this site to learn more about the many attractions Maui has to offer!

P.S. They had the manju and turnovers in front by the cashier, but after that big bowl of dry noodles and fries, I was stuffed, and we had a long day ahead of us, so I opted not to get any at the time. I think I’ll have to make an excuse to fly back to Maui very soon so I can pick some up!

Da’ Maui ohana preparing Kalua Pig on a backyard Imu for a fundraiser, as well as a very special wedding…

Shredding da’ pig…

Portioned in containers…

Da’ coolah loaded up with Kalua Pig for the upcoming fundraiser…

And da’ odda’ coolah loaded up with Kalua Pig for da’ big wedding….

After all the pig was pau in da’ imu, clean up da’ banana leaves and other opala, and here’s the heat source… the lava rocks…

Time fo’ sample some, cuz…

Oh yeah! Smoked with just the right amount of Kiawe, while being supah’ moist and seasoned with the perfect amount of Hawaiian Salt. Mahalo to all da’ ohana for preparing this for the wedding. Winnahz!


19 thoughts on “Wailuku Eats: My Visit to Sam Sato's

  1. Hey Pomai,
    I’m really enjoying reading your Maui posts! 🙂 I really liked the dry mein from Sam Sato’s too and definitely next time try their manju. It’s different from other manjus…kinda more cake-like than flakey. Super yummy. I could eat the whole 12 pack by myself. We also tried an apple turnover, which was good too but the manju definitely wins out.

  2. heading to maui tonight!! for two glorious weeks i will be eating my way through my island home…sam’s was always on da list…and after this post, i might be heading there for my first lunch of the trip! mahalo.

  3. I’ve never been able to make it to Sam Sato’s yet. Will have to fix that. Soon.

    A few years ago I was able to get some Iwamoto noodles from the Foodland (is it still there?), on my way to the airport. It was a good noodle, but with no reference I don’t know if I prepared it the right way. Does your January 2009 recipe still hold up, now that you’ve had the real thing?

  4. Pomai, I think it was Guri Guri in Waipahu. My late mother used buy some from there but could not say name right since she was from China and I was just a kid that time. Wonder if Waipahu Intermediate School still have sugarcanes growing there wild?

    Last time been to Maui when a teenager saw only one house one mile apart. To me that country like but love it very much. Now live in California.
    Notice no Chicken and Waffle like Roscoe in LA and San Francisco bay areas. It a rage here. As for dry saimin must be noodle cooked in season stock with soy sauce and serve with topping and another kind of stock with it. Taiwan have it also. Since it was Japanese colony in past. Wonder where can I get a picture of Sun Sun Lau Restaurant where my late father use worked there before?

  5. Thanks for the great post! I’m glad you got to visit my home island (transplanted Maui girl now on Oahu) 😉 Although I lived on Maui most of my life, I wasn’t aware of Sam Sato’s until I met my husband. Sorry, I’m an upcountry girl and he was a Wailuku boy 😉 . He demands eating there every trip to Maui.

    Little side note, my mom is a good friend of the owners of the company that makes the noodles! Good hardworking people!

  6. French Frieds with mayo is popular in mainland also with other dipping sauces with it. There a place called Frics in San Francisco that serve it with many different sauces. It started in New York City.

    I see now oyster sauce and soy sauce is part of that dry saimin got to try it out at home too.

  7. Now you talkin’ my home speed! Every time I’m home on Maui Sam Sato’s is on the list. It just don’t feel like home until I get a bite of those noodles. I even got my gf from San Diego to like em’. We usually share one Double order and we still get leftovers! Gotta have your meal with the fries and mustard/mayo mix and some BBQ sticks. But you went forget one cheeseburger deluxe! I can vouch for the spare ribs, they ono!

    I hope you went get one Maui Built shirt before you went back Oahu!

  8. Pomai, was that Ah Fook the oldest Chinese supermarket on Maui? Is inside like Ranch 99 with lot of Asian products? I always wonder what kind of jobs can the locals get there also since never been there yet. I am so full of questions of Maui and other neighbor islands.

  9. Pomai: You missed an opportunity to by not trying Sam Sato’s manju. You should pick up a couple of boxes the next time you stop by. Homemaid Bakery distributes their manju in local stores so its better known, but I prefer Sam Sato’s because it isn’t as flaky. Try the lima bean manju. It’s best to call them ahead of time.

  10. Matt, I did notice the pastry shell on the manju and turnovers looked like it was baked; unlike the one from Home Maid Bakery, which looks like it’s deep-fried (although I’m not sure how they make theirs). Long’s Drugs on Oahu sells Maui’s Home Maid Bakery Manju. I wanted to get some of Sam Sato’s Manju and Turnovers to bring back home with me, but they’re closed on Sundays, the day we flew back home, and Saturday wasn’t a good day for me to drive all the way from Wailea to Wailuku. No worries. I’ll get some in time.

    John, just do it. Maui’s got to be one of the best places on earth for a vacation.

    Erica, Ah Fook’s original location next door burnt down years ago. The new store is VERY SMALL, and not nearly as big as I hear it was before. They do have quite an eclectic mix of local foods you can’t find anywhere else, including those Iwamoto Saimin noodles, Natto, and Ah Fook’s own brand of Portuguese sausage! I have a few packages I’ll blog about later.

    C, whoah brah, one cheeseburgah deluxe along with all that noodles and I would have been guaranz “Kanak attack” in da’ car afterwards. lol I think there’s shops here on Oahu that carry the Maui Built line of shirts.

    Michael, a-ha! You keyed-in on the oyster sauce, shoyu and oil tip. Sharp!

    Kat, I spoke with the owner of Iwamoto Natto Factory just the other day. That would be Patsy Yamashita. The Yamashita’s bought the factory from the Iwamotos a long time ago. They kept the previous owners’ name for identity of the brand. I needed to ask her what was the proper way to cook their saimin noodles, as the package doesn’t include directions. Of course I could figure it out myself, but I’d rather here the RIGHT WAY from the owner themselves. Nice lady! I also have a container of Natto from their factory that I’ll blog about later.

    Betty, I’ll ask family up there for information on Sun Sun Restaurant and get back to you on that.

    Spotty, according to the Patsy (the owner), Foodland does carry Iwamoto noodles as well. I’m guessing Ah Fook’s in Kahului is cheaper though.

    According to Patsy, the proper way to prepare Iwamoto’s “undried” saimin is to place it in RAPIDLY BOILING WATER (a must). It should sink to the bottom of the pot, then when it begins cooking, it will rise to the surface, which only takes a few minutes. At that point, bite-test some for proper al dente doneness. When it’s at the point you think it should be, remove it and immediately rinse it in a collander with COLD tap water to shock it (stop the cooking process) and remove the starch that was in the water, then serve as desired (either as dry mein or saimin).

    Deb, by now you’re probably ON Maui. Sweet! Looking forward to all the fantastic photos and commentary of YOUR trip!

    Kasey, that’s exactly what I thought just by looking at the manju in the display case.

  11. my husband and i live in kentucky but are coming to the islands for our honeymoon on june 25th! i have been reading your blog for a bit now trying to find greats eats. thank you so much for your great posts and as a tourist i will definitely be visiting sam sato’s based on your recommendation! thank you!

  12. This is great! I love it! I really like the photos of Mr. Sato and other photos and pictures on the walls. I really miss this kind of straightahead place to eat. No pretense at all. Just come in and enjoy! Thanks for sharing all of these great spots and encouraging the tourists to go. I think it is great that they see all parts of our local dining spectrum to get a realistic taste of what Hawaii food is all about.

  13. Stacey, let us know what you think of their Dry Noodles after you try it! Don’t forget to drizzle that broth over it as you eat it. Very important. If you’re in the mood afterward, try their Manju and Turnover and let us know what you think. I didn’t get a chance to try them on my last visit and everyone’s getting on my case about that. lol

    Alan in Madison, yup, this is exactly the kind of place you reinforced that “what it’s all about” in the Umalu comment. Ono local style grinds at real world prices.

    Still, Umalu was really ono too FWIW!

  14. Hi Pomai! Yup, Patsy is my mom’s good friend from church 🙂 Glad you could go to the “source” to find out how to cook those noodles!

  15. Pomai,
    Finally opened up your website. Neat-o!!!
    Purchased a new computer and lucky I saved your address. What a site.Thanks for all the commercials huh?
    One correction though. My parents were the Iwamoto who started the Natto and Saimin Factory in 1952. My husband, Robert Yamashita and I ran it . Now my son Daryl is slowly taking over the business. Keep on supporting us. Mahalo and see you soon!!!
    P.S. Congratulations Kat on your new baby Kira.
    I am pretty sure you’re the one. Your Mom is a great friend!!!

  16. Patsy, glad to hear you got a new computer and are able to see the site. Thanks for clarifying the facts about your company. Surely those who are interested will read through these comments for that information.

    I did a specific feature on your Iwamoto brand saimin noodles in this entry:


    and also your Iwamoto Natto here…


    Maui No Ka Oi!

  17. Seeing the pictures in this post brings back a lot of memories of when I was a cop in Kahului. We (police officers) used to stop at Sam Sato’s when it was still located in Pu’unene (back in the early 1970s) for breakfast and lunch breaks.

    I live in Washington State now but will remember to stop back in the next time I am on Maui. Thanks for the post.

  18. Iwamoto saimin and natto are definitely the best! They are also available at Cash N’ Carry at 90 Amala Place in Kahului. The saimin freezes well; I food saver bag it. Cook frozen in rapidly boiling water and loosen with chopsticks as it cooks; keep that water boiling. I put a few ebi in my dry mein. Natto: add kamaboko/tempura, chopped veggies, anything to stretch it, and make a meal of it.

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