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