Archive for the 'Hawaiian' Category

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Hawaiian Style Cafe – Waimea

During my vacation on the Kona Coast, my family resided in a faux village called Waikoloa. Located a half-hour from the happening city of Kona, Waikoloa was a soulless bubble consisting solely of condominium clusters, luxury hotels, golf courses, and two malls that Tiffany’s, Louis Vuitton, and Macaroni Grill called home. Waikoloa’s complete isolation from reality reminded me of the expatriate communities in Saigon, down to the wrought iron gates out front. Although I’m not positive, I’m pretty sure that Waikola means “no grindz here” in native Hawaiian.

In order to avoid eating at the Mac Grill, I coaxed locals working in Waikola to divulge where they ate when they were off-the-clock. The most popular answer was Hawaiian Style Cafe in Waimea. On Lush’s final day on The Big Island, we made the drive out to the distant cowboy village to eat among fellow grindz seekers.

The interior of Hawaiian Style Cafe is pleasantly dated. A U-shaped counter, which easily sat twenty-five, ran along the main dining room. There were a handful of bright red booths to the left of the counter and a few tables in the back room. Lush and I grabbed two seats along the counter with a great view of the open kitchen. I informed Lush that open kitchens are all the rage on The Mainland.

All lunch plate joints in Hawaii seem to offer the same collection of condiments—Aloha shoyu soy sauce, mustard, ketchup, Tabasco sauce, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, and Aunt Jemima.

Lush and I decided to share a plate lunch after eyeing the huge portions in front of our fellow Hawaiian Style Cafe-goers. We chose a Mix Plate ($9.75), which allowed us to choose any two plate lunch entrees off the menu, plus two scoops of rice and a scoop of macaroni salad. We selected the Korean chicken and the Pulehu ribs.


The wonderfully seasoned fried chicken was reminiscent of Kyochon’s soy garlic variety. I was hoping for a snappy skinned specimen, but this one lacked the classic tautness of KFC. The beef short ribs, which were grilled with Hawaiian rock salt, were slightly under-seasoned but satisfying nevertheless. The bed of shredded cabbage beneath the meat helped to cut the grease factor.

The lone scoop of mac salad was all mine because Lush is grossed out by mayo-laden pasta salads. Hawaiian Style Cafe’s mac salad was special because it included canned tuna and peas.

I’ve been thinking a lot about plate lunches since my trip and have come to the conclusion that they were aesthetically influenced by Japanese bento boxes. By employing ice cream scoops, side dishes can be separated from one another without resorting to individualized compartments and sacrificing visual appeal. This is a theory in progress…

In addition to our more-than-enough-for-two plate lunch, Lush and I shared a pancake ($2.25) in order to avoid the $2.75 split fee. We are tricky mothers.

Next door to Hawaiian Style Cafe was a little snack shop called Crack Seed, etc. Crack seed are preserved fruits that have been cracked or split with the seed or kernel partially exposed as a flavor enhancement. See here for the Vietnamese equivalent. For fifty cents, we picked up a refreshing and tasty li hing mui ice. I desired another as soon as we finished it, but Lush wouldn’t let me because too much salt isn’t healthy. Wah wah.

Instead, we visited Mauna Kea Snow, which was located on the other side of Hawaiian Style Cafe. Our shaved ice was flavored with lime, passion fruit, and li hing mui powder. The li hing mui powder was so bomb that I opted to snort it.

Hawaiian Style Cafe
65-1290 Kawaihae Road
Kamuela, HI 96743
Phone: 808-885-4295

Crack Seed, etc.
65-1290 Kawaihae Road
Kamuela, HI 96743
Phone: 808-885-6966

Mauna Kea Snow
61-3616 Kawaihae Road
Kamuela, HI 96743
Phone: 808-887-2665‎

Hawaiian Style Cafe on Urbanspoon

Da Shave Ice Place – Kailua Kona

After we filled up on local grindz at Manna Korean BBQ, my Kona Krew and I hopped in our rented Chrysler and cruised over to White Sands Beach. While Lush and I sunned and gossiped the afternoon away, cousins Andrew and Brian scored some pakalolo. Boys will be boys, hey? After a couple of hours of idleness, we abandoned the perfectly turquoise waters and dangerously inviting sun to head home, but not before stopping for some shaved ice first.

Hawaiian shaved ice, a close relative of the snow cone, most likely arrived on the islands’ pristine shores from Japan. The influence of kakigōri, a Japanese dessert made from shaved ice flavored with syrup, can be seen in the various ingredients and flavor combinations like condensed milk and azuki beans available on the islands.

Da Shave Ice Place is a little hut in the middle of a strip mall that included an L&L Drive-in and a CVS. I spied a sushi hut across the way, but sadly had to pass because the plate lunch I downed earlier was stubbornly hanging around my gullet.

Cousin Brian ordered a classic rainbow shaved ice. According to Wiki, “Rainbow consists of three different colors of syrup chosen usually for their color rather than their taste compatibility.” Regardless, my cousin dug his selection.

Cousin Andrew chose a strawberry flavored shaved ice with vanilla ice cream that was topped with gummy bears and a “cream cap” of condensed milk. Andrew enjoyed this innovative concoction very much, but would have appreciated a couple more handfuls of gummy bears.

I took Lush’s advice and ordered a Li Hing Mui (salty dried plum) shaved ice served with vanilla ice cream and topped with li hing seeds. The ladies preparing the shaved ice were stingy with the li hing powder, so the taste ended up being artificially fruity rather than a triple punch of salty, sweet, and sour. The li hing seeds atop the ice packed a lot of flavor, which more or less compensated for ice’s shortcomings.

The Mainland’s strip malls are sorely lacking in little food huts.

Da Shave Ice Place
75-5595 Palani Road
Kailua Kona, HI 96740

Da Shave Ice Place on Urbanspoon

Manna Korean BBQ – Kailua Kona

There is nothing sexier on this planet than a woman wearing a bikini after she has downed a Hawaiian plate lunch.  Well, that’s sort of a lie, but I kept repeating it to myself like a mantra during my week-long trip to The Big Island. It takes a real woman to eat local-style grindz and then hit the beach two shakes of a lamb’s tail later.

After picking up my Honolulu-dwelling friend Luscious Liana from Kona International, we drove to Kailua Kona in search of lunchtime grindz. [Warning: ‘Grindz’ is my current favorite word and will be used and abused excessively for the next couple of posts.] Plan A was to hit up Kona Mixed Plate, but unfortunately it was closed due to the Fourth of July holiday. Plan B entailed driving from strip mall to strip mall until proper grindz were located. Manna Korean BBQ fit the bill.

From my haole point of view, local-style grindz are a fusion of Asian cuisines with processed American fare—an Asian-American amalgam, if you will. Manna’s menu is heavy on Korean offerings and includes Hawaiian standbys like macaroni salad, loco moco, and Spam.

Luscious Liana navigated Manna’s menu like a true local. Unlike her clueless tourist companions, who were hemming and hawing over the available options, she knew exactly what she wanted—Meat Jun ($8.49).  Meat jun, also known as Chen-Ya in Korean, consists of thinly sliced pieces of “teri” beef dredged in a flour and egg mixture and fried. It was served with a sweet shoyu sauce on the side. Lush’s Manna Plate also included four vegetables and two scoops of rice. For her veggies, she chose kimchi, shoyu potatoes, steamed greens, and japchae.

Being the generous friend that she is, Lush allowed me try everything in her box. I went for the meat jun first, which had a very homey, sweet, and satisfying quality to it. I was surprised by how thinly sliced the meat was and how the batter didn’t adhere to the meat at all. The tastiest side item were the potatoes, followed by the japchae.

My cousin Brian ordered the Kal Bi Manna Plate with canned corn, mac salad, japchae, and kimchi on the side ($9.60).

My cousin Andrew ordered a mini-plate with spicy pork, japchae, and canned corn ($6.99). Both the spicy pork and the kalbi were very well-seasoned, not too fatty, and arrived fresh off the grill.

Although I was tempted by the loco moco, I decided to ease my way into Hawaiian food with a Spam Plate ($4.99). In addition to the four slices of grilled spam, the plate included a scoop of mac salad, a scoop of rice, a fried egg, and two fried mandu (Korean dumplings).

From afar, this plate may look like a big ‘ol confusing mess, but I can assure you that every element tasted great and made perfect sense at the time. The salty Spam and creamy mac salad paired extraordinarily well together, while the oily mandu ruled when dipped in gochujang (Korean fermented hot pepper paste). I have a special place in my heart for plate lunches.

Who loves grindz? We love GRINDZ—Luscious (left), Brian and Andrew (top, right), and yours truly (bottom, right).

Manna Korean BBQ
75-1027 Henry Street, Ste. 104
Kailua Kona, HI 96740
Phone: 808-334-0880

Manna Korean BBQ on Urbanspoon

Aloha Food Factory – Alhambra

I was hoping to try Hawaiian food with a native Hawaiian a couple months back when Luscious Liana came to town, but she told me it was really unhealthy and she would rather eat at Roscoe’s.

The desire to sample island fare returned a few weeks later after reading Jo of My Last Bite‘s account of a Hawaiian delicacy known as Loco Moco—a dish comprised of “white rice topped with a with a hamburger patty, a fried egg, and brown gravy.” She begins her post by waxing poetic about the first loco moco she sampled on Oahu. Then, she introduces an insanely gourmet loco moco created by chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Animal in Los Angeles.

In spite of my friend’s warning about Hawaiian food being hazardous to my health, I knew right then and there that I had to try the infamous loco moco. Unbeknownest to me at the time, my friend Bex had the same idea brewing in her head. And thus, “A Tale of Two Loco Mocos” was born. Or as Bex refers to it as, “Loco for Loco Moco: No Joke-o.”

Before venturing to Animal to try the rich man’s loco moco, Bex and I agreed that we had to taste a down-home rendition. For our loco moco base tastings, Bex headed to Bruddah’s Hawaiian Food in Gardena, while The Astronomer and I ventured to Aloha Food Factory in Alhambra.

Aloha Food Factory is a mom and pop shop located in a converted mission-style Taco Bell. It’s run by a wonderful woman named Betty who opened the eatery in honor of her Hawaiian best friends. She was excited to hear that The Astronomer and I were trying Hawaiian food for the first time, but grew wary when we placed our order of Spam musubi ($3.75) and loco moco ($7.25). Concerned that we would be scared away from Hawaiian food forever, she insisted on bringing us free samples of the more popular Kalua pork and char siu. They were delicious, but we would not be deterred from our mission.

The Spam musubi was a delightful introduction to Spam, at least for me. Coupled with warm rice, a sweet teriyaki sauce, and sheets of nori, the Spam tasted like extremely salty hot dogs. The Astronomer’s experience with the meat bi-product wasn’t as sunny—he took two bites of the musubi and passed the rest my way.

After I polished off the Spam rolls, the loco moco arrived. Isn’t she a beauty?

The loco moco tasted fine enough, but wasn’t particularly delicious. The texture of the dish was more offensive than the taste—everything on the plate was overwhelmingly goopy due to the three runny eggs and gelatinous, made-from-scratch gravy. The Astronomer was most displeased with the overcooked and dry hamburger patty. Perhaps the worst part of the loco moco experience was how it made me feel afterwards—sluggish and gross, even hours after my last forkful. Maybe Lush was right about her people’s food after all.

Up next, part two of “A Tale of Two Loco Mocos.”

Aloha Food Factory
2990 W. Valley Boulevard
Alhambra, CA 91803
Phone: 626-308-0215

Aloha Food Factory on Urbanspoon

Aloha Food Factory in Los Angeles

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