First Byte: Jollibee in Waipahu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the takeout menu from the Waipahu location…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, let’s sample Jollibee’s Cheeseburger…

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

Let’s get the cutaway view…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tasty Island rating:

(1) Average.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RIP Aina Haina McDonald’s circa 1968 building.

Advertisements

Chinatown Eats: Little Village Noodle House

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

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

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

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

On to the regular menu…

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

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

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

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

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

OK, let’s try this…

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

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

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

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

Have a peek under the hood…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sampler plate B (or A, actually)…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little Village Noodle House
1113 Smith Street
Honolulu, Hawaii  96817

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

The Tasty Island Rating:

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

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

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

Here’s the storefront…

Here’s Shimazu Store’s Shave Ice menu…

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

Pour it on!…

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

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

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

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

Key Lime Pie, Sour Lemon and Strawberry….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Catered Luncheon with Soul

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

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

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

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

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

Next up, Chef Priesters EXCELLENT Coleslaw…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Also from accounting, (Filipino) Lumpia…

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

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

Peach Cobbler…

Blueberry Cheesecake…

\

Custard Pie…

Cherry Pie….

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

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

Here’s my plate…

Angle “B”…

Let’s try that “Cheeyikin”…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tasty Island rating (for catering service):

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

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

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7Z56dxeGMA

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

First Byte: Bangkok Chef on Nimitz

Bangkok Chef recently opened for business in the former and entirely gutted ‘n renovated Weyerhauser building on the corner of Alakawa Street and Nimitz Highway in the Iwilei area of Honolulu’s “Big Box District”, which includes Best Buy, Costco, Home Depot, and coming soon, Lowe’s. While here in the same converted Weyerhauser building, Bangkok Chef shares already limited ground floor level parking with neighboring Party City, Tanaka Saimin and La Tour Cafe.

Like La Tour Cafe and Tanaka Saimin, Bangkok Chef offers a brand spankin’ new, clean, hip and contemporary dining space…

Bangkok Chef offers both dine-in and takeout, where based on our “first byte” dine-in experience, I’d highly recommend phoning in your order for takeout.

Looks like a nice place to have lunch.

Let’s check out the menu…

With that, Diner A ordered Bangkok Chef’s Chicken Fried Rice…


Bangkok Chef – Chicken Fried Rice: Thai Jasmine Fried Rice, with egg, onion, carrots and peas. Served with cucumber. $6.25

While yours truly decided try Bangkok Chef’s Pad Bliao Waan…


Bangkok Chef – Pad Bliao Waan: Sliced chicken breast with pineapple chunks, onions, bell peppers in sweet & sour sauce. $6.25

Why did I decide on trying the “Pad Bliao Waan”, you may ask? Well, my theory is whenever dining out is, if it’s something I’ve NEVER heard of before, let alone being able to pronounce it properly, I’m SO on that. Seriously! Really though, I mean, without asking someone who’s Thai how to properly pronounce “Pad Bliao Waan”, I’d just as well say it phonetically like, “Pad Blee-au Won”. Although I’m willing to bet it’s not quite that simple, and there may be some silent consonants and/or either extended or extremely shortened vowels in that name.

Anyhow, how did my “Pad Bliao Waan” taste? Ono! Hey, I can say that!

The thinly-sliced stir-fried chicken was very tender, while the sweet & sour sauce was had a great flavor, although I wouldn’t quite say it tasted particularly “Thai”…

Everything else supporting the chicken and sorta’ “smokey”, kinda’ “ginger-ee” sweet ‘n sour sauce, which also includes green and red bell peppers, white onions and Thai Jasmine rice were all cooked perfectly al dente.

Overall, I’d say this is a dish that could have just as well come out of Panda Express, in a very good way. Which means it wasn’t really “Thai-ish” and could just have well been a Chinese stir-fry, yet absolutely delicious and priced right at less than $7 for a very generous portion. 3 SPAM Musubi.

Now, as for Diner A’s Chicken Fried Rice, while that doesn’t sound exciting at all, believe me, taste-wise, this was by far one of the BEST FRIED RICE I’ve tasted year!

Seriously, this is some smokin’ “mean” fried rice. It just has that “IT” factor about it, which is partially credited to the “flaming wok”, almost char-grilled like flavor imparted in the mildly-nutty fried Jasmine Rice. While whatever the sauce they use to flavor it is neither over nor under powering. SOLID 5 SPAM Musubi for Bangkok Chef’s Chicken Fried Rice, where I’d DEFINITELY recommend, if you dine here, order family style and have THIS as the central “do-it-all” starch for everyone to enjoy with the other entrees.

Service, while very friendly by the wait staff, was the only thing to complain about, as our order came close to half-an-hour to arrive from the kitchen. Yet, being this place had almost literally just opened at the time of our visit, “growing pains” such as this are to be expected, so I wouldn’t factor that in at all. Thankfully, our food that finally did arrive was piping hot and delicious, and that’s really what matters most.

Bangkok Chef
900 N. Nimitz Highway
Honolulu, Hawaii  96817

Tel. (808) 536-8570

P.S. While that was our “first byte” of Bangkok Chef’s new location in the former Weyerhauser building on Nimitz and Alakawa in Iwilei, we also enjoyed an entire SPREAD of Thai eats, catered from Bangkok Chef’s Nuuanu street location. This, being back in December of last year for yet another office luncheon party, where on this festive holiday season occasion, we start with Bangkok Chef’s Summer Rolls (regardless of it being technically “winter” at the time lol)…

I take it Bangkok Chef uses Skippy brand “super chunky” Peanut Butter to make their Peanut Sauce. Oh, that’s right, the summer rolls…


Bangkok Chef – Summer Rolls: Shrimp, lettuce, mint leaves & rice-noodles wrapped in soft rice paper. Served w/special peanut
sauce

Salad…


Bangkok Chef catering: Papaya Salad: Papaya, chili peppers, garlic, long bean & tomato w/crushed peanut in house special sauce.


Bangkok Chef – Thai Jasmine Rice and white rice


Bangkok Chef catering: Pad Thai: rice noodles fried with egg, chicken & tofu w/bean sprout, chives in house pad Thai sauce.


Bangkok Chef – Basil Shrimp: Shrimp, baby corn, mushrooms, bamboo shoot, chili pepper and fresh basil sauteed with oyster sauce


Bangkok Chef – Panang Pork Curry: sliced pork loin, potato, lime leaves, peanut, basil in Panang curry sauce and coconut milk


Bangkok Chef catering – Pad Bliao Waan: Sliced chicken breast w/pineapple chunks, onions, bell peppers in sweet & sour sauce


Bangkok Chef catering – Fried Chicken Wings: Lemon Grass flavored chicken wings. Served with house special sauce & cucumber

For dessert, we once again relied on good ‘ole Costco, this time opting for Sinbad’s Baklava…

While someone from accounting provided this chocolate chip crumble…

Last but never least, the love for chocolate ‘n all things sweet caps off this amazing looking spread with some scrumptious homemade brownies…

Now let’s check out a few plates hot off Bangkok Chef’s catered luncheon line press…

How was it all? Absolutely delicious! The fairly spicy-hot Panang curry and wings were my personal fave’. Overall, a very solid 3 SPAM Musubi across the board for Bangkok Chef’s catered dishes.

Waikiki Kosher Eats: Da Falafel King

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

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

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

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

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

Without further ado, Da’ King’s Menu…

“Draw pick-chah”…

Samoa…

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

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

Yet another take on their kosher dog…

I tried one myself…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of course served with Hummus for dippin’…

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

Flip it…

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

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

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

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

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

Falafel and Shawarma…

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

Zoom in on the Shawarma…

Side view of the Pita…

Falafel…

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

Baba Ghanoush, also sportin’ some fries…

Snitchel, also sportin’ fries…

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

Kabobs in the raw…

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

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

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

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

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

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

One more section…

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

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

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

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

Now let’s REALLY do (eat) this…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Da King’s Menu (current as of 2/11):

The Tasty Island rating:

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

Related links:
Da Falafel King – Yep user reviews

It's Good & Healthy Cafe, where the Catering is Great!

OPA!

This past week we held yet another office party luncheon, this time with an exotic Greek/Mediterranean/Middle Eastern theme of dishes from It’s Good & Healthy Cafe, a popular lunchtime eatery on Merchant Street in the heart of busy downtown Honolulu.

Let’s get right to it and check out what’s for lunch, starting with some warm ‘n toasty Pita Bread…


It’s the Good & Healthy Cafe (catering menu) – Pita Bread

Next up, one of my favorites, a fresh ‘n crispy Greek Salad…


It’s the Good & Healthy Cafe (catering menu) – Greek Salad: lettuce, tomatoes, onions, Kalamata olives, Feta cheese & dressing

There’s chicken ‘n rice, THEN there’s Chicken Tarna over a bed of Rice Pilaf…


It’s the Good & Healthy Cafe (catering menu) – Chicken Tarna (flame-broiled chicken) over a bed of Rice Pilaf

It’s NOT “Jai-roh”, IT’s “Yee-roh”…


It’s the Good & Healthy Cafe (catering menu) – Gyro: marinated lamb & beef over a bed of Rice Pilaf

Exceptionally nice pan presentation they’ve given for the Falafel…


It’s the Good & Healthy Cafe (catering menu) – Falafel: fried Fava and Garbanzo beans)

Another fave’ of mine, the Dolmades…


It’s the Good & Healthy Cafe (catering menu) – Dolmades: rice-stuffed grape leaves

Now it’s time to kick things up and turn this party into an all-out BASH, where here we have Tabouli…


It’s the Good & Healthy Cafe (catering menu) – Tabouli: wheat, mint, parsley, tomatoes, lemon juice and olive oil

Gotta’ love all the color, flavor and texture contrasts in this type of cuisine, where from green, crispy and chunky, we go to creamy, nutty and pasty…


It’s the Good & Healthy Cafe (catering menu) – Hummus (Garbanzo bean dip)

Yet ANOTHER favorites of mine here, the Baba Ghanoush…


It’s the Good & Healthy Cafe (catering menu) – Baba Ghanoush: Eggplant dip

Time to cool it down with some Tzatziki…


It’s the Good & Healthy Cafe (catering menu) – Tzatziki sauce (yogurt, cucumber, dillweed)

Contrasting the cool and refreshing Tzatziki, we also have the more nutty ‘n creamy Tahini sauce…


It’s the Good & Healthy Cafe (catering menu) – Tahini sauce (ground sesame seeds)

Rounding it all out, for dessert we have the all-time Greek favorite, Baklava…


It’s the Good & Healthy Cafe (catering menu) – Balava

Mmm-mmm-mmm, everything look’s “Opa-licious”!

Now let’s check out a few plates “Cool ‘n hot off the press”…

In case you were wondering why in that first photo it said “Year of the Rabbit”? Well, we’re a worldly bunch, as while we were enjoying cuisine from the middle East, we also recognize the far east Chinese zodiac all in the same sitting. Where those in attendance at our luncheon who were born in the Year of the Rabbit (Hare), were each awarded these homemade, hand-made plaques as shown next to the plate above in their honor. Big mahalo to diner “FS” for that!

Now, if you can tell us the name of that rabbit, you get extra bonus “SPAM Musubi” points! Hint: It’s indigenous to Hawaii and can often be seen “cruising Waiks”, as well as other landmarks around the islands.

Anyhow, as for our catered lunch by It’s Good & Healthy, I’ll put it you this way, once everyone sat down to eat, the room became almost entirely SILENT. Which as you know is a good indicator that everyone was thoroughly and INTENSELY enjoying their meal! As I mentioned earlier, the wonderful contrast of flavors and textures, as well as that “hot ‘n cold” thing going on, especially with the exotic side dishes and condiments such as the Baba Ghanoush and Tzatziki sauce, takes you on this “magical carpet ride through flavortown”, as Guy Fieri would’ve probably said it.

I could have just as well piled my plate high with the Greek Salad salad alone, been a happy camper and called it a day. Yet having that pita bread and everything else truly kicked-up this meal above and beyond! Especially the individual variety of DIY Pita Sandwiches we could create using everything on the plate.

Such as here, where I topped one of my Pita bread wedges with a swipe of Hummus and Baba Ghanoush, then over that with lettuce, tomato, Kalamata olive and Feta from the Greek Salad, a small piece of Gyro and a small dab Tzatziki sauce…

And here where Diner A looks like he has “everything, including the Greek kitchen’s kitchen sink” in his Pita bite…

Red Pepper, Thabouli, Gyro, Rice Pilaf, Tzatziki… looks ono!..

If there’s any complaint from me personally, it’d be that the seed-in Kalamata olives were EXCESSIVELY salty. Also for the Falafel, while flavor-wise, was EXCELLENT, doneness-wise was a little on the dry side, as was the slices of Gyro beef and lamb. Yet that was absolutely NO PROBLEM, as we had more then enough wonderful side dishes and condiments to help “wet” and jazz ’em up, with my favorite accompaniments being the smokey-tasting, characteristically-textured Baba Ghanoush and of course the cool ‘n creamy yogurt and cucumber-based Tzatziki. So ono.

The grape leaf-wrapped Dolmades were pretty much spot-on, with the rice filling having a complex yet subtle nuance of spices going on, while the grape leaves were very tender and not overly acidic. Winners.

Not to forget dessert, where we end this BASH with some bang-slam-scrumptious Baklava…

Notice the finely-chopped Pistachio nuts topping.

This is up there with the the best Baklava I’ve had to date, tasting very freshly-baked with layer-upon-layer-upon-layer of delicate, “poofy”, lightly-buttered, crispy filo dough. The tasty honey “sauce” had a perfect balance in quantity and sweetness, without being TOO sweet like Baklava often can taste when being “drowned out”, while the nutty filling had a nice “chew” to it. That finely chopped Pistachio topping also was a nice touch. Easy 5 SPAM Musubi for the Baklava.

Summing it up, the excellent quality and freshness of ingredients, authenticity in flavor and attention to detail in each dish, makes It’s Good & Healthy Cafe’s catering service HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Opa!

It’s Good & Healthy Cafe
212 Merchant Street
Honolulu, Hawaii  96813

Tel. (808) 566-6365

The Tasty Island rating (for catering service):

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

Related links:
It’s Good & Healthy Cafe – Yelp user reviews

Pressure-cooked Kalua Pig

Success! Ah yes my friends, this second time around I’ve successfully made Kalua Pig (“Pork” if you prefer the sound of that) in my new pressure cooker. This, after FAILING MISERABLY in my first attempt.

As I’ve suggested in comments from my previous post about “My First Pressure Cooker“, the ideal goal of using a pressure cooker should be about both speed and simplicity. Well, this method of making cooking Kalua Pig certainly exemplifies both those virtues in using this “wonder gadget” of a cooking tool. Which I’m convinced in this resource-crunched world, that EVERY household should have and use on a regular basis.

Here’s how I did it.

I began by deeply scoring the fat cap on a MASSIVE 7¼-pound pork butt that’s been thawed from previously frozen state. Then I rubbed it generously on all sides with Wright’s Concentrated Hickory Seasoning Liquid Smoke (the must-have Kiawe wood substitute), followed by an also generous sprinkling of Hawaiian rock salt. Then in it went DIRECTLY in the pressure cooker pot, resting on the bottom, fat cap side up, cut side down, using NO steamer basket.  Just directly resting in the pot. Then I added 2 cups of water, to which it looked like this…

Fearing it would scorch and burn like it did in my first attempt, this time, instead of wrapping the pork butt entirely with Ti Leaves, I added it around just the sides…

Then topping it with layer-upon-layer of Ti Leaves like this, making sure to tuck both ends of each Ti Leaf tightly in so the overall “build” within didn’t obstruct the pressure valves on the underside of the lid, keeping in mind that my 6-quart pressure cooker must have at least 1/3 of it’s total capacity reserved to build pressure…

Cover it up, lock the lid, set the switch to “High”, put it on the stove, set the fire to HIGH, then once the yellow pressure button indicator pops up, TURN THE FIRE DOWN TO LOW and start the time for 1½ hours.

As is emphasized in LOCKED CAPS in the previous sentence, LOW HEAT from the stove top fire source is all this pressure cooker needs once it hits 15 PSI, whereas, the big mistake I made in my first ever use of my pressure cooker was leaving the flame on HIGH, which pretty much “blew” the valve.

Keep in mind that, although the heat is reduced to low from the stove top source, the heat within the pressure cooker itself remains at a stable, high pressure 257ºF temperature, which PENETRATES the meat fibers throughout the entire cooking time, in a way conventional oven roasting can’t be achieved.

After about an hour of pressure cooking time, steam starts to slowly release from the automatic valve switch, due to the pressure increasing beyond the valve’s designed threshold…

At this INCREDIBLY QUICK 1 hour cooking point, you already begin to get a drift of “Luau” aroma that wafts in the air from the combined smell of the near-tender pulled pork that’s been thoroughly infused with the flavor of liquid smoke, Hawaiian Salt and Ti Leaves.

1½ hours is up, so I turn off the fire, then turn the valve switch to “release” to depressurize the cooker, which takes about a minute or two to blow all the hot steam out. Once the yellow pressure button drops down, I remove the cover, where it looks like this uncovered…

Aaaaahhhhhh… ooooooohhhhhh… aahhhhh.

The Ti Leaves certainly look like they’ve been “extracted of their essence”, yet amazingly still look incredibly GREEN, and not parched at all.

Uncovering the Ti Leaves, the 1½-hour pressure cooked pork looks like this…

LOOKS tender. Now let’s find out if it’s REALLY done and ready for “pulling”, where the tools of choice are simply two forks…

I really shouldn’t have done it yet at this stage, but I drained the liquid in a heat-proof container, although of course I saved it, as that’s the “essence” of your Kalua Pig… it’s all in that liquid!

But nope, not quite ready yet, as after that 1½-hours pressure cooking time, underneath the top layer of buttery-tender pork and fat cap, the inside part of this massive pork butt was still tough and resistant…

No probs. Put back the rendered Ti Leaves, drained liquid and cover it back up, brought it to back to pressure, then I decided a half-hour (30 minutes) should be enough more time to fully cook this “butt” to pulled-pork tenderness to the very core…

My “guesstimate” proved correct, as sure enough, the 30 minutes of additional pressure cooking time, plus the time it took to let it cool down naturally, which took another 30 minutes, resulted in absolutely ONOLICIOUS, fork-tender pressure-cooked 7 pounds (starting weight) of Kalua Pig…

Once again, that MASSIVE 7½ pound pork butt turned into falling-off-the-bone, super-moist, tender ‘n tasty Kalua Pig in just 2½ hours in my 6-quart pressure cooker. If THAT isn’t incredibly energy-efficient and outright statistically AMAZING if you understand cooking basics, I don’t know what is!

Here in this next shot, you see I’ve saved the cooking liquid, as, once again, this has the “essence” of the Kalua Pig, which you should add to the meat slowly until it reaches just the right amount of moisture and flavor profile that you’re happy with…

Notice in the cooking liquid is the one single bone this pork shoulder had in it.

7.5 lbs. bone-in pork butt cooked for a total of 2 hours under pressure + 30 minutes natural release = a bone that LITERALLY fell off the meat…

At this final stage after you’ve added the liquid drippings to the moisture and flavor profile you like, the last thing you want to do is adjust the seasoning by adding more Hawaiian rock salt to taste, if necessary. Yet be VERY careful when doing this, and by all means, DO NOT go overboard! Remember when salting foods, you can always add, but you can’t subtract. If in doubt, have someone who has a “good palate” do the salt seasoning taste testing for you. I’m pretty good about it, as I’m quite sensitive to sodium on my tongue.

Now to illustrate how my method of not using a steamer basket (and following directions) worked out beautifully, notice here that there was absolutely NO burning or scorching of the pork (or Ti Leaves for that matter, thank GOD!) on the bottom of the pressure cooker pot after all was said and done…

Nothing but net…

Just add poi, Hawaiian music, hula dancing, da’ ohana and friends, and we’ve got ourselves a Luau!…

With this, you can also do all kinds of other fun ‘n tasty stuffz.

Oh, like say, being adventurous and going south of the border, “KP style”

Or bowl-up some hot steamed rice and top it with the all-time fave’ Kalua Pig ‘n Cabbage

Summing it up, I give my pressure-cooked Kalua Pig in this successful method an absolutely moist ‘n tender, super onolicious 4 SPAM Musubi.

I honestly must admit that roasting it in the oven or of course in an Imu tastes better, as, if you were to compare it with this pressure-cooked Kalua Pig, you could tell this tastes more “steamed”. Still, at just 2-½ hours of cooking time using this no-fuss method, I have absolutely no complaints!

Follow my energy and time-saving instructions here on making Kalua Pig with your pressure cooker, and I’m confident that — providing you understand the dynamics of your own pressure cooker — you too will have fantastic results!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-uUjyRsik4