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. 🙂


First Byte: Jollibee in Waipahu

With a large part of the demographic in this old plantation town on Oahu’s west side being made-up of folks originally from the Philippines, it’s no wonder Waipahu has been appropriately labeled “Little Manila”.  Waipahu is certainly an ideal town for a national chain restaurant originating from the .P.I. “motherland” to set-up shop, with Max’s of Manila in recent years also first setting foot here. While not from P.I., another Filipino chain originating from California who also set-up shop here in Waipahu is Valerio’s Bakery, famous for their Pan De Sal rolls.

Now, adding to that list of Filipino chains in “Wai’pa-HOOO!” is Jollibee, who recently opened for business in the same shopping center where anchor tenant Pacific Market is located.

Jollibee is the equivalent to the collective mind in the Philippines as McDonald’s is in the U.S.. While like McDonald’s, who have expanded their menu far beyond just burgers and fries, Jollibee is also well known for their “Chicken Joy” fried chicken and sweet “Filipino style” Spaghetti, amongst other new menu favorites to suit the current trend.

Here’s Jollibee’s whimsical mascot standing near the doorway in front of the restaurant…

Also in front, “Crispy Bangus,”, along with some of their breakfast dishes are promoted on this poster stand…

Upon entering Jollibee Waipa-HOO! on this peak Aloha Friday noon lunch hour visit this past week, I soon learned this place still has plenty of novelty, hype and popularity with the Waipahu locals, as was evidenced by the LONG LINE of folks waiting to order…

Thankfully Jollibee lives up to the “fast” in fast food, and the line moved very quickly, where from standing in back of the line to arrival at the front counter took what seemed like no longer than five minutes. Helping that efficiency, there’s a worker who checks off an order ticket for each person in line and hands it to you…

I don’t recall seeing him calling in my order to the kitchen through his headset. Instead, all his function seemed was to speed the ordering process by checking off a menu ticket that he then hands to you, which you in turn hand to the cashier. Regardless of this effort in efficiency, I still had to wait on the side at the counter for a few minutes for my order to be completed as they hurriedly rushed more customers at checkout.

You a fan of Jollibee’s famous sweet Filipino style Spaghetti? Then make it a party platter!..

Where there’s burgers, there must be dogs..

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I swear their “Signature Dressing” is essentially Banana Ketchup.

Here’s the takeout menu from the Waipahu location…

I wanted to dine there, yet every table was taken…

In the photo above, if you look towards the front service counter, there’s a “party room” in the right corner (just past the soda fountains) where you can hold private parties, including “Jollibee” themed party favors and even an appearance by the Jollibee mascot, similar to Chuck E. Cheese. I’m SO there for that on my next BD! lol

Since all the tables were taken inside, and there were no tables outside in the shopping plaza, I decided to take my Jollibee grindz back to the office.

On this “First Byte” visit, I decided to try Jollibee’s Spaghetti & Chicken Joy Combo’, along with a Cheeseburger on the side, which pretty much covers their most popular signature menu items…

Packaging looks fun and well-presented. Let’s check out the Spaghetti and Chicken Joy combo…

As you see, the “Chicken Joy” on the left includes a side of gravy that you pour on it, dip it, or not use at all, up to you.

Being a fast food fried chicken, naturally us folks who grew up in the U.S. are going to compare it with absolute top-of-mind, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), along with Popeye’s or Church’s or other regional favorite, depending which chain you like best in your neck of the woods. Upon taking a first bite, I immediately notice the batter is nice and crispy, even after my 30 minute drive back to the office. The meat inside was also quite juicy and tender, albeit not really packing much as far as seasoning (salt) within the fibers.

The batter also didn’t have much in the seasoning department, tasting like there wasn’t much going on besides flour mixed with some salt ‘n pepper, and that’s about it. At least that’s all I could detect. Overall, “dry” without the gravy, it was just a basic fried chicken done right, no more, no less. Note this was the “Classic” Chicken Joy, not the “Spicy” version.

Now let’s REALLY add some “joy” to this fried chicken by pourin’ some gravy on it…

Aaahhhh…oooohhhh…aaaaahhhh. Now THAT looks more like it! Upon a bite of “Chicken Joy” all smothered in gravy, I found the gravy’s texture fairly gelatinous, thanks to what seemed more like a cornstarch thickener than roux (flour and butter) or a flour slurry. Flavor-wise, the gravy tasted pretty much like your typical “McPackaged” poultry or even turkey gravy, where I’d say the “McPackaged” stuff is actually better, as far as depth and overall savoriness. Go figure.

Like the chicken’s batter, the gravy’s seasoning tasted like there wasn’t much going on besides salt n’ pepper basics, with perhaps just a small hint of sage or bay leaf, if any. I suppose the rather basic-tasting gravy did indeed bring some added “joy” to the fried chicken, which was good in and of itself, yet not by much, and I probably wouldn’t have missed it had they, say, forgot to pack the gravy in the box.

With that, I give Jollibee’s Classic recipe Chicken Joy 3 SPAM Musubi and the accompanying gravy 1, where in this sector of the fast food industry, Colonel Sanders’ “original recipe” is still is the benchmark by which all others are judged.

Now let’s try Jollibee’s sweet Filipino style Spaghetti…

That yellow “slick” is the grated cheese, which has already melted over the course of my 30 minute drive. OK, let’s mix it up and do this…

And? Well, um. Well, um. All I can say is, if you’re a purist when it comes to authentic Italian cuisine, stay CLEAR AWAY from this dish, because Jollibee’s Spaghetti has clearly abandoned all rules in that regard.

Honestly, the first thing that came to my mind upon tasting it was Chef Boyardee, at least for the sauce. The chunks of  what looks like hot dogs in it  actuality tasted more like a sausage of some sort, and was actually quite delicious, with an almost “chunky” texture in its filling, having me wish there was more sausage pieces mixed in with the sauce.

Just like I assume their “Signature Sauce” is Banana Ketchup-based, I also think this Spaghetti “sauce” (God it’s painful to say that) is also Banana-Ketchup-based. There’s just this “fruity” twang about it (“twang” is my new favorite word for “twist”) that’s hard to pinpoint.

I must say, the Spaghetti noodles were cooked perfectly al dente, so thumbs-up there.

Overall, Jollibee’s Spaghetti is something probably most appreciated by those who grew up eating this sweet style. If not, you’ll either hate it, or scratch your head and wonder “What the heck did I just eat?”. I’m in the last camp, still scratching my head in retrospect. I’ll have to go refresh my memory and get a can of Chef Boyardee SpaghettiOs, then I’ll get back to you on that thought. lol

So as it stands, as for a SPAM Musubi rating on Jollibee’s Spaghetti, all I can say at this time is “No comment”. lol

Finally, let’s sample Jollibee’s Cheeseburger…

Note, like McDonald’s basic burger, Jollibee’s “standard” Cheeseburger’s bun are plain, whereas their premium models get a sesame bun.

Let’s get the cutaway view…

I certainly appreciate the crispy, fresh Iceberg lettuce topping is kept in whole pieces and not shredded, as I’m not a fan of shredded Iceberg Lettuce on burgers (like they do at Micky D’s).

Let’s really take it apart (done after I took several bites)…

Notice they also toast the inside of the bun, so thumbs-up for that. Notice there’s their “Signature Sauce”slathered lightly on the inside part of the top bun, which I tasted by itself (without the burger) and am almost POSITIVE now (almost) this is essentially banana ketchup.

So how is it? Eh, OK. Eh. Meh.

The highly processed burger patty (common’ now, this is corporate fast food, what do you expect?) seems to be made up of plenty of filler, and was obviously cooked on a flat top griddle (fried), and not an open flame grill, which you know how I feel about that.

It also tasted like someone on the line missed putting salt and pepper on it, as, well, there wasn’t much taste to the patty at all. As if I was eating a Cheese, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich, where the predominant flavor component came from the the slightly acidic sweetness of the sauce, while the burger patty itself was an underseasoned, overprocessed afterthought. Ouch.

Summing it up, I give Jollibee’s Cheeseburger 1 SPAM Musubi on this “First Byte” visit, with 1 barely making the grade, thanks to the freshness of the bun and veggies, as well as the “interesting twang” from their Signature sauce.

I’ve been told their “Big Yum” Premium Burger is “the one” to get, but if that 1/3 pound burger patty is essentially a larger version of the one here, I’ll pass.

A Jollibee regular standing in line in front of me highly recommended I try their Halo-Halo and Peach Mango Pie, so if (if) I return, that’s what I’m gettin’. Not sure about anything else. The hot dog looks kinda’ interesting with the grated cheese and signature (banana ketchup) sauce.

A coworker who grew up in P.I. noted the food served at this new Jollibee is pretty much authentic and the same as the one he remembers from back home. And it’s exactly that demographic who will enjoy this place most. Surely young children will enjoy Jollibee for its whimsical appeal, along with a menu to match.

Chicken & Burgers
94-300 Farrington Highway (in the Waipahu Shopping Plaza)
Waipahu, Hawaii  96797

Tel. 671-7448
Web: www.JollibeeUSA.com

The Tasty Island rating:

(1) Average.

P.S. Adjacent to the new Jollibee (and neigbhoring Golden Coin) is Pacific Market , the anchor tenant of Waipahu Shopping Plaza, where I swear, EVERYONE MUST experience this market at least once. EVERYONE. This place is AMAZING! It truly is like taking a tour with Anthony Bourdain through the open markets  throughout the entirety of asia, all wrapped up in one convenient store right here on Oahu.

You think Whole Foods has interesting and unusual stuff? Well, wait until you check Pacific Market out! There’s so many fascinating imported food products from all over asia. While the focus are products from the Philippines, there’s also many items from the likes of Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, China and Korea. I’m pretty sure there’s plenty of imported asian food products that, if you can’t find in Honolulu Chinatown, you’ll find it here. In fact, I recently checked downtown Chinatown for Fried Dace, and couldn’t find any. And guess what? Pacific Market had it!

The prices here also seem very reasonable, no doubt due to the exchange rate with the countries they come from.

I’ve seen never a larger selection of Patis, not to mention Longanisa, both packaged and freshly-made. There’s also all these interesting canned fruits imported from Thailand that I’ve never heard of, nor would I have a CLUE how to use in a dish. I’d love to learn, though!

I’ll admit, when it comes to browsing in the store, I have this fetish for sauces, and spend plenty of time in the grocery aisles just reading the labels of exotic imported and new, locally produced bottled sauces. Well, here at Pacific Market, it would probably take me an entire DAY just to go over the HUGE SELECTION of imported asian sauces alone.

As far as retail, I also haven’t seen as much variety and quantity of rice than I have in this store, including 50 lb. and 100 lb. bulk sizes. Whoah!

Then there’s the meat and fish department, which is the part that may make you want to put on a respirator mask, as it SMELLS STRONG in there, being there’s chest after chest after chest of fresh-caught whole fish on ice on display throughout the area. Like Chinatown, you can buy pretty much EVERY PART of the pig here, and I must warn, if you’re squeamish about looking at animal “guts” on display in food cases, you best stay clear of the meat department at Pacific Market. They even had goat (Kalding). Didn’t see any live frogs though, which Chinatown does have.

Finally, the produce department has lots of unusual, exotic greens and fruits you definitely won’t be able find at your neighborhood Foodland or Safeway, including Malungay and Saluyot leaves, just to name a few. They also sell cartons of cooked and uncooked balut duck eggs, which were going at $7 for 6.

The front checkout area also has this interesting novelty shop, as well as a takeout deli.

If you ever are entertaining visitors (tourists) and driving them around the island, make it a point to stop by Waipahu and take them on a “tour” of Pacific Market. It truly is one of the most fascinating shopping experiences to be discovered here!

Finally, while we’re talking about fast food chains, the very first McDonald’s to open in Hawaii was in Aina Haina in 1968, where they’ve recently knocked that original structure down and built a modern McDonald’s right next to it.

Here’s the original McDonald’s Aina Haina (first McDonald’s in Hawaii) back in its glory days (photo taken 2007) …

Here it is in the process of being demolished (photo taken last month)….

Out with the old, and in with the new (located about 50 yards to the right of the old McDonald’s Aina Haina shown above)…

The original McDonald’s building in Aina Haina Shopping Center has since been razed (demolished).

RIP Aina Haina McDonald’s circa 1968 building.

A Catered Luncheon with Soul

By now, regular readers of this blog must think all we do at work is throw parties and EAT. Well, we certainly work hard, so when it comes time to relax, like everyone else, we love to sit down and enjoy a good meal. So here we are this past week, where we threw a nice going-away party luncheon for one our people in accounting, this time catering the food from Soul Cuisine with Aloha & Spice.

Soul is a still relatively new restaurant by Chef Sean Priester, who had a long run as executive chef at the highly regarded Top of Waikiki revolving restaurant. Compared to the posh, high tech (literally) digs at Top of Waikiki, Soul is a very tiny and humble hole-in-the-wall restaurant located in a rather “mishmash” strip mall on the corner of Waialae Avenue and St. Louis Heights Drive at the Ewa (west) end of Kaimuki.

I personally haven’t eaten there yet, although I’ve heard and read favorable reviews about the place. However, I HAVE had the opportunity to try all the food here already, back before Chef Priester opened his restaurant, when he had his “Soul Patrol” lunch truck while making the brave transition from employee to entrepreneur. To note, the “Soul Patrol” lunch truck is still in service as an extension of their brick & mortar restaurant.

Us folks always like to try new types of cuisine for luncheon themes, and we were all eager to sample some “Soul Cuisine with Aloha”. Which really is what Chef Priester’s concept is, using locally-sourced, high quality ingredients in his classic southern style dishes.

Without further ado, let’s see what Soul has prepared for us on this occasion, starting with some good ‘ole Mac ‘n Cheese!…

Next up, Chef Priesters EXCELLENT Coleslaw…

You see what’s coming next, right? Some FRIEEEEEED CHEEYIKIN!…

Let’s stay here for a brief moment and bath in cooking lard, savoring a few more pics of these absolutely delightful morsels of “Aloha & Spice” Chicken with serious SOUL!…

Soul’s Fried Chicken is accompanied with this KILLER Honey-Butter Sauce, that you drizzle over the chicken right before service…

So you’ve got the super-juicy, savory, slightly spicy ‘n crispy thang with the chicken, along with the sweet ‘n buttery thang goin’ on from the sauce and BAM! AWESOME.

Next up, Soul food would never be complete without Collard Greens!…

Another one my personal favorites is Chef Priester’s Vegetarian Chili…

Then wrapping things up from Soul, the also must-have dish for this type of cuisine, Corn Bread…

Not stopping there, folks from various departments in our office also contributed to the spread, where adding to the selection of main dishes, here we have some (Filipino) Pancit, courtesy of accounting…

Also from accounting, (Filipino) Lumpia…

There was also all kinds of scrumptious desserts, where our department contributed these EXCELLENT Brownies from Kilani Bakery in Wahiawa…

Back to P.I., we have a pan of Kakanin…

Peach Cobbler…

Blueberry Cheesecake…


Custard Pie…

Cherry Pie….

Wow. What. A. SPREAD!!!!!

Time now to check out some plates hot off the “assembly line”….

Here’s my plate…

Angle “B”…

Let’s try that “Cheeyikin”…

Oh man. Even though this piece of fried chicken had gone down to air conditioned room temperature by the time it landed on the plate in front of me, it was still STELLAR! The batter was still crispy, with a pleasantly-blended, subtle hint of spices going on in it.  While the chicken meat was super buttery-tender and incredibly MOIST ‘N JUICY, while being cooked all the way through, with no raw spots towards the bone or blood at all. It also wasn’t greasy at all. Just so, so, so, so, so, SO GOOD!

5 SPAM Musubi for Soul’s Fried Chicken for sure, even at the less-than-optimal a/c room temperature service when I ate it. I’m confident if I had the luxury of eating it FRESH ‘n PIPIN’ HOT out of the deep fryer, Soul’s signature Fried Chicken would score an EASY TEN!!!

As for the other dishes, the Vegetarian Chili was delicious, yet I must note it tasted and had the pasty texture more like baked beans than Chili. The Collard Greens were good, especially in that they’re enhanced with  pieces of smoked ham hock meat in it, yet everyone mentioned there was a distinguishable “tang” to its flavor profile, not sure if that was vinegar, or if there’s some spoilage factor, or if that’s just the nature of Collard Greens, as that’s certainly not a green commonly eaten here in Hawaii.

The Mac ‘n Cheese was congealed, thanks to the air conditioning, and also what seemed like the macaroni noodles had absorbed most of the cheese’s moisture. Other than that, flavor-wise, it was dee-lish. Which has me thinking we should SERIOUSLY invest in sterno warmers for our company luncheons. That would most DEFINITELY be a HUGE improvement when it comes to serving temperature “issues”, such as it was for this Mac ‘n Cheese.

I LOVE Soul’s Cilantro Coleslaw. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. PERFECT Coleslaw recipe. Nuff’ said.

The corn bread was a winner as well, with the right balance of “sweet” going on, although I would have preferred it to be a little more BUTTERY! Shoots, with this here soul food, I’d just as well take some melted drawn butter and drizzle it over the entire plate! lol

As for the dessert, the Brownies from Kilani Bakery were FANTASTIC, with the perfect “brownie texture” going on, not being too dry nor too moist, but, as Rap Replinger says, “Jussssssss’ right”….

The Kakanin was also fantastic, especially the one with the Latik-like glaze covering it…

SOUL Cuisine with Aloha & Spice
3040 Waialae Ave
Honolulu, HI 96826

Tel. (808) 735-7685
Web: www.PacificSoulHawaii.com

The Tasty Island rating (for catering service):

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

Related links:
First Bite: ‘The Soul Patrol’ by Chef Sean Priester – The Tasty Island
360º View at the Top of Waikiki – The Tasty Island
Soul – Yelp 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”:

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…


Other features on the box go on to say:
• Reduces cooking time up to 70%
• Easily adapt your recipes and cook 1/3 of the time (instructions inside)
• Load ingredients, lock lid in place and begin cooking… release pressure and enjoy healthy, flavorful meals
• 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!



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.

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!

Mo'ili'ili Eats: Bella Mia Pizzeria

Several weeks ago we celebrated Diner C’s birthday with lunch at Bella Mia Pizzaria, a relatively new, casual American-Italian eatery located on South Beretania Street, situated amongst a corridor of detached homes, low-rise apartments and small businesses. This is actually one of two restaurants under the same name, with another Bella Mia (sans the “Pizzeria” extension) location on Waialae Avenue in Kaimuki, where as it turns out, that location is owned by Brooklyn native Joey Gonzalez, while his son owns and operates this restaurant.

Obviously converted from an older residential home itself, parking here is limited to, well, as many cars you could fit in the front of a yard typical of the size in this area, which, IIRC, was about seven vehicles max’. The lot was already full on our early arrival lunch hour visit, yet thankfully we quickly found a parallel parking space just a stone throw away on the street front.

The dining room is made up entirely of an open-air porch fronting the establishment, with a romantic and relaxed ambiance suggested by its subtle Mediterranean themed decor…

Try your best to transport yourself and make pretend the “view” from here on busy South Beretania Street is overlooking Italy’s beautiful Amalfi Coast, not REALLY what you’re looking at. lol

The kitchen occupies the back half of the restaurant, which is semi-open to view from the dining room. They don’t sell alcohol, yet of course being an Italian eatery, BYOB is certainly welcome, and best of all, there’s no corkage fee.

Let’s check out what’s on the menu…

Here’s the daily specials that run throughout the week…

Wow, $6.95 is a lot less than most plate lunch takeout joints charge nowaways. Sounds like a great deal!

With that, let’s get our Italian grind on! First to arrive at the table is a complimentary basket of their house bread rolls…

Bella Mia Pizzeria – Complimentary House Bread Rolls

As they appear to be, which our server confirmed, their bread is essentially baked roll-up versions of their house pizza crust. That said, it’s seasoned with just the right amount of salt, while the lightly-toasted, semi-firm “shell” and glutenous, yet light and airy interior bring it all home.

The house marinara sauce it’s accompanied with is rather low-key, as far as infusion of herbs go, yet it does have a good balance of sweetness and acidity to it. Some may find it a bit too plain as far as seasonings go, yet you can always zest it up by adding your own Parmesan and/or red pepper flakes provided in shaker bottles at each table. As always for me, more cheese please.

For appetizer, we all shared a massive platter of their Fried Calamari…

Bella Mia Pizzeria – Fried Calamari. $8.95

These are served with the same house marinara sauce that’s served with the complimentary bread rolls, which the sauce is “bottomless”, and our friendly server lady was more than happy to refill for us throughout our meal.

Bella Mia Pizzeria – Fried Calamari

Both the Calamari squid’s head (ring) and leg parts were decently tender and fresh tasting, with nothing “funky” going on. I found the legs had better flavor and texture, being more characteristic of Octopus (tako) than squid.  The Calamari’s batter was lightly golden-airy and crispy, being sort of “Tempura-ish”, with barely if any salt or other seasonings at all in it, allowing primarily the marinara dipping sauce and lemon to provide that.

Bella Mia Pizzeria – Fried Calamari

Now on to the main course, where we begin with birthday girl Diner C’s choice, Bella Mia Pizzeria’s Chicken Marsala with Linguine Pasta…

Bella Mia – Chicken Marsala: Chicken breast sauteed with mushrooms in a Marsala Wine Sauce. Served on a choice of Spaghetti, Linguine (shown) or Penne. $15.95

As you may already be able to tell, the portions here at Bella Mia are very generous, with each entree easily enough to share between two hungry adults and walk out with satisfied tummies. While that Calamari app’ we ordered certainly was enough to sate all us five hungry adults’ appetites ahead of the main course.

Bella Mia – Chicken Marsala

As for the Chicken Marsala, like all our entrees, it arrived at the table PIPING HOT, with visible steam steadily billowing off the plate for at least a minute while sitting there. Already a good sign! Upon first bite, Diner C immediately noted the Linguine pasta was cooked perfectly al dente, followed with a big thumbs-up for the Marsala Sauce it was evenly coated with. The two generously-sized chicken breasts were also very tasty, tender ‘n moist.

Bella Mia – Chicken Marsala

Summing it up, she gives Bella Mia Pizzeria’s take on Chicken Marsala very solid 3 SPAM Musubi.

Next up we have Diner AA’s choice, which must be noted, she came intent on ordering her usual favorite, eggplant, hoping to try Bella Mia’s Eggplant Parmigiana. Unfortunately our server broke the news that they were out of Eggplant. What? Needless to say, Diner AA was very disappointed, but what else can you do? So she simply moved her selection to the nearest, most similar dish in preparation and ordered the Chicken Parmigiana with Linguine Pasta…

Bella Mia – Chicken Parmigiana: Chicken breast breaded and lightly fried, topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese then baked to perfection. $15.95

Having all the same aforementioned positive attributes of Diner C’s Chicken Cacciatore, Diner AA also gave a thumbs-up 3-SPAM Musubi of approval for Bella Mia’s Chicken Parmigiana.

Switching out a bed of pasta for a roasty-toasty, seriously super-sized bread roll, Diner E decided try Bella Mia Pizzeria’s Chicken Parmigiana Hot Sub…

Bella Mia – Chicken Parmigiana Hot Sub. $8.95

As always, the (in this case ooey-molten meltin’ Mozzarella cheesy-gooey) cross-cut view…

Bella Mia – Chicken Parmigiana Hot Sub

Straight to the point without much said, Diner “Saimin Kaukau” E gives this 2 SPAM Musubi.

Here’s another order/example of the same Chicken Parmigiana Hot Sub that came out of the kitchen (right behind our table)…

Bella Mia – Chicken Parmigiana Hot Sub

If you’re not quite in the mood for a (sub) sandwich or pizza in pie form, consider having the best of both worlds by ordering Bella Mia’s Stromboli…

Bella Mia – Made-to-Order Stromboli Pizza Roll: Sausage, pepperoni, peppers, onions, mushrooms, black olives & mozzarella cheese. $10.95

Essentially a Stromboli is a “Pizza Pocket”, except here at Bella Mia, the  Stromboli arrives at the table MASSIVELY PUMPED UP  like an edible version of the over-the-top ‘roided-out Incredible Hulk, if that helps explain the dramatic visual and psychological impact it has imposing itself upon gawking table guests. NNNNNNNNO-O-O-OH! GGGRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!! lol

To give you some scope of scale, notice the size of Diner A’s iPhone in comparison to the Stromboli laid out on the plate in front of him…

Bella Mia – Made-to-Order Stromboli Pizza Roll

While it appears imposingly massive upon arrival in whole form, most of the Stromboli’s size is from the crust being “pumped-up” with hot air during the baking process. Cutting it open reveals that, where you’ll then see the sausage, pepperoni, peppers, onions, mushrooms, black olives and mozarella cheese lay mostly at the bottom quadrant of its puffed-up, cavernous interior space…

Bella Mia – Made-to-Order Stromboli Pizza Roll

It’s always visually stimulating and taunting to the tummy when molten ooey-gooey cheese and other yum-yums come spillin’ out like that. Ooohh…. ahhhhh…

Bella Mia – Made-to-Order Stromboli Pizza Roll

Of course this thing has so much girth, you’d need a mouth that opens up as gaping wide as a feeding Basking Shark in order to heave this in your mouth as is. So Diner A quickly devised a “plan of attack” in taking on Bella Mia’s “Strombilinator” (I made that name up, but sounds kinda’ cool, huh?!), where he cut basically flattened the “poofed-up” crust and cut the entire thing up into bite-size pieces more reasonable for the average human…

Bella Mia – Made-to-Order Stromboli Pizza Roll

How was it? Deliciouso! Diner A was notably fond of their Pepperoni, which had a nicely-spiced and very “meaty” flavor to it, which I got to try a piece and concur to that. The sauce in it also had plenty of zest, while as a whole, of course how can all that other good stuff in there all smothered melted Mozarella Cheese NOT taste awesome? Because it was, simply AWESOME! Adding to that awesomeness filling it, the obviously well-toasted crust it was encased in had a nice crunch on the surface, while underneath it, the “meat” of the crust had a nice, glutenous, yet airy “chew” factor going on, just like their house pizza crust-based bread rolls had.

Summing it up, Diner A gives Bella Mia’s “Strombilinator” (ha ha!) an Incredible Hulk hoppin’ 4 SPAM Musubi. (Hey, that’s two completely different “menacing superheroes” in one sentence lol). Seriously though, he enjoyed it so much, he noted he wants to bring his family back here soon to try it, he enjoyed it so much. Especially considering the portion and prices, which are indeed very family-friendly.

Last but never least, yours truly decided to try Bella Mia’s Spaghetti Meatballs..

Bella Mia – Spaghetti Meatballs. regular $9.95 (daily special price for Monday only $6.95!)

And no, I didn’t order this just because it was the Monday special of the day, as I actually had my mind set upon seeing it on the regular menu, before taking notice there was a special on it. Yet hey, for just $6.95 (that’s $3 off the regular price), shoots, hook me up! Yet even though it was highly discounted in price, it surely didn’t appear they compensated with a smaller portion, that’s for sure!

And how was it? Very good. Like all the dishes the others ordered, my Spaghetti Meatball “platter” (because it was practically sized as one) arrived at the table PIPING HOT. Also like the other linquine-based pasta dishes, my spaghetti noodles were cooked perfectly al dente. The sauce tasted like the same “low key” house Marinara they use for the complimentary bread rolls and Fried  Calimari we were served. Which again didn’t have much in the way of a complex combination of herb in it, yet was well balanced in sweet and acidic, the latter of, which is always an important factor in any good Marinara sauce.

Bella Mia – Spaghetti Meatballs

As for the three meatballs topping the spaghetti and smothered in Marinara sauce, they were fairly large, where I’d say each one was about the size of a racquetball. Unlike that hilarious scene in The Mask, these “meat-a-balls” certainly weren’t spicy, nor were they infused much with herbs. Yet they did have a nice balance of what tasted like a combination of ground beef, pork and bread crumbs, with what also tasted like simple salt and pepper seasoning. Quite plain, actually, yet it was still tasty and very moist. If there’s anything to improve, I’d say it just needed to be browned more on the outside to kick up its meaty flavor.

Summing it up, I give Bella Mia’s Spaghetti Meatball 2 SPAM Musubi, while I must once again note the incredible value at just $6.95 for the Monday daily special on this dish. Can’t beat that!

While I didn’t ask, I’m assuming the customer who ordered this Meatballs on Penne Pasta requested that instead of Spaghetti, yet still got the Spaghetti Meatballs Monday special $6.95 price  …

Penne Pasta Meatballs

Don’t forget, there’s also “Lasagna Tuesday”, “Alfredo Wednesday”, “Stromboli Thursday” and “1 Topping 10″ Pizza Fridays” $6.95 daily specials at Bella Mia, which that alone is worth the trip here.

Summing it up, we all enjoyed our lunch at Bella Mia Pizzaria. Service was friendly and attentive, and while the entrees took a while to come out (about 20 minutes), the relaxed ambiance and reward of having all our dishes arrive at the table together at once, each fresh made, piping hot, and overall well prepared ‘n tasty, made the wait worth it. I’m definitely returning again to try their pizza, as well ordering my very own “Strombolinator”. That’s some good eats right there!

Bella Mia Pizzeria. Check ’em out!

Bella Mia Pizzeria
2222 South Beretania Street
Honolulu, Hawaii  96826

Tel. (808) 941-4400

Bella Mia Pizzeria menu (1.1mb 2-page PDF; current as of 2/11)

The Tasty Island rating:

(3) Very Good. Considerable of another visit or purchase. (Supah’ Ono!)

P.S. Us “Yelpers” recently had an online discussion on “Ghetto Recipes“, where everyone brought up their favorite “poor man’s grub” either while growing up and/or when times were tough. Not that now is any different for many folks.

With that, being Hawaii-based “Yelpers”, “dishes” that came up naturally included just about EVERYTHING and ANYTHING with RICE. That’s a given. Then there were other desperate or weird “recipes” that were mentioned when the wallet’s thin, including the venerable dry, uncooked saimin (the stiff Maruchan and Nissin brand kinda’ stuff) eaten straight outta’ the package, and Spaghetti that uses Ketchup as its “Marinara Sauce”.

Well, speaking of ketchup being used as a desperate measure for a desperate time,  recently  I was “desperately” craving a tasty snack, where not having everything I needed on hand with what I had to work with, I came up with a new recipe I’ve at least temporarily named “Jiffy Salsa”, a.k.a. “Ghetto Salsa”…

“Jiffy Salsa” a.k.a. “Ghetto Salsa” n’ Chips

You’re probably now saying, “No you didn’t. You didn’t! Please tell me you didn’t do that!” Yes, I did my friends. YES. I. DID. lol!!!!

The deal was, we had this “ginormous” bag of Costco-issue Organic Tortilla Chips that was sitting around in our office pantry and nobody was eating it, as we ran out of REAL Salsa to go along with it. Yet our little pantry area also has an assortment of condiment packets saved from past lunches stashed away in a jar. So I thought to myself “Hmmmmm, I wonder? What if I make a “Quickie Salsa” by combining several condiment packets of fast food ketchup with a condiment packet or two of fast food taco sauce?” So that’s exactly what I did, and guess what? It turned out pretty darned tasty and a pretty darned acceptable substitute for the real deal, I kid you not!

Of course, like most fast ‘n cheap foods (specifically, PROCESSED FOODS), this here “Ghetto Salsa” isn’t gonna’ be praised about and graced on the cover of your periodical HMO members’ magazine anytime soon. Yet that’s besides the point here. We’ll save the trip to WHOLE FOODS PAYCHECK for another post.

For this — ehem, cough, cough — “recipe”,  I simply combined exactly 5 packets of ketchup with 1 packet of taco sauce, as we only had that one packet of taco sauce remaining in the jar, and, cha-cha-cha, ariba- ariba, “Jiffy Salsa”!…

“Jiffy Salsa” a.k.a. “Ghetto Salsa” n’ Chips

The cumin and other spices in the (Tex-Mex) taco sauce “Mexicanized” the ketchup, where I swear, if I only had real tomatoes I could dice up and throw in there, this would be very close in taste to at least mass-produced, bottled (processed) salsa.

If I ever make it again (stress “IF” and “EVER”), I’d go with a ratio of 4 packets ketchup to 1 packet taco sauce, as this batch was a just little too sweet from the ketchup, while it also could have used just a little more of them “Mexicanized” taco sauce spices to “salsafy” it.

Perhaps add some chopped onions, cilantro and a squeeze of lime along with that, and shoots, it would probably taste almost as good as the fresh stuff! Well duh, then that’s pretty much at least “half fresh salsa”. lol

Anyhow, if you ever happen to have a lonely bag of leftover Tortilla Chips sitting just around with no fresh or bottled salsa to finish it up with, “raid” your fast food condiment packets stash jar and dig up the ketchup and taco sauce, combine it in a ratio as suggested above or to your own personal taste, serve with Tortilla Chips and enjoy.

“Jiffy Salsa, a.k.a. “Ghetto Salsa”. Try it.  If you’re craving a tasty snack, yet your options are limited, you just might like it! For what it’s worth (free), winnahz!

Hmmmm, now to brainstorm what I can “creatively” do with all them leftover fast food condiment packets of Aloha Shoyu. 😉