Fans of this popular genre of local style eatery know that each Okazuya has their own claim-to-fame dish.
Well, enter Sato’s Okazuya in Waipahu, where their Fried Noodles reign supreme. So much so, I’ve taken the liberty to tag them as “FAMOUS”! Where, “Best Fried Noodles in town” is pretty much the common description given by reviewers on Yelp. Where, if this is true (as we shall soon find out), then this adds yet another reason to head out to Waipa-HU! (say the “HU!” part in a dramatically higher tone of voice ‘por dee ahk-sent) for some seriously ono ‘kine grindz. Where, in this old plantation town on Oahu’s west side, you can also get a mighty fine Fish Patty at Tanioka’s, some “wow, das’ some winnahz! ” Laulau at Highway Inn, “Triple-D certified” Poke at Elmer Guzman’s Poke Stop, and definitely some “masarap-sarap” Spanish Rolls at Nanding’s Bakery… just to name a few!
Sato’s Okazuya is tucked away amongst a row of small businesses in the Y-H building, located on Hanawai Circle, right up the street around the corner of Bank of Hawaii on Farrington Highway in Waipahu. As you enter the parking lot from Hanawai Circle, to the right will be the Waipahu Festival Marketplace…
Across the lot you’ll find Sato’s Okazuya in the Y-H Building…
As “old school” hole-in-the-wall as it gets…
Typical of this type of limited-space eatery, Sato’s Okazuya offers minimal seating accommodations (two 4-place tables and one 2-place table), with the center of attention being the service counter that doubles as a window-faced food display featuring what’s (hopefully still) available for the day…
I’ve heard the wait here for their famous Fried Noodles can be long, making it wise to call ahead for your order. Yet I took a chance and walked in, where around my noon-time arrival (considered LATE by most Okazuya standards), thankfully there was plenty of Fried Noodles that had just been cooked, sitting in a warmer pan awaiting me and a few other fellow patrons who were there for the same thing…
Right above the noodles on the display counter, they have three sizes of takeout containers marked with the prices to help you quickly make your choice…
Check out that extra-large (XL) takeout container on da’ left… sheesh, da’ buggah is MASSIVE! Never seen that sized “plate” before, and thankfully so, as the last thing we need are local plate lunch joints offering “super-sized” plate lunches. Not that many don’t already do so, except they just pile da’ grindz VERTICALLY. lol.
To the left and right of the Fried Noodles pan, you can sort of see the other warmer pans next to it are already “Elvis” (gone), as were most of the musubi and other prepared Okazu selections in this part of the display case….
Speaking of selection, here’s Sato Okazuya’ menu board…
Apparently the Pork Chops & Fried Noodles is one of their most popular combos, yet I came here specifically just to try their “famous” Fried Noodles so I could savor it in all its own glory, which really, as is, can be considered an all-in-one meal.
The very first thing I asked the server was, “Where do you get your noodles from?” To which she immediately revealed Sato’s sources their noodles from Okahara Saimin Factory. Well I’ll be darned! Finally a place that doesn’t get their noodles from Sun Noodle Factory, whom seems currently has at least 90% of Oahu’s ramen and saimin shop market (amongst others) locked in. I actually was surprised they outsource their noodles, as I thought a place with such a reputation as theirs would still be making their own in-house (if they ever did do that).
So here now I FINALLY get to taste for myself what everyone is raving about…
Let me start by saying that, while I enjoy eating it occasionally, I’m certainly not particularly a Fried Noodles enthusiast myself, per se. So I don’t have many other places to compare this to, with the only other Fried Noodles consumed in recent memory being from none other than Zippy’s. I definitely much prefer this “local style” saimin-influenced version of the dish, as I’m (loosely) so NOT a fan of Chinese style Fried Noodles, mainly because of the flavorings in the sauce, and also because it’s often kinda’ greasy (at least in my experiences). Especially if they use Hoisin (uggh) or too much Oyster Sauce.
Being this is an Okazuya and saimin stand, I’d say Sato’s Fried Noodles is essentially a bowl of Saimin (same noodles), sans the liquid broth, thrown into a wok and fried along with an ever-slight addition of julienned carrots and cabbage and some “secret sauce”. Then, like the typical “standard” Saimin you’ll find at most stands, it’s topped with finely chopped charsiu, ham and green onions.
In fact, speaking of the Sato name, this reminds me a lot of the also very popular Dry Noodle, a.k.a. “Dry Mein” offered at Sam Sato’s in Wailuku, Maui. Except with Sam Sato’s Dry Mein, they kick it up a notch by also providing a small bowl of broth on the side so you can “wet” your noodles. Because you know, we all like “wetting our noodle”. lol
OK, time for the moment of truth, let’s do this…
Right off the bat, EXCELLENT texture. Kinda’ rubbery ‘n chewy in a VERY GOOD WAY, and certainly not “pasty”. I think that firm-yet-tender chewiness is what makes it stand out the most and is its greatest virtue.
There’s an ever-so-slight oily coating, yet certainly not greasy whatsoever, with just enough of a slick surface coating all the noodles to prevent them from sticking together into one clumpy mess. These Fried Noodles remain in individual strands, so more props on that, and also once again for having just the right amount of oil coating.
Flavor-wise, just like Sam Sato’s “Dry Mein”, Sato’s Fried Noodles (don’t confuse the two!), it’s kinda tough to really tell exactly what’s going on (in) here in their “secret sauce”. It’s sorta’ “dashi-ish”, yet there may also be if just a TAD of Oyster Sauce, but not much. There’s definitely some “shoyu action” to boost the “Umami factor”. They may also be using chicken broth in there somehow as it’s being fried up. The julienned carrots and cabbage added some “earth tones” to the flavor and texture profile, yet there’s very, very little in it.
Which underscores the “less is best” concept that Sato’s theory on Fried Noodles is that it should be kept as SIMPLE AS POSSIBLE, as I too firmly believe is THE way to go with most “local style” noodle dishes, whether it be Mac’ Salad, Chow Fun, Saimin or this.
Speaking of which, what underscores this tasting essentially like Saimin in fried form is the chopped Charsiu, ham and green onions. Both the Charsiu and ham were very moist, tender and flavorful, while the Charsiu was particularly OUTSTANDING here. I really noticed that, even with what sparse bits and pieces were mixed throughout my generously portioned large plate of Fried Noodles.
At $7 for the large Fried No0dles, it’s easily enough to fill you up, or would also be an adequate portion if you were to split it among 2-4 people along with another entree, such as, oh say, their pork chops. In fact I shared 2 small bowls from my plate with my coworkers so they could try it and still had enough to leave me carbo-loaded ‘n STUFFED after all was said and done.
Summing it up, I give Sato’s Okazuya “Famous” Fried Noodles a “Simple is always best!” 5 SPAM Musubi, and definitely “in it to win it” for Oahu’s BEST local style Fried Noodles. Looks like we’re going to have to hold a “Best Fried Noodles on the Island” SHOOTOUT some time in the future!
94-235 Hanawai Circle (turn off Farrington Highway at the corner of Bank of Hawaii)
Waipahu, Hawaii 96797
Tel. (808) 677-5503
Tuesday – Friday: 7:30am to 2:00pm
Saturday: 7″30am to 1:00pm
Sunday & Monday: Closed
The Tasty Island rating:
(5) Superb. Worthy of repeat visits or purchases. (Broke Da’ Mout’!)
P.S. At least in my opinion, most of the best okazuya delis (and many other types of restaurants) on Oahu are owned and operated by local Okinawan families (Sato’s is the exception, as they’re originally from Sapporo, Japan). Where back on the Ryukyu islands motherland, SPAM (and other competing luncheon meat brands) remain very popular, and is often incorporated into some of Okinawa’s most traditional dishes.
You regular readers of this blog may recall my recent post featuring my entry for Hormel’s contest to pick a winning design for their new, soon-to-hit the shelves SPAM’ Hawaii collector’s edition can label. In a comment by regular reader “Debbie-chan”, she pointed out the special 70th Year Anniversary of SPAM in Okinawa collector’s can, to which she so kindly eMailed me a few EXCELLENT photos she took of her own copy.
Well, here it is!…
That is pretty. darned. COOL! I Especially like the masked Japanese “kimono” style artwork that makes up the “70” font. If you can read Japanese, I’d really appreciate if you could translate the entire backside of the label for us in a comment, onegaishimasu.
Debbie-chan noted that the artwork has a similar style to the one that graces this “Yonaha Toru presents Kachashii a go-go” CD cover…
Photo courtesy of Debbie-chan
It also reminds me of the illustrated character designs in the Crayon Shinchan anime series, which by-the-way is a RIOT! I sure miss that show, which KIKU-TV used to air here with GREAT subtitle work. Unfortately, KIKU had to give the reels back to the producer, as Asahi TV in Japan bought the rights to the show. Boo! Anyhow, look up “Crayon Shinchan” on YouTube and watch a few episodes… funny (and often naughty) stuff!
While on the subject of SPAM, Debbie-chan also sent me this photo of an “Okinawa Burger”, which was (or still is?) available at MOS BURGER locations in Naha, Okinawa…
MOS BURGER’s (Naha, Okinawa locations) “Okinawa Burger”. Photo courtesy of Debbie-chan
Get the heck outta’ here… a slice of fried SPAM and egg on a “bed” of Nori encased by a rice “bun”? Simply BRILLIANT! I SO need to try making this! My guess is that rice “bun” is made by pressing a tightly compacted small ball of white rice onto a saute pan on about medium heat and browning it ever so slightly. I dig how the Nori acts as the “lettuce”. Genius.
I tell you, when it comes to cookin’, dem’ Uchinanchu folks know how it’s done RIGHT!
Mahalo Debbie-chan for all the fun ‘n cool pics!