S&S Old Time Island Style Saimin

We complete our three-part “Saimin Series 2011” today with a product review of Sun Noodle’s NEW S&S Old Time Island Style Saimin. This, following the first and second installments of saimin stand reviews over at The Old Saimin House and Palace Saimin, both truly “old school” institutions that’s been serving classic Hawaii Saimin to generations over the decades, dating back to the 1940’s.

As mentioned in the previous “Saimin Series” reviews, I visited “OSH” and “Palace” to reacquaint my palate to what “old school” Hawaii Saimin should taste like.

Those of you who regularly eat the current S&S Saimin, yet remember the older formula, may notice that the current S&S’s broth is essentially a packet of slightly modified Hon-dashi, which is a Bonito-based soup stock. Whereas, if you also visit the local stand stand that still uses  an “old school” broth recipe, you’ll notice the old school saimin broth is based on shrimp, not the bonito-source Katsuobushi. Some may also use a combination of shrimp and katsuobushi, along with kombu, pork, chicken and/or who knows what else, as of course they’ll never give away their broth’s secret recipe!

Well enter Sun Noodles all-new “retro chic” S&S Old Time Island Style Saimin. Where right there on the front of the package it touts a “Traditional Shrimp Soup Base” that’s a “Favorite taste of your past”. Hmm, we shall see about that!

Let’s check out the back of the package, looking specifically at the ingredients…

S&S Old Time Island Island Style Saimin
Soup Base Ingredients: Salt, Sugar, Monosodium Glutamate, Corn Starch, Krill Extract, Soy Sauce (Soy Bean, Wheat, Water), Hydrolized Soy Protein & Flour Enhancer (Nucleic Acid).

Yep, this one’s packin’ the MSG, as it is in just about every other instant noodle soup broth, not to mention the numerous other food products with at least some form of glutamate in it. Which, not surprisingly, one full serving of this Saimin with a packet of the broth powder mixed in the water-based soup will bombard your system with a whoppin’ 2,740mg of sodium, burying the daily value meter dial into the redline at 114%. Good Lord, someone please pass me another Lisinopril tablet. lol

Getting beyond its health “benefits”, as far as flavor factor, notice there’s Krill Extract in it, which is entirely absent in the current “standard” S&S Saimin broth packet, which uses, as mentioned above, Bonito (dried fish powder). Krill are micro-sized shrimp-like crustaceans that swim in huge swarms, with its primary prey being whales, seals, penguins, and of course, humans. As for the shrimp-based broths the local saimin stands make, I’ve heard they use either regular shrimp shells (after the meat has been removed and consumed in other dishes, or dried shrimp, a.k.a. Opae.

Shiro’s Saimin Haven, the home of “everything including the kitchen sink” saimin, should come out with a saimin called “The Donald Trump”, where the broth is made from the shells of Maine Lobster, Alaskan King Crab, Conch and Abalone.  Imagine how that would taste! Sounds interesting, anyway.

Let’s “depackage” it and check out what’s inside…

If weren’t for the broth packets in the shot, you may have thought those were two old mop heads. lol

S&S Old Time Island Island Style Saimin
Ingredients: Enriched Wheat Flour, Water, Salt, Potassium Carbonate, Gluten, Enriched Flour & starch.

Like the dreaded MSG “mega-sodium” in the broth, the noodles use enriched flour, which as you may know is essentially flour that’s been stripped of its fiber, vitamins and minerals to improve shelf life and texture. This “empty calorie” food ingredient plays havoc on your blood sugar levels that can lead to type-2 diabetes and obesity. But that’s another story for another day (even though I just talked about it today lol).

Like nama ramen (fresh noodle instant ramen), you must cook it by boiling these S&S noodles in water for 3-4 minutes and then DRAIN the water, as the water will take out and take on the extra flour and cornstarch that the raw, uncooked noodles are coated in for packaging (so it doesn’t stick together). Before you put the noodles in the boiling water, pour cups (boil six cups total) in your serving bowl, along with the Ebi Dashi powdered soup broth and stir to dilute it.

Here’s how the broth looks in powdered form before getting hit with the boiling-hot water…

Some powdered dashi broths also have dehydrated green onion already mixed in it, but not this one, which is good, as I’d rather add my own fresh toppings and garnish.

Speaking of toppings, I rightfully complained how The Old Saimin House and Palace Saimin, for some reason, didn’t included Kamaboko as a topping in their Saimin, which is even more perplexing considering Okuhara Kamaboko factory is right down the street! WTH???

O.K., O.K., fine then, be like that. I’ll get my OWN Kamaboko, dammmm it! lol

Since I’m now at “Diner P’s Saimin Stand” (my kitchen), I included Okuhara Kamaboko…

Here it is outta’ the package…

Cuting it in half (on the bias), you see I got the one that has the visually appealing swirl in it…

Okuhara also makes the Kamaboko with the built-in wood chopping block base, but I think this one looks better in saimin. They both taste the same though. If you haven’t tasted local Kamaboko before, it’s a steamed Japanese fish cake made with surimi paste, so it tastes very similar to imitation crab, albeit not “stringy” in texture, being more solid and firmly gelatinous. While in taste, it’s a little more salty, and well, not as “crabby”, is the best way I can describe it. It definitely provides a pleasant, contrasting balance alongside the savory, meaty Charsiu (Chinese roast pork) topping, adding that always welcome “surf” with the “turf”.

Getting everything ready for “plating” (actually “bowling” lol), here’s my saimin toppings ‘ garnish spread all prepped and eager for a hot bath in broth…

Whoah, whoah, wait, wait, wait, back the truck up, BACK THE TRUCK UP! Where’s the green onion? Ack! I forgot the green onion! I cannot believe this. I ALWAYS have green onion on me, and this one time I’m doing a saimin review and I don’t have green onion. Daaaaaamm it!

Oh well, at least I have sliced egg omelet, so I suppose that will make up for it, although I’d prefer if it had green onion, too!

Also in this spread is my homemade Charsiu pork, which I made myself using, of all brands, the NOH dehydrated package stuff. But you know what? That stuff is pretty darned good! I was impressed! Once you add the water, it tastes just as good as the liquid bottled stuff. I usually doctor my store-bought Charsiu marinade anyway by adding honey and shoyu to it, which really kicks it up a few notches.

Let’s do this.

Add the hot water to the broth in the serving bowl and stir, boil the nama saimin noodles for 3 minutes and drain, add cooked noodles to hot soup broth in bowl, add toppings and garnish, and voila! S&S’ all-new Old Time Island Style Saimin, featuring Traditional shrimp Soup Base…

That’s a nice presentation, but once again, it SURE IS MISSING SOMETHING WITHOUT THE GREEN ONIONS! But hey, we’ll make due with what we have, after all, saimin was a peasant’s food dish, and surely back in the plantation days, they must have used what little they had in their kitchen to garnish their saimin. I mean, you know, a $1 bunch of green onions is beyond my budget at the moment. lol

Let’s taste the broth, where in this next photo, I took before adding the noodles and toppings…

Ding-ding-ding, have a WINNER! If you want the next best thing to Palace Saimin, this right here is pretty much “Palace in a Package”. It’s no doubt comes across as a “Traditional Shrimp Soup Base” and definitely deserves its “Favorite taste of your past” tagline on the label. Slightly “shrimpy”, slightly savory just like Palace, whereas, where Palace gets its savory element from pork bones, this “retro” S&S Saimin broth gets its savory counter-balance from Shoyu.

On the other hand, if you DON’T like anything that tastes even remotely like shrimp, you won’t like this broth, nor will you like the saimin broth at Forty Niner Restaurant, Old Saimin House and Palace Saimin (to name a few).

For me, I LOVE IT! 5 SPAM Musubi, ’nuff said.

Let’s try the noodles now…

Unlike the OTHER S&S Saimin, which has a much different flavor and texture, the noodles in this S&S Old Time Island Style Saimin seem to be the same one used in Sun Noodle’s “Hawaii’s Original Saimin” featuring “Old Style Oriental Style Noodle”…

Man, Sun Noodle really wants to corner the saimin market, don’t they? That makes THREE different saimin products from the same manufacturer. Not that I’m complaining, as you know how highly I think of their products.

Apparently though, Palace Saimin and The Old Saimin House rather source their noodles from Eagle Noodle Factory, which I’ve been told doesn’t use Potassium or Sodium Carbonate (Kansui) in their noodles. The Kansui is what gives the noodles that “egg-like” flavor, and these sort of have that going on, although thankfully not as much as their Japanese ramen noodles. They’re also a bit more firm and glutenous like Japanese ramen noodle then the relatively more “pasty” noodles from Eagle Noodle Factory served at OSH and Palace. Which of course “Saimin Purists” might scoff at, but me being on the other side of the fence and being a Japanese “Ramen Snob” actually prefer the Kansui element going on in the noodles.  As always, that’s subject to your own personal opinion, of course. 🙂

Let’s hit the Charsiu and Kamaboko in one fell swoop…

The combination of the subtle shrimp flavor from the broth, along with the punch of the Charsiu and mild fishy element from the Kamaboko works EXCELLENT together. The green onion (here I go again on that tangent) really would have hit it outta’ the park, but just these two garnishes alone were fantastic, which I need to have a talk with the owners of OSH and Palace on SERIOUSLY considering adding Kamaboko to their Saimin. It’s a MUST!

Let’s hit the sliced egg omelet…

Oh yea, that’s the icing on the cake, right there, bringing all the meaty toppings into a full circle. Sometimes I put in a sliced boiled egg, which works great too.

Summing it up, solid 5 SPAM Musubi for Sun Noodles all-new “retro chic” Old Time Island Style Saimin. If like or miss Palace Saimin, or your favorite “old School” saimin house, this is as close as you can get to the real deal. The only thing that may come off different are the noodles, that a little more on the side of Japanese ramen, yet don’t get me wrong, it still tastes like Saimin noodles. The broth here is what really nails it.

Oh, one last thing: when you go grocery shopping, don’t forget the Green Onion!

What? S&S Old Time Island Style Saimin
Who makes it? Sun Noodle Company/H&U Inc. Tel. (808) 841-5808
Where can I buy it? Currently at Don Quijote and Times Supermarket Oahu store locations only (call them for more updated info’)
How much does it cost? $1.59 regular price ($1.19 sale price at DQ) for 2-serving 9.5 oz. package
How do I store it? In the refrigerator (up to 1 week) or in the freezer
How do I cook it? Read the instructions
How should I garnish it? Sliced Charsiu Pork, Kamaboko (steamed fish cake), boiled egg or omelet and green onions are the usual toppings, but you can put your entire kitchen pantry in the bowl if you want lol
The Tasty Island rating: 5 SPAM Musubi
Notes: The broth nails it, with it’s subtle hint of shrimp and savoriness. Noodles are a bit firmer and “eggy-er” than traditional saimin noodles in a good way. If you want Palace Saimin in a Package, this is as close as you can get.

For the sake of convenience and comparision, let’s do a sub-review here of Sun Noodle’s OTHER S&S Saimin product that’s been around for DECADES (including before Sun acquired the brand), which includes an even more instant noodle than the already instant nama noodles in the new product…

Unpacking it, you see how much whiter and thinner these noodles are than the new S&S Saimin…

Unlike the new S&S Saimin, where the raw noodles must be boiled SEPARATELY for 3-4 minutes, these here are actually already cooked, requiring you to only heat them up to loosen it by placing in a bowl of boiling hot water for 20 to 30 seconds (from frozen state), then you add the powdered Bonito-based soup broth straight to the same bowl of water with the noodles. You can also mircowave this to prepare it, which is great as a convenient and satisfying lunch at the office, which is why I like to say S&S also must means “Sustenance and Satisfying”.

A-ha, I have green onion topping this one! But now no more da’ egg omelet. Whoah man, da’ sacrifices. lol

Here in heated and served state, you see how much thinner and whiter in color these noodles are…

They’re also more “pasty” and not “eggy” at all like the new S&S Saimin noodle (which is actually the same noodle used in their OTHER saimin product; I know, it gets a little confusing). Personally I prefer the slightly thicker, firmer, subtle egg-like flavor of the new noodle, but this works, especially considering the convenience that it’s already cooked and microwavable.

While I love the new “retro chic” shrimp-based broth, I’ve always enjoyed the Bonito-based broth that’s been served with local package saimin ever since I can remember.

Speaking of broth, here’s the ingredients for the S&S classic…

S&S Saimin “classic”
Soup Base Ingredients: Salt, MSG, Glucose, Powdered Soy Sauce, Powdered Bonito (Dried Fish Powder), Disodium Inosinate and Powdered Seaweed.

And the noodles…

S&S Saimin “classic”
Saimin Noodle Ingredients: Enriched Flour, Water, Salt, Potassium and Sodium, Carbonate, Cornstarch.

What? S&S Saimin “classic”
Who makes it? H&U Inc, DBA Sun Noodle Factory
Where did you buy it and how much did it cost? I forget. I had it in my freezer for a couple a months now, but it’s available at most Hawaii grocery stores in the freezer section.
The Tasty Island rating: 3 SPAM Musubi
Notes: See review above

P.S. If you’re wondering why I changed the “look” of The Tasty Island, is because my original “Tarski” WordPress theme (which I ‘ve been using since day 1) was giving me problems (more like HEADACHES <see photo inset).

So I decided to apply a new theme, using a popular one called “Weaver 2010”, which is much more flexible, in that I can now use sub-themes and manually edit the CSS to really customize it. Over time you may notice I’ll be making changes and tweaks here and there, including experimenting with different colors, fonts, layout, interactive widgets, and of course the all-important masthead design. Hopefully my web host will get with the program and update their PHP on the server, as I think that’s at least partially what’s causing my site to load slowly. If you’re having problems with load speed or access to this website, please let me know.

As always, big mahalo for your readership and cool comments. 🙂

Li Hing Pickle Mango

Drooling yet?

We’ll keep today’s post short and sweet. Well, and kinda’ tangy, too, along with plenty of “zippity-zip-zap POW”!!!

I recently got a couple good sized green Haden-Pirie hybrid mangoes from my coworker’s yard, who noted this season hasn’t yielded much mature fruit on his tree worth harvesting. As you know, summer is mango season in Hawaii nei, which according to a news report, this year is expected to be  “junk” for mangoes (and lychee) due to “unusual weather” conditions. Kinda’ unnerving, actually.

So anyway, with those two still-green mangoes, I decided to make Pickle Mango, this time with a major Li Hing twist.

My recipe for this here absolutlely “supah onolicious, broke da’ mout’ winnahz!” Li Hing Pickled Mango is as followed (an adaptation from Sam Choy). Note this recipe doesn’t have the star anise and Chinese 5-Spice like I’ve used in the past, as the Li Hing powder makes up for that.

Li Hing Pickle Mango

2 or more large green mangoes (whatevah kine you get), peeled and sliced into long, skinny and thick bite-sized pieced
1 cup rice vinegar
2 cups water
2½ cups light brown sugar
3 tbsp. Hawaiian salt
2 tbsp. Li Hing powder (I used Jade brand, which is my favorite)
Red food coloring (optional, yet highly recommended for that drool-inducing appearance)
1 small package Sweet Li Hing Mui (I also used Jade brand, which is my favorite)

In a small pot boil 2 cups water, turn off heat, then add the 2½ cups light brown sugar and salt and stir to to dissolve it. Add more water if needed to loosen it up. Remove from heat and add Rice vinegar, Li Hing Powder, and just a few drops of the red food coloring, to the point where it has a “dramatic” red color to it. For the Li Hing powder, go by taste.

In fact, go by your own taste with EVERYTHING. If you want it more sweet, add more sugar. More acidic, add more vinegar. Use that recipe as a basic guideline and go from there.

Once the finished Li Hing Pickle Mango “juice” is completely stirred and incorporated, let it cool in the fridge (or quickly in the freezer). Place peeled and sliced pickled mango in an appropriate sized jar and tightly pack it in to displace as much volume in the jar as possible, then pour cooled Li Hing Pickle Mango “sauce” into jar with green mango and fill to top and cover tightly. Let it sit in refrigerator for at least 3 days to fully soak up the Li Hing pickling “juice”.

Whack ’em ‘n enjoy.

Related Tasty Island links:
Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Mango
There’s Pickled, Then There’s Shoyu Mango
Mayo’ Mango Madness
Mango Bruschetta

Grindz of the Day: Tatsuo's, Chef Hardy's Veal Burger, McD's Saimin & Filipino Faves


Tatsuo’s Hamburger Steak & Smoked Chicken combo’ plate

We begin today’s “Grindz of the Day” with a spread we enjoyed several “Aloha Friday’s” ago at Tatsuo’s, which is pretty much your typical plate lunch joint, albeit, kicked up notches unknown to mankind, of course, located in the heart of the industrial Sand Island area of scenic Kalihi Kai.

Here at Tatsuo’s on this visit, I ordered a combination Beef Stew and Harm Ha Pork plate…


Tastuo’s Beef Stew & Harm Ha Pork combo’ plate

What is “Harm Ha Pork”, you might ask? Well, Harm Ha is a Chinese fermented shrimp paste that has a VERY pungent odor akin to Filipino Bagaong, along with a flavor profile that must be acquired in order to be appreciated. My mother LOVES Chinese food, and with that, I grew up eating stuff like this. Like Tripe (stew), Harm Ha smells pretty nasty to the uninitiated as it’s being heated in the pan. Yet, once you TASTE the final result in a dish such as this Harm Ha Pork, you quickly >>>at least should<<< appreciate it, if not LOVE IT! I know I do!


Tastuo’s Beef Stew & Harm Ha Pork combo’ plate

In this version made by Tatsuo’s, they used ground pork, which was the only thing I didn’t care for, as I’m used to this dish using whole pieces of pork, not ground-up. Aside of that, the Ung Choy (Chinese Water Spinach) was  cooked perfectly al dente if you will, while the balance of salty “shrimpiness” from the Harm Ha was pretty much spot-on.


Tastuo’s Beef Stew & Harm Ha Pork combo’ plate

As for the Beef Stew, pretty standard fare, with a basic tomato-based taste, yet I think could have used either beef stock or simmering longer to extract more savory goodness from the cuts of actual beef cuts in it. The celery, carrots and potatoes still had al dente integrity and weren’t rendered to “mush”, so thumbs-up on that.

Rice was cooked perfectly of course. Greens were crispy-fresh, served with an also standard fare Thousand Island’s Dressing.

Off to a good start, I give Tatsuo’s Harm Ha Pork & Beef Stew Plate Lunch combo 2-SPAM Musubi.

Next up we have Diner E’s Hamburger Steak “Gauge Plate”, by which he uses to measure every joint in this genre for their “Plate Lunch Savvy”…


Tatsuo’s Hamburger Steak mini plate

Sauteed onions? Check. Deep (and I mean DEEP), rich ‘n savory brown gravy? Check. Two char-grilled hand-formed beef patties? Check. Rice? Check. Game on!

Notice for the salad, for the most part, we all choose the tossed salad nowadays, as, well, we’re not getting any younger, and Mac’ Sal’ isn’t so kind in maintaining our “girlish” figure. Not that a heaping helping of hamburger smothered in gravy over white rice is so kind to that either, but hey, we gotta’ make some concessions somewhere. lol

And how is Tatsuo’s Hamburger Steak? Diner “Saimin Kaukau” E gives it a solid 3 SPAM Musubi, which to you and me would be FIVE!!!

Finally from Tastsuo’s on this visit, we have a combination Hamburger Steak and Smoked Chicken (yes, SMOKED CHICKEN) combo’ plate…


Tastuo’s Hamburger Steak & Smoked Chicken combo’ plate

O.M.G. That smoked chicken is AWESOME! Broke da’ mout’! I was skeptical about it before tasting it, because it was an item that had been sitting in a warmer on the deli line, yet one bite and I was absolutely HOOKED! Smoked meats (whether pork, beef, poultry or seafoods) can either be on or off-putting, depending how well the smoke-infused flavor comes across on your palate. In this case, the chicken is extremely tender and juicy inside, with the just the right balance of smokiness and seasoning on the skin, while being permeated just a little within the meat fibers.


Tatsuo’s Smoked Chicken

I’m most DEFINITELY going to have to try smoking some chicken on my next “run”. While I didn’t ask, I’m guessing the “secret” is in the brine.

I also got to try a taste of the gravy from the Hamburger Steak, and WOW. Also AMAZING, and most definitely one of the best Hamburger Steak gravy I’ve had in my most recent collective memory..

That said, Diner A gives his Smoked Chicken and Hamburger Steak combo’ plate from Tatsuo’s an “I’ll be back for more!” 5 SPAM Musubi!

Next up, from KCC Farmers’ Market, we have a Gourmet Veal Burger by Michel’s Executive Chef Hardy…


Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger

Awwwe, ain’t them Hibiscus’ adorning the display model “purdy”?! lol

Here’s mine…


Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger

Witness the beautifully grill-toasted Onion Roll Bun…


Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger

Let’s do this…


Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger

The finely-chopped red peppers laced within the veal certainly had an impact on the flavor profile, giving it a sort of south-western appeal if you will. It was surprisingly juicy, considering how lean veal is, yet can’t compare with good ole beef.


Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger

There was also a distinct seasoning either coating or mixed within the veal patty, yet ironically, I couldn’t quite pinpoint exactly what the parts of its sum were. The cucumber was certainly a welcome and refreshing, crispy touch, and something I’d certainly try doing in a home burger-making project. Winner!

Summing it up, I give Chef Hardy’s Gourmet Veal Burger 2 SPAM Musubi.


Michel’s Chef Hardy cooks up gourmet Veal Burgers at the Kapiolani Community College Farmers Market

Learn more about Hawaiian Ranchers free range grass-fed Veal here…

Next, we stop by McDonald’s Waikiki location on Kalakaua avenue, right across Duke’s Statue, where I attempted to confirm whether their Saimin recipe truly needs help or not…


McDonald’s (Waikiki) Saimin. $2.85

That’s a cool ‘Hawaiianized” logo design with the polynesian canoe, although I think they should add the name “Saimin” in a script font going across the yellow double arches to boldly identify what exactly this is.

Let’s see what’s in the “bowl”…


McDonald’s (Waikiki) Saimin. $2.85

All the right stuff’s in there, including Kamaboko, Charsiu, Sliced Egg Omelet and Nori, except for one other standard garnish that must noted as absent is Green Onion. Ack!

Now, before I take a bite of this bowl from the Waikiki Kalakaua avenue location, you may remember about a year ago I reviewed McDonald’s Saimin from their Hawaii Kai Shopping Center location, which I was sadly disappointed by.

So let’s see if that was just a blunder, or an ongoing problem that needs fixing. Let’s do this…


McDonald’s (Waikiki) Saimin. $2.85

Meh. Still the same extremely BLAND broth, as if I’m eating “Hot Saimin Water”.  Like SERIOUSLY. The noodles are also “pasty”, while not entirely soggy, leaning more towards that end of the cooked doneness spectrum.


McDonald’s (Waikiki) Saimin. $2.85

The best part about this saimin was the single slice of Charsiu, which was very tender and packed with authentic Charsiu flavor on the edge.

Summing it up, I give McDonald’s Saimin on this second try -1 SPAM Musubi, which is a first on this blog. Bottom line, FIX the BROTH! Go visit Palace Saimin in Kalihi for the REAL SAIMIN DEAL!

Finally, hot on the heels of my previous review of Jollibee in Waipahu, we have some REAL Filipino grindz from an “unknown” vendor in the Maunakea Marketplace Food Court in Honolulu Chinatown…


(clockwise from top left) Dinuguan, Tinola, Pork Adobo and Pinakbet

A closer look, starting with the Pork Adobo (Pork simmered in Shoyu, Vinegar, Peppercorns and Bayleaf)…

Pinakbet (Bitter Melon, Eggplant, String Beans, Tomato, Pork and Shrimp)…

Dinuguan (Pig’s Blood Stew)…

Tinola (Chicken, Green Papaya, Malungay and Ginger soup)…

The Tinola could use more Malungay leaves IMO, but still, the broth ROCKED. Laced heavily with ginger, while throwing out a subtle-yet-distinguishable “chicken-ee” punch. Rounding it out, the green papaya chunks were cooked perfectly al dente, along with the malungay leaves adding that added dimension of texture and flavor to this soup that it could never do without.

The Dinuguan, Pinakbet and Pork Adobo were also all AWESOME, and as good as I’ve had from anywhere else, giving this “no name” filipino food vendor in Chinatown Honolulu’s food court a “Masarap-sarap” (really delicious) 5-SPAM Musubi!

Speaking of favorite Filipino dishes, for today’s BONUS ‘Grindz of the Day’ feature, I also recently made Chicken Tinola using my handy-dandy new Pressure Cooker, where here’s how it turned out…


Pomai’s pressure-cooked Tinola

Diner C got me the Malungay leaves from Pu’uhale Market, located in that little blue building on the corner of Pu’uhale Road and Dillingham Boulevard, where Wild Bean Espresso was located, across the street from OCCC.


Malungay from Pu’uhale Market. $1.50/bunch

I got the green Papaya from Don Quijote, which ran $1.49/lb., while for the chicken I used drumsticks that I carefully deboned and cut into chunks (Diner C recommends using a whole roasting chicken for this dish). For the broth, I first made a basic chicken stock using a miripoix (onion, celery and carrots), along with the chicken drumsticks bones. This took 45 minutes in the pressure cooker, which yielded FANTASTIC results, and tasted as if I had been simmering it for HOURS. Of course I could have just as easily used canned chicken stock, but I wanted to test my new pressure cooker out, so decided to make the entire dish from scratch.

Then to make the Tinola, to the strained chicken stock, I simply added CHOKE (plenty) ginger, along with the chicken, cubed green papaya and malungay leaves and let it cook under pressure for a speedy 5 minutes, finishing it off using the natural pressure release, after which yielded the final result you see here…


Pomai’s pressure-cooked Tinola

It turned out FANTASTIC. The chicken pieces were tender and cooked all the way through, while the green papaya was cooked perfectly al dente, leaning a little towards the firm side, which is good, as when I heat it up for leftovers, it will still have some firmness. But what REALLY separates this from any other chicken soup are the malungay leaves, which really do impart a flavor that’s difficult to describe, but you know it’s there, and it would certainly be lacking that “somethin’-somethin’ without it.

I LOVE Tinola! It’s so comforting, medicinal (think Chicken Noodle Soup), delicious, and best of all, so easy to make! Chicken, Ginger, Green Papaya, Chicken Stock and Malungay leaves and that’s it. Try it!

Chinatown Eats: Little Village Noodle House

Several weeks ago we celebrated yet ANOTHER birthday luncheon at Little Village Noodle House, located on “scenic” Smith Street in historic Chinatown, Honolulu.

Developed by successful restaurateur, owner and chef Kenneth Chan and his wife Jennifer, the Chinese cuisine served here is described as a blend of styles influenced from the Northern and Szechuan regions of mainland China, as well as Hong Kong, all brought together into a “balanced new taste”. With that, over the years Little Village has won numerous “People’s Choice” and “Critic’s Choice” awards by the major local newspapers and a prominent lifestyle magazine, just to name a few.

Upon entering the cozy, somewhat contemporary dining room, you’ll find the decor theme fitting of its name, along with a rather relaxed, low, naturally lit ambiance, as well as quiet demeanor by the mostly local patrons who work nearby in the downtown Honolulu business district…

Getting right to it, let’s check out the menu, starting with the specials of the day, which are written on a chalkboard above the kitchen service area…

On to the regular menu…

I suppose when it comes to Chinese restaurants, over 100 menu items listed here is about par for the course. At least they make it easier here for “newbies” to choose by identifying which ones are their “Signature Dish”.  Ideally when choosing “family style”, we like to have a representative of each meat type, which of course would be beef, pork, chicken and a seafood dish of some sort.

That said, first to land on our table (which took about 15 minutes from the time we placed our order) was the Mu-Shu Chicken Roll…

Mu-Shu “Roll”? Well not yet, as they do the final assembly of the dish tableside. That there is the filling that will go into each crepe that it’s accompanied with. Here our server immediately makes a Mu-Shu Roll for each guest on our table by first spooning a layer of Hoisin sauce, then on goes the Mu-Shu Chicken filling…

Save for using the spoons to handle it, as far as the way it’s rolled up, this is pretty much a Chinese “burrito” if you will…

Voila (or however you say “voila” in Chinese)! There you have it, one complete Mu-Shu Chicken Roll…

OK, let’s try this…

First of all, the flavor and texture (especially the thickness) of the crepe came across to me anyway as being more like a Mexican style flour tortilla. The filling certainly had a fresh, pipin’ hot-seared wok flavor to it, with nothing really discernible in and of itself except for the Hoisin sauce surrounding it, which was quite bold. Overall, it all tied together nicely as a “package”, where I’ll give Little Village’s Mu-Shu Chicken Roll 2-SPAM Musubi, noting I’m quite confident the pork version would easily score at least one extra Musubi point (because pork fat rules!).

Chicken? Check. Now of course we’re in a Chinese restaurant here, so you know what time it is, right? Duck time!…

As in Peking Duck, which is described as “Slices of crispy roasted duck skin and tender duck meat served in a fresh steamed bun with green onion and hoisin sauce.”

Just like Filipino Lechon (roasted suckling pig), arguably (in every sense of the word) the best part by far of roast duck is the SKIN, and that’s exactly what you get on these light-yet-glutenous steamed “bau” Chinese buns.

Have a peek under the hood…

Under that crispy, FLAVOR-PACKED duck skin is a thin layer of tender, well-seasoned meat…

This again is enhanced by the bold, savory boost of a Hoisin sauce drizzle, along with finely-julienned green onion slivers. Of course the “Manapua Guy” in me (that sounds weird) often expects anything in a Chinese “bau” (steamed bun) to have a Charsiu flavor to it, but Peking Duck doesn’t really ring that tone, if perhaps just slightly. There’s more this absolutely delicious, albeit complex combination of spices and sauces that all come together and really punch out the uniquely rich, “dark meat” flavor of the duck. Super solid 4 SPAM Musubi for Little Village’ Peking Duck Bau. Yum!!!

Not only do we get that, we also get the entire half of the roasted Peking Duck, all cut-up into bite-size pieces and ready to sink into…

Needless to say, among the five of us in our party, we quickly went through this plate! (I should do a time-lapse animated GIF shot some time)…

Now’s time for some seafood, here in the form of Little Village’s signature Honey Walnut Shrimp…

Before I stop and review this plate, let me finish adding the rest of the plates that landed on our table on this visit, where soon after that mouthwatering heap of Honey Walnut Shrimp arrived, joining it was this equally mouthwatering masterpiece of Beef Broccoli Fried Noodles (Cake Noodles)…

No Chinese meal would be complete without pork, where here we have Little Village’s Salt & Pepper Pork Chops…

Adding one more chicken dish to the spread, we have Little Village’s Orange Chicken…

Rounding it all off, gotta’ have some starch, where we decided on Chef Chan’s Special Fried Rice….

What. A. Spread!!! Chicken. Duck. Beef. Pork. Shrimp. Veggies. Fruits. Nuts. Noodles. Rice. Sauces. We’re all set!

Now that everything’s on the table, let’s make ourselves a handy-dandy little “sampler plate” of each dish…

Sampler plate B (or A, actually)…

What I can’t wait to try is that Honey Walnut Shrimp, so let’s check that out…

Oh. Em. Gee. This HWS ROCKS! There’s an ever-so-delicate light and crispy batter coating each tasty, tender and juicy shrimp tail, which I would estimate are in the U36-40 size range. There was just a slight hint of garlic flavor from the cream sauce, yet you tell it was there, with the predominant compliment coming from the sweetness in the sauce and the honey-glazed, toasted walnuts. Add to that the texture contrast from the fried rice noodle garnish and KUNG-POW!… this Honey Walnut Shrimp slams it out of the park for an easy 5 SPAM Musubi! Kung-Pow! lol Seriously though, I could just as well order a platter of this and call it a day, it’s that good.

Speaking of “Kung-Pow!”, also slamming a drive-line homer out the park was Little Village’s Beef Broccoli Fried Noodles….

..the latter of which is actually referred to here by locals as “Cake Noodle”,  a style of chow mein that some say is difficult to come by in the mainland. Oh well, looks like you’ll to book a trip to Hawaii if you want some!

The reason we call it “Cake Noodle” is because the noodles are sort of packed and almost “glued” together by their own starch, while being thoroughly permeated through with the savory beef sauce from the Beef Broccoli. There’s also an every so light and crispy “crust” on the bottom from the hot wok which creates this fantastic texture and flavor contrast to the starchy noodle “cake”. Then topping it off,  you have that buttery-tender strips of beef also permeated with the sauce, along with the perfectly al dente Broccoli and KUNG-POW! Another 5 SPAM Musubi winnah-winnah Chinese Dinnah! Err, lunch that is.

As for the Orange Chicken, it was certainly juicy and tender, yet I didn’t really know what to make of the sauce coating it. It was sweet, although could have used more “citrus-ee twang” to it, as it didn’t really scream the flavor of orange, regardless of its red color and orange slices garnishing  it. I must note, the tender mushrooms were a nice touch, as I LOVE and welcome mushrooms with just about any entree, no matter what it is. Summing it up, I give Little Village’s Orange Chicken 2 SPAM Musubi.

Finally there was the Salt & Pepper Pork Chops, which somewhat reminded me of Side Street Inn’s famous Fried Pork Chops, albeit done in a more traditional Chinese style than the “localized” version SSI prepares. This one being more airy and light with what I think is a cornstarch-based batter coating it. Whatever pork meat on there was certainly well seasoned (thanks to the batter), tasty and tender, yet it was mostly BONES. Wassup wit’ dat? That said, I give their Salt & Pepper Pork Chops 1 SPAM Musubi.

As for the Fried Rice, I didn’t try it. Sorry, I was already filled up from everything else, and had no room for rice on this occasion. Others on our table said it was “pretty good”, which I take would be about 2 SPAM Musubi.

Service was quick and friendly, with, again, our first dish arriving within fifteen minutes of being ordered, and everything else soon after that in a steady flow that kept pace with us as we went through dish after dish. Little Village offers FREE VALIDATED PARKING in their own private lot behind the restaurant, which is a huge convenience advantage, considering this is downtown Honolulu where parking is limited, especially during the work week lunch hour rush.

Summing it up, the highlights at Little Village on this visit were the Peking Duck (with skin bau), Honey Walnut Shrimp and Beef Broccoli “Cake Noodle”; all of which were absolutely STELLAR, broke da’ mout’ onolicious WINNAHZ!!! Good Lord, I sure could go for a combo’ plate of those three dishes right about, just looking at, writing about and reminiscing it!

Little Village Noodle House
1113 Smith Street
Honolulu, Hawaii  96817

Tel. (808) 545-3008
web: www.LittleVillageHawaii.com

The Tasty Island Rating:

(4) Excellent. Worth another visit or purchase. (Winnahz!)

P.S. You might be asking what we had for dessert? Well, for that we headed mauka on School Street to the Shimazu Store for some Shave Ice!…

That there is my Coconut, Melon Bar Melon (think Melona) and Strawberry combo Shave Ice.

Here’s the storefront…

Here’s Shimazu Store’s Shave Ice menu…

The custom shave ice syrup flavors are all hand-made by owner Kelvin Shimazu who we met there on this visit…

Pour it on!…

That there is the birthday girl’s Melon Bar Melon and Orange Creme (think Creamsicle) combo’. As you know, ice melts quickly in Hawaii, so once the server finishes pouring the syrup on, it’s time to QUICKLY dig in and start gettin’ yo’ shave ice GROOVE ON!…

You can see in that photo just how FINE and POWDERY Shimazu Store’s Shave Ice is. As good as Shave Ice gets, PERIOD.

This here is a trio Blue Cotton Candy, Strawberry and Li Hing Pickle Mango combo (Li Hing Pickle Mango on the backside/not shown)…

Common’ now, LI HING PICKLE MANGO SHAVE ICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Key Lime Pie, Sour Lemon and Strawberry….

Another angle of my Coconut, Melon Bar Melon and Strawberry combo’, where you can again see the fine, powdery consistency of the GENEROUS portion of shave ice they serve here at Shimazu Store…

The Melon Bar Melon flavor taste almost EXACTLY like a Melona Bar, albeit not quite as “creamy” as the real deal. I’m sure a drizzle of some Condensed Milk would have finished it off, but I wanted to keep it simple on this first time visit so I could savor the texture of the Shave Ice itself. Note, notice us locals call it “Shave Ice” and not “Shaved Ice”.  And God forbid, NEVER call our Shave Ice a “Snow Cone”. Ack!!! lol

That Orange Creme flavor also tasted pretty much like “Creamsicle”, where again I think some Condensed Milk would have truly authenticated it.

Speaking of which, like many other Shave Ice stores nowadays, notice on the menu that Shimazu Store offers all kinds of “extras”, including the old school go-to Azuki Beans and Ice Cream, along with the “new school” goodness’es’es, such as Mochi Balls, Li Hing Powder, and what I hear REALLY ROCKS, their CREAMY HAUPIA, which is like a thick sauce that’s smothered over the top of the Shave Ice.

Still, of all the flavors I tried on this day (thanks to everyone who shared a taste), by far the Li Hing Pickle Mango as shown in the next photo was by far my favorite!…

You can kinda’ see the speckles of what may either be Li Hing Powder or actual Pickle Mango “pieces”. Whatever it is, this flavor ROCKS. Best way to describe it, is it’s sorta’ like taking pink Lemonade and infusing it with the “essence” of Pickle Mango, along with a slight Li Hing “twang”, if that helps at all.

So you get that “bite” from the acidity, while adding a pleasant balance of salty and sweet going on in a “Pickle Mango-meets-Shave Ice”, super-chilled kinda’ way.

Just take my word for it and CHOOSE the Li Hing Pickle Mango flavor on your next visit to Shimazu store. That one slams the ball out the park!

Getting to the bottom of the Shave Ice, you have that “slushy”, ice-cold “brain-freeze” combination of all the flavors, along with the creaminess from the  ice cream….

Now you have to admit, on any hot, Hawaiian sunny day who could resist that? Nobody! No ways! Da’ bes’!

Summing it up in this “bonus” Tasty Island review, with their best-as-you-can-get, super-fine and powdery shave ice, topped with a most excellent variety of house-made custom syrup flavors and extras that really kick things up, all offered in HUGE PORTION at a great price, easily awards Shimazu Store a Li Hing Pickled Mango-tastic 5-SPAM Musubi!!!

Waikiki Kosher Eats: Da Falafel King

Continuing the quest in seeking out the best in regional Middle Eastern cuisine Hawaii has to offer, today, or LATE tonight for that matter, let’s stop by Da Falafel King!

As far as I understand, Da Falafel King is currently the ONLY game in Honolulu town if you’re seeking 100% certified KOSHER prepared dishes according to Jewish law. The only other establishment that had that bragging right was the former Yudi’s Deli in Manoa Valley, although proprietor and chef Yudi Weinbaum has since closed up shop and focuses now on catering for private functions.

Well, far from private, Da Falafel King is located SMACK in the middle of a concrete SOCIAL JUNGLE known as the infamous Waikiki Trade Center on Kuhio Avenue.  Where here, it becomes sometimes more like a SAVAGE JUNGLE when “the keepers” from neighboring Zanzabar Nightclub, Black Diamond Nightclub and The Shack Waikiki let loose their “wild animals” in the wee hours of late night to early morning. lol

Which is actually an interesting demographic for a business like this, especially when it gets into those late night to early morning hours. As, while the PACKED crowd around here obviously includes plenty of tourists, there’s also lots of local patrons.

Whom the latter of, for the most part, aren’t exposed to Middle Eastern cuisine (in comparison to asian), let along it being “kosher”.  “Ko’shah? What stay ‘dat?” lol And GOD FORBID, nightclubs are FAR from being “kosher”. lol  So think of Da Falafel King as sort of a Savior if you will, that made all the sins you’ve committed just minutes or hours earlier, all be forgiven by a wonderful, Heaven-sent meal. Sweet!

Without further ado, Da’ King’s Menu…

“Draw pick-chah”…

Samoa…

With that, now let’s check out some of the stuff they’ve been feeding the “masses” of hungry vampires, starting with their Kosher Hot Dog, this one being FULLY LOADED with toppings…

Which this Kaneohe-based Marine (Semper Fi!) DEVOURED in seconds!…

Yet another take on their kosher dog…

I tried one myself…

The verdict? Other than it being kosher, it’s pretty much your “basic”  all-American hot dog. Speaking of which,  Da Falafel King also has fries…

Which I must say, their fries are mighty darned EXCELLENT both in thick style of cut, seasoning and “GBD” ‘n tender, made-to-order doneness…

On a side note, I always wanted one of these hot dog “wiener roller cooker thing-a-ma-jings” (which I’ve seen a made-for-home kitchen model)…

I find this type of cooker/warmer gives hot dogs a nicely-toasted, sorta’ smokey-tasting casing, and an overall, evenly-cooked and juicy “restaurant quality” flavor. My normal home method of cooking hot dogs is by boiling them in 100% beer, which is my “German way”. Winnahz laddat, too!

Next up, we have Da Falafel King’s “Pita Chips”…

No, this isn’t the same “Pita Chips” you find at your local Costco, which I’m not knockin’, but these are MUCH MORE SPECIAL than that! These here are made with cut pieces of FRESH Pita Bread that are “secretly seasoned” and then deep-fried to GBD, fluffy ‘n glutenous inside, cripsy outside PER-FEC-TION!

Of course served with Hummus for dippin’…

Da Falafel King’s fresh-cooked, deep-fried Pita Chip, up close ‘n personal…

Flip it…

FANTASTIC glutenous ‘n airy texture inside, encased by a tasty, nicely-seasoned, golden’ crispy crust…

Another patron’s Pita Chips order, where they added some sort of red dipping sauce alongside the Hummus…

Summing it up, EASY 5 SPAM MUSUBI for Da’ King’s Pita Chips with Hummus dip, and and a MUST ORDER along with your sandwich when you visit “Da King”.

Next up we have the main attraction at Da Falafel King, their Pita “pocket” sandwiches, which you can choose Filafel (ground beans), Baba Ghanoush (mashed eggplant), Shawarma (grilled chicken and lamb), Kabab (grilled beef and lamb) or Snitchel (breaded chicken breast). Along with that, they come filled with a variety of fresh and pickled vegetables and sauces. Such as these fine examples fellow patrons were more than happy to share with The Tasty Island camera…

Notice you can add fries IN your pita pocket. Personally, not the way I’d do it, but hey, whatever floats your Shawarma! lol

Falafel and Shawarma…

Holding them, to provide a scale of reference in how big these really are…

Zoom in on the Shawarma…

Side view of the Pita…

Falafel…

I have NO idea what this one is, but it looks delicious!…

Baba Ghanoush, also sportin’ some fries…

Snitchel, also sportin’ fries…

Here’s some of the veggies they have on display in the refrigerated clear case fronting their “cart”…

Kabobs in the raw…

Before I get to the Falafel and Snitchel/Baba Ghanoush combo that I took to go on two separate occasions, let me finish our visit here at Da Falafel King’s Waikiki “cart” by virtually introducing you to the wonderful, super friendly staff, starting with this group photo including owner Anir Yosef (the gentleman on the far right)…

GREAT folks here at Da Falafel King. I don’t know how they maintain such a positive, happy-spirited disposition with all the “crazy animals” that roam around here in the late hours of the night, but they do it! Awesome.

OK, now let’s check out what I took home, starting with my specially-prepared Snitchel and Baba Ghanoush combo (That sounds kinda’ funky, huh? Thankfully “Snitchel” and/or “Baba Ghanoush” wasn’t something I dragged home from a nearby club. LOL!)…

Da Falafel King’s Snitchel/Baba Ghanoush combo (specially prepared by Da Falafel King staff for yours truly), cut in half for the reveal…

It’s really tough to make out what exactly is in there (as I didn’t take notes, sorry). Looks healthy though!

You can see the Snitchel towards the far right of the cut section above. There’s also an abundance of pickles, along with boiled eggs and a medley of other veggies, along with what looks like whole slices of eggplant…

One more section…

So how is it? Well, to be honest, just like the AWESOME Middle Eastern spread we recently enjoyed as reviewed in the previous post at It’s Good & Healthy Cafe, here too, there’s just so much going on, that it’s difficult to pinpoint and describe in words exactly what I’m tasting. All I can say really is it’s absolutely, most incredibly DEEEEEEEEEE-LISH-OUS! Seriously delicious. Like 5 SPAM Musubi, broke da’ mout onolicious, delicious.

Saving the final and top honor for “Da King”, we have Da Falafel King’s Falafel…

Don’t you just wanna’ just, just, just…. BITE RIGHT INTO THAT?…

Notice the interior of Da Falafel King’s Falafel is on the green side in color, as compared to It’s Good & Healthy Cafe’s Falafel, which was brown.

Now let’s REALLY do (eat) this…

Here you see there’s two made-to-order Falafel that each measure about the size of a golf ball in volume. Again, surrounding that are a medley of fresh ‘n pickled veggies and sauce. And again, this is absolutely 5-SPAM FA-LA-FEL’ISCIOUS!!!!

If you’ve never tried Falafel before (because I know lots of you local folks haven’t), it’s basically ground/processed Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans) and/or Fava Beans  mixed with a variety of herbs and seasonings,  then formed into a ball and then deep-fried. In the case here at Da Falafel King, they use only Garbanzo Beans to make their Falafel, along with of course a few other “secret ingrediments”.

Da Falafel King’s Falafel is typically “meal-ee” (gritty) in texture, with a lightly spiced and rather neutral flavor profile. To best describe Falafel, it’s really what a “Boca Burger” SHOULD taste like. Speaking of which, not surprisingly, “Falafel Burgers” do indeed exist!

Summing it up, whether your diet and/or religious practice requires your food be kosher, or your diet simply requires absolutely ONOLICIOUS food (that be me), head on over to “Waiks” and stop by DA FALAFEL KING. Highly recommended!

Da Falafel King
2255 Kuhio Avenue (on the ground floor entrance of the Waikiki Trade Center)
Honolulu, Hawaii  96815

Tel. (808) 223-7899
Da Falafel King on Facebook

Business hours:
Sunday-Tuesday: 10am to 1am
Wednesday-Saturday: 10am to 4am

*Note: that’s AM that they both open and close!

Da King’s Menu (current as of 2/11):

The Tasty Island rating:

(5) Superb. Worthy of repeat visits or purchases. (Broke Da’ Mout’!)

Related links:
Da Falafel King – Yep user reviews

My First Pressure Cooker

Whether it’s a first date, first time solo in the cockpit of an F-22 Raptor, or first touch of that spankin’ new, “lastest ‘n greatest” smart phone you’ve just committed a 2-year contract to, as “simple” as it may appear, there’s certainly going to be a few things you need to know before you start, and learn more about as you go. And a pressure cooker is no exception.

In the case here, there are a few rules and procedures that set a pressure cooker apart from your conventional cookware which need to be taken into consideration. Far apart actually, as in much, MUCH FASTER COOKING TIMES. Up to 70% quicker, SERIOUSLY, as I soon discovered.

That sealed-in, high pressure heat inherent in pressure cooking is also said to retain much more of the natural moisture AND water-soluble vitamins and minerals in the food using this method, hence this is also a HEALTHY way to cook.

The significantly faster cooking times also makes a pressure cooker VERY ENERGY EFFICIENT. Especially when you consider the extremely high, beyond-boiling point 257ºF cooking temperature a pressure cooker generates within its hallowed walls requires only a low heat source setting from your stovetop burner once the 15 psi pressure is achieved.

So if you’ve already converted all your appliances to Energy Star compliant models and changed all your incandescent bulbs in your home to compact fluorescents (CFLs), you best be adding a pressure cooker to your energy (cost)-saving “THINK GREEN” must-have list.

After recently hearing my coworkers rave about how they’ve prepared dishes such as St. Paddy’s day corned beef brisket and pot roasts in just minutes in their pressure cooker – both which can normally take several hours conventionally – I was sold.

So I headed out on a hunt for a good price on a good quality model and ended up with a very nice one from ROSS’ Hawaii Kai store (gotta’ love that store). According to their price tag, this item’s regular retail price is $90, yet they were selling it for just $41. Works for me. Sold.

The pressure cooker I got that’s featured here today is manufactured by FAGOR, a major appliance manufacturer based in Spain.

Like other manufacturers, FAGOR offers several pressure cooker models. The one I have is the Rapida, which is their most basic model, and didn’t come with any accessories, which in hind sight, I kinda’ wish I got that. Then again, I don’t want any more “stuff” than my cramped condo-sized kitchen already has, so this works. If I do need any other accessories, I’m good at “McGuyvering” stuff in my kitchen.

Here’s the entire list of features and benefits of my new kitchen gadget “toy”:

RAPIDA 6-QUART PRESSURE COOKER
Manufactured by FAGOR
Quality features:
• Made of 18/10 stainless steel
• 3-ply Stainless Steel/Aluminum/ Stainless Steel thermo heat conductive base for even heat distribution
• Cooks on all types of stove tops: gas, electric, ceramic or induction
• Heavy-duty silicone gasket (replaceable)
• U.L. approved
• 10 year warranty – fully guaranteed
Safety features:
• Safety lock on handle prevents opening before all pressure is released
• Two independent over-pressure release valves assure no pressure build-up
Unit includes:
6-Quart Rapida Belly-shaped Pressure cooker
• Instructions manual with Recipes and instructional DVD

Here’s the same Fagor Presssure Cooker instructional video on the included DVD that someone uploaded on YouTube…

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmuGX7pwjTE

Other features on the box go on to say:
1. FAST
• Reduces cooking time up to 70%
• Easily adapt your recipes and cook 1/3 of the time (instructions inside)
2. EASY
• Load ingredients, lock lid in place and begin cooking… release pressure and enjoy healthy, flavorful meals
3. HEALTHY
• Create delicious meals while retaining important water-soluble vitamins and minerals
• The tender taste of slow cooking
• Cooks without oil (fat)
• Maintains the natural color and flavor of foods

COOKS: Vegetable Medley in 2 minutes, Fresh Steamed Lobster in 3 minutes, Cioppino in 5 minutes, Bean Soup in 20 minutes, Mediterranean Chicken in 15  minutes, Risotto in 7 minutes, Pasta Primavera in 7 minutes, Pepper Steak in 4 minutes, Cheesecake in 30 minutes, Chili in 16 minutes, Fajitas in 5 minutes, Corn Chowder in 12 minutes.

Wow, those are some mighty quick cooking times! I must note that Fagor’s Rapida and Splendid pressure cooker models are made in China, while the more expensive Express, Duo, Futuro and Elite models are made in Spain.

Still, the fit and finish quality of this Rapida Pressure Cooker is absolutely top notch, with not one visible flaw. In fact it’s so gorgeous, I actually polished it with my Diamond Magic polish (awesome stuff as well) after each use so far, as I still have that “brand new” novelty within me about this wonder of cooking beauty. In other words, I consider we’re both still on our first dates phase and “courting” each other. lol

It’s has a considerably hefty feel to it, with thick 18/10 stainless steel pot walls, and of course that all-important 3-ply stainless/aluminum/stainless steel conductive heat “sandwiched” pot base.

Here’s a closer look at the controls built into the pressure cooker’s black ABS lid handle…

The lid handle interlocks with the pot handle, which you do by aligning that line (where the blue arrow is pointing) with the pot handle, making sure the lid’s lip is aligned with the pots flange, then you simply turn the lid handle towards the pot handle, where they interlock with each other . Then you lock the lid in place by moving that green switch forward.

The yellow “button” forward of the green lid locking switch is not really a button, but a pressure indicator. This yellow button pops up once the cooker has reached its 15 psi cooking pressure.

Up from there is a dial switch with three positions: Unlock , Steam Release and High. To start pressure cooking, you move this to the High position. When the cooking time is up, you can do one of several things, depending on what you’re cooking:

You can immediately release the pressure to stop the cooking process by turning this dial switch to the Steam Release position, which it will blow the hot steam right out of a hole that’s built into the front side of that dial switch. Be very careful when doing this, as it spits out very hot high-pressured steam!

Or you can immediately bring down the pressure the “old fashioned” way by running the pot under cold water to quickly cool it down.

Or you can let it relieve its pressure “naturally” by just turning off the heat and setting the cooker aside. Keep in mind, if you do this, the food CONTINUES to cook for a long time due to the hot pressurized steam remaining “trapped” inside, even after it’s not on the fire. Which probably would be ok for making stocks, but may not be ideal if critical cooking times for meats, vegetables and such are a consideration.

Moving along on our little “tour” of my new Rapida pressure cooker, here’s that 3-ply sandwiched stainless steel/aluminum/stainless steel conductive thermo heat base…

This both literally and figuratively puts the stamp of QUALITY in this wonderful piece of cooking magic, as it gives me the confidence that not only will the heat be distributed more evenly, but that it will also help to prevent scorching. Or so I thought, as you shall soon find out! lol

Next to that 3-ply heavy-duty base, another critical component of this wonder cooker is the heavy-duty “C” profile silicone gasket that literally LOCKS & SEALS the pressure in…

Under the lid you can also see the two pressure valves, while also notice the lid has tabbed segments incorporated into its stamped steel design that fold over around its perimeter. These interlock with matching tabbed segments on the perimeter of the pot’s rim, so when you put the lid on and align the lid handle with the pot handle, there’s virtually NO WAY the lid could blow off while it’s under pressure.

When you turn the handles to align and lock the lid nto place with the pot, you can feel the gasket compress, as it gives a slight resistance as you turn it into the locked position. For added safety, once again there’s that green locking switch on the lid handle, which I must also note, there’s an interconnected mechanism that will not all allow you to unlock the lid unless the High/Steam/Unlock switch dial is in the UNLOCK position.

That makes 3 levels of safety redundancy built right in, so no worries of having your squid luau or oxtail soup become your new kitchen wall paper “look”. lol

One note on storage, according to the manufacturer, you shouldn’t store the pressure cooker with the lid on, especially in the LOCKED position, as this will cause the silicone gasket to prematurely “compress” and have a less than ideal seal when in use. They recommend storing it with the lid either turned upside down or separately. They also recommend lightly coating the silicone gasket with cooking oil to keep it pliable.

That’s pretty much the physical make-up of my modern day pressure cooker. Certainly steps ahead from the “stovetop grenade” your grandma may have had.

Now let’s talk cooking times, which as already noted, these things can RIP. There’s an an excellent and very informative site on all things pressure cooker over at MissVickie.com, where of course there’s a pressure cooking time chart for all types of foods. In that chart, it states Pork Butt takes just 35-40 minutes to cook. It doesn’t say at what level of doneness (just cooked through or pulled-pork fork tender), but that’s still mighty quick.

That said, one of the first things I wanted to try in my new pressure cooker was Kalua Pig, which as you may know normally takes about 8 hours in a conventional oven (a bit shorter in convection), or even longer in an Imu (traditional Hawaiian underground oven).

So I set off on my first attempt at pressure-cooked Kalua Pig, on my first time EVER using a pressure cooker.

Just one problem. One MAJOR problem. Being the “typical man” that I am, did I read my new pressure cooker instructions manual or watch the instructional DVD BEFORE using it for the first time? Nope. Because, you know, when it comes to “gadgets” or anything mechanical or electronic, us fellahz think that we got it ALL FIGURED OUT. I mean, how complicated can this be, right? “Manual, shmanual” as far as we’re concerned.

Well there’s just one important piece of information I was not aware of as a pressure cooker “newbie”, and that’s that you must TURN DOWN the fire to LOW once the cooker achieves full 15 PSI pressure. Did I lower the heat from high to low once the pressure was on max? Nope. And guess what? It was A DISASTER! Talk about “Chernobyl” Kalua Pig, that’s pretty what I had! LOL!

Well, not really “laughing out loud”, as the smell was actually kinda’ TOXIC from the combination of burnt-to-the-crisp ti leaves and pork butt. So much that I had to open all the windows and turn on every fan in the house to get the smell out. ACK!!!  While “smell-o-vision” would be great, trust me, this is one time you DO NOT WANT smell-o-vision, as this thing smelled just NASTY!

I didn’t even take anymore photos after that shot, as it was SO not pretty under that top layer of ti leaves. Ugh. lol

Rewinding on what went wrong, first let me say what I did right, which was adding 2 cups of water, which is what MissVickie.com recommends when cooking Pork Butt in a pressure cooker.

As for preparing the pork butt, I simply coated it generously with liquid smoke and Hawaiian sea salt, then wrapped it ENTIRELY (key word here) with Ti Leaves, set it in the pressure cooker pot, covered it with the 2 cups water, locked the lid, set the fire on high and let her rip.

Now for what I did WRONG, which as you already know, I didn’t turn the heat down to LOW once the cooker reached full pressure. So this thing was cooking away at GOD KNOWS how high of a temperature, but certainly way, WAY higher than what it was designed to be cooking at.

The high heat maintained from the burner ended up making  the pressure in the cooker exceed the 15 psi ceiling, where the automatic pressure relief valve (thank goodness it has that!) stayed open more or less throughout the cooking time. Which me being a “newbie” thought this was “normal”, but Hell no, I found out the hard way that that’s NOT normal. This open valve ended up letting all the moisture out of the pot, while entirely evaporating the two cups of water that was in there. Not good.

While it was cooking, everything seemed fine, and it smelled “OK”, up until about 40 minutes into the cooking time, then it started to smell “strange”, yet not BAD…. yet. Then about just 5 minutes later it was like “dayummm!, what the heck is goin’ on in there?!!!”. So I finally shut off the fire and just let it cool down naturally, mainly to (hopefully) let the pork continue cooking so it would reach fork-tender doneness. That extended cooking time as “naturally” cooled down just gave the ti leaves and and burnt pork on the bottom more time to burn even more.

I must say though, the pork that DIDN’T burn (which actually was most of it) was indeed pull-apart fork tender after just about 1 hour of cooking/BURNING. Too bad the toxic, horrid aroma from the burnt ti leaves and scorched pork on the bottom of the pot pretty much ruined the entire batch. It smelled so bad, I didn’t even risk tasting it.

When I attempt (stress ATTEMPT) to make Kalua Pig again in my pressure cooker, not only will I turn down the fire, but I’ll probably add a little more water. I also won’t put any ti leaves on the bottom (wrapped around the pork), but just cover it in layers ON TOP and AROUND the pork butt. Good Lord, burnt Ti Leaves smells HORRID! lol

After learning the hard way once again that men really don’t know it all when it comes to gadgets, this time around I read the instructions manual thoroughly from cover to cover, watched the included instructional DVD and also checked out a few pressure cooker demonstrations on YouTube. I then set off to make another dish that takes a while to cook, which is “Local style” Sweet & Sour Spare Ribs. This one using my Aunt’s favorite recipe, which is simply a 4 lb. tray of pork spare ribs, ginger, daikon, carrots and 1 cup each of shoyu, sugar, vinegar and 1 can of chunk pineapple, including the juice. In this case, I used apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar, as I think apple cider vinegar has a better flavor when cooking with it.

While pressure cooking is indeed, fast, energy efficient and healthy, if there’s one “drawback” to it, is that you can’t just open the lid whenever you want to check on your food, stir it, or add ingredients as the cooking time progresses.

As you know when it comes to dishes such as pot roasts, stews and soups, most vegetables and/or starch ingredients in these recipes cook much faster than the tough cuts of meats it also uses. So with pressure cooking, many recipes have to be cooked in several pressurized “sessions”. Or as MissVickie.com calls it, the “Phased Pressure Cooking Method“: 1st pressurized phase the meat, 2nd pressurized phase the vegetables and/or starch and the 3rd unpressurized phase, the thickener. You get the idea.

So going off the cooking chart, which calls for just 10 minutes to pressure cook pork spare ribs, I cooked the (slightly-browned) meat, along with the the shoyu, sugar, vinegar, pineapple chunks ‘n juice and ginger for just 5 minutes pressure time.

Note that when you time pressure cooking, you start the timer from the time it reaches full 15 PSI pressure (when that yellow indicator button pops up), NOT when you first put the cooker on the fire. So while it does look amazingly fast on paper, the reality is theres that approximate 5 minutes of time it takes to pressure up , AND also the time it takes to pressure down (if required) when considering the TOTAL PROCESS (not cooking) TIME, not just the pressurized time.Plus the prep time such as peeling the vegetables ‘n stuff of course.

So anyway, after just 5 minutes of cooking time under pressure, I cut the LOW heat off and let it reduce pressure naturally. This took about another 10 minutes for the yellow pressure indicator button to go down, meaning it’s now safe to remove the lid. Which it then looked like this…

Yup, just 5 minutes of pressurized cooking time yielded pork spare ribs that were already falling off the bones, while the sweet and sour “sauce” was beautifully incorporated and infused with onolicious flavor from the bones in the pork.

That’s the first pressurized phase. Next pressurized phase, in goes the the daikon and carrot root veggies…

Let her go for 5 more minutes under pressure, let her cool down naturally (about 15 minutes), then voila, Sweet & Sour Spare Ribs…

A closer look…

Serve it  up…

As you can see, I insist on using only the finest Chinaware for my food presentations. lol

Seriously though, it turned out BROKE DA’ MOUT’ WINNAHZ! What’s interesting is I didn’t even need to do the 3rd thickening phase of adding a cornstarch and water slurry, as the sugar caramelized enough to give it just the right amount thickness.

Here you can kinda’ see the fat and meat of the spare ribs is practically MELTING apart off my spoon…


Pressure-cooked “Local-style” Sweet ‘n Sour Spare Ribs

You know that cartilage-like texture of the “bone” in pork spare ribs? Well these were so soft, yet had just enough “crunch” to it if you know what I mean. Plus, the flavor from the sweet and sour sauce was completely permeated throughout meat, bone and fat of the spare ribs and veggies, thanks to the benefit of high pressure cooking. Winnahz!

In hindsight, I don’t think this recipe needed to be done in 2 phases, as the spare ribs cooked so quickly, I think the root vegetables probably would have been perfectly cooked just as well had I put it all in the pot at the same time from the beginning. So there you go, just take the recipe I gave above and simply throw everything in your pressure cooker, let her rip for 10 minutes, then let it cool down naturally, and voila, you going stay get PERFECT local style Sweet ‘n Sour Spare Ribs.

My third and most recent pressure cooker project to date was Okinawan Pig’s Feet Soup, a.k.a. Ashitibichi, where here’s the final result…


Pomai’s pressure-cooked Okinawan Pig’s Feet Soup (Ashitibichi) with rice (gohan), Benishoga and Sushi Shoga tsukemono condiments

Gotta’ admit, that looks pretty darned OISHII! And you know what? It was very oishii! At least it came out more authentic tasting than my first attempt at Ashitibichi in a conventional pot. Not that I attribute my newfound success at making this dish to pressure cooking, yet I do think it did help extract more flavor out of the bones to make the soup broth.

I’ll now run you through how I did it, while pointing out again that I’m still LEARNING my pressure cooker, realizing just how FAST this thing is at cooking what normally takes much, much longer for these tough cuts of meats. In this case, the pig’s feet and hocks, which we have in raw state here…

Oh, don’t gross out. If you ate a bacon cheeseburger or bacon ‘n eggs anytime recently, this ain’t that much different, and mighty tasty if done the right way. Give it a try!

Along with that one HUGE cut of pig’s feet and hock part are a few cuts of spare ribs for added “meat” in the final soup.

Now the deal with properly preparing Ashitibichi is you MUST remove the blood and “scum” from the meat and bones before making the soup, as the broth has to taste “clean”. The way you do that, is you parboil the pig’s feet  for about 10 minutes, and then drain and thoroughly rinse it. So another mistake I made was thinking I could “parboil” it in high pressure mode in the pressure cooker to remove the blood and excess fat. WRONG.

What happened was, even for a short 5 minutes of pressurized cooking, the pork meat already began pulling off the bones of both the feet ‘n hocks and spare ribs…

…and I STILL have to add water to make the broth. Not surprisingly, upon doing that, returning it to the heat under pressure, after 15 minutes of cooking, the pig’s feet was pretty much rendered to loose bones with all the meat and skin barely sticking to it…

All I did in this next shot was turn the spoon, and it easily, without any restraint, FELL APART…

Which is fine if all you want is “pork soup”, but we want “Pig’s Feet Soup”, where there’s still a foot intact to gnaw on, so this won’t work. I’ll still use the “meat” (because that’s all it is now), but I’ll have to go get another package of pig’s feet and do that step again using a different method.

Here’s that overcooked “destroyed” pig’s feet and spare ribs, drained and put in a bowl on the side…

Of course all this tender pork meat is still good and will be used in the soup as an added “bonus”. Thankfully I also got a WONDERFUL pork broth out of that, which I placed in another separate container, and then refrigerated it overnight so I could easly skim off any separated fat off the top…

So back to the drawing board, I got another package of pig’s “trotters”, this time only the trotter part (no hocks), since I already had plenty of “meat” from the previous batch…

Doesn’t that look lovely? lol

This time around, to remove the blood and “scum”, I parboiled them UNPRESSURIZED for 10 minutes, placing the pressure cooker lid loosely on the pot without locking it. Out they came after being rinsed and drained looking like this…

That’s much better than the pretty much fully-cooked state they were in my first attempt. Cut up into individual pig’s feet servings, they looked like this…

By now you may feel a little squeamish looking at all these animal parts, so we’ll change gears and talk for a moment about the other ingredients that goes into traditional Okinawan Pig’s Feet Soup. One of the most unique being Chinese Squash, a.k.a. Winter Melon, or as the Okinawans call it “Togan”….

The flesh and seeds inside…

To describe how Togan tastes raw, it’s pretty much like eating an unripe melon or cantaloupe, sans the sweet or fruit-flavored element. It’s very subtle and nondescript, with no bitterness, acidity or sweetness whatsoever. I think what’s best about it is that it absorbs all the flavors of the broth once it’s cooked through. The skin is very easy to peel with a standard handheld vegetable and fruit peeler, while the seeds are also easy to scoop out using just a spoon. Very easy to work with. I got this quarter-section of Togan from the Kaheka Don Quijote for $1.49/lbs., which came out to about $4 for this piece, as a WHOLE Togan is is nearly as large as a watermelon.

One of my favorite ingredients in this soup are the tied knots of kombu….

Seriously, I could just as well take that hot pork broth and fill it up with a whole bunch of tied kombu knots for some Kombu Soup and call it a day.

Along with that are cut daikon and carrots, where here I have all the other “veggies” prepped and ready to hit what will actually be the third phase of cooking the vegetables…

So here we have the pot of pig’s feet soup after the pig’s feet have been “half-cooked”, where I used the broth from my first batch of pig’s feet for even more intense flavor…

In went all them “veggies”, then I turned back on the pressure cooker for another 10 minutes…

Then immediately released the pressure using the dial switch, to which my pretty much finished Ashitibichi turned out looking like this…

Serve ’em up…

Hai, itadakimasu!…

I think the pig’s feet are done just right at this point, where they still had some integrity, yet once it hits your mouth, it melts apart. You can see in this angle where the all-important marrow in the center of the bones was so soft, I could easily suck it out…

Like pig’s feet “buttah”…

I definitely did VERY well with the authenticity of the broth flavor this time, thanks to not adding dashinomoto, which made my first attempt at Ashitibichi taste more like Japanese Oden. My only other flavoring in the broth besides the pig’s feet (and various “veggies”) was Miso paste of the “shiro” (white) variety, which I used in restraint, adding it ever so slightly to taste.

The “veggies” were done pretty much how I wanted them, although I think the carrots could have used a little more time. I put in the mustard cabbage raw, as I like it that way, but you can cook it in the final phase if you don’t like the “bite” it has. I like that bite and crispy green taste mustard cabbage has in its raw state, so this was fantastic for me.

In hindsight of my first (actually second within a first) attempt at making Okinawan Pig’s Feet Soup in a pressure cooker, I think just like Sweet & Sour Spare Ribs, next time I’m going to put everything in from the start, except the kombu, as the Pig’s Feet cooks SO QUICK, I’m confident the veggies will still have enough al dente doneness doing it that way. I’ll keep you posted when that happens.

Summing it up, I give my pressure-cooked Ashitibichi on this attempt 3 SPAM Musubi, the pressure-cooked Sweet & Sour Spare Ribs 5 Musubi, with “no comment” on my pressure-cooked “rookie” Kalua Pig, other than to ask, “How often have first dates ever been PERFECT?” LOL!

I’m really looking forward to trying  more favorite recipes in my new pressure cooker, such as Portuguese Bean Soup, Pot Roast, Squid Luau and Laulau, just to name a few. This pressure cooker has already proven to be one of the best investments for my kitchen (besides the new kitchen itself) I’ve made yet. Every home should have one!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a01QQZyl-_I

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LncAQR47eZo

Grindz of the Day: Arirang, Monarch Seafoods & Chocolate-covered Bacon


Arirang Bar-B-Q Korean Quisine – Fish Jun

Repeat visits are an obvious indicator we really dig the place, which brings us back once again to several spots.

We begin today’s “Grindz of the Day” with lunch at Arirang, where this past Aloha Friday Diner A and yours truly visited as we BOTH had da’ “ono’s” (craving) for Fish Jun.

Before I continue, I must note that there’s an ongoing “debate” on where exactly “Jun” originated. Namely “Meat Jun”.  Many folks on the mainland think it must be a “Hawaii thing”, because the Korean restaurants in their neck of the woods don’t have such a dish.

I found this interesting discussion over at WOWGRINDS.com on the subject, where lots of comments have helped to dispel the “Meat Jun Mystery”. One comment reads, “So I discovered this watching this korean show and the Kwangju region in Korea is known for the dish we call “meat jeon.” In korean it’s yukjeon (??), yuk meaning ‘meat.’ So it’s not a local Hawaiian invention, but maybe some Korean from that region brought it over and revised it.” Plus many other insightful comments you should click on over and read if you’re interested.

Apparently the “myth” part is due to how differently the name is SPELLED, as based on the common denominator of that discussion, the PROPER way to spell “Meat Jun” is “Meat Jeon”. or more properly than that, “Gogi Jeon” or “Yukjeon”.

To make it even more confusing, the various Korean restaurants around Oahu each have a slightly different way of spelling it. Arirang and Ah-Lang Korean Restaurant spells it “Meat Jun”, Soon’s Kal-Bi Drive-In spells it “Meat Jhun”, while Jin Joo Korean Restaurant spells it “Meat Chun”. ACK!!

Anyhow, if you have more information on Meat Jun or variation of the dish that you’ve encountered, I’d love to hear about it.

Not to confuse you any more, but another popular version of this flour and egg-battered Korean favorite is what we have here today in the form of Fish Jun…


Arirang Bar-B-Q Korean Quisine – Fish Jun. $8.95 (lunch price)

Or should I spell that Fish Jhun? Or Fish Junn? Or Fish Chun? Or Fish Jeon? Or Fish Joon? Or how about Fish June? lol

That was Diner A’s plate. Here’s mine, where in this shot I’ve broken a piece in half to reveal the super-moist and flaky Mahimahi within…


Arirang Bar-B-Q Korean Quisine – Fish Jun. $8.95 (lunch price)

The key here being they use Mahimahi, which makes for an EXCELLENT Fish Jun, as in my experience over the years, Mahimahi has always been the best type of fish for this dish. Reason being, Mahi has a good amount of oil in the flesh, offering a savory-yet-tame, sort of “buttery” white meat flavor that’s not “fishy” at all, while having a super moist, tender and flaky texture that just melts in your mouth. Awesome.

Rest assured, Mahimahi is what you’ll get in your Fish Jun at Arirang, as it specifically says that right on the menu. Whereas, many places don’t specify, so you never know what may be in it: could be (the cheaper) haddock, pollock or even talapia (not from the Ala Wai Canal of course). I’d love to sample how Ono, a.k.a. Wahoo tastes in Jun (or Junn or Jeon or June) form.

Notice how they cut the egg and flour-battered Mahimahi here, where they’re shaped like medalions that measure approximately 4″Lx3″Wx1/4″ thickness each, with four of them on this lunch-sized portion.

Most “Jun” dishes are served with a dipping sauce that’s pretty much like a simplified version of Japanese Ponzu;  in this case, made with soy sauce, vinegar and sugar…

That said, let’s hit it!..

First of all, as described above, the mahi has a buttery, mildy-savory flavor and is super moist ‘n tender. And it’s cooked to absolute PERFECTION. The flour and egg batter has a nice crunch going on, while being very lightly seasoned with what tastes like just salt, if even that. The egg flavor helps to amplify the wonderful taste of the Mahi within, underscoring the JUN in this Fish Jun.

If there’s one complaint, I’d just say the default “Jun” sauce they provide was too mild, as if the soy sauce (shoyu) they use was the low sodium variety, or something like that, as the sauce tasted like it was watered down.

Not to fret though, as we clearly remember the EXCELLENT house-made Gochujang sauce Arirang put on our table the last time we were here, so we requested that…

OK, let’s try again wit’ da’ Gochujang action…

I’ll put it to you this way: even though the default “ponzu style” Jun dipping sauce was on the mild side, it was still “MONEY”. Now with Arirang’s AWESOME house-made Gochujang sauce joining this Fish Jun party, it is “BANK”!!! Or so Guy Fieri would have said it. Serious “Bank”. Like 5 SPAM Musubi “Bank”. So, so delicious. I swear, if you’re looking for an EXCELLENT Fish Jun, you need to head on over to Arirang. High, HIGHLY recommended.

I’m gonna’ tease you with a few more bite-through shots so you can see just how moist and tender this broke da’ mout’ winnahz Mahimahi-based Fisch Jgeonng was…

Here I combined the default “Jun” Sauce with the Gochujang Sauce at about 3:1 ratio…

Oh yeah, now THAT’s rockin’!  You get a little tang, a little sweet, some heat, along with a savory “bottom” thanks to the miso they use in the Gochujang sauce, which really is its “secret”. In fact, I’m surprised our server admitted that they use that. Yet you can clearly taste there’s miso in the Gochujang sauce. All I know is you could pour that stuff on anything and it would taste good.

Not that this it needs a sauce, as just like the Angry Korean Lady’s Meat Jun and Chive Jun, this Fish Jun is SCUMPTIOUS just by itself, and the sauces are really just icing on an already fantastic cake.

Summing it up, “Bank” 5 SPAM for Arirang’s Fish Jun (jeon, jeong, june, jhun, junn, joon, whatevahz…)

Speaking of “Bank”, also winning top honors is Arirang’s EXCELLENT Banchan side dishes…

Arirang’s Kim Chee is certainly “Money”, while their Korean style Shoyu Potatoes are “BANK”!!! As Diner A noted, they almost “Taste like Shoyu Chicken”, where you could just as well order a plate of this stuff as the main entree along with rice and call it a day. It’s that “meaty”.

Look at how that deep ‘n savory, sweetened shoyu “goodness” penetrates the outer layer of the fork-tender red potatoes…

Rewinding to the beginning of our Fish Jun “experience” on this visit, we enjoyed the included house seaweed soup…

I asked our server if they had the Korean Stainless Steel Chopsticks to accompany the Korean Stainless Steel Spoon, but they didn’t have them.

As Diner A described it, “It’s like sipping on a hot bowl of the ocean”, is the best way to describe it. Seriously, as simple as this Kombu-based soup is, it’s LOVELY. Next time I come here, I’m going to ask them how to make it, so I can do it at home before EVERY meal. Heart-warming, soul-soothing good stuff!

******************************************************

Moving on to our next “Grindz of the Day”, we go back a week to the previous Aloha Friday, where Diner A and yours truly returned yet again to Monarch Seafoods. This time around where Diner A “hanahou’d” their AWESOME Fried Poke, making that his single entree choice, while I decided to try their Spicy Calamari…


Monarch Seafoods – Spicy Thai Calamari Steak (left) and Fried Poke (right) plates

Let’s zoom in…


Monarch Seafoods – Deep Fried Poke. $7.95

All I can say is, in the battered ‘n fried fish category, next to the Fish Jun featured previously in this post, Monarch Seafood’s Fired Poke is as GOOD AS IT GETS!

Especially when it’s coated in Monarch’s KILLER house dressing…

It tastes like they marinade the ahi — which tastes VERY FRESH (not old stuff) — in some sort of shoyu-based marinade, then they coat it katsu style, taking a dredge in flour, egg and panko, then hitting the deep fryer to give it that “GBD” doneness, with no more and no less. So the Ahi within remains SUPER moist and succulent, especially when combined with that very tasty marinade it’s SOAKED with. FREAKIN’ AWESOME STUFF. PERIOD.

Another “Bank” 5 SPAM Musubi for Monarch Seafood’s Fried Poke. Make sure if you order this to ask for extra house dressing. Liquid Gold I tell ya’, Liquid Gold.

Now let’s check out Monarch’s Spicy Calamari…


Monarch Seafoods – Spicy Thai Calamari Steak. $7.95

These Panko-crusted Calamari (squid) “steaks” are some “tik” (thick) buggahz (suckers)…

As for the “Spicy” factor”, it both appears and tastes like, before hitting the panko and flour batter station, they basically coat the calamari steaks with the same Mae Ploy Sweet Thai Chili Sauce that’s used for dipping after the fact.

As you know, Calamari (squid) is very mild in flavor, as this was, while it was also notably tender, as you know how Calamari can be rubbery if over or undercooked. So “props” to Monarch on that. The panko and thick flour batter didn’t stick well to the Calamari within, yet for what it’s worth, added a nice flavor and texture contrast to it. While the Mae Ploy Sweet Thai Chili Sauce works for Wonton-wrapped stuff, I don’t think it works quite as well with pank0-battered stuff, as was the case here. By far, Monarch’s AWESOME house creamy dressing (the yellow-greenish stuff) is THE ONE to dip the “Spicy Calamari” into.

Spice-wise, it wasn’t hot at all, as Mae Ploy Sweet Thai Chili Sauce is very mild by default (at least to my palate).

Summing it up, I give Monarch Seafood’s Spicy Calamari 3 SPAM Musubi. Which really is saying a lot for someone who isn’t particularly a Calamari fan. If you are, you definitely need to try this.

******************************************************

Last but never least, we round up today’s “Grindz of the Day” with two of just about everyone’s FAVORITE foods: BACON and CHOCOLATE.

If you’re a Food Network and Travel Channel “Foodie Junkie” like I am, you probably already at least seen it. Yet so far on Oahu, it’s not that commonly found on restaurant menus. Yet recently I was at Eat Cafe, where I noticed they had it sort of “scribbled” on their chalkboard menu as kind of an afterthought. And I thought, “Hmmmmmmm, I wonder?”

Since I had two huge SLABS of Costo-issue sliced Maple flavored smoked bacon in my fridge, I immediately went online to find out how to make the stuff.

As advertised, it’s literally Chocolate-covered Bacon, no more, no less. With Valentine’s Day right behind us, we naturally had a surplus of chocolates hangin’ around – most notably a bunch of Dark Chocolate, as that’s my girlfriend’s favorite.

So I began my Chocolate-covered Bacon quest by first baking half a slab of thick-cut Maple flavored smoked bacon in the oven until it reached a slight “rubberyness”, and not to the point of being “crunchy-crispy”, as I personally don’t like my bacon (over) done that way.

Then I took about 1 cup’s worth of Giradelli brand dark chocolate squares and “nuked” it on low heat in the microwave until it melted. I was a little disappointed that it came out kinda’ clumpy, so I looked online what the base of chocolate is, and it said oil. So I turned around and “tempered” the chocolate by adding a pat of butter to thin it into a usable viscosity.

After the cooked bacon cooled to room temperature, I then proceeded to coat each slice on all surfaces with the butter-tempered dark Giradelli chocolate. Then I stuck it in the refrigerator to “set” the chocolate, where out it came a few hours later looking like this…

The lighting exposure in that shot makes it look like milk chocolate. Here’s another angle that’s more color-accurate…

I SO can’t wait to try this.

Here’s a macro cross-cut shot of one of these Dark Chocolate-covered Bacon slices…

How is it? CRAZY. TASTY indeed, yet simply NUTS. The combination of the sweet, deep and robust dark chocolate, along with the salty, smokey, savory goodness of the bacon WORKS, yet your brain is like “WTH is this?!!!”. That’s the best way I can describe it upon first bite.

Yet, after about the third bite, it becomes pretty addictive. Mainly out of denial that this actually does taste good. But it does! Genius.

If there’s anything I’d improve on, it would be to cook the bacon more crispy, as the congealed fat at the doneness I baked the bacon (ha ha) was a little strange on the palate. I also need to work on my chocolate tempering skills to get it where it’s like “candy”, whereas on this first take, it was kinda’ “messy”. But those are just “minah ‘kine stuffs” (nothing serious).

All I can say is if you like bacon and if you like chocolate, chances are pretty likely you’ll LOVE Chocolate-covered Bacon. I’m personally not a chocolate person, so I can’t really appreciate that element, yet I’ll vouch for the sweet, robust ‘n savory thing going on with this unique hybrid “invention”. 3 SPAM Musubi.