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. 🙂

My First Pressure Cooker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A closer look…

Serve it  up…

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doesn’t that look lovely? lol

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

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

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

The flesh and seeds inside…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serve ’em up…

Hai, itadakimasu!…

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

Like pig’s feet “buttah”…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Island Eats: Roy's Smoked Marlin & Smoked Ahi

Upon my usual Saturday morning stroll through KCC Farmers’ Market this past weekend, I came across an absolute TREASURE CHEST of dried and smoked fish at the Tropic Fish & Vegetable tent.

You may remember Tropic’s Market, who was a prominent anchor tenant at the Ward Farmers Market for decades. While they no longer have a retail store, they’re alive and well, located in the same Ward warehouse area behind the Farmers Market, where they continue to operate a fish and produce wholesale distribution business to local and overseas markets.

Getting to the ono ‘kine smoked fish grindz we’re reviewing today, come to find out, according to the girl working at their booth, Tropic’s is a partnership business with Hilo Fish Company on the Big Island. It’s through them that Tropic’s brings in these Smoked Ahi and Smoked Marlin products, which are manufactured by Roy’s Fishery (no affiliation with Roy Yamaguchi the restaurateur), also located on the Big Island at the south tip in Na’alehu, near Ka’u.

So let’s check out what we’ve got here, beginning with Roy’s Smoked Marlin…

As you see on the label, that’s a 5 oz. package, which costs $2.79 (great price!), vacuum-sealed for maximum freshness and shelf life. The ingredients are: Marlin, Soy Sauce, Brown Sugar, Salt, Garlic Powder, Canola Bean Oil and Red Crushed Pepper.

Hmm, interesting that they use Brown Sugar. I’ll have to try that next time I make my Big Island style Smoke Meat (pork). Usually I use unrefined cane sugar, which has a natural brown color, but doesn’t taste quite as molasses-like as brown sugar. I also notice the absence of Ginger, which I use generously in my Smoke Meat recipe, and after tasting this Smoked Marlin, I really think it would benefit with the addition of Ginger in Roy’s marinade.

Let’s unpack it and take an inventory of all pieces included in this 5 oz. package…

That would be 9 sticks of Roy’s Smoked Marlin, with each one measuring on average 5½” long x 5/8″ thickness. They were also mostly center cuts, with only a couple that were from the more stringy tail end.

As in usual Tasty Island fashion, let’s have a look at a cross-section cut…

How does it taste? Oishii, broke da’ mout’ winnnahz! I found it tasted even better after letting it get to room temperature vs. being refrigerator-cold. Like eating fine cheese, letting it get to room temperature allows the fats to “melt” out of their congealed state, providing maximum flavor impact. And man, are these packed with flavor. It has the perfect balance of marinade penetration, without the marinade taking away from the natural “meaty” flavor of the inherently-lean marlin.

That leanness makes most smoked marlin waiver on the dry side, and this one is like that as well, yet I think Roy’s reaches just the right dry-to-moist ratio. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being raw to 10 being “jerky” dry, I’d put Roy’s Smoked Marlin at about 6½. Which is perfect, as if I want Fish Jerky, I’ll buy fish jerky. When I buy Smoked Fish, I want it to still have some moisture and tenderness and not be so tough, and Roy’s NAILS it. This is EXACTLY how Smoked Fish should be on the dry-to-moist scale.

Back to the flavor profile, it’s kinda’ shoyu-ee-sweet, but not where it tastes like I’m eating Teriyaki, yet just enough where the Shoyu and sugar brings out the “Umami” factor in the smokey, meaty Marlin. It says there’s Chili Pepper Flakes in it, but I detected practically no heat whatsoever, where this would probably wouldn’t even register a single unit on the Scoville Scale.

The smokiness of it is at just the right balance as well, where you know this marlin has been smoked, yet not to the point like you’re biting into a piece of burnt Kiawe wood, if you know what I mean.

Summing it up, I give Roy’s Smoked Marlin a very solid, supah’ ono 4 SPAM Musubi. WINNER! Add some ginger and crank up the heat from the Chili Pepper Flakes in the marinade a couple notches and this would definitely earn the top 5 SPAM Musubi prize!

Next up we have Roy’s Smoked Ahi…

Roy’s Smoked Ahi costs about a dollar more than the Smoked Marlin at $3.79 for this 5 oz. vacuum-sealed package. The ingredients are: Tuna, Soy Sauce, Brown Sugar, Salt, Garlic Powder, Canola Bean Oil, Artificial Food Coloring and Red Crushed Pepper.

Let’s unpack it and take inventory…

These were cut a bit smaller than the Marlin, with each strip of Smoked Ahi measuring on average about 4″ in length x 1/2″ thick. They were also mostly cut towards the tail, with only two pieces that were more forward on the fish in the center area. Also notice the second one from the right is cut from the dark meat near the bone of the fish.

Let’s check the cross-section cut…

How is it? Roy’s Smoked Ahi’ marinade flavor profile was totally identical to how I described the Smoked Marlin above. Where it differed in was of course the fact that it’s Ahi, which is inherently a fattier fish, hence the Smoked Ahi was considerably more moist and less dry than the Smoked Marlin. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being raw to 10 being “jerky” dry, I’d put Roy’s Smoked Ahi at 4½. Like the Smoked Marlin, I also think this would have benefited by having more heat factor from the Chili Peppers, as well as some added pizazz from the ginger.

Its considerably more moist texture was certainly its best attribute, as was the freshness and clean taste of the Ahi itself, where it didn’t taste “fishy” at all; surprisingly even that dark meat piece didn’t taste fishy like it does in raw form, but fairly neutral. And even though the cuts were predominantly from stringy areas of the fish, it didn’t have any stringy attribute at all when chewing it.

Summing it up, I give Roy’s Smoked Ahi, again, 4 SPAM Musubi, again also noting more kick from the Chili Pepper along with some ginger in the marinade would elevate this easily to 5 SPAM Musubi.

Oh, did I say these go GREAT with an ice cold beer? Well they do! A St. Pauli Girl to be exact, wheah’, ho brah, whack one piece smoke fish, den’ chase em wit’ one sip of da beeah, buggah stay so ono! The smokey, mildy salty “meaty” flavor of the fish when combined with the hops in the ice cold beer are like peas in a pod. I GUARANTEE you one thing: you put a plate of this Smoked Marlin and Smoked Ahi on the table at a party and GAURANZ’ that’s going to disappear first, before everything and all else on the pupu spread.  GUARANZ. Well, at least it would get wiped out if I were there! lol

With Christmas 2010 quickly creeping up on us, surely most of you have already made your gift wish list for Santa. Well here’s mine: “Dear Santa, please get me a whole box just like this from Tropic’s”…

That’s like several POUNDS of Smoked Marlin, Smoked Ahi and Dried Aku. Truly a treasure chest of da’ most ono kine grindz! “Ho Om Nom Nom Ho, Merry Christmas! Om-nom-nom-nom-nom-Ho”. lol

Before we leave Tropic’s KCCFM tent for some Tasty Island bonus content, here’s a few cases of Kahuku Papaya they had for sale…

Moving along to some bonus content for this post, it isn’t uncommon to run into local celebrity chefs and movers ‘n shakers of Hawaii’s culinary scene at the KCC Farmers’ Market, and this weekend was no exception, where Honolulu celebrity chef Alan Wong set up a booth to promote his new cookbook ‘The Blue Tomato‘…

Here’s a video by Watermark Publishing on Chef Wong’s new cookbook…

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mL7POFR3bS0

Ironically, he was also selling his signature Li Hing Mui Dressing, which I featured here in the form of Alan Wong’s Hamakua Tomato Salad a while ago in my write-up of my Godmother, Aunty Nalani’s 75th Birthday at Washington Place

According to Chef Wong, his Ling Hing Mui dressing is only available exclusively at his restaurant, and currently not available for retail sale in stores. Foodland? Tamura’s? Don Quijote? Times? Safeway? Costco? Hello?!!!

They were giving out samples of the dressing drizzled on Yellow Grape Tomato halves…

This is how Chef Wong serves his Li Hing Mui dressing in the restaurant…


Alan Wong’s Hamakua Tomato Salad with Li Hing Mui Dressing

I LOVED this dressing so much when I tried it the first time at my Aunt’s birthday party several years ago, that I went as far as recreating it myself at home, which is really easy to do. Check it out…

Learn how to make Alan Wong’s Li Hing Dressing at the post, “Li Hing Everything“. Or better yet, buy a bottle of the real deal at his restaurant!

Man, just saying “Li Hing Mui”, let alone looking at the red color of that dressing always makes me slobber and drool. lol

Finally, in honor of loyal Tasty Island reader Debbie-chan, we stop by Ono Pops KCCFM booth once again to try yet another flavor…

“Spock” my Foodland SPAM Musubi Reusable Shopping Bag sitting on the table, which is full of fresh produce and French Baguettes for my Banh Mi Sandwiches.

Here’s brother/co-owner of Ono Pops, Josh…

Josh is a Punahou grad and super nice guy. There were a couple flavors that weren’t listed on the menu board, including an Okinawan Sweet Potato Pie Ono Pop and Lemon Peel Ono Pop. Also not listed was the one I decided to try, which Josh calls “Ginger Tanical”…

Let’s unwrap it and have a better look…

Like many of the other Ono Pops flavors, Josh came up with the recipe for his “Ginger Tanical” Ono Pop himself, and boy is this thing a “doozie”, with ALL KINDS of stuff going on in it. According to him, the “Ginger Tanical” Ono Pop includes the following ingredients, which he also points out are mostly locally-produced and/or organic: fresh ginger, lime juice, orange juice, Big Island honey, Holly Thai basil, lemon grass, Lemon Verbana, Sea Asparagus and Chamomile.

Whoah! I’m not sure whether to eat this or rub it on my head get to rid of my bald spot and grow my hair back. LOL!

Seriously though, Josh said he won some kind of award last weekend with his new “Ginger Tanical” Ono Pop at an Herbal Convention? here on the island. Sorry, I forgot to write that down in my notes. I’ll ask him next week if I see him.

While it may not cure male pattern baldness or get rid of wrinkles on your skin, the “Ginger Tanical” Ono Pop certainly TASTES medicinal, yet incredibly, in an appealing and not off-putting way. That really is the best way I can describe it. It also seemed to have sort of a mood-enhancing and energizing effect, kinda’ like Prozac-meets-Red Bull, all conveniently frozen and ready to eat in one handy-dandy, very delicious and refreshing stick!

Ginger is certainly the most definitive flavor element happening here, which has a medicinal quality about it all in itself, along with a complex herbal thing in a “green way” going on in the background, thanks to all those unusual ingredients. Some of which I had to “Google” for just to spell correctly, let alone ever consuming them in my life before trying this. The addition of Kahuku Sea Asparagus is arguably the meanest “left curve” thrown into this pitch of a popsicle.

Overall, I really, really DIG this flavor, giving Josh’s new ‘Ginger Tanical” Ono Pop creation an invigorating, well-executed. wonderfully exotic and unique 4-SPAM Musubi. You gotta’ try it. Highly recommended! It’s CRAZY TASTY, both literally and figuratively!

P.S. If anyone out there has a good recipe, as well as making process for ono ‘kine Smoked Marlin (or any other fish), please share! I’m specifically looking for instructions on how to properly cure and/or brine and/or dry the fish, as well as what is the proper temperature to smoke it and how long? Mahalo in advance.

New University of Hawaii 'Throwback Jack' Rainbow Warrior Antenna Ball

Jack in the Box Hawaii debuted the University of Hawaii ‘Throwback Jack’ Rainbow Warrior Football Helmet Antenna Ball recently on Thursday, September 2nd, on the day of the University of Hawaii Warrior football season-opening game against the USC Trojans at Aloha Stadium.

Speaking of which, many speculators anticipated our Warriors would take a severe beating against 14th ranked USC. Yet we ended up doing better than expected, with a final score of the Trojans topping the Warriors 49-36, making that a 13 point spread, undermining the 21 points that were in favor of USC.

This would hopefully be a sign of good things to come this season for our Warriors football team, and it has. For today Hawaii got the first “W”, beating Army on the road 31 to 28, with key plays and a turnover happening in the final 3 minutes of the game. The Warriors will remain on the road, taking on on Colorado next Saturday.

Anyhow, this year Jack in the Box decided to go retro with this cool new ‘Throwback Jack’ UH Football Helmet Antenna Ball. Donna Yano, Vice President for Jack in the Box Hawaii says, “Although the university retired the old logo in 1982 after nine seasons, it still resonates among longtime UH supporters.” Indeed many UH fans, especially the “old timers”, still shout out “Go ‘Bows!”, as they prefer to honor the team’s former name ‘Rainbow Warriors’, hence the now classic logo design you see here.

Notice on the poster at Jack in the Box, the face cage is black, yet thankfully they’ve since updated the production run and gave the ‘Throwback Jack’ a GREEN face cage, which is exactly how the actual 1976-’81 season UH football helmet was issued.

On the down side, also notice the paper-based sticker doesn’t conform well to the curvature of the tiny helmet, crinkling-up on the edges. This also means the sticker won’t last long stuck on there should you decide to actually use it as an Antenna Ball on the outside of your vehicle. A couple windy trips up and down the Likelike or Pali highway and it’ll probably be “Aloha Oe” for Mr. Rainbow Warrior sticker. It’d be nice (and much more durable) if they made the sticker out of vinyl, or better yet, screen print it directly on the soft foam helmet material.

One cool new addition this year is the ‘Eye Black’ anti-glare markings under the eyes…

Here’s a look at last year’s ‘Warrior Jack’ Antenna Ball, where you see it didn’t have ‘Eye Black’ anti-glare markings…

The new ‘Throwback Jack’ UH Football Helmet Antenna Balls are available at Jack in the Box’ Hawaii locations for a limited time while supplies last, FREE with purchase of any LARGE Combo Meal. Some locations are also selling them separately for $1.49 each. We visited the Dillingham location, where the cashier told us they were they were only giving them away with large combo meals, and weren’t being sold separately without a meal. So we ended up eating there just to get our first ‘Throwback Jack’…

This here is their new REALLY BIG CHICKEN SANDWICH Combo for $3.99, which when “jacked-up” to be a LARGE combo for an addtional 90 cents, comes out to $5.11 cents, including tax. Which I suppose is a really good deal considering you’re getting the ‘Throwback Jack’ — a $1.49 value — thrown in the deal. Doing the math, that makes the price of that HUGE chicken, bacon and cheese sandwich, gigantic pile of Seasoned Curly Fries and the equivalent of almost 4 cans of soda in one cup just $3.59.

Or is that REALLY a deal? Well, depends what you’re counting: volume of food to fill up your stomach, or volume of fat and sodium to coagulate and boil your blood stream. Looking at Jack in the Box.com’s nutritional statistics, (literally) get a load of this:

Jack in the Box Nutrition Information:

Really Big Chicken Sandwich
Two crispy chicken patties topped with cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo onion sauce on a toasted bun
Serving size: 1, Calories: 748, Calories from Fat: 395, Total Fat (g): 44, Saturated Fat (g): 9, Trans Fat (g): 0, Cholesterol (mg): 85, Sodium (mg): 1834 Potassium (mg): 471, Carbohydrates (g): 56, Dietary Fiber (g): 2, Sugars (g): 4, Protien (g): 30

Seasoned Curly Fries – Large
Serving size: 5.99 oz., Calories: 584, Calories from Fat: 303, Total Fat (g): 34, Saturated Fat (g): 3, Trans Fat (g): 0, Cholesterol (mg): 2, Sodium (mg): 1279, Potassium (mg): 728, Carbohydrates (g): 63, Dietary Fiber (g): 5, Sugars (g): 0, Protien (g): 7

Fanta Soft Drink – Large
Serving size: 44 fl. oz., Calories:321, Calories from Fat: 0, Total Fat (g): 0, Saturated Fat (g): 0, Trans Fat (g): 0, Cholesterol (mg): 0, Sodium (mg): 26, Potassium (mg): 0, Carbohydrates (g): 87, Dietary Fiber (g): 0, Sugars (g): 87, Protien (g): 0

Good Lord! It’s no wonder Jack looks like this…

Thankfully the Jack in the Box Kapiolani Boulevard location (on the corner of Kapiolani and Ward; across the Blaisdell) were selling ‘Throwback Jack’ Antenna Balls separately, and I didn’t need to subject my body to anymore “large combo torture” just for the sake of getting a few more antenna balls.

Specifically I wanted a few more to add as a bonus prize to my fun new Foodland Musubi Bags & BONUS UH Football Antenna Ball set giveaway contest. Learn more about that and enter to win yourself by checking out my previous post on Musubi-ya Iyasume here!

What? New Limited Edition University of Hawaii Football ‘Throwback Jack’ (circa 1981) Antenna Ball
Where did you buy it and how much did it cost? Jack in the Box’ Dillingham Blvd. location, FREE with purchase of Large Combo meal. Also purchased separately for $1.49 each from Jack in the Box Kapiolani Blvd. location.
Big Shaka to: “Retro cool”. 1976-’81 season Rainbow Warrior Football Helmet logo is accurate. Green colored face cage is accurate. New ‘Eye Black’ anti-glare markings. Includes suction cup base, spring head mount and thorough instructions on how to assemble it. lol Available for purchase separately (at certain locations only?), saving my body from unnecessarily high amounts of sodium and fat intake. Fans who still prefer to cheer “Go ‘Bows!”
No shaka to: Paper logo sticker doesn’t conform well to curvature of helmet. Dillingham location not selling ‘Throwback Jack” antenna balls separately (you must abuse your body with a large combo meal).

Liliha Bakery's Coco Puff Cake

Several weeks ago we threw a surprise baby shower at our office for one of the gals who is expecting very soon. For that we catered the lunch from Soon’s Korean BBQ in Salt Lake, while for dessert, our party coordinator hooked us all up with this here Coco Puff Cake from Liliha Bakery. Yes, a Coco Puff CAKE, which I was absolutely not aware they had such a thing until now. Learn something new every day.

Therefore I’m putting this Coco Puff Cake up in the spotlight today to get the word out, just in case you weren’t aware of it either and perhaps might be interested in ordering one for an upcoming celebration.

It’s basically their famous Coco Puff pastry arranged individually next to each other in rows, then topped with a thick layer of  their decadently-delicious Chantilly frosting, which blankets over the entire top of the pieced-together puff “cake”.  An even thicker decorative bead of Chantilly gives the edge that finishing touch. While you can order a custom message on it done in your frosting color(s) of choice.

Not surprisingly, the butter-based Chantilly frosting begins to “loosen” if kept out at room temperature for an extended period of time, as you can sort of see it beginning to collapse at the edges of this “cake”.

Serve ’em up…

When I say thick layer of frosting, I mean “tick”! Like “do a couple laps around the block after eating this” thick.

Chocolate pudding fills the inside of each Coco Puff…

The current prices (as of 8/17/10) for Liliha Bakery’s Coco Puff Cake is as followed:

1/4-pan (20 pieces):
Coco Puff or Cream Puff Cake – $25.35
Green Tea Puff Cake – $25.75

1/2-pan (48 pieces):
Coco Puff or Cream Puff Cake – $60.30
Green Tea Puff Cake – $61.40

Full-pan (77 pieces):
Coco Puff or Cream Puff Cake – $97
Green Tea Puff Cake – $99

Custom frosting messages for all sizes is an additional $2.

Prices for individual puff pastries are as followed:

Cream Puff – $1.05 each
Coco Puff – $1.20 each
Green Tea Puff – $1.25 each

So next time you have a party planned and need a cake, yet want to try something a little different and TOTALLY onolicious, consider a Coco Puff Cake from Liliha Bakery! 4 SPAM Musubi!

What? Coco Puff Cake
Where did you buy it and how much did it cost? Liliha Bakery; $25.35 per 20-piece quarter-pan.
Big shaka to: A generous helping of their insanely onolicious Chantilly Frosting is slathered over the top. Cool, creamy and tasty chocolate pudding filling in each puff. Choux Creme pastry has great texture and baked flavor. A very unique “cake” that should “wow” your guests and guest of honor, especially once they bite into that “crazy tasty” Coco Puff.
No shaka to: Needs a little help in presentation (looks kinda’ amateurish, sloppy and bland).
The Tasty Island rating: 4 SPAM Musubi

Related links on The Tasty Island:
Liliha Bakery’s Famous Coco Puffs
Food, Fun & Games at Twins 3rd Birthday
Ultimate Choux Creme
4th of July in Hawaii Kai
Beard Papa’s Cream Puffs
• Beard Papa Goes Savory

Foodland's New 'Musubi' Hot Cold Bag

Hot off the heels of Foodland’s new ‘Musubi’ Eco Reusable Bag, we have here its sibling, the ‘Hot Cold Bag’, adorned in the same whimsical ‘Musubi’ illustrated design. Now we can both literally and figuratively say this bag is “Very COOL!” Or, umm, “That bag is HOT!” I wouldn’t have even noticed there were two different types of Foodland ‘Musubi’ themed bags on display in the store, had it not been for the fantastic readers here, so big mahalo to all you folks who mentioned it.

Both the limited edition Eco Reusable Bag and this here also limited edition Hot Cold Bag have identical “Pidgin to da’ Max” style musubi illustrations on all four sides, while dimensionally, they’re also both identical.

Yet for just $1 more (Maikai price), the hot cold bag is much more functional, as this comes complete with an insulated interior and a (matching color) dual-zippered lid to help keep your grindz and/or beverages at their ideal temperature, while also helping to keep them nasty pests out.

As for the insulated liner, it’s a very thin mylar-like material (like them foil baloons) that feels like it tears easily, and it’s not in one piece, but stitched in from several sections to fit the interior, so don’t count on this bag being water-proof in case you decide to put ice cubes in it. If adding ice, keep them in Ziploc® bags, or better yet, use them “Blue Ice” bricks. Underneath that mylar-like liner material it feels like an also very thin layer of insulating foam, which should be more than adequate to maintain the interior temperature for the time it take you to transport da’ grindz back home from the store, farmers’ market, or to the potluck.

From manufacturer Planet Earth Bags, here’s the official specifications:

Description
Our thermal hot cold bags are a necessity for any heat sensitive product. Hot foods, cold or hot drinks, stay warm in this reusable grocery bag that can carry it all. The bag’s thermal properties allow fresh and freezer products to make it home without losing temperature. Customize our reusable hot cold grocery bag and make it a part of your next grocery store visit.

Size
•12″w x 8.5″g x 13.5″h
•Reinforced 20″ handles

Materials & Construction
•Premium non-woven polypropylene multi-layered thermal insulated polyester fiber and coated lining
•100% recyclable, wash in cold water and line dry
•Zippered Opening
•Hemmed Opening

Color
•Available in 4 vibrant colors

Imprint
•Up to 4 spot color and 4 color process screen printing

According to Juliet Garcia, Community Relations Spokesperson for Foodland, their first food-themed reusable bag was their “Local ‘Kine Favorites” which came out in 2008. Then after that they released the slang bag, with pidgin phrases like “bumbye, hele on, kuleana, whatevahs, bambucha”, etc. To continue promoting reusable bags (and recycling), Foodland’s in-house creative department (like what I do for a living) will create 2 new bag designs every year.

The cashiers at both the Beretania street and Aina Haina location told me these bags are FLYING off the shelves. So much that they’re constantly having to restock the display racks. They said lots of folks are coming to get them as gifts; probably for folks like many readers here who are off-island.

I’ll be pairing this Hot Cold Bag with the Reusable Shopping Bag as the giveaway prize when I decide what to do. There’s already some great contest ideas submitted by you folks, so big mahalo for that!

On that note, once again, these Foodland ‘Musubi’ Eco Reusable Shopping Bags and Hot Cold Bags are available for a limited time only, while supplies last, so get ’em while they’re cold… err… HOT!

What? ‘Musubi’ Hot Cold Bag
Where did you buy it and how much did it cost? Foodland, $2.99 each Maikai member price
Big Shaka to: Very catchy, clean and whimsical illustrated design and color choices. Some clever, never heard of musubi ideas. Bag is well constructed with a non-porous, easy-to-clean exterior and insulated interior to keep food and beverages at their optimum temperature during transport. Matching color dual-zipper flip lid helps keep the pests (and hungry “musubi snatchers”) out, while also making access to contents easy. Get 5 cents off your Grocery bill when you use  your reusable bag.  Foodland also has a ‘It’s good to be green!’ stamp card, where every time you use your reusable bag, Foodland will stamp the card. Turn in a completed stamped card (10 stamps) and you will receive a FREE bag of Back To Nature nuts (Select Varieties, 7.5-11.5 oz.) on your next visit.
No shaka to: n/a
The Tasty Island rating: 5 SPAM Musubi Hot Cold Bags!

Related links:
Foodland’s New ‘Musubi’ Reusable Eco Shopping Bag – The Tasty Island

P.S. Just thought I’d let you all know that The Tasty Island is the featured blog today on CNN’s Eatocracy website!…

Sarah LeTrent — Eatocracy’s Associate Editor — contacted me several weeks ago, eager to add The Tasty Island to their blogroll to represent Hawaii, and voila, here it is up on their home page!

The picture montage I submitted to them features the following (from left to right, top row, then bottom row): Your Truly, a trio of SPAM Musubi, Tulip Musubi and Treet Musubi, Portuguese Bean Soup (made by yours truly), Manapua, Pork Hash and Chow Funn from Chun Wah Kam, Saimin (made by yours truly), Ahi Poke from Ono Seafood, a Hawaiian Plate from Poi Bowl in Kaneohe and Shave Ice being served at the Okinawan Festival.

I also provided a brief summary of this blog on that page. I see now there’s also a few “interesting” comments, which is to be expected, especially on a national news site. Braddah Alan, Sam and Roy need to get in a few words there!

What next? Oprah? Food Network? Travel Channel? Hey, one can dream!

Foodland's New 'Musubi' Reusable Eco Grocery Bag

I was in the Aina Haina Foodland Farms this past weekend doin’ some shopping, where there at the checkouts on impulse racks were these new Foodland Musubi Eco Reusable Grocery Bags. How cool is that?!!!  Way cool. Certainly one of, if not the most creative and unique eco bags custom-labeled by a retailer that I’ve seen yet.

As you see, the artist has given this whimsical, colorful and catchy illustrated bag design a blueprint theme, complete with measurement specifications and instructions on how to make the “perfect” Luncheon Meat (better known as SPAM) Musubi.

Both of the main sides of the bag have the same “FIG. 3-7 The Musubi*” design….

While on each of the two narrower folded sides of the bag, there’s other suggested local style musubi ideas. Here’s one side…

and here’s the other…

My favorite is that “low carb musubi” (no rice! lol) and the “broke da’ mouth” 6-tiered musubi. Wow! 6-slices of SPAM in one? Never seen that done before! I’ve never ever seen a double or triple-decker SPAM Musubi, let alone a “6-pack”!  I’m definitely going to make some of these, including that “manini” (super-small) musubi and blog it here later!

According to manufacturer Planet Earth Bag, here’s the official description and specifications of this Reusable Eco Grocery Bag:

Description
Our reusable grocery bag can be custom imprinted for almost any industry event because of it’s durability and long lasting properties. Don’t use it just for groceries, this eco friendly bag can be used for carrying nearly any product and its strength tested to what 3 plastic shopping bags can carry.

Size
•12″w x 8.5″g x 13.5″h
•Reinforced 20″ handles

Materials & Construction
•Premium non-woven polypropylene
•100% recyclable, recycle code # 5
•100% reusable, wash in cold water
and line dry
•Hemmed Opening
•Bottom stiffener insert

The price of this cool Musubi Eco GroceryBag at Foodland stores is $1.99 each Maikai member price ($2.49 non-member price).

Not surprisingly, there’s already people hawking them on eBay, where I can certainly see Hawaii expats and niche collectors who might be interested in this.

On that note, I personally have no use for this (new, unused) Foodland Musubi Eco Grocery Bag, as I already have a whole stack of reusable eco bags in my closet. So I was thinking of giving it away here to someone who’d appreciate it more by holding a contest of some sort, but I can’t think of what to do. Do you have any ideas for such a contest to win this bag? If so, please leave a comment or eMail me your suggestion! I do know one of the rules will be that entries will only be eligible if that person is currently NOT a Hawaii resident, for the simple reason that anyone living here can easily buy it themselves (Foodland has stores on all major Hawaiian islands).

What? ‘Musubi’ Reusable Eco Grocery Bag
Where did you buy it and how much did it cost? Foodland, $1.99 each Maikai member price
Big Shaka to: Very catchy, clean and whimsical illustrated design and color choices. Some clever, never heard of musubi ideas. Bag is well constructed with a non-porous, easy-to-clean exterior, along with a generous capacity to carry lots of groceries, including a gallon-size jug of milk.
No shaka to: n/a
The Tasty Island rating: 5 SPAM Musubi Eco Bags!

Related links:
Tulip vs. Treet vs. SPAM Musubi Showdown! – The Tasty Island
The Goteborg Musubi Project – The Tasty Island
Musubi Mania at Manabu’s – The Tasty Island
A Marukai Musubi Fest – The Tasty Island