Waipahu Eats: Sato's Okazuya "Famous" Fried Noodles

Sato’s Okazuya “Famous” Fried Noodles

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…

Notice in the background the old Oahu Sugar Mill smoke stack still stands to this day.

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).

Spock da’ bottles of what looks like some kinda’ “secret sauce” by the Fried Noodles prep area. half-shoyu/half-oyster sauce, perhaps?

So here now I FINALLY get to taste for myself what everyone is raving about…

Sato’s Okazuya – Fried Noodles (large). $7

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.

Zippy’s – Fried Noodles (notice they put SPAM in theirs)

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.

Sam Sato’s – Dry Noodle, a.k.a. “Dry Mein”

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!

Sato’s Okazuya
94-235 Hanawai Circle (turn off Farrington Highway at the corner of Bank of Hawaii)
Waipahu, Hawaii  96797

Tel. (808) 677-5503

Business Hours:
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!…

Photo courtesy of Debbie-chan

Photo courtesy of Debbie-chan

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!


20 thoughts on “Waipahu Eats: Sato's Okazuya "Famous" Fried Noodles

  1. Looks good… like a good fried saimin with the sukoshi bit of saimin garnish though Waipahu quite a drive from K-Town. Though I have been known to make a trip all the way to Sekiya’s for their 5-musubi fried saimin!

  2. After reading your blog for so long, I’m starting to think I should move either to Kalihi (God’s Country for grinds as you say) or even farther out, like Waipahu. Forget town!

    P.S. The long defunct Mos Burger on Kalakaua had the rice burger with spam and egg, but not the nori. I believe they just called it the “spam rice burger.” It was available for breakfast, too. I miss that place’s teri burgers and thick french fries.

  3. Molly, wouldn’t you say Kalihi is pretty much considered a “town” area? As for Waipahu, I suppose you could call that Oahu’s “Mini Manila”. lol Still gotta’ try the new Jollibee out there. Still haven’t eaten at Max’s of Manila either, although I did try their broasted chicken…. wasn’t impressed, especially for the price. I hear the Max’s of Manila P.I. locations are better, mainly because they get FRESH (not frozen) chickens.

    I remember the Mos Burger on Kalakaua, which was located on the mauka side, right across the street from the Mitsukoshi building (where Planet Hollywood used to be). I never did bother to go in and try it though. Had I known back then they had “rice bun” burgers, I most definitely would have checked it out.

    Ryan, so Sekiya’s (across Kaimuki H.S.) got a 5-SPAM Musubi-rated Fried Saimin, eh? Thanks for the tip!

  4. If you get a chance, on the ground floor of the Aiea Medical Building (I think it’s called that) across of Aiea Shopping Center, there’s a drive inn that has good fried noodles. Old style drive inn. Good tasting nishime too, among other things.

  5. I grew up in Waipahu. I remember buying fried saimin from the manapua trucks that circled around. They were the best! They came in a little plastic bag with a fork or chop sticks in it. You’d pour this shoyu mixture in it and shake it up. But I was a kid, what did I know. Now my favorite place for fried saimin is further down the street at Leeward Drive Inn. But I suppose I have to try Sato’s out just to be fair. Thanks for the awesome work you do!

  6. Pomai, sometime it is greasesy Chinese fried noodle due to they make it Hong Kong style too much oil in it. I like it at Oahu Market in Chinatown where they sell in food stall there and price is very good too. They make old Chinese style chow mein not Hong Kong style too oily.

    I will head to Waipahu to check it out also.

  7. Pat, I have a cookbook called “What Maui Likes to Eat” by Chef Tylun Pang, where he features the Chow Fun in the paper cones, including the recipe! It’s called “County Fair Chow Fun”, which is held annually by the Wailuku Hongwanji Mission. I think serving Chow Fun in a paper cone is simply BRILLIANT. I’ll feature that recipe on my blog in the near future.

    Nate, I remember on your blog you showcased SPAM Musubi with Egg in it a few times, which seems to be a popular way of serving it in Okinawa. They must like eggs.

    Aaron, ah, so the Hong Kong style is the greasy stuff. Thanks for the tip!

    Joe, that’s interesting how they’d serve the fried saimin in a plastic bag with the “sauce” on the side, then you add it yourself and shake the bag up. Neat!

    I’ll add Leeward Drive Inn to my future “Fried Noodles Shootout”.

    Lance, I know exactly which building your talking about, as I had to pick someone up from there recently. I’ll keep an eye for the place. Thanks!

  8. It might be sacrilege, even to a humble food such as the fried noodle plate, to mention this, but I recently caved and got the fried noodles that they have at Costco (next to the maki sushi) and I can’t remember what brand it is… BUT, they were good. I was surprised.
    I agree that the spam rice burger is pretty brilliant. I’m all about the crispy edges.

  9. Mariko, I know exactly which Fried Noodle at Costco you’re talking about, yet never tried it myself. Since you say it was pretty good, I’ll have to get some! I think it’s made by the same vendor that makes their fresh sushi, which IIRC is Sushi Chef.

  10. Hah! Man, as a Maui boy… the first stop I make at the county fair every year is that chow fun booth. It really is better in a cone, just wandering around the fairgrounds. It doesn’t get much better than that.

  11. Regarding Chow Fun, may I say I much prefer the earthy richness of the Hula Brand to the Chinese/Mainland sheet variety. It is the only way served on Kauai. I don’t care who invented the noodle, Hawaii invented the dish. Brought it to perfection and that was it.

  12. Pat, I featured the Hula Brand Chow Fun in this ‘Vegetarian Chow Fun Noodles Recipe’ post here:


    I noticed Sun Noodle now offers FRESH (not dehydrated like the Hula brand) Chow Fun noodles in single serving packages next to their refrigerated Nama Ramen at the supermarket. That’s the one I’m going to use when I do the Maui County Fair Chow Fun served in a paper cone recipe, as that recipe specifies to use FRESH Chow Fun noodles.

    I must say though, the Hula Brand is EXCELLENT… and CHEAP!

  13. Oh….I need some of those noodles now! Some of my favorite noodles was from the manapua truck that came by stevenson int when I went to school there a long time ag0

  14. Pomai can you recommend a good yakisoba sauce. I’ve tried bull dog sauce and the Otafuku yakisoba sauce and it just doesn’t taste like the “real’ Japanese yakisoba restaurant style. I don’t know if I’m supposed to add anything to these sauces but something is off about these sauces.

  15. Susan, regarding authentic restaurant style Yakisoba sauce, I’ll have to ask one of my Nihongin contacts for advice on that one. I’ll get back to you on it, ASAP.

    djmitcho, where is Stevenson Int. located?

  16. Those fried noodles look really good. I love any fried noodles — yakisoba, yakiudon, chow mein, etc. Does anyone around there make somen champuru? During my visit last month, a friend’s mom took me to lunch at Hee Hing on Kapahulu, where she ordered the special e mein noodles, which were really good. The waitress asked if she wanted “with sauce or without.” She ordered with sauce, but I bet they would have been better without.

    Susan, Ikari makes a yakisoba sauce, but it may not be that different from the other commercial sauces. “Real” restaurant style yakisoba might involve a house-made sauce, and a really well-seasoned grill, which might be hard to duplicate at home.

    The MOS rice burgers (kinpira, kalbee, shrimp and chicken) are good, but you need to eat them using the paper serving holder they come in (which is sitting under the one above — I took it out so I could get the picture), or they tend to fall apart towards the end. Fried eggs (sunnyside up with crispy edges) and Spam is really popular in Okinawa (like so many other places). I used to have a keitai (cell phone) strap of a little piece of Spam with a little fried egg on it. So cute! But it started looking kind of gross when it got grimy, so I had to throw it away!

  17. Pomai…Stevenson is across the street from Roosevelt High School. I doubt that manapua truck still exists since is was in the mid 80s

  18. Debbie-chan thank you, I think you’re right about “real” restaurant yakisoba sauces. I wish I had a good recipe.

    Pomai, tks for any help you can get for me. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Fuji-ichiban Ramen restaurant chain that we have here but their yakisoba is really ichiban!

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