McDonald's Saimin

Going from one extreme example of the dish with the Oxtail Saimin from Violet’s Grill, we find ourselves at the other side of that spectrum with Saimin from McDonald’s.

Yes my friends, you heard right, McDonald’s Saimin. In fact, three people double-took me when I told them I had saimin from McDonald’s for lunch. “Since when did they sell saimin?” is what most of them asked. Actually, as far as I can remember, come to think about it.

According to Wikipedia (yeah, I dig real deep for information, don’t I?), there’s quite an interesting story behind McDonald’s Saimin which goes like this: “[Foodland founder and first Hawaii McDonald’s owner Maurice] Sullivan invited executives from McDonald’s corporation, including owner business tycoon Ray Kroc,  for dinner at two family-owned, “hole-in-the-wall” saimin stands in Honolulu. They ate at Washington Saimin and Boulevard Saimin. That night, Sullivan convinced Kroc to expand McDonald’s menu for the first time in its corporate history to include a local “ethnic” food. Researchers worked extensively with Washington Saimin to develop a recipe for McDonald’s Hawaii. Sullivan secured deals with a local saimin noodle factory, fishcake supplier and a Japanese company, Ajinomoto, to manufacture a special soup base.”

If this is true, then it looks like all those McDonald’s out there in the world serving the likes of McOz Burgers, McAloo Tikka Burgers, Maharaja Macs and other region-specific ethnic specialties can thank Boulevard Saimin and the late Washington Saimin for the corporation’s open-minded philosophy when it comes to their menu.

Saimin isn’t the only regional ethnic specialty for McDonald’s Hawaii either, as there’s been a number of experiments and mainstays. The Taro, Haupia and Mango Pie were all great, while there’s no denying that McDonald’s Hawaii breakfast menu item — McDonald’s Portuguese Sausage, Eggs and Rice — is here to stay for the long run. Good stuff!

Yet we’re here for McDonald’s apparently ambiguous Saimin, where for this, of all their numerous locations around the island, I chose the restaurant in Hawaii Kai Shopping center (Safeway, Longs, The Shack) to hook me up…

In case you still don’t believe me, ‘Saimin’ is right there in black and white on the menu board…

Probably the reason many folks don’t realize saimin is on the menu is that their eyes are too fixated on the french fries. While for those who don’t even know what ‘Saimin’ is is, they must be thinking “What are Saimin French Fries?”. lol

While I couldn’t get an exact size of the container from any of McDonald’s employees, including the manager, it’s pretty big, where I’m guessing at least 24 fluid ounces, yet possibly larger than that….

The McDonald’s Hawaii logo is neat, yet it would have been nice if it said ‘McSaimin’ or simply ‘McDonald’s Saimin’. A pair of chopsticks intertwined between the Golden Arches also would be a nice ethnic touch to the logo.

While I’m on a marketing roll, since fast food joints embrace the combo and value meal menu concept, another thing McDonald’s Hawaii might want to consider is creating a ‘Saimin Value Meal’, which would include a regular or teriyaki burger and/or fries, which is a combination popular with the locals. So popular, Zippy’s has a similar Saimin, Teri Beef Sandwich and Drink combo’ on their menu.

Currently McDonald’s is promoting their 1/3 Pound Angus Burgers, where one of them is a Teriyaki Angus Burger, but that was way too much burger for me on this sitting.

So I created my very own McDonald’s “Saimin Value Meal”, adding a McDouble Burger (2 regular patties and 1 slice cheese) and small fries off their Dollar Menu…

McDonald’s unofficial ‘Saimin Value Meal’: Saimin ($2.89), McDouble Burger ($1)and Small Fries ($1). $4.89 total. (drink purchased elsewhere).

Like the ready-to-serve S&S and Okahara store-bought brands, McDonald’s Saimin looks to be preassembled and kept refrigerated until time of service. Simply add piping hot water, stir in broth packet and serve.

Now looking at the broth, I’m a little concerned, as it appears rather “light”…

In here, you have the standard saimin garnishes, including Kamaboko (fishcake; the pink and white “swirly” thing), Nori (roasted seaweed), Charsiu (Chinese roasted pork; red colored) and tamago (egg omelet).

After a moment of reflection (as if any fast food deserves that), I go in for a sip of the broth…

See how light that looks? Well not surprisingly it tasted light, as in watery. Very watered down. Too watered down. As if they took one of the Ajinomoto packets intended to make one bowl and made five bowls out of that. The flavor profile has a subtle hint of shrimp and dashi, with shrimp being more pronounced than dashi. Yet like I said, way, way too watered down. Almost like I was eating plain noodles in boiled water. I tried stirring it, thinking maybe the dashinomoto wasn’t mixed thoroughly, but that didn’t help.  Shrimp-flavored hot water is the best way I can describe this worst example of saimin broth I’ve had in recent memory.

Let’s try the noodles…

A little soggy and heavily starchy. Essentially it tasted like “institution” noodles; something you’d get a school cafeteria or perhaps a prison. Definitely not what I’d expect from a true Saimin stand, which is supposedly where this recipe came from.

The very thin slice of kamaboko was also soggy, which was a bit weird, while the charsiu was tough and bland; yet I suppose that toughness was a plus in contrast to the texture of the noodles. The sliced egg omelet strips were also soggy and bland, continuing to detract and not help this sad bowl of saimin out at all.

This saimin was so “sad” I only could eat half of it, throwing the rest out. I hate to waste food, but I just couldn’t take any more of the “shrimp water” flavor of the broth and starchy-soggy, characterless noodles. Not good. So not good.

With that, McDonald’s Saimin doesn’t even make 1 SPAM Musubi, heading into MINUS territory. Either I just had a “lemon”, or they need to seriously reevaluate their Washington and Boulevard Saimin-sourced recipe.

As for the McDouble, it’s actually quite tasty and satisfying. The single slice of melted cheese is what makes it. I do notice though that it’s quite SALTY. To be exact, the McDouble packs in a whopping 390 calories, 19 grams of total fat, 8 grams saturated fat (42% of the daily value) and 920 milligrams of sodium (38% of the daily value). Wow. Of course that’s to be expected of cheap, processed food, which I try to keep to a minimum; emphasize TRY.

What can I say about McDonald’s Fries. Of all the fast food chains, in my opinion, they’re THE BEST. See, so I always have something nice to say, as with the bad (saimin), there’s always the good (burger and fries).

And to be fair, perhaps when I return to McDonald’s I’ll give the saimin a second chance and try it again to reinforce my findings.


P.S. Going from hot (saimin) to cold,  check out my brand new “Costco-sized” refrigerator

GE® ENERGY STAR® 25.4 Cu. Ft. Side-By-Side Refrigerator with Dispenser #GSHS5KGXSS

In the middle of renovating my kitchen, this was the perfect time to take advantage of the Hawaii Energy “Trade Up for Cool Cash” $250 rebate. The rules are to purchase a new Energy Star-qualified refrigerator in-store model at any Hawaii retailer between May 24 and June 24, 2010. With that, as you would imagine, refrigerator sales in Hawaii were brisk during this time period and the rebate forms ran out much sooner than the June 24th deadline, along with the money allocated for the rebate program.

In order for the rebate to be valid, the delivery company must stamp the form (see box on the bottom right), stating that they delivered the new Energy Star refrigerator and hauled away your old “clunker”. So yes, this was another form of “cash for clunkers”.

And boy was my old refrigerator a CLUNKER! It certainly wasn’t big enough for my weekly Costco and KCC Farmers’ Market runs, but now I got 25.4 cubic feet of space, baby! Well, of course that’s not the BIGGEST you can get, but it’s big enough for my current needs and a considerable upgrade in every sense from what it’s replacing.

Here’s a look inside…

On the refrigerator side there’s dual level lighting, 2-stack drawer freshness center, spill-proof slide out shelves, gallon size door storage and a convenient in-the-door beverage can holder.

What I like most is the side-by-side design, compared to my old refrigerator’s freezer-on-the-top style. I don’t care much for the new French Door style with the freezer on the bottom. I prefer having the multi-level shelves in the freezer the side-by-side design affords.

On the freezer door is the filtered water and crushed or cubed ice dispenser…

Here you can check the actual temperature, which is recommended to be set at 0ºF for the freezer and 37ºF for the refrigerator, or you can adjust it colder or warmer to your liking. I’m keeping it at default for maximum energy efficiency and life expectancy of the unit.

Here’s an angle view, where you can see beautiful sheen of the Stainless Steel doors…

While some stainless steels can be magnetic, this is the type that isn’t. What this is, is GORGEOUS. The quality of the brushed stainless stamping that makes up the doors’ exterior skin is first-rate and virtually FLAWLESS, and the included Cera Bryte® Stainless Steel polish really brings out its lustre and beauty. The curved extruded stainless steel handles area also an industrial work of art, as is the stainless steel bezel surrounding the ice and water dispenser.

The sides and top of the cabinet are regular steel, painted in a glossy light gray enamel to somewhat match the stainless steel door fronts. It’s here you can stick your magnets, provided the sides are exposed, which it will only be on one side in my kitchen layout.

According to the US Government Energy Guide label attached to it, this model consumes an estimated 578 kilowatts of electricity per year with a $62 per year estimated operating cost (depending on local utility rates). That’s certainly much cheaper than my air conditioner!  Perhaps from now on when  I need to cool off I’ll go hang out in my new fridge. lol

It also runs exceptionally quiet, with only a mute fan sound.

Free delivery, free haul-away, 10% off Energy Star discount, plus Hawaii Energy “Trade Up for Cool Cash” $250 rebate  and low power consumption sounds like a good deal to me.

Now to find the GE stainless steel free-standing range and microhood to match. I know Sears got ’em, but I’m gonna’ shop around some more.


13 thoughts on “McDonald's Saimin

  1. I hadn’t ordered McDonald Saimin in a long time but I remember back then it was not this fancy looking.  They informed customers they use S&S Saimin for it.  Now I got get some for miss it very much.  With their tropical smoothies will be all set.

  2. I love your new fridge, Pomai.  However, our family of four has the same-sized fridge and it doesn’t come CLOSE to holding all our supermarket and Costco purchases!  We have to keep a second full-size freezer in the garage to hold everything.  Something tells me we might be buying too much from Costco.  😉

    McD has sold saimin ever since I was a little girl and I’m not going to admit when that was.  I don’t remember it ever being GREAT saimin, but it did in a pinch where there was nothing else and you didn’t feel like having a burger.

    Funny story: A guy I once worked with moved to Hawaii from the mainland in the ’80s.  He saw “saimin” on the McD menu and thought it was a local way of saying “salmon.”  So he ordered it and was intrigued to receive a styrofoam bowl of noodles.  But he soon became a saimin addict. 

  3. Pomai-san… McDonald’s is very protective of their legendary golden arches image… chopsticks in the world-famous logo would never do! 🙂 Thanks for the heads-up on the Mickey-D’s saimin; while I might try it so I can say ‘I had saimin at McDonald’s’ (much like having a beer with a Big Mac in Germany) I’m gonna largely keep it local when I visit Honolulu on the way back to Kwaj. (And dem buggahs no stock kamaboko in the commissary on Kwaj!)

  4. From my experience with Mcd’s Saimin, you need to mix and stir the bowl of goodness cause the soup base is pre-packed on the bottom of everything. Unless they are pinching all four corners and skimped on the amount of base they include.
    As Diner C would say, your “Ref” looks cool and modern. Let me know if you need help with your kitchen remodel.

  5. Always knew mcdees had saimin from way back.Not the greatest,but wen you hanging from the night before,saimin,cheeseburger and coke always helped and you didn’t have to wait to long.

  6. It could be my imagination, but did the McD’s saimin come with a shoyu packet long ago? I kind of remember adding that into the soup.
    I’m so jealous of your beautiful new refrigerator!

  7. they are suppose to add a shoyu, pepper and salt packet. and i think a mcd worker scoops the soup base from a big jar with a spoon into the saimin then refrigerate. well thats how it was done 6 years ago when i worked there. idk about now.
    all the ramen posts rock

  8. Chris, I can’t believe they would leave the broth part to mcd workers. It should be already added in the bowl during preassembly. Then that explains where the ball was dropped. Oops! I know adding shoyu and salt and pepper would have helped, yet I only judge ramen and saimin by how it arrives at the table; not after the fact that I “doctored” it, as then it wouldn’t be fair.
    Raph’, actually, sorry for my heart health that I had to eat a McDonald’s hamburger and french fries to make up for the “sad” saimin. lol
    Molly, Chris answered that question, yet had I added shoyu, all I think all it would have done is made the shrimp-accented hot water taste like shoyu-flavored hot water with an accent of shrimp. Not my idea of saimin broth by any means.
    Duey, not the greatest by any means, but still, it could be much, much, much better than it was.
    Diner A, as mentioned in the write-up, I did stir it, to no avail. I thought there may have been dashi powder lodged between the noodles, but there wasn’t. I think McD employee alumni Chris solved the mystery by revealing that the dashi is added post-production, where “Employee X” apparently short-scooped on this batch.
    Chuck, well gosh darned it, I’ll come up with my own McD logo with hashi strewn through the Golden Arches. Sorry to hear they don’t stock Kamaboko in Kwaj’. Sounds like you need bring some back from Oahu. It freezes pretty good, keeping for about 3 months. After that it loses flavor.
    Jenny, If you think about it, filling up one single giant Costco shopping cart with perishables would easily consume almost the entire 25 cubic feet of space in this refrigerator. But yeah, I think many of us are guilty of buying “too much” from Costco. And I blame Costco for that. lol
    Your story about your former coworker thinking “saimin” was our local way of saying ‘salmon’ is too, too funny! I wonder if he thought the charsiu in the saimin was salmon? lol
    Michael, I have to admit, I did clean it up for the first photo, arranging the toppings in the best presentation I could. If you look at the seventh photo from the top, that’s exactly how it arrived. After tasting it, if it’s anything like the one I had, I don’t think you’ll ever miss it again.

  9. I used to work at a local McD back in the mid-late 90’s. back then the saimin came frozen and it would thaw for about a day in refer. the soup base came separate in big plastic pouches and it’d basically be one heaping spoonful (small plastic McD sundae spoon) per saimin. it used to taste a lot better with at least 2-3 times the amount. Also for some reason I think it was actually okuhara brand, could be wrong though as my memories of that time are getting blurry with age

  10. Silly question, but is that container styrofoam or plastic?  If it’s plastic, I might buy some (sounds like not that great) saimin just to take the container home as omiyage (and when I have to store leftovers, I can get a happy reminder of beautiful Hawaii!).

    (Whoops, this is Debbie-chan here; I accidently used one of my other web names!)

  11. Debbie-chan, not a silly question at all. I suppose the saimin container with the McDonald’s Hawaii logo would make a pretty cool omiyage. If I remember correctly (IIRC), the container was a type of styrofoam and soft plastic hybrid. Not the that soft, spongy styrofoam that disposable coffee cups are made of. Let me get another one so I can confirm that for you. I’ll get back to you on it.
    J, well, if you ask me, it seems as though whoever was doing the broth scoopin’ missed my cup. I really need to order another one see if I just had a “lemon”.
    Nate, funny, when I ordered a samin with my burger at Bob’s Bar-B-Q on Dillingham, the cup they handed to me was the ready-to-serve S&S brand. No shame in their game. lol

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