Leonard's Li Hing Malasada

…while it sounds promising on paper, didn’t really work as much as we had hoped in taste.

Notice the slightly tinted pink color mixed within the granulated sugar?

There’s barely the flavor of Li Hing Mui (Chinese preserved plum), even though the powder is generously dusted on it.  All you taste is the sugar (thank goodness). Whatever tangy, complex accents that was afforded by the Li Hing powder didn’t compliment the otherwise stellar deep-fried, sweetened mini-bread-ball delight that Leonard’s is famous for at all.

Still, Leonard’s Malasadas could probably be covered with motor oil and still taste great, thanks to its consistently wonderful, glutenous-meets-puffy texture inside…

We’ll just reserve Li Hing powder for acidic fruits and other culinary applications, while we continue enjoying Leonard’s Malasadas dusted with granulated sugar and injected with pudding ‘n custard. Yum!

Mahalo to Diner A for sharing it.

The Tasty Island rating:

(1) Average.


Exotic Fruits: Jabong & Santol

Jabong, a.k.a. Pomelo, Pummelo or Shaddock

It must have been “Exotic Fruits Week” this past week, as Diner E brought a couple of Jabong to share with everyone, while Diner A brought a few bags full of Santol.

Jabong – a citrus fruit very similar to grapefruit – is also known as Boh Look (in Cantonese), Pomelo, Pumello or Shaddock.

They’re quite large, as this one measures approximately 6″ in diameter.

You can either cut the thick, fleshy white and green rind off with a knife, or peel it by hand, which is how Diner E prefers to do it…

Diner E peeling the Jabong by hand

Actually not just peeling, but more like pulling by hand, as that’s what it takes to separate the thick rind away from the wedges within.

Here you can see just how thick the Jabong’s rind is…

Hawaii Kai Eats: Tokyo Noodle House

Yesterday and the night prior I had to fast (not eat or drink anything except water) for 12-17 hours on doctor’s orders for a blood test (draw),  so naturally after my visit with the clinical phlebotomist, I was VERY hungry. After a discussion about various ono ‘kine grindz with Diner E and A prior to my visit, I was left to decide between either a big, fat ‘n juicy Teriyaki burger, or a silky bowl of Saimin.  Shoots, why not both?! At least that’s what we were talking about. My-my, did that taunt my temporary state of starvation even more!

So being my doctor’s office is in Hawaii Kai, I decided to go the “saimin” route, kicking that up a notch by going Japanese style with Ramen over at Tokyo Noodle House in the Hawaii Kai Shopping Center. They’re located on the right side of the center around the corner from McDonald’s, with anchor tenants being Safeway and Longs Drug Store. Other eateries in this shopping center include Cha-Cha-Cha Salsaria, Pheonix Chinese Cuisine, The Shack, L&L Drive Inn, and next door to Tokyo Noodle House, Ba-Le Sandwich Shop.

That’s quite a lot of competition for a hungry fellah just done fasting, yet I was set on immediate gratification with Ramen (Japanese Saimin lol), one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. Once I get that hot ramen broth flowing in my veins and them silky noodles filling my tummy, I’ll immediately forget about such cardiovascular concerns such as CBC, lipids, triglycerides, glucose, electrolytes and serum values.  At least for the time being!

It’s actually quite a novelty having a Japanese Ramen shop in Hawaii Kai, yet that’s not all they do. Come to find out the people running the place are Cantonese (Chinese),  so you can also order quite a few of those dishes, authentically prepared by a Cantonese cook.  Further reinforcement of this was the fact that, while the restaurant was completely empty of dine-in patrons at the time of my early, pre-dinnertime rush 5pm visit, there was a steady stream of folks coming in and out to pick up trays of catered-style food, some of which were Chinese in origin. I’ll get to the catered part later.

Let’s check the place out…

Looks like a Ramen shop. They really should get rid of  all the clutter on the counter, though. Also, the photos of the food on the wall, while make it easier to decide what looks good on the menu, are slapped on there in kinda’ “ghetto” fashion (how’s that for an oxymoron? lol). But hey, those menu pics also make up for the fact that I was here on a solo mission, so at least I can show you other dishes they offer that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.

This version of Ramen looked especially interesting to me…

Sansai are “mountain vegetables”, commonly sold canned or in vacuum-packed bags preserved with shoyu, vinegar and a little sugar. Really oishii just like that on a bowl of hot rice, yet I’m really curious now how it would taste in Ramen!

Chuka Ramen…

Diggin’ all that Menma!

Mapo Tofu Ramen…

It just wouldn’t be a Ramen shop without this!…

Other specialties…

Like most Ramen shops, they also have a variety of “sets”…

Here in the top four photos you can see some of their Chinese dishes…

While waiting for my order, this heaping catered pan of Chicken Katsu rolled out of the kitchen…

Chicken Katsu

The color of this Katsu sauce has me a little concerned it’s your typical plate lunch style concoction of mostly ketchup with worcestershire sauce…

Chicken Katsu Sauce

But that’s OK, I’ve got several bottles of Bull Dog and Ikari Japanese Tonkatsu sauce in my pantry.

The chicken katsu was obviously panko-battered and deep-fried to “GBD” (Golden-Brown-Delicious) perfection. It also looked very moist, so props on that.

The same party also ordered this catered pan of Gyoza…


Me thinks The Travel Channel should fly Adam Richman and crew back to Hawaii for another ‘Man vs. Food’ challenge, this time around having Adam take on this entire pan of Gyoza in 30 minutes. Whaddaya’ say? lol

As I’ve explained before, Diner E has what I call his “gauge plate”, which is the defining dish he uses to determine how bad, .O.K., good or GREAT a particular plate lunch joint is.  If they can do Hamburger Steak right, they can do ALL right. Which would be none other than the ever-popular Hamburger Steak plate.

Well I also have what I’ll call my “Gauge Bowl” for Ramen Shops. And that would none other than Chashumen, which is essentially Shoyu Ramen with more Chashu (simmered Japanese pork; a.k.a. Charsiu or Char Siu) in it.

Which is exactly what I ordered…

Tokyo Noodle House – Char Siu Ramen ($6.25) and side order of 4-piece Gyoza ($2.75)

As you can see, the prices here are incredibly affordable. About $2 cheaper on average per dish than many other ramen shops around town; all of which are already affordable to begin with.  Sounds good to me!

Let’s take a closer look at my Char Siu Ramen…

The broth doesn’t look as dark as the one depicted in the photo of this dish (bowl) on the wall (scroll up). The charsiu also doesn’t generously cover as much surface area as the one in the photo.

Must say, I’m not one for Kamaboko in Ramen. In saimin? ABSOLUTELY! In Ramen? Nah. It’s O.K., but I would have preferred if they swapped that out with Menma. I could have suggested that, but I didn’t want to deviate from their original preparation.

Chopped green onions is also very “Saimin-ish”. lol True Japanese style Ramen uses Negi, which is an Incredible Hulk-sized version of Green Onion from Japan. They usually only use the white part at the base and sliver it very thinly.

Don’t get me wrong, after around 15 hours of not eating a thing, this looks absolutely GREAT! But we must cover some basics in “Ramenology 101” first. lol

O.K. let’s dig in and try some…

I swear, every time I look at photos like this of ramen noodles being fished out of the broth, my mouth waters. That is such the “money shot”!

So anyway – ehem, cough, cough – yeah, the noodles (confirmed by my server as Sun Noodle) were perfectly cooked al dente tender with the right “bite”.

The broth had a subtle pork-based shoyu depth to it and seasoned right, but lacked the complexity that I desire of a genuine Tokyo style Chashumen broth. It wasn’t where at the very first sip my eyes and tongue lit up in amazement, but overall, a satifyingly authentic Japanese Shoyu Ramen broth. So far the noodles get 4 SPAM Musubi (they’re Sun, common!), while the broth gets 1 SPAM Musubi.

Now let’s try the Char Siu (Chashu)…

It’s a little on the stiff (not tough) side. Also a bit salty, as if it’s saturated with shoyu from the simmering process. I must say, the saltiness did add some boost to the noodles’ flavor as I ate through the bowl.  Otherwise an acceptable Chashu that brought at least its C game to the party. Better than none at all. I’ll give their Chashu (Char Siu) 1 SPAM Musubi.

With that, overall I give Tokyo Noodle House’ Char Siu Ramen a satisfying (especially since I was STARVING!) 1 SPAM Musubi based on flavor alone. 2 SPAM Musubi if you factor in the exceptional value and convenience of the location into the criteria.

Now let’s try the Gyoza…

Common Adam, a whole pan of these babies in 30 minutes. Can? No can? lol

Let’s check out what’s inside…

Your typical Gyoza filling of seasoned, finely ground pork and chopped cabbage. Gotta’ say, these house-made Gyoza (no pun intended) are quite large. Large enough where I could only finish two of them along with my Ramen.

The only problem I had was that the Gyoza filling didn’t seem to have any binder, making it difficult to hold in my chopsticks while trying to dip it in the Shoyu, chili pepper and vinegar sauce without falling apart. I had to figure a way with my chopsticks to nestle the loose filling within a pouch of the tender, slippery wonton wrapper, lest I lose it all in the “drink”.

Otherwise, the Gyoza are delicious and a highly recommended side dish with your Ramen here (as if I need to tell you that).

When I return to Tokyo Noodle House (which I will since it’s convenient), I’ll try that Sansai Ramen.

Tokyo Noodle House
Hawaii Kai Shopping Center
377 Keahole st. #105
Honolulu, Hawaii 96825
Tel. 395-6556


The Tasty Island Rating:

(2) Good. I’m glad I tried it. (Ono)

Fried Dace with Salted Black Beans

Fried Dace with Salted Black Beans (called Dau Si Laing Yiu in Chinese)

Those of you who grew up in a Chinese household or who have friends that are Chinese, likely remember eating Fried Dace, or remember parents or grandparents eating it. If so, you’ll quickly recognize the distinctive oval-shaped tin it’s packed in with the red and yellow label including a picture of the Dace on it.  Classic!

While my family isn’t Chinese, I remember my grandmother and mother eating Fried Dace on occasion when I was growing up. They of course learned about it from their Chinese friends back in Kohala where they grew up.

Like most kids, back then at a young age I was put off by the pungent smell and appearance of this preserved fish and wouldn’t go near it.

Yet now well into my adulthood, I really enjoy delicacies like this. Being a preserved fish in a can with black beans and oil, it has an intense, penetrating smell and flavor profile that, obviously just by the sound of it, you know Fried Dace is going to be an acquired taste. If you’re not convinced about that yet, just wait until you see how it looks.

Come to find out Diner AC, who is part Chinese, grew up eating Fried Dace, which I found out recently when we were talking about “hana-baddah dayz” (childhood) grindz. That conversation must have kindled enough interest for her to go on a Chinatown “quest” recently to look for Fried Dace, to which she found some from a store she didn’t get the name of  (you know how those hole-in-wall shops in Chinatown often don’t have names on them!).

Which led me on my own Chinatown “quest” to find some too. And I did! But let me tell you, it was far and few between.  In fact only one little hole-in-the-wall Chinese grocery shop had it out of more shops than I can remember counting where I browsed through intently looking for it. Whew, at least I found some.

Come to find out, as Diner AC brought to my attention after scouring the net for information on it, back in 2005, the Chinese press created a mass scare over Fried Dace when they revealed that the Chinese Mud Carp (Dace) were treated with Malachite Green – an industrial dye used to prevent the fish from parasites – which was said to cause cancer in humans if enough of it is ingested.

The brands accused of containing traces of Malachite Green were Pearl River Bridge, Yu Pin Mei Cai and Gulong, which the Chinese government apparently stepped in and asked retailers to remove those brands from the shelf back at the time of the hysteria.

What the Chinese press failed to include in their report is that according to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, a person must ingest more than 290kg of fish with Malachite Green in it EACH DAY in order for any adverse health effects to take place. That calculates to 1,576 cans of fried dace a day. I highly doubt I can eat more than 1,576 cans of Fried Dace in an entire life time, let alone in one day! Just from the amount of SALT in it, you’d probably suffer cardiac arrest due to extremely high blood pressure before you get cancer if you ate THAT MUCH Fried Dace.

Perhaps the Malachite Green issue falls right along with the Mercury scare in Tuna.

I’m not sure what the status is today (2009) on any given brand of Fried Dace in China, but apparently it’s still affecting distribution of Fried Dace right here in Hawaii, as even in Chinatown it’s presently very hard to come by. Before, you could get Fried Dace at just about every supermarket on the island in the Asian section. It was also very cheap “back then”, but now the price is considerably higher. I paid $3.99 each for the cans shown above. When I told my mother that, she was sticker-shocked.

Now let’s take a closer look at the can of Fried Dace we have here. Thankfully it’s written on one side in English…

Notice this one is FRIED DACE with SALTED BLACK BEANS. Very, very important you get the one with BLACK BEANS, called ‘Dau Si’  in Chinese. That’s the tastiest and most popular version. Other flavors of Fried Dace include plain, chili, curry, tofu and Chinese Olives.

and on the other side in Chinese…

On the bottom left of this side of the label it states the ingredients (at least I THINK that’s what it is!): SAUCE, PLANT OIL, REFINED CANE SUGAR, SAUCE, TABLE SALT, EDIBILITY SPICES. Ha! You just gotta’ love them Chinese-translated labels.  Good gosh, I sure HOPE the spices in here are EDIBLE! “Edibility Spices”. lol! Apparently they forgot to list the most important ingredient of all, the DACE. Perhaps they figure you can figure that part out by the picture on the label.

‘Dace’ is  a trade name given to this fish from Hong Kong. It’s also known scientifically as Cirrhinus Chinensis, or in lay terms, Chinese Mud Carp. They’re fresh water fish that inhabit rivers, feeding on worms, shrimp and detritus.

As long as it’s not from a canal, I think I’m OK with it. lol

Well waddaya’ know, I got the same brand that was removed from store shelves in Hong Kong back in 2005…

PRB BRAND, a.k.a. PEARL RIVER BRIDGE BRAND. This brand is supposedly the original and best Fried Dace, while there are many knock-off brands out there now; some with very similar looking label designs and oval-shaped can. Malachite Green be damned, I’m glad I got the original.

Oh, in case you’re wondering whether a ‘Pearl River Bridge’ actually exists, it does! Click here for more information about the Humen Pearl River Bridge.

Here’s the importing company…

I’m not sure whether or not these nutritional facts are based on US FDA standards, but hey, FWIW, at least it’s there…

Finally we have the top of the can, which as you see they provide a handy-dandy pull-tab…

You can also see the manufacturing date stamped on: MFD: 2008.12.28; EXP: 2011.12.28. It also states on the side of the can that the shelf life is three years. Three year old edible fish kept shelf-stable at room temp’? You KNOW that’s gotta’ be packin’ a PUNCH! lol

Talking with my mother about Fried Dace, she said it’s known in China as “Hokka”. That spelling is probably incorrect, but “Hokka” is known there as “Peasants Food” or “Poor Man’s Food”. I suppose in the US you can call that “College Grub”. Fried Dace is to Chinese what Luncheon Meat, Vienna Sausage, Pork ‘n Beans and Corned Beef are to Americans. Basically very tasty (salty) meat (fish) in a can (lasts a long time) on a budget. Just add starch and you’re set.

In the case of starch to accompany Fried Dace, that would be none other than a steaming hot bowl of rice, or for many Chinese, they put the Fried Dace in or on their Congee, a.k.a. Jook, a.k.a. Rice Porridge.

My mother heats up her Fried Dace by opening the lid of the can and placing the can DIRECTLY on the stove burner. No pans and no pots to mess with; the can is the “pan”. She heats it up until the oil the Dace is packed in is hot enough to literally deep-fry it right in the can. Once the Dace is sizzlin’ and a little crispy, she turns off the heat, let’s it cool down a bit, then digs right in. Put some FRIED Fried Dace on the hot rice and enjoy. If she has it, she also likes to add Duck Egg and Lup Cheong with the Fried Dace which gives the palate a powerhouse of flavor combinations in one bowl.  Some Coleman’s Mustard and Shoyu Dipping sauce on the side and it’s a done deal.

So with all the aformentioned hype, am I scared now to eat Fried Dace? Absolutely NOT! Let’s open a can and have some!…

Ha. I kinda’ figured that handy-dandy pull-tab wasn’t going to work, which it didn’t, so I ended up using a can opener.

I suppose now that I look it, you could think of Fried Dace as the Chinese equivalent of Sardines, albeit much saltier thanks to the black beans.

Here’s the entire contents of that can transferred into a bowl…

That may look pretty gross, but believe me, it TASTES really, really GOOD!

So in this can (we’re taking inventory here) there’s 2 full Dace, sans the head and fins, and 1 half piece, plus a generous serving of salted black beans and enough vegetable oil to fill the can about 1/3 full.

Here’s one of the Dace split in half where you can see, just like canned sardines, the spine and rib bones are semi-soft and entirely edible…

Like mom does it, I put the dace in the can directly on the cooktop…

In just a short time the oil was boiling and the fish began to sizzle in the can. The aroma wafting out as it heats up is captivating. Believe it or not, it smells so good!

Once it’s a little crispy and sizzlin’ hot, simply serve over a bowl of rice and enjoy!….

Fried Dace and Salted Black Beans served over white rice with green onion garnish

Oh yeah. Sooooooooooo goooooooood. Solid 5 SPAM Musubi rating for Fried Dace with Black Beans over white rice. The salted black beans are what really make this work. It gives the fish this robust, meaty flavor that would be amiss without it. The dace is hardly  “fishy” at all, and the flesh of it is completely soaked through with the flavors of the black beans and various Chinese spices. It’s very flaky, while also being a little tough at the same time, in a good way. Good, good stuff!

Now let’s try it with Jook….

Fried Dace with Salted Black Beans with chicken stock Jook, green onion and sliced cabbage garnish

Not bad. I like how the black beans sort of melt their flavor into the jook. I give it 3 SPAM Musubi with Jook.

Fried Dace with white rice is still the best. Broke da’ mout’!

Well there you have it. Another trip down memory lane, this time in honor of Fried Dace!

What? Fried Dace with Salted Black Beans
Who makes it? PRB Brand (China)
Where did you buy it and how much did it cost? A small shop in Honolulu Chinatown, $3.99 each
Big Shaka to: Very, very, very delicious. Everything in the can is edible. Easy-to-heat, ready-to-serve meal, just add rice. Brings back childhood memories.
No shaka to: Pull-tab didn’t work. Limited availability, even in Chinatown. Considerable price increase. Malachite Green issues unclear (although this website says this fish is safe).
SPAM Musubi rating: 5

P.S. While I walked around Honolulu Chinatown looking for Fried Dace this past week, I snapped a few photos to share with you. Here they are….

It always amazes me at how many little Chinese things these shop keepers pack into these stores. Things I wouldn’t have a CLUE as to what it’s used for, either in cooking or overall domestically…

Hum Nyee – in those green and red labeled bags; another type of preserved, salted Chinese fish that’s very good with Pork Hash

Woot-woot! There it is!….

Fruits and vegetables GALORE in Chinatown at incredibly CHEAP prices (way below supermarket)…

Only in Chinatown would you find Durian (stinky fruit)…

There’s more types and sheer VOLUME of Chinese Cabbage (Pak Choy, Bok Choy, Choy Sum, etc.) here than I’ve seen ANYWHERE, again, at ROCK-BOTTOM PRICES….

Those oh-so-distinctive Golden Dragon red pillars…

A delivery truck bringing in a fresh catch of Ahi and Mahimahi….



Ooh, Menpachi, one of my favorite pan-fried fish!….

Singing the song “Taking Care of Business… Every Day”…

The friendly neighborhood Chinese butcher choppin’ up some of that good ‘ole “Shee-Shau-Poh” (sweet sour pork) lol…

If you’re a photographer either by hobby or profession, you MUST make it to the nearest Chinatown. It’s a shutterbug’s paradise. Oh, and a foodie’s paradise as well.

Hyatt Waikiki Eats: Ciao Mein

Ciao Mein – Tiramisu dessert

Last Sunday we had dinner with “Maui Mom & Dad” at Ciao Mein, which as this clever name implies, is a hybrid concept restaurant featuring both Italian and Chinese cuisine on one menu. Yet we can’t quite describe it as ‘fusion cusine’, as most of the dishes on the menu are either Chinese or Italian in and of themselves. While there’s just one small section titled ‘Collision Cuisine’, which is described as “A unique combination of Italian and Chinese Cuisine”. Whatever the difference in meaning between the moniker “Collision” and “Fusion” is beyond me at the moment.

Before we move on to the menu, first let’s look exactly where we’re at, which would be the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort & Spa…

Ciao Mein is located on the third floor below the Ewa Tower…

Here’s the main entrance to Ciao Mein…

Many more of those beautiful bronze statues are positioned in various locations throughout the restaurant….

…making the experience at Ciao Mein feel almost as if you’re in an Art Gallery, both from a 3-dimensional, as well as culinary aspect.

Here’s more….

Getting to our table, here’s how the setting is presented upon arrival…

As you walk through Ciao Mein, you’ll find a mini labyrinth of private dining rooms, followed by one main open dining room, which is where we were seated…

As you see (or may not), the room is dimly-lit, making it ideal for that romantic night out with your special someone.

So that’s the place, now let’s see what’s for dinner! Starting with our Ciao Mein Appetizer Platter, which was specially selected and prepared for us by the Chef….

Ciao Mein – Chef Ching’s Special Appetizer Platter: (clockwise from top) Focaccia, Schezuan Eggplant, Shrimp Spring Rolls and Black Bean Alaskan King Crab Legs

Our wonderful server treated us like royalty, personally plating each appetizer for us…

So here you see a little of that “collision” happening, as along with the three Chinese appetizers, you have one Italian dish with the Focaccia, which happened to be my favorite of the four. Every one was fantastic, but the Focaccia stood out for me with its flavor-packed and complimentary combination of Sauteed Plum Tomatoes, Fresh Oregano and Smoked Mozzarella. Simple yet so delicioso!

Here’s a closer look at that Focaccia with my ever-so-lovely-to-look-at “bite-through view” lol…

Ciao Mein – Focaccia: Sauteed Plum Tomatoes, Fresh Oregano and Smoked Mozzarella

Here’s another plating of the same set of four appetizers…

I was also diggin’ the Black Bean Alaskan King Crab Legs as a well, noting the abundance of garlic also in there. Who wouldn’t dig that?!

Like every finer dining meal, Ciao Mein provides a complimentary basket of dinner bread to go along with the meal…

Ciao Mein – Complimentary Dinner Bread Basket: Olive and Cheese Ciabatta Rolls and Bread Sticks

This is accompanied with a sweet pepper jelly and tradional Italian Pesto sauce…

Ciao Mein – Pesto and Sweet Garlic Chili Sauce condiments for the Dinner Bread

The rather rustic Olive (the other one is cheese) Ciabatta Roll had great flavor and texture, but I just wish it were served warm or hot. As it was, it was at room temperature. That warmth really brings out the nuances of the bread you just can’t taste and enjoy when it’s at room temp’. Ya’ know? Minor, but still.

Moving on, let’s check out the main course! First up we have the Honey Walnut Shrimp…

Ciao Mein – Honey Walnut Shrimp: Shrimp and Sugar Snap Beans with Honey-Glazed Walnuts, $28

Looks good. Next we have Chef Ching’s Beef…

Ciao Mein – Chef Ching’s Beef, $28

Yum. That looks great too. Rounding it out, we have the Steamed Tai Snapper…

Ciao Mein – Steamed Tai Snapper with Soy-Ginger Sauce, market price

This steamed snapper is presented piping hot table side, as our wonderful server meticulously removed the main bone and once again dished out each plate with nothing but the moist and tender meat and some skin for those wanted it. Here he first severs the head from the main spine (sounds lovely, doesn’t it?)…

Steamed Tai Snapper prepared for service tableside

After some “fishin’ around” under the snapper meat with his fork and spoon, the entire spine and rib bones are removed in one piece…

Of course there’s a still a few pinbones in the meat, which the diners are reminded to be careful of when eating it.

Here James gets ready to dish some for one of our guests…

For starch, we ordered a bowl of Jasmine Rice.

With that, here’s my plate with everything for the main course dished up…

Ciao Mein – Main course: Honey Walnut Shrimp, Chef Ching’s Beef and Steamed Tai Snapper with Ginger-Soy Sauce, along with Jasmine Rice

Obviously as seen so much attention I focused on it, the steamed Tai Snapper with Ginger-Soy Sauce was my favorite of the three main dishes. It really is an easy dish that anyone can make at home, but of course when it’s done for you by a celebrated chef in a fine dining restaurant such as Ciao Mein, it’s that much better. And it was ONOLICIOUS!

The Honey Walnut Shrimp was delicious, although nothing that stood out any more than I could have got from the neighborhood Chinese restaurant down the street. Chef Ching’s Beef was great. Loved that too. Very tender, with an interesting, slighty sweet, slightly spicy, yet super-savory sauce.

So I give 3 SPAM to the Honey Walnut Shrimp, 4 SPAM to Chef Ching’s Beef and 4 SPAM to the Steamed Tai Snapper with Ginger-Soy Sauce.

For the appetizers, I give 4 SPAM to the Focaccia with Tomatoes and Smoked Mozzarella, 4 SPAM to the Black Bean Alaskan King Crab Legs, and 3 SPAM each to the Schezuan Eggplant and Shrimp Egg Rolls.

Oh, we enjoyed our meal with a glass each of Cabernet Sauvignon. Worked out great with each dish. Any red is fine with me.

What? No room for dessert? Of course we have room! Especially when you’re talking about Ciao Mein’s absolutely delicious take on the classic Italian favorite, Tiramisu…

Ciao Mein – Tiramisu

We also sampled a plate of the other Italian (specifically Secilian) dessert classic, Canolli…

Ciao Mein – Canolli

It was hard to discern the lady fingers in the Tiramisu or the other individual parts of its sum, but all I can say is that was one fantastic “love fest” on a plate. Fantastic.

The canolli on the other hand needs work. Mainly the Canolli shells themselves, which you could tell were taken straight out of the freezer, having a hard, stale texture to them. The least they could do is pop them in a toaster oven to crips them up before service.

With that I give Ciao Mein’s Tiramisu a solid 4 SPAM Musubi rating, and the Canolli barely making 1.

Like most trendy Chinese-American restaurants, Ciao Mein also provides complimentary Fortune Cookies to their guests…

Dig that porcelain Chinese take-out container serving “bowl”. I’d read you my fortune, but then it won’t come true! “Ancient Chinese secret!” lol

Once again, the service on our visit on this evening was second to none. We were treated like royalty, making that alone a reason to visit Ciao Mein again and again. On top of that, aside of a few bumps in the ride, our trip to China and Italy via the work of Chef Ching makes Ciao Mein a highly recommended restaurant, and one to consider, whether for that special romantic occasion, or to entertain in or out-of-town guests.

Before I cap off this review, here’s a few more dishes that were conveniently placed on a service tray near our table, awaiting service for guests at other tables, so I got some of photos of them to share here!.

Straight from the “Collision Cuisine” Italian-meets-Chinese menu, here’s the Spicy Ginger Garlic Shrimp…

Ciao Mein – Spicy Ginger Garlic Shrimp: Shrimp, Angel Hair Pasta, Ginger and Garlic, $28

Ciao Mein – Risotto: Italian Arborio Rice with Chef’s Daily Selection of Ingredients, $9

Ciao Mein – Raviolo Aperto: Sea Scallops sauteed with Pancetta, Cream and Air-Dried Tomatoes, $24

Ciao Mein – Saltimbocca Di Vitello: Veal Scallopini topped with Sage, Sliced Prosciutto and Fontina Cheese, $29

OMG! I’m so try that Saltimbocca on a return visit. Yum-oh!

Another classic favorite…

Ciao Mein – Fetuccini Alfredo: White Cream Sauce with Julienne of Prosciutto, $20

A back-to-basics Chinese dish…

Ciao Mein – Garlic Choy Sum: Stir-fried Choy Sum, Garlic and Sherry, $15

Here’s the man behind all these creative dishes, Chef James Ching…

Ciao Mein Chef James Ching

Ciao Mein
Creative Italian and Chinese Cuisine
Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort & Spa
Third Floor, Ewa Tower
Tel. 923-CIAO (2426)

The Tasty Island Rating:

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

P.S. Opting to walk home instead of riding in the car, I stopped by and checked out this amazing street performer on Kalakaua avenue in Waikiki. Her name is Kiana and let me tell you, this girl is going places. She’s destined for stardom. She has to be. Talk about a VOICE!…

Singer, Guitarist and Song Writer Kiana

Singer, Guitarist and Song Writer Kiana

Her beautiful and exotic looks are thanks to her mother being Japanese and father being Irish and German. She speaks fluent Nihongo (Japanese language), which you could tell had some Nihongin tourists a little taken by surprise.

I’d say her voice and style is an eclectic mixture between Sarah McLachlan, Ann Wilson of Heart and Bjork. Plus she’s a fantastic guitarist as well, being a one-woman band.

Check out Kiana at her MySpace page here: www.MySpace.com/KianaMusic

Seriously, if you’re a big time music producer looking for that next big talent, RUN, don’t walk to Waikiki and look for Kiana. She’ll absolutely have your jaw on the ground. Mines was. Almost tear moving.

Kiana sings with the voice of an Angel

Kapolei Eats: Chun Wah Kam Noodle Factory

Chun Wah Kam Kapolei: Charsiu Manapua, BBQ Chicken Manapua, Chow Fun & Pork Hash

Diner A recently treated our office to lunch, bringing us this scrumptious spread of Dim Sum delights from Chun Wah Kam Noodle Factory’s new restaurant location in the also new Crossroads to Kapolei Shopping Center.

Nothing beats a piping-hot ‘n fresh box of steamed Manapua….

Under the lid we have 3 steamed charsiu and 3 BBQ Chicken Manapua…

Chun Wah Kam @ Kapolei – Steamed Char Siu Manapua ($1.50 each) and BBQ Chicken Manapua ($1.75 each; indicated with the black dots)

Here we have a tray of their Pork Hash…

Chun Wah Kam @ Kapolei – Pork Hash, 75 cents each

Notice how yellow the wonton wrappers are. Chun Wah Kam sells fresh wonton wrappers locally at most supermarkets. Their main competitor is Sun Noodle, along with other frozen brands such as Shirokiku.

Finally we have a tray of Chow Funn noodles….

Chun Wah Kam @ Kapolei – Chow Funn noodles, $4

Let’s plate ’em up and sample some cuz!…

Notice I also have a serving of Kaiulani’s absolutely ono Exotic Curry Fried Rice with Cranberries on the plate, which I brought to share with everyone in the office as well.

I’m very impressed with Chun Wah Kam’s Manapua, arguably making them now my favorite Manapua shop. I used to rank Libby’s #1 and Char Hung Sut a close second, but it seems lately Libby’s really been skimping on their Charsiu. As you see, Chun Wah Kam’s charsiu filing is adequately generous, very moist and spot-on true to how local style charsiu manapua filling should taste. Just a really good Manapua. That BBQ Chicken version was pretty darned good too. Different, that’s for sure. Not one I’d get on a regular basis, but ono never-the-less!

Their pork hash is “a-aight”. Just O.K.. I’d say Libby’s Pork Hash is better. Although I really wanna’ try Chun Wah Kam’s deep-fried Pork Hash, which Diner A previously raved about.

The Chow Funn is also a-aight. Filling for sure and packed with what tasted like Hoisin flavor. Personally I prefer the simpler and more subtle Okazuya style Chow Funn, but this works.

Overall a very simple-yet-satisfying Dim Sum lunch, and big mahalos to Diner A for the lunchtime grindz aloha! You da’ man!

Chun Wah Kam now has three locations, with the food you see here from their new restaurant in the also-new Crossroads at Kapolei Shopping Center, being an anchor tenant alongside neighboring Simply Organized,

Chun Wah Kam Noodle Factory
in the Crossroads at Kapolei
885 Kamokila Blvd.
Kapolei, HI 96707
(808) 693-8838
Take-out Menu (<—download PDF at that link; current as of 1/09).

The Tasty Island Rating:

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

Related links:
Sneak Peek: New Chun Wah Kam in Kapolei
Chun Wah Kam Noodle Factory – Yelp User Reviews

Kaiulani's Exotic Curry Fried Rice with Cranberries

Kaiulani Spices: Kaiulani Cowell prepares her signature Exotic Curry Fried Rice with Cranberries

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may remember hearing about Kaiulani Spices from the KCC Farmers’ Market walkthrough featured here this past March.

The photo set above gives you a preview of how this spice is used to make one of the most delicious Curry Rice dish’ I’ve ever had, as done by Kaiulani herself with the help of her assistant.

In this installment, here we shall give it a real spin at home as I finally got around to putting the bottle I bought back then to use in the kitchen.

While I can’t technically confirm it, off the cuff I’d say what sets Kaiulani’s Curry blend apart from other curry seasonings on the market are 1: its simplicity; and 2: again its simplicity in combination with just the right ratio of Hawaiian Salt and brown sugar. Those two basic ingredients are key in giving this curry just the right amount of robustness and depth without going over or underboard.

Here’s the backside label with all the important details…

Being this is “exotic” fried rice, the recipe calls for day-old Jasmine Rice, which is exactly what I did, letting it sit at room temperature in the pot overnight to let it dry out a bit. In case you’re not familiar with Jasmine Rice, it’s considerably more expensive than your usual Hinode medium grain white rice. But what it offers is a distinct nutty flavor. This the brand most commonly found in grocery stores and the one I used…

Its cooking method is similar to medium-grain white rice. I always add a little bit of vinegar to prevent it from prematurely spoiling.

Along with the core ingredients – the curry spice blend and the rice – you need a few other complimentary ingredients, including finely-chopped Cilantro (Chinese Parsley), Scallions (green onions), minced garlic and dried cranberries (a.k.a. “craisins”)…

As you see, we have these key ingredients set up “Mise en place”, which is the established French method of having everything ready to cook in place. And this is very important with a dish like this, as you want flexibility of quantities based on personal taste.

To start this off, of course you gotta’ have your 4 cups of day-old cooked Jasmine Rice. Got that? Good. Then you have your Mise en place of ingredients as shown above. With that, you pour about 1/3 cup of Olive Oil, which in this case I used Extra Virgin (a.k.a. E.V.O.O.) into a sautee pan. Swapping out a smaller saute pan I have on hand, I chose instead to use here this more substantial-sized and accommodating non-stick electric-powered Wok, which works (“woks”) great…

As per the recipe, the first ingredient that hits the oil is the curry blend…

It’s important to keep the temperature on the low side, otherwise the sugar in the blend will burn. You keep stiring this until the Hawaiian Salt melts, after of which you add minced garlic, cilantro and cranberries…

Kaiulani’s execution of it looked like this…

Ah, close enough, yet I gotta’ admit, hers looks more incorporated.

This is the point where you need “Smell-O-Vision” to appreciate the absolutely delicious fragrance given off as the curry, garlic, cilantro and cranberries heat up and infuse in the olive oil. This is gonna’ be good eats alright.

After I was confident all the flavors were infused in the olive oil and the garlic was tender and cooked down, I added the cooked, day-old Jasmine Rice…

Then gently tossed and stirred to combine, until every rice grain was evenly coated a golden curry yellow tinge…

As you see here in Kaiulani’s execution, a generous helping of scallions are added as it’s stirred to combine…

and I must say after making this myself for the first time, the green onions (scallion) are a very important final flavor factor in this dish, and would be shortchanged without it, so keep that in mind. Actually, this is such a simple dish to begin with, really, why would you leave anything out?

Here you see with Kaiulani’s preparation of the dish, it’s pretty much done…

Same here with mine in a second batch, this time in a saute pan..

After all the rice is thoroughly coated, check for seasoning and add salt if necessary or to taste.

This is Kaiulani’s sample…

and here’s my “sample”, actually in the form of a complete dish, including an entree of sauteed Mahimahi…

The way I saute the Mahimahi is very simple and comes out perfect every time no matter which fish you use: lightly rub some EVOO on fish then add a light sprinkle of garlic salt and fresh-cracked black pepper evenly on both sides, then saute in a half-blend of EVOO and butter until a golden brown crust is formed on the outside, while remaining medium-rare inside, cooking it no further than that. Remove from pan. By the time the fish sits for a few minutes on the side after it’s cooked, it goes into the medium range, which comes out absolutely moist and tender without being dried-out. I start with the pan on medium high to brown the outside, then turn it down a little, depending on the thickness of the cut.Comes out perfect every time.

That moist, almost buttery, golden-brown sauteed Mahimahi, combined with the complex blend of nutty, savory, acidic and sweet flavors going on with the exotic curry rice with cranberries results in a dish worthy of being served in any resort restaurant.

What I’d like to try next time is incorporating coconut milk into this dish. I love coconut-flavored curry as well.

I highly recommend you try Kaiulani’s Exotic Curry Fried Rice recipe using her proprietary blend of spices. If you’re a curry rice fan, you’ll love this one, I can almost guarantee it.

What? Kaiulani’s Medium Exotic Curry Rub & Seasoning
Where did you buy it and how much? KCC Farmers’ Market, $4.99/3 oz. bottle (also available at these fine retailers)
Big shaka to: An absolutely delicious and easy to prepare curry rice recipe/dish using this product. Perfect balance of salt, sugar and curry spice blends. no MSG. Incredibly delicious-smelling aroma as it cooks. made in Hawaii
No shaka to: n/a
The Tasty Island SPAM Musubi rating: 3 in and of itself (4 or perhaps 5 with the olive oil and butter-sauteed Mahimahi)

P.S. Here’s a plate of grindz from Chun Wah Kam Kapolei served with Kaiulani’s Exotic Curry Fried Rice. In this case including your standard Cinese style shoyu chow funn noodles, pork hash, along with traditional steamed Charsiu Manapua and Honey Garlic Chicken Manapua…

Now that is what you call a SPREAD my friends. Oo-uh-right! CWK’s Honey Garlic Chicken Manapua is a winnah too, gotta’ say. It tastes like there’s Azuki beans in it, though it says there’s mushroom…

This is a luscious mix of garlic, honey, mushroom and chicken

Char Hung Sut not withstanding, Libby’s still got the best buns, while CWK has the edge on a more robust, moister, fuller filling™ (notice the Trademark) as it stands in the current and highly-competitive Oahu Manapua market.