Posts Tagged ‘green onions’

Ramen Burger Fever Hits Honolulu

February 1, 2014

It all started with a tweet my friend Mari Taketa sent out on Wednesday, January 8th:

@NonStopMari “RAMEN BURGER. coming to hnl @TasteTable next wed 1/15 from 11a til sellout. http://www.nonstophonolulu.com/eating/attention-honolulu-ramen-burger-is-coming/

@NonStopMari's #RamenBurger Tweet
@NonStopMari’s #RamenBurger Tweet

Wait WAAAAT!? *THE* Ramen Burger? You mean the original mashup from ramen prodigy Keizo Shimamoto that started it all? This I gotsta have! So I immediately check the ol’ calendar…

D’oh!

Of alllll days! 1/15 was the day I booked two back to back site surveys with our wireless vendors for #TWCWiFi! Gaaaaah! I’m booked the entire day! Oh well, I guess the Ramen Burger is gonna have to wait ’til the next time I visit New York. And so I never gave it a thought again. Just basically gave up on the idea.

Then, a few days later, as the news started hitting the mainstream folks, the wife asked me, “Did you hear about the Ramen Burger coming to town?”

“#$%^ don’t remind me.”… is what I thought in my mind, but “Yes dear, but I unfortunately can’t make it out that day due to prior work commitments.” is (kinda) what came out of my mouth. 😛

Then, I really started thinking. Hmm… Maybe I should give this thing a little more thought. The first site survey was at Pearlridge at 7am (Yep, Pearlridge will be getting TWCWiFi soon!). So if the survey ended early, there would be a slim chance that I could jet down to (the former) Taste Table, stand in line, get my burger and scarf it down before my next site survey scheduled for 2pm. But as feared, the site survey ran a bit long. There was however, still a small window to try and squeeze the ramen dream in.

I started calling/texting/tweeting anyone and everyone I could who may possibly be standing in line. Mari, who originally said she could get one for me (there was a 3 burger limit per person), now had 3 spoken for. As did my friends Shane and Toby. My texts to Shinogu and Alvin went unanswered. Maaaan. This is not looking good. To top things off, while driving down, Mari and Shane tell me that the line is already all the way to Ala Moana Blvd! Aw c’mon!

At this point, I had lost all hope. I started planning where my non Ramen Burger meal would be coming from before my next site survey. Ah, but let’s try to drive by and see what it looks like. Ack, as feared, it was pure insanity, so I went to my favorite “lunch in town” spot: Yajima-Ya.

As I sat there eating my Samurai don, I got a text back from Alvin. He was asking me where I was and if I was coming down. I told him I gave up cause there would be no way I could get it before my next appt. In so many words, he offered to use one of his 3 Ramen Burger spots on me if I came down to meet him. I couldn’t leave there fast enough!

I got to Taste a little after 12. After waiting for more than an hour, Alvin was now rounding the corner of Keawe and Auahi, heading towards the entrance of Taste. Although I didn’t earn it, I could practically taste the ramen bun on my tongue.

Crazy line for the Ramen Burger pop-up at the former Taste Table
Crazy line for the Ramen Burger pop-up at the former Taste Table

So as not to cause suspicion with the people behind Alvin, I acted as if I wasn’t there for the Ramen Burger, walking around, talking to other people in line. I even went to the back of Taste where they had it on display, likely there for people like me who wanted to get a picture of the famous burger.

The money shot - The Original Ramen Burger by Keizo Shimamoto
The money shot – The Original Ramen Burger by Keizo Shimamoto

Eventually, I slyly made my way back to Alvin and started small talk until I blended in. LOL! The people behind could probably sniff me (the cutter) out a mile away, but oh well.

As we stood in line, an employee kept coming out and getting a headcount of those waiting. They wanted to see how far the 700 burgers they were making that day would go. The situation for the folks in the back, especially for those behind the “cut off point” starting to look dire. One enterprising guy from the back proposed an offer to our friend Ritsuko who stood right in front of us in line. Since she was only getting one for herself, he offered to buy her burger (not cheap at $10) if he could buy the other two for himself. Win-Win. With the approval of those behind us, the guy got his wish. Smart.

As we slowly inched along, we overheard someone say that each burger, due to the small size of the grill in the back, was taking a minimum of 1 minute to make. With just 40 or so people ahead of us, it was no wonder it took us almost 2 hours to get from Keawe Street to the doorstep of Taste (40 people x 3 burgers = 120 minutes). I even had to reload my parking meter. When we got to about 10 feet from the door, my chariot was starting to turn into a pumpkin. My 2pm appointment was t-minus 10 minutes away. I waited as long as I could, but alas, could not stay any longer and had to leave. Alvin generously offered to deliver my burger to my site survey location, which he did (What a guy!) so I bought his burger as well. My wait was nothing compared to his after all!

Finally!
Finally!

It was worth the wait. Although I had hoped that the “bun” would be grilled a little longer, the overall texture and flavor were on point. The noodles were, after all, provided by the one and only Hidehito Uki from Sun Noodle. And although slightly distracted, I was still able to notice that the grass fed local beef patty, with the green onions, baby arugula, and shoyu glaze did magic to my mouth as I ate and site surveyed. The shoyu glaze was a little reminiscent of the plum sauce that comes with the steamed bun and crispy duck skin at Chinese restaurants. Good call Keizo!

And so my brief love affair with the Ramen Burger ended. Or so I thought…

A few weeks later, I caught wind of some interesting news. It was announced that Eat the Street would play host to another round of Ramen Burger mania at the end of the month (though they did do another pop-up event at Taste on the 29th that not many knew about). After making the wife jealous (and frankly a bit displeased) with my Instagram photos from the first time, I felt it was my obligation, you know, as the greatest husband who ever lived, to brave those lines yet again, and pick one up for her.

Knowing how ridiculous the line was going to be, I headed to 555 South Street immediately following my last meeting of the day. One second there was no line, and before I could blink an eye, there were 8 people ahead of me. I rushed to hold my spot, and then started to document things.

The start of the Ramen Burger line at Eat the Street
The start of the Ramen Burger line at Eat the Street


Unwrapping the ramen “buns”

Grass fed local beef patty
Grass fed local beef patty

Woah, where'd that line come from!?
Woah, where’d that line come from!?

Annnnd the first two burgers and first 4 buns are on the grill!
Annnnd the first two burgers and first 4 buns are on the grill!

Jason Kim and the other helpers and customers have fun despite the torrential rains
Jason Kim and the other helpers and customers have fun despite the torrential rains

We're grillllin' in the rainnn...
We’re grillllin’ in the rainnn…

Almost at the front of the line! [Photo Credit: Rey Rubianes]
Almost at the front of the line! [Photo Credit: Rey Rubianes]


The helpers preparing my Ramen Burgers

Bonus! I was able to use my Hawaii Perks card to get a discount on my Ramen Burgers!
Bonus! I was able to use my Hawaii Perks card to get a discount on my Ramen Burgers!

Despite the rain, I was able to get in and out of there with my two burgers (there was a two burger limit this time) fairly quickly. Those two burgers were immediately taken to the in-laws’ house and shared with them and the wife. #Boom #InstantHero! 😉

And so as quickly as it came, it went. The prospects of having another taste of Shimamoto’s famous burger (recently named by Time as the 12th most Influential Burger of all time) would have to wait.

But not for long…

After huge debuts and followings for their pop-ups in New York, L.A., and more, Shimamoto and his Ramen Burgers will finally have a permanent home at BERG’N: Brooklyn Flea + Smorgasburg, the beer hall/food court set to open in Brooklyn New York in March.

Shimamoto, who famously quit his job to move to Tokyo in order to learn everything there is to know about ramen, will finally get the chance to fulfill his lifelong dream, one Ramen Burger at a time…


Ramen Dreams documentary – A film by Michael McAteer

Ramen Burger
https://www.facebook.com/RamenBurger
http://www.goramen.com/


Tarp Surfing in Hawaii – VH07V Style (Click to Play!)

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Agu Ramen Bistro – Already One of Hawaii’s Best Ramen Spots

December 1, 2013

My journey to Agu actually started online.

As mentioned in my review of Hokkaido Ramen Santouka last month, I haven't seen much of the outside world following the birth of our second child. So looking at the most tastiest looking photos on Facebook and Instagram of a new ramen place called Agu, was about as close to "eating out" as I was going to get.

Finally, the day came… When all the stars seemed to align! We were in town first of all. Baby #1 just crashed out and Baby #2 had a nice, long, scrumptious feeding. I had mentioned to the wife before that I wanted to check this new place out, but she was always worried about how we're going to handle it with two youngins.

Enter the in-laws.

They are ramen lovers just as much as we are, so we all decided that we would attempt an outing together because with 4 against 2, the odds were in our favor. 😉

We headed to 925 Isenberg – the old Da Kitchen location and the back of the Saint Louis Alumni Association Clubhouse – early and walked right in (they had recently opened their hours to include lunch so we weren't sure how the crowd would be). It was cold and slightly wet outside… the perfect weather for ramen.

Outside Agu Ramen Bistro
Outside Agu Ramen Bistro

Inside, things were very clean and new-looking. Cute even. Perhaps a nod to the "Bistro" in their name.

Inside Agu Ramen Bistro
Inside Agu Ramen Bistro

First up was the Agu Gyoza stuffed with ground pork, cabbage and nira (garlic chives) and served fresh daily!

Agu Gyoza - 6 pc, ground pork, cabbage and nira (garlic chives) - $5.25
Agu Gyoza – 6 pc, ground pork, cabbage and nira (garlic chives) – $5.25

Delicious, but nothing I haven't tasted before. And then… dun dun DUNNNNN! The ramen came… BRAAAAAH!

Here's a look at the wife's Shoyu Tonkotsu Ramen, topped with house made char siu, aji tamago, menma (fermented bamboo shoots), negi (green onions), chopped onions, kikurage (cloud ear mushroom) & sesame seeds.

Shoyu Tonkotsu Ramen - bonito infused shoyu tare served with black sesame paste. - $10.75
Shoyu Tonkotsu Ramen – bonito infused shoyu tare served with black sesame paste. – $10.75

The chashu is marinated in sake-soy, using only premium grade pork from Okinawa called Agu, the namesake of the restaurant, while the Tonkotsu broth is made by cooking hundreds of pork bones at a rolling boil for 18 hours with, as they say "Aloha and patience." They use traditional Hakata style thin noodles, which you can request both the "well done-ness" of (I like um al dente) as well as the quantity ($3.50 to double the amount).

Here's my Kotteri Tonkotsu Ramen with house made char siu, aji tamago, menma, negi, kikurage & sesame seeds, sans the chopped onions. My bowl also included garlic chips and seabura (pork fat). Cha-Ching!

Kotteri Tonkotsu Ramen - extra rich broth made with garlic & silky back fat - $11.75
Kotteri Tonkotsu Ramen – extra rich broth made with garlic & silky back fat – $11.75

You can also opt to kick your ramen up a notch by requesting a spice level from 1-5. If you’re daring enough (or just plain nuts), there is a level that even goes beyond that, appropriately called "Epic". The waiter we spoke with said he sees about 1 in 50 customers crazy enough to go for the Epic Spicy level, most of whom cannot finish it (no can handle Randall). Here’s a look at what levels 1 and 3 look like.

Spicy Kotteri Tonkotsu Ramen (with spice level 1) - $12.75
Spicy Kotteri Tonkotsu Ramen (with spice level 1) – $12.75

 

Spicy Kotteri Tonkotsu Ramen (with spice level 3) - $12.75
Spicy Kotteri Tonkotsu Ramen (with spice level 3) – $12.75

Up until now, my two favorite ramen restaurants in Hawaii were Yotteko-Ya in McCully and Tenkaippin on Kapahulu, hands down. After just this one sitting, Agu has already officially been added to my list of "Top Ramen Fo' Grind"… Yeah, it's that good!

I'm now looking forward to the day when the stars once again align…

For more on ono kine ramen restaurants here in Hawaii, check out my Hawaii Ramen Quest series here: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V

AGU Ramen
925 Isenberg St. (Back of the Saint Louis Alumni Association Clubhouse)
Honolulu, HI 96826 (Street View)
(808) 492-1637
Hours: Sun-Thu: 11am-9pm
Fri & Sat: 11am-10pm
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AGURAMEN

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Saimin Adventures – The Search for Hawaii’s Best Saimin – Part I

November 1, 2012

It wasn’t long after wrapping up the final part in my 5 part series on Hawaii’s best ramen, that people started harassing me. “You need to cover saimin now!” “What about Hawaii’s best saimin places!?”

As good as their suggestions were, prior to my interview with Sun Noodle president Hidehito Uki, I was a full-on ramen snob. I would normally only “stoop” to eating saimin out of desperation. At Zippy’s, in a drunken state, during the wee hours of night during our clubbin’ days. When driving to a ramen place in town was too far. Or when your whole group agrees on a saimin place and it’s too late to renege on your previous “up to you” comment.

I’m of course exaggerating (I love anything with noodles!), but Mr. Uki seriously slapped some saimin sense in me with his life changing, epiphanic quote:

“Each area in Japan has their own, unique style of ramen. Kyushu has Hakata style (tonkotsu), Hokkaido has Sapporo style (miso)… Saimin is Hawaii’s style of ramen.”

Sun Noodle's Hidehito Uki during our Hawaii Ramen Quest - Part V interview back in February
Sun Noodle’s Hidehito Uki during our “Hawaii Ramen Quest – Part V” interview back in February

Hellooooo!? The world now made perfect sense to me. And with that, I was no longer a ramen snob, ready to tackle the next noodle adventure around the state. “Saimin Adventures”, here we come!

We start with my favorite saimin place in the state: Shige’s Saimin Stand in Wahiawa.

Shige's Saimin Stand sign
Shige’s Saimin Stand sign

Living and working in the often chilly Central Oahu, it’s easy to pay this place a visit at least once a week to warm the ol’ soul. But it’s not because of convenience that Shige’s tops my list for local style saimin, it’s taste.

Large Wunton Mein
Large Wunton Mein

Although their menu boasts a fair amount of alternatives like Hamburger Steak, Loco Moco, Fried Saimin, Roast Beef Sandwiches, and udon, I *always* order their Wunton Mein. I just can’t bring myself to go to Shige’s and NOT order saimin. The soup base is “clean” & subtle, and not overbearing, while the homemade, signature, flat noodles is always soft and never clumpy (my pet peeve). The balance of noodles to Wunwon/garnishes (another pet peeve of mine) is also jussssst riiiight.

If I’m hungry (or I have someone to share it with), I like to order their BBQ Cheeseburger on the side to round out my meal. She go!

Large Wunton Mein and BBQ Cheeseburger
Large Wunton Mein and BBQ Cheeseburger

I did notice a sudden increase in their prices lately, but I think it’s only because I’ve been spoiled to their 80s style pricing up until now.

Shige’s Saimin Stand
70 Kukui Street
Wahiawa, HI 96786 (Street View)
(808) 621-3621
Mon-Thu: 10am-10pm
Fri & Sat: 10am-midnight
Closed Sundays

The next place has been somewhere I’ve been trying to get to for a long time: Nakai Saimin. There is a family association between Shige’s and Nakai (the noodles are based on the same recipe), and since Shige’s is up there on my list, I wanted to see how Nakai compared. So I enlisted the help of Twitter friends and Nakai regulars Russ Sumida (@ParkRat), Brandon Suyeoka (@WeHeartHawaii) and Rick Nakama (@RickNakama).

Russ Sumida, Brandon Suyeoka and Rick Nakama outside Nakai Saimin
Russ Sumida, Brandon Suyeoka and Rick Nakama outside Nakai Saimin

The first thing you notice is the soup base. It’s clearer with a tad less flavor. And I’m hoping I caught them on a bad day, but remember how I said that my pet peeve was clumpy noodles? There were some elements of clumpiness going on there. It seemed that the noodles and the won ton may’ve been of the previously frozen variety.

Small Won Ton Mein ($5.95)
Small Won Ton Mein ($5.95)

For good measure, I thought I’d give their popular BBQ Stick a try.

BBQ Stick ($2.75)
BBQ Stick ($2.75)

Although it wasn’t as hard/crisp as what I’m used to with BBQ sticks (which may actually be a good thing), this one had good flavor throughout.

I’m willing to go back again for sure, but if I had to pick a winner between Shige’s and Nakai (based on this visit), I would have to give it to Shige’s. The boys didn’t agree with me.

 


Russ Sumida, Brandon Suyeoka and Rick Nakama give their review of Nakai Saimin

Nakai is expanding both their hours (see below) and their footprint. Rumor has it that another Nakai Saimin recently opened up in Haleiwa, the town where it actually all started (their original location was in Haleiwa back in the ’50s).

Nakai Saimin
1329 Nuuanu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96813 (Street View)
(808) 531-9000
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri: 6am-2:30pm (Breakfast & Lunch)
Fri: 5:30pm-9pm (Dinner)
Sat: 7am-2:30pm (Breakfast & Lunch)
Sat: 5:30pm-9pm (Dinner)
Sun: 7am-3:30pm (Breakfast & Lunch)
Wed: Closed

Lastly, let’s pay a visit to everyone’s favorite late night eatery: Zippy’s! Like Shige’s, it’s difficult for me to go there and NOT get the saimin. In this case, it’s Zippy’s signature favorite: the Zip Min.

Zip Min (Saimin noodles, wun tun, breaded shrimp, choi sum, fishcake, dried seaweed, egg, sweet pork, and green onions.
Zip Min (Saimin noodles, wun tun, breaded shrimp, choi sum, fishcake, dried seaweed, egg, sweet pork, and green onions.

In a recent visit there, the wun tun had a noticeably different (and stronger/”garlic-y”) taste. Over the years, the portions – as with many of the other menu items here – seem to be shrinking while the cost continues to rise. A sign of the economic times I suppose.

Zippy’s
Locations: Varied
Hours: Varied
808-973‑0880

Look for more during our “Saimin Adventures” where we explore the famous noodles from places like Hamura’s on Kauai, Sam Sato’s on Maui and Shiro’s right here on Oahu. If you have any other suggestions for places I should visit (yes, Palace is on my list! 🙂 ), leave a comment for me below.

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Hawaii Ramen Quest – Part IV

January 1, 2012
Part I | Part II | Part III |  Part IV  | Part V

We’re already 3 deep in our Hawaii Ramen Quest, but before we get all up into the 4th, I wanted to check in with y’all real quick-like, to see how your holiday season went. Didja get to cruise with family and friends and pound ono kine grinds? Ain’t that da best? And what about your resolutions for the new year? Hopefully, one of them wasn’t to lose weight ’cause here comes another flurry of ramen photos to make you hungry! 😉

First up is Kiwami Ramen. I’ve heard a lot about this place (from reputable resources!) and have been dying to go there for the longest time, but Waiks ain’t exactly the easiest place to get to, or park for that matter… So when a meeting in Waikiki recently came about, I planned my lunch around a visit to this authentic tasting ramen shop in Waikiki Shopping Plaza’s food court.

Taking the escalator down to the Waikiki Shopping Plaza's Food Court
Taking the escalator down to the Waikiki Shopping Plaza’s Food Court

At first glance, this place looked legit. Japanese customers (from the muthaland kine) being waited on by a hardcore Japanese wait staff with Ramen Chef Yasuyoshi Sato manning the ship. I kept having to remind myself that d’uh… we were in Waikiki, where most of the Japanese tourists who visit us in this great state, congregate (mate!).

Then came the food. Although we ordered just ramen, we were given a complimentary small bowl of their Charsiu Rice. Wasn’t quite sure if it was because we were kama`aina, super handsome 😉 or if it was complimentary for everyone, but I wasn’t about to question it. Into my trap went the pork!

Small Charsiu (Roast Pork) Rice - $2.50
Small Charsiu (Roast Pork) Rice – $2.50

It wasn’t quite as flavorful and tasty as my favorite from Yotteko-Ya, but it was an ono start nonetheless… and it was FREE! 🙂

Then came my jam-packed order. While most ramens on Kiwami’s menu hover in the $8-$10 range, I saw a big ticket item at the top of the menu, smack dab in the middle. Referred to as the “Special Topping” Ramen, this $13.75 option – which included charsiu, egg, bamboo, corn and green onions – was the one I just had to have.


“Special Topping” Shoyu Ramen – $13.75 (Miso & Shoyu Thick Noodle options are $14.25)

Their soup base comes from a chicken feet & fruit combination that is boiled together for over 5 hours. Chiyu (chicken oil) is also added to select ramen dishes.

My buddy Todd got the Shoyu Thick Noodle ramen option, which resembled the kotteri style of ramen that I was looking for a little more, came with a shoyu based soup with pork fat. Here he is showing off his choice (and trying his best to smile).

Todd with his Shoyu Thick Noodle ramen - $9.25
Todd with his Shoyu Thick Noodle ramen – $9.25

You can really tell their attention to detail when it comes to the flavor and temperature of the soup and the consistency of the noodles. In fact, according to their web site, Chef Sato stands by three simple rules: 1) the ramen must be served quickly, 2) the soup must be hot, and 3) the taste must be consistent. They definitely hit on all three. So much so that I am looking forward to going back to try it again (and again).

Kiwami Ramen
Waikiki Shopping Plaza
2250 Kalakaua Ave, Suite LL102
Honolulu, HI 96815 (Street View)
(808) 924-6744
Daily: 11 am – 2:30 pm (lunch)
Daily: 5 pm – 10 pm (dinner)

 

My earliest memory of pounding ramen in Hawaii was at an Ezogiku, and, looking at their web site, it looks as though I’m right. They opened their first ramen specialty shop here way back in 1974! Wow, that was before some of us were born! Nobody I know, but still… 8)

With only a limited supply of poor quality photos of take out dishes from a previous visit to the Pearl City Ezogiku, I was in dire need of some better looking shots for this piece. Four friends/co-workers stepped up to the plate for me as we took a little field trip to the Ezogiku in Waimalu for some quickie lunch hour fooding.

Maribel, Trina, Wendy and Dennis ready to grind at Ezogiku Waimalu
Maribel, Trina, Wendy and Dennis ready to grind at Ezogiku Waimalu

Afraid that I would tease her for ordering yet another combo (see Hawaii Ramen Quest – Part III) Maribel threw me off the scent by ordering something totally different than her norm. She went with the Seafood Ankake Crispy Noodle.

Seafood Ankake Crispy Noodle - $7.25
Seafood Ankake Crispy Noodle – $7.25

Trina was torn between the Seafood Champon and the Ankake Ramen, but, since she likes her food spicy, she went with a suggestion from aunty (our waitress): the Spicy Ankake Ramen.

Spicy Ankake Ramen - $7.75
Spicy Ankake Ramen – $7.75

Wendy seems to like her fried noodles (see Hawaii Ramen Quest – Part III). She’s not really helping a brutha out on this RAMEN quest is she!? Haha, nah, nah Wen! Variety is good right? Here’s her order of Pork & Vegetable Fried Noodle.

Pork & Vegetable Fried Noodle (yakisoba) - $6.25
Pork & Vegetable Fried Noodle (yakisoba) – $6.25

Ezogiku is known for their Miso. In fact, their miso paste, fermented for over 2 months, is homemade and produced only out of their Honten (Main Branch at Waseda, Tokyo). The recipe, consisting of more than 30 spices, is super secret and is only known by their late Ezogiku chief cook Tomoji Onishi’s successor and founder Kenichiro Mitsui. Whether he knew all of this or not 😛 , Dennis ordered the Miso Ramen like a champ.

Miso Ramen - $6.25
Miso Ramen – $6.25

I went with the other dish that Trina was hung up on: the Seafood Champon Ramen. It was tasty, but reminded me of many of the ramens covered in Part III. Perhaps I’ll go miso next time.

Seafood Champon Ramen - $7.25
Seafood Champon Ramen – $7.25

Although Ezogiku started its Sapporo style ramen in Japan, they have several locations in Hawaii as well as Vancouver, BC. Fun tip: The name Ezogiku derives from the two words Ezo & Giku. Ezo is the original name of the island of Hokkaido (where their Sapporo style ramen originated) and Giku (kiku) means chrysanthemum, the national flower of Japan. You can’t say you never learn anything from my articles now. 😉

Ezogiku
Waimalu Shopping Center
98-020 Kamehameha Hwy
Aiea, HI 96701 (Street View)
(808) 488-9850
Daily: 11am-10pm

 

I noticed this next place when lunching it with my boy Bari one day at our usual hotspot: Mama Woo’s BBQ on South King Street. Located on the backside of this tiny strip mall, the sign and entrance to Chinpei Ramen is rather unassuming.

Sign outside Chinpei Ramen
Sign outside Chinpei Ramen

The interior still has that old school feeling (I remember eating here when it was an old Japanese restaurant long ago), but it is very clean with new tables and chairs, paint and furnishings. One freshly painted wall then takes us back to old school again with hand-written menu items taped haphazardly throughout.

Handwritten menu items at Chinpei Ramen
Handwritten menu items at Chinpei Ramen

I ask the waitress in her native Japanese what the most popular ramen is and she tells me it’s the Samma-Men. Samma-Men it is!

Large Samma-Men (Thick Soup) Ramen - $9.30 ($7.60 - Small / $8.30 - Regular)
Large Samma-Men (Thick Soup) Ramen – $9.30 ($7.60 – Small / $8.30 – Regular)

You can also choose the size of noodle you’d like (Egg Thick Noodle or Thin Noodle) in a variety of styles (udon, yam noodle or shirataki, harusame, or organic flour noodle).

Bari and I were in the mood for Shumai as well so we ordered the 6 piece. Here’s Bari with the Shumai and a mouthful of Samma-Men. Sorry B! 8)

Bari with his Samma-Men and our 6-piece Shumai order ($5.93)
Bari with his Samma-Men and our 6-piece Shumai order ($5.93)

You can order the Shumai and Vegetable Gyoza in quantities of 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12, and the regular Gyoza (Pot Sticker) goes even further with additional quantities of 14, 16, 18, 21, or 24!

Chinpei Ramen
2080 S King Street
Honolulu, HI 96826 (Street View)
(808) 947-5919
Tue-Fri: 11am-2:30pm (lunch)
Tue-Fri: 5pm-10pm (dinner)
Sat: 11am-10pm
Sun: 11am-9pm
Closed: Mondays

 

On a rare drive out to the Windward side, we decided to hit up Rai Rai Ramen in Kailua before taking some hacks on the Bay View Mini-Putt Pali course. I remember the experience (taste) being really good at Rai Rai, with various new and special menu items, and vowing to return again the next time I set foot (or tire) on Oneawa Street.

Rai Rai Ramen (Kailua) sign
Rai Rai Ramen (Kailua) sign

Wifey had the Miso Ramen, which included konbu, wakame, char siu, kamaboko, green onions and garlic chips.

Miso Ramen - $7.50
Miso Ramen – $7.50

I got something off their new (at the time) menu called Hot & Spicy Seafood Ramen. It wasn’t as spicy as I expected, which was a good thing since I am still attending Spicy Training University. 😛

Hot & Spicy Seafood Ramen - $9.75
Hot & Spicy Seafood Ramen – $9.75

I also ordered a side of Fried Oysters for good measure.

Side Order of Fried Oyster (3 Piece) - $3.25
Side Order of Fried Oyster (3 Piece) – $3.25

Rai Rai Ramen (Kailua)
124 Oneawa Street
Kailua, HI 96734
(808) 230-8208
Wed-Mon: 11am-8:30pm
Closed Tuesday

 

I will refer to these final two locations as our one hit wonders. Not necessarily because it’s the only ramen option they got. Quite the opposite actually. More so because it’s the only photo I took at the time. *blush* Check it.

Mr. Ojisan is one of my friend Grant’s favorite restaurants. Amongst a menu chock-full of Japanese eats, they carry 5 different ramens: Miso Charsiu Ramen, Vegetable Charsiu Ramen, Cold Ramen, Tonkotsu Miso Ramen (which I must go back and try!) and the one I got on this particular visit: the Ojisan Ramen.

Ojisan Ramen - $8.95
Ojisan Ramen – $8.95

Mr. Ojisan Japanese Restaurant
1016 Kapahulu Ave #140
Honolulu, HI 96816 (Street View)
(808) 735-4455
Mon-Fri: 11am-1:45pm (Lunch)
Mon-Thu: 5:30pm-10:30pm (Dinner)
Fri-Sat: 5:30pm-12am (Dinner), with Karaoke from 10pm-2am

 

Even though Yakitori Yoshi is primarily a yakitori house, they still have three ramens on their menu: Butter Ramen, Tonkotsu Ramen (which, again, I must try), and the Yoshi Ramen below.

Yoshi Ramen - $5.90
Yoshi Ramen – $5.90

At least I think it’s the Yoshi Ramen. My friend Rick, who was the one who actually ate it, can’t even remember eating at the restaurant, let alone what he ordered that night. LOL! We’ll go with the Yoshi Ramen. 😛

Yakitori Yoshi
1427 Makaloa Street
Honolulu, HI 96814 (Street View)
(808) 941-6891
Daily: 5:30pm-12am

 

And there you have it. Part 4 of the Hawaii Ramen Quest is in the books. Next month, we wrap things up with a visit to Sun Noodle Factory and an interview with the man himself Hidehito Uki. Space permitting, I’ll also try to mention a few must eat ramen spots in the muthaland itself… Japan.

Now get back to your New Year’s diet! 😉

Part I | Part II | Part III |  Part IV  | Part V

Hawaii Ramen Quest – Part I

October 1, 2011
 Part I  | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V

Anyone who knows anything about me, knows that my love for ramen runs deep. It borders on obsession. So much so that I’m convinced my mom cut her milk with ramen soup before popping the bottle into my mouth.

So it was a no-brainer to follow up my popular “Poke Paradise” series with this here Ramen Quest, a pursuit for the perfect bowl of ramen, right here in Hawaii.

Now when I say ramen (or rahmen / ラーメン as we Nihonjins like to call it), I’m not talking about the localized interpretation of it referred to here as saimin (no offense saimin lovers). I’m talking about the hardcore, straight from the muthaland kine noodle and soup combination that you fantasize of. I’ve tasted some of the best there is in Japan, and have been living to replicate that euphoria ever since. (See, I told you I was obsessed! 8) )

First up is Yotteko-Ya, located on the west end of McCully Shopping Center (opposite Fook Yuen).

Yotteko-Ya entrance
Yotteko-Ya entrance

The specialty here is their Paitan soup base, which is described as a “richer, more flavorful chicken & pork based broth” and simmered for hours. In it, swims their perfectly cooked, al dente (Japanese style) noodles and homemade chashu pork, along with green onions, seaweed and sesame seeds.

Paitan Ramen from Yotteko-Ya
Paitan Ramen from Yotteko-Ya

They also have an amazing Chashu Gohan (which includes chunks of chashu similar to the one in the ramen) that my wife goes absolutely gaga over.

Chashu Gohan
Chashu Gohan

Our go-to meals here are usually the Paitan C Set, which includes the Paitan Ramen, Chashu Gohan (or Mini Yakibuta Chahan), and Gyoza, or the Paitan D Set, which includes the Paitan Ramen, Chashu Gohan (or Mini Yakibuta Chahan), and Karaage (fried chicken).

Paitan D Set: Paitan Ramen, Chashu Gohan, & (Chicken) Karaage - $12.95
Paitan D Set: Paitan Ramen, Chashu Gohan, & (Chicken) Karaage – $12.95

It should come as no surprise that the ramen I featured first in this series is a franchise straight from Japan. In fact, during a trip there in ’08, we actually went to the one in Odaiba.

Yotteko-Ya in Odaiba Japan (Tokyo)
Yotteko-Ya in Odaiba Japan (Tokyo)

Here’s a look at what the Chashu Ramen looked like there.

Chashu ramen from Odaiba's Yotteko-Ya in Tokyo
Chashu ramen from Odaiba’s Yotteko-Ya in Tokyo

Yotteko-Ya
1960 Kapiolani Blvd #214
Honolulu, HI 96826 (map)
(808) 946-2900
Lunch Hours: Mon-Sun: 11am-2pm
Dinner Hours: Mon-Sat: 5pm-11pm, Sun: 5pm-9pm
@ramen_yottekoya

I first covered our next spot back when they were located in Waikiki.

Owner Scott Suzui and his wife Mayumi outside the original Tenkaippin location in Waikiki
Owner Scott Suzui and his wife Mayumi outside the original Tenkaippin location in Waikiki

The restaurant is called Tenkaippin Ramen (which is also a franchise straight from Japan) and is owned by Scott Suzui and his wife Mayumi. If you think they look familiar, they have since become local celebrities of sorts, thanks to their show on OC16 called “Ultimate Japan”.

This is my go-to restaurant whenever I’m in the area, and I usually like to bring along a friend or two. On this occasion, I brought my boy Bari who seems to be enjoying his bowl of ramen just a little too much. 😛

Bari loves his Tenkaippin Ramen
Bari loves his Tenkaippin Ramen

Similar to Yotteko-Ya, Tenkaippin is known for their soup base (known here as kotteri) which is accomplished by stewing chicken and vegetables for over 10 hours. Most ingredients are actually flown in fresh from Japan too!

Tenkaippin's Kotteri Ramen - $8.75
Tenkaippin’s Kotteri Ramen – $8.75

Here’s a peek at what it actually looks like to scoop a mouthful of noodles from this thick, kotteri soup base.

Video of Kotteri Ramen from Tenkaippin’s

 

Tenkaippin Ramen
617 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815 (map)
(808) 732-1211
Mon-Thu: 11am-10pm
Fri-Sat: 11am-11pm

I had to fly all the way to Waikoloa on the Big Island (FBI!) to get this next bowl of yummy goodness. It’s the D.K.’s Crab Ramen from Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar (Queen’s MarketPlace, Waikoloa Beach Resort).

D.K.'s Crab Ramen and Asian Truffle Broth with King Crab, Cilantro, Thai Basil and Mild Jalapenos - $17.95
D.K.’s Crab Ramen and Asian Truffle Broth with King Crab, Cilantro, Thai Basil and Mild Jalapenos – $17.95

One word of caution. After tantalizing our taste buds with this one while on vacation at Waikoloa, we were excited to have it again (and again) at the Sansei closer to home (Waikiki). It was a HUGE disappointment. It did not come close to what we remember enjoying FBI-style, and, if you take a look at the photo below from Sansei Waikiki, you’ll see that it looked nothing like it either.

Disappointing Crab Ramen from Sansei Waikiki
Disappointing Crab Ramen from Sansei Waikiki

We actually tried our luck again on a trip to Maui, and the one at the Kapalua Resort turned out to also be a letdown.

Disappointing Crab Ramen from Sansei Kapalua
Disappointing Crab Ramen from Sansei Kapalua

We’re actually afraid to go back to try the one at Waikoloa in case it was a McDreamy, one time (all-stars-aligned type of) thing. Sansei peeps, if you’re reading this, what’s the scoops?

Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar (Queens Market Place, Waikoloa Beach Resort)
201 Waikoloa Beach Drive Suite 801
Waikoloa, HI 96738 (map)
(808) 669-6286
Dinner Nightly: 5:30pm-10pm
Late Night Dining: Friday and Saturday: 10pm-1am

And finally, talk about good timing… Shirokiya is in the middle of their “Best of Japan: Ramen & Gyoza Festival”, where they bring in popular ramen (and gyoza) vendors from Japan to be featured at their new Yataimura area for two weeks at a time.

The first in the series (featured from 08/23-09/05) was Menya Ifudoudou Ramen from Osaka who served 7,658 bowls during their two week stint! They presented their Kuroton Shibori (dark) and Akaton Shibori (spicy/red) options. Here’s a look at both:

Kuroton Shibori Ramen from Menya Ifudoudou Ramen from Osaka Japan - $8.95
Kuroton Shibori Ramen from Menya Ifudoudou Ramen from Osaka Japan – $8.95

Akaton Shibori Ramen from Menya Ifudoudou Ramen from Osaka Japan - $8.95
Akaton Shibori Ramen from Menya Ifudoudou Ramen from Osaka Japan – $8.95

I don’t know if it was because it was the last day of the series and they were running low on noodles, but the portions were REALLY skimpy.

The second in the series (featured from 09/06-09/19) was Manshuya Ga Ichiban from Fukuoka who served 9,619 bowls of their “Original” Tonkotsu Shibori Ramen. Due to my crazy life as a new dad, I missed this series, but my buddy Rick Nakama was able to check it out (three times!). Here’s his Takana Shibori bowl:

Takana style Tonkotsu Shibori Ramen from Manshuya Ga Ichiban from Fukuoka - $9.95 [Photo Courtesy: Rick Nakama]
Takana style Tonkotsu Shibori Ramen from Manshuya Ga Ichiban from Fukuoka – $9.95 [Photo Courtesy: Rick Nakama]

Rick’s main complaints were about the quantity (again) and the inconsistency of the ramen noodles and taste.

The third in the series (which is currently being featured as I write this – 09/20-10/03) is Hakata Chouten from Fukuoka. I was most excited for this because some of the best ramen I’ve ever tasted in Japan came from the Hakata area in Fukuoka.

UPDATE: This series served 7,805 customers.

Barikoku Negi Tonkotsu Ramen from Hakata Chouten in Fukuoka - $10.95
Barikoku Negi Tonkotsu Ramen from Hakata Chouten in Fukuoka – $10.95

The soup base was pretty tasty, but, again, the quantity was very minimal compared to what we had to pay: $10.95!

Rick Nakama finishing his bowl while Russ Sumida "poses" with mine. 8)
Rick Nakama finishing his bowl while Russ Sumida “poses” with mine. 8)

The fourth in the series happens from October 4th through the 17th and features Hokkaido’s Sapporo Menya Yoshiki who will have three choices of soup base: shiro (white), kuro (black) and aka (red). Following that will be Fukuoka’s Hide Chan Ramen from October 24th-November 6th.

Shirokiya Yataimura (at Ala Moana Shopping Center)
1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Ste 2250
Honolulu, HI 96814 (map)
(808) 973-9111
Mon-Sat: 9:30am-9pm
Sun: 9:30am-7pm

So there you have it. Some interesting options for ramen here in Hawaii right? And that was just part 1! I still have at least 4 more juicy parts to this series (including Gomaichi, Goma Tei, Menchanko-Tei, Chinpei, Kiwami, etc.), but if you have any others suggestions on where I should hit up, holla atcho boy! Shoots!

 Part I  | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V

Poke Paradise – Experiencing the Best Poke Around Hawaii – Part V

May 1, 2010
Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V

Local band Island Rhythms pretty much summed it up in their classic hit, “Is This the End?

Is this the end?
Are you my friend?
It seems to me
We are to be free…

Over the last 4 months, we’ve been poke-ing it up across our great state. We’ve visited some great institutions like Yama’s Fish Market, Tanioka’s, the Honolulu Fish Auction, Haili’s, and Tamashiro Market, and have met with some interesting folks in the industry like Sam Choy, Mel and Justin Tanioka, Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi, Alan Wong, Jed Inouye, Brooks Takenaka, Rachel Haili, Guy Tamashiro, and Hilo’s Uncle Solomon.

And though we’ve still got a loooooong way to go, we’re going to (temporarily) wrap things up this month in the 5th part in the Poke Paradise series with Kahuku Superette, JJ’s Seafood, Off the Wall, Paina Café, Ono’s Seafood, and poke’s new kid on the block Reno Henriques and his shop Fresh Catch.

Reno Henriques – Fresh Catch

Chef/Owner Reno Henriques grew up next to Kaneohe Bay and spent much of his childhood fishing, diving, and trolling in the ocean. After graduating from St. Louis School, he attended Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon, where he honed his culinary skills. Reno returned to Hawaii to help with his family’s businesses (brother Dominic Henriques owns RRR Recycling Services and parents Linda and Robert Henriques own Rolloffs Hawaii), until an opportunity presented itself to open his own place. Fresh Catch was born.

Fresh Catch on Waialae Ave
Fresh Catch on Waialae Ave

Customer response has been tremendous thus far, bringing in tourists and locals alike, even eliciting a visit from UFC Fighter, and Hilo native, BJ Penn.

http://static.ning.com/socialnetworkmain/widgets/video/flvplayer/flvplayer.swf?v=201004131104
BJ Penn Visits Fresh Catch

Wanna learn more about Fresh Catch? Here’s a recent interview I did with owner, Bruddah Reno Henriques.


Reno Henriques Interview

[Edward Sugimoto] Give us a little history about yourself.

[Reno Henriques] I was born and raised in Kaneohe, fished my whole life, went to high school, St. Louis High School, and then after I graduated St. Louis, I went to Western Culinary Institute in Portland Oregon and did a lot of culinary up there. And then, when I came back, my parents own Rolloffs Hawaii, a rubbish company, and my brother does Triple R, I was working for them for about maybe 10 years. Then, my brother started a recycle thing in Kaimuki, so he asked me… ’cause the place was available and it’s too big for him… if I would like to do poke with him. I mean do a poke thing, and then he do his recycling in the parking lot. At first I was like ah, might as well. I didn’t cook for about maybe 10-15 years, but I figured, ah, I’ll give it a shot, I always cook at home. So I came in, prior to that, about a year, I was helping somebody else in Kaneohe, used to be called Slow Poke, it was a fish market. I was just helping him after work, you know, mix poke. One day he got real busy, he was like, “Reno go back there and make your own poke.” So I started mixing and next thing you know, people was telling me, “Oh I wanna try that one, try that one.” So I started making for him, and then, next thing you know, he was like, “You know what. Come over, help me, and you can work off your bill.” *laughs* Free poke and beer. And then he just helped me work couple hours a day, during the rush hour. So that’s how I kinda got into it, and then he taught me a lot of things, and then he retired about 8 months ago and I took over that business also. So now I have two stores, the Kaimuki store and then the Kaneohe store.

[Edward Sugimoto] How many different types of poke do you have and what are some of your more popular ones?

[Reno Henriques] Huuu. Probably got maybe over, I’d say about, between 30-35 different types of poke.

Fresh Catch's wide poke selection [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Fresh Catch’s wide poke selection [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

[Reno Henriques] The most popular one is up to you. I don’t know everybody has their flavor.

Close-up of one of my favorites: the Smoked Tako Poke
Close-up of one of my favorites: the Smoked Tako Poke

[Reno Henriques] You know, shoyu’s a good one. Everybody likes shoyu poke.

Shoyu Poke from Fresh Catch [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Shoyu Poke from Fresh Catch [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

[Reno Henriques] I started a new one, it’s called the Spicy Hawaiian. It’s kinda like an Ahi Limu Poke with spicy sauce inside. Different, but the thing is good, plus with the crunch with the limu.

Spicy Hawaiian Poke from Fresh Catch
Spicy Hawaiian Poke from Fresh Catch

[Reno Henriques] And the salmon poke is one of my popular ones. Teri Furikake Salmon Poke, da buggah’s ono.

Furikake Salmon Poke from Fresh Catch
Furikake Salmon Poke from Fresh Catch

[Edward Sugimoto] How about some of your personal favorites?

[Reno Henriques] My personal favorites is, you know the old school Hawaiian stuff like ake (liver), lomi oio…

Lomi Oio  [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Lomi Oio [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

[Reno Henriques] … Dry aku, a real popular one too is our taegu dry aku. It’s like dry aku, we cut it up, and then, got my grandma’s special taegu sauce. Everybody’s trying to get that one outta me, but cannot part with that one. *laughs*

Reno mixing up a batch of Taegu Dry Aku Poke [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Reno mixing up a batch of Taegu Dry Aku Poke [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

[Edward Sugimoto] And you don’t just have poke. You have plate lunches, marinated meats (party platters, and Red Velvet Cupcakes from Divine Desserts, etc.)…

[Reno Henriques] Yeah, we have all the different plate lunches. Our most popular plate lunch is the Teri Furikake Baked Salmon. That thing is deadly. Moist, juicy…

Teri Furikake Baked Salmon from Fresh Catch
Teri Furikake Baked Salmon from Fresh Catch

[Reno Henriques] Then we got like local favorites like a Deep Fried Ahi Belly with a butter garlic heavy cream sauce.

Deep Fried Ahi Belly from Fresh Catch
Deep Fried Ahi Belly from Fresh Catch

[Reno Henriques] We got grandma’s fatty beef stew. Plenny gravy. And then we got pateles, lau lau, we make smoked meat, chopped steak, just all kine local styles. We also sell marinated meats for the barbeque grill, you know tailgate time?

Marinated Meats from Fresh Catch
Marinated Meats from Fresh Catch

[Reno Henriques] And then we have some cold beverages. My wife and my cousins make red velvet cupcakes. It’s the best on the island I’m tellin’ you. *smiles* It’s the cream cheese frosting with chocolate chips. Mmm.

Red Velvet Cupcake from Divine Desserts (at Fresh Catch)
Red Velvet Cupcake from Divine Desserts (at Fresh Catch)

[Edward Sugimoto] So it’s a whole family affair over here.

[Reno Henriques] Oh yeah, everybody’s involved. Free labor ah? *laughs* Payback time!

[Edward Sugimoto] What’s in store for Fresh Catch?

[Reno Henriques] You know like everybody else, become famous and rich. Nah! *laughs* I’m trying to bottle my sauces right now. So I’ve been going to the mainland. I went to Boston’s seafood show, got some ideas. I want to start bottling a couple of my sauces and maybe one day, you know selling it throughout the world hopefully.

[Edward Sugimoto] Anything else to add to your current or future customers?

[Reno Henriques] Thank you everybody for your awesome business and your support. Fresh Catch will be coming up with a new special very shortly. I can’t tell you guys too much but yeah.

[Edward Sugimoto] Plate lunch or Poke special?

[Reno Henriques] Plate lunch.

[Edward Sugimoto] Shoots, thanks ah?

Fresh Catch
3109 Waialae Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816 (map)
(808) 735-7653
Tue-Fri: 10am-7:30pm
Sat: 8am-7:30pm
Sun: 8am-5pm

Note: Fresh Catch will be holding their 2nd Annual Father’s Day “Up In Smoke” Cooking Contest and “Nobody Cares” Hawaiian Style Car Show on Sunday, June 20, 2010 at the Aloha Stadium Nimitz Parking Lot. Click here for more details.

Ono Seafood Products, Inc.

Through one of my many blogs/tweets/status updates (I don’t remember which), I asked where the best poke place in town was. One of the names that came up regularly was Ono Seafood on Kapahulu.

Ono Seafood Products, Inc
Ono Seafood Products, Inc

Self-proclaimed as “The Best Poke in Honolulu,” this “Ono’s” should not be confused with the Hawaiian Food restaurant “Ono’s” with the same/similar name: Ono Hawaiian Food.

Outside Ono Hawaiian Food
Outside Ono Hawaiian Food

The Hawaiian Food “Ono’s” also resides on Kapahulu, and, to make things even more confusing, they serve poke as well.

Hawaiian Style Poke at Ono Hawaiian Food
Hawaiian Style Poke at Ono Hawaiian Food

But getting back to Ono Seafood Products, Inc… Here’s a quote from my friend Dean Shimamoto, who teaches us what and how to order:

“Every order of poke is made in front of you… You have the option to pick what you want, but I usually get ‘everything’ which means fish, onions, ogo, some kind of chili sauce thing, inamona (i think) and their special sauces. Ogo is fresh and their sauce is mean (haven’t tasted anything like it). How to order… ‘One pound Ahi with Everything’. You can also specify the spiciness, but if you don’t say anything it’s assumed to be mild. I’ve gone enough to know not to go on Tuesdays before 2pm when they get their shipment of fresh ogo.”
-Dean Shimamoto

As you may’ve noticed in the picture above, I arrived at Ono Seafood a tad early and was greeted with their delightful “Closed” sign. After killing an hour or so, I was the first, excitable patron through door. An older woman, whom I could only assume was the reverent “Judy,” took my order.

A confused Aunty Judy takes my order
A confused Aunty Judy takes my order

Though Ono’s has a reasonable variety of products beyond poke like dried goods (ahi, aku, squid jerkey, smoked tako, taegu, etc.) sashimi, party platters, boiled peanuts, and pickled products (kinilau, pickle onion, cucumber kim chee, lomi salmon, etc.), they’re primarily known for their poke and poke bowls.

Poke options at Ono Seafood
Poke options at Ono Seafood

On this occasion, I picked up a half pound of shoyu poke (ahi)…

Shoyu Ahi Poke from Ono Seafood ($14/lb)
Shoyu Ahi Poke from Ono Seafood ($14/lb)

… and a half pound of miso ahi.

Miso Ahi Poke from Ono Seafood ($14/lb)
Miso Ahi Poke from Ono Seafood ($14/lb)

As mentioned by Dean-o, my orders were made to order. And though I didn’t say anything about my spiciness preference, the Shoyu Ahi actually had some pretty good kick to it. If you no can handle (Randall), you should ask for mild regardless.

I don’t know if I’d go as far as naming them “The Best Poke in Honolulu” but it was tasty. Made to order care using only fresh fish is tough to beat.

Ono Seafood Products, Inc.
747 Kapahulu Ave, Apt 4
Honolulu, HI 96816 (map)
(808) 732-4806
Mon-Sat: 9am-6pm
Sun: 10am-3pm

Pa`ina Café

A couple years ago, I broke the story about a place opening up in Ward called The Poke Bowl. Well since that time, brothers Derek and Craig Uyehara, along with their partners, moved shop across the street to the Ward Warehouse area. With the move came a larger property and menu (PDF), as well as a name change to Pa`ina Café.

The line outside Pa`ina Café [Photo Credit: Ryan Ozawa]
The line outside Pa`ina Café [Photo Credit: Ryan Ozawa]

If the Poke Bowl is what you’re after, there is actually a science as to how to order. First you choose your size (small or large or extra large), rice (white or brown) and sauce (hot or mild). Then you pick your poke (Spicy Tuna, Shoyu Ahi, Hot Shoyu Ahi, or Limu Ahi), and cover it with one of 10 toppings at 50 cents a piece: Natto, Taegu, Kim Chee, Takuan, Shredded Nori, Fukujinzuke, Pickled Onions, Furikake, Green Onions, or Seaweed Salad.

Small Hot Shoyu Ahi Poke Bowl with Furikake and Seaweed Salad on White Rice
Small Hot Shoyu Ahi Poke Bowl with Furikake and Seaweed Salad on White Rice

Since there are so many options, you can literally go several times and never get the same thing.

One Small Spicy Tuna Poke Bowl with Shredded Nori, Seaweed Salad and Green Onion on White Rice, and one Small Shoyu Ahi Poke Bowl with Pickled Onions and Seaweed Salad on Brown Rice
One Small Spicy Tuna Poke Bowl with Shredded Nori, Seaweed Salad and Green Onion on White Rice, and one Small Shoyu Ahi Poke Bowl with Pickled Onions and Seaweed Salad on Brown Rice

Derek has informed me that they will actually be moving again in August to the nearby location formerly occupied by the Chowder House. Even more space and seating for their loyal and growing following.

Pa`ina Café
1200 Ala Moana Blvd #24
Honolulu, HI 96814 (map)
(808) 356-2829
Mon-Sat: 10am-8pm
Sun: 10am-6pm

Off the Wall

The brother in law told us about this unique, Okinawan joint sitting in the middle of Pearl Kai Shopping Center. Wifey and I checked it out one day and were pleasantly surprised with their eclectic dishes, especially their andagi options: the Shoyu Pork Andagi…

Shoyu Pork Andagi - Crispy andagi batter surrounding a shoyu pork filling. Served with a shoyu pork sauce and yuzu beurre blanc. $3 each
Shoyu Pork Andagi – Crispy andagi batter surrounding a shoyu pork filling. Served with a shoyu pork sauce and yuzu beurre blanc. $3 each

… and their house specialty: the Chocolate Filled Andagi…

Chocolate Filled Andagi $2 each
Chocolate Filled Andagi $2 each

Some notes from their menu regarding the Chocolate Filled Andagi FYI: “Absolutely made nowhere else! Warning: After eating our Andagi we are NOT responsible for any uncontrollable cravings to eat more than one! We cook our andagi to order and it does take some time to make (approx 20-30 min). Please order your andagi at the beginning of your meal.”

Off the Wall also featured many izakaya-type dishes, including a poke one called the “Naked” Spicy Ahi Poke Musubi.


“Naked” Spicy Ahi Poke Musubi – Our poke layered on a bed of furikake rice and drizzled with a spicy aioli. – $8

Off the Wall
Pearl Kai Shopping Center
98-199 Kamehameha Hwy, B-10
Aiea, HI 96701 (map)
(808) 486-9255
Wed, Thu, Fri: 11am-2pm (take out lunch)
Wed, Thu, Sat, Sun: 5pm-9:30pm (dinner and drinks)
Fri: 5pm-2am (dinner and drinks)
Mon, Tue: Closed

JJ Seafoods

Another name mentioned in my informal survey was a place in Kaneohe called JJ Seafoods. Since I don’t spend nearly as much time on the Windward side as I should, I wasn’t exactly familiar with this place. I did though, remember driving by their very unique looking pink building many a time.

JJ Seafoods in Kaneohe
JJ Seafoods in Kaneohe

It’s not a large place in the slightest. Very mom and pops-ish, which I love.

Inside JJ Seafoods
Inside JJ Seafoods

We were off to a party in the ‘hood so we had to pick up at least two pounds. Unfortunately, we were strolling in just as they were closing and they were all out of their Shoyu Ahi. To our delight, they were willing to mix a fresh batch just for us to go along with our Tako Poke.

Tako Poke from JJ Seafoods ($11.99/lb)
Tako Poke from JJ Seafoods ($11.99/lb)

Ahi Shoyu Poke from JJ Seafoods ($11.99/lb)
Ahi Shoyu Poke from JJ Seafoods ($11.99/lb)

Go and support small, family-run businesses like JJ Seafoods k?

JJ Seafoods
45-726 Kamehameha Highway
Kaneohe, HI 96744
(808) 236-4987

Kahuku Superette

Back in high school, I used to dread seeing “Kahuku” on our basketball schedule. Not only were they good and likely to wipe the floor with us, the bus ride over was a killer in itself. (There’s only so many times one can listen to Boyz II Men on the Walkman. 😛 ) Now that I live somewhat closer to the north shore of Oahu and, more importantly, have my own car, taking that drive, like Rocky says, “ain’t so bad!”

Outside Kahuku Superette
Outside Kahuku Superette

Inside you’ll find your typical superette, complete with groceries and various knickknacks, but head to the back of the store and you’ll find a setup that’s uber popular.

Inside Kahuku Superette
Inside Kahuku Superette

In addition to poke, Kahuku Superette also sells boiled peanuts, seafood salad, and various meats (like kalbi, teriyaki pork chop, chicken bbq and Korean cooked beef), by the pound. You can purchase your poke by the pound, on its own ($9.99/lb), or in a bowl ($9.99/lb + $1, $1.50, or $1.75 for the small, medium or large sizes).

Small Ahi Shoyu Poke Bowl from Kahuku Superette ($9.99/lb + $1)
Small Ahi Shoyu Poke Bowl from Kahuku Superette ($9.99/lb + $1)

(Ed’s Tip: If you can help it, I would recommend eating right away if you get the bowl version. Reason being, the rice is mega hot, so it actually cooks the cold poke on top just a tad.)

Here’s a cross section of the poke bowl.

Side view of the small Ahi Shoyu Poke Bowl from Kahuku Superette ($9.99/lb + $1)
Side view of the small Ahi Shoyu Poke Bowl from Kahuku Superette ($9.99/lb + $1)

Wifey was particularly impressed with the meticulousness of their system. They actually took the weight of the container itself (before anything was in it), and subtracted that from the weight of the entire dish. Although, miniscule, I commend them for being that honest and fair about their pricing.

We also got half a pound of their Ahi Limu Poke.

Ahi Limu Poke ($9.99/lb)
Ahi Limu Poke ($9.99/lb)

Oddly enough, ther Ahi Limu Poke tasted pre-frozen, though their Ahi Shoyu (on the rice) did not. Not sure if it was just a time of day situation or if their Ahi Limu is always pre-frozen (or they serve fresh fish in the bowls only?), but just a head’s up.

Kahuku Superette
56-505 Kamehameha Hwy
Kahuku, HI 96731 (map)
(808) 293-9878

And that’s it! Five amazing months of meeting and eating everything and everyone poke. When we return, I’m hoping to hit up other popular places like Alicia’s, Ruger Market, Tamura’s, Marujyu Market, Monarch Seafoods, Inc., Masa & Joyce, Young’s Fish Market, and Da Pokeman, among others, but until then, kick back, relax and poke it up brah! Hope you enjoyed the series up until this point! Wow, I think I might get a little emotional here. Queue Island Rhythms…

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V

Poke Paradise – Experiencing the Best Poke Around Hawaii – Part IV

April 1, 2010
Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V

Last month’s visit to Brooks Takenaka at the United Fishing Agency Honolulu Fish Auction brought about the name “Rachel Haili”. As part of this ultimate poke quest we’re currently on, Brooks suggested I talk to Rachel to get her perspective on the history of poke in Hawaii. When the boss of the Honolulu Fish Auction speaks, I listen.

Rachel Haili – Haili’s Hawaiian Foods

I visited Haili’s back when they were at the old Farmer’s market, but had not yet made my way out to either of their new locations. Twitterville has been active talking about them too. Ah, better late than never right? Here are some photos of my visit to their Kapahulu location and my interview with Rachel Haili to follow.

Haili's Hawaiian Foods sign
Haili’s Hawaiian Foods sign

Conveniently located on Palani Ave, right off of Kapahulu, the interior at Haili’s is very clean and welcoming.

Interior of Haili's Hawaiian Foods [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Interior of Haili’s Hawaiian Foods [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

Though they have a nice selection of poke…

Limu Ahi Poke [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Limu Ahi Poke [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

Ahi Shoyu Poke [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Ahi Shoyu Poke [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

… their bread and butter is still their traditional Hawaiian fare.

My "custom" plate with Lau Lau and Chicken Long Rice, which included Limu Poke, Haupia and two scoops rice!
My “custom” plate with Lau Lau and Chicken Long Rice, which included Limu Poke, Haupia and two scoops rice!


Rachel Haili of Haili’s Hawaiian Foods

[Edward Sugimoto] Your mom “Rachel Sr.”, if you will, started Haili’s back in 1950. What made her want to do a restaurant?

[Rachel Haili] Well actually we started out in the bar business after the war. They had like a cafe where they served food and liquor, and then, as our family grew, my mother decided that she didn’t want her family to be in the liquor business, so she branched out on her own and started her own Hawaiian food store and fish market. And my parents worked by themselves to build up that business. And it was more of a market type thing, not so much a cafe or restaurant, and that’s where she learned (cause my mother was pure Chinese) she learned to do more of the Hawaiian foods.

[Edward Sugimoto] You began at the old Farmer’s Market. What were those days like?

[Rachel Haili] Yeah, originally, that’s where my parents started, so they were like one of the oldest tenants there. And back then, it was all little stalls of fish markets, meat markets, vegetable skins… and then now it’s more modern of course.

[Edward Sugimoto] And poke, was that pretty big back then?

[Rachel Haili] Back then, I remember when we were kids, there wasn’t poke per se, like how we’re selling it by the pound, pre-made. What you did was you bought the whole fish, and then you asked them to prepare like how you wanted. Back then you bought an aku for like 50 cents, then you tell them, “OK, I want half of it, steak it for me to fry, and then the other half, cut it for me to poke.” So when you sold the fish, you actually had to prepare it for them then. It wasn’t pre-made. And then, it started developing like into a bigger demand for poke, and people were more in a hurry, so, then my parents started pre-cutting the poke. I remember because back then, I had to learn how to clean fish because you know we were so busy. Soon, we had to learn how to cut poke and make the different types of poke. Although when the people bought the fish, you know, then they’d say, “I want to buy a cup of limu and add that into my poke, and put chili pepper (water) for me.” You know, so they kind of dictated what they wanted in their poke. Then, as the demand for poke got bigger, and you pre-made the poke, you had to like make maybe a batch of plain poke, aku or limu aku, and then, at that time, shoyu aku evolved. It wasn’t something like automatic. I remember shoyu aku became popular when I was like in my teens. It wasn’t like, now you go to the supermarket and you see a whole array of pre-made poke. You had to buy the whole fish and then they made it for you. Just like the different types of poke, although we do more traditional poke, where we do awa, and we do like palu, you know, lomi oio, that kind of thing, nowadays it’s evolved into more a modern kind of thing. Where fish now has become similar to chicken or pork, so you do different varieties of it.

Display case at  Haili's Hawaiian Foods [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Display case at Haili’s Hawaiian Foods [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

And then, I think a lot of the sushi bars, because raw fish is so popular, they’ve come up with all kinds of new creations that are pretty to the eye. You know you have fruit in it or masago, all different kind of things. It’s just like how if you order pasta, you have all different things that you put in it. So now, what’s popular is the poke bowls, where you get the poke and you get any kind of topping that you want, sorta like the frozen yogurt. Start out with the basic and then you put whatever, you concoct whatever you want onto it. So you know, that’s what it’s become. But, originally, you bought the whole fish and then they prepared it for you, or you took it home and prepared it yourself.

[Edward Sugimoto] Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, your lease expired and you decided to open up a lunch wagon called Haili’s Backyard Luau. What was the story behind that?

[Rachel Haili] Um, let’s see. Well, you know we’ve been there (at the Farmer’s Market) for 60 years, in fact, this is our 60th year that we’ve been in business. Marukai wanted to expand and they wanted the whole building, so Ward Center decided to convert that whole area into Marukai’s market so we had to move out. One of the options that we came up with in order to keep in contact with our customer base who was primarily in that area, was a lunch wagon. Although we can’t offer everything that we had there, it was a way that we could still keep in contact with them until we found something that was more suitable for us, you know in food offerings that we had. Then we finally came across this area in Kapahulu, and so far, it’s turning into something nice. It’s a little different, in terms of, we shifted from a market to a more deli and restaurant atmosphere. We actually didn’t intend to be a restaurant. You know, it was more of a counter service and you come and sit down, so that’s what we’re hoping to create over here. But you can buy either lunches, and you can take it out or eat it here, or you still can buy our Hawaiian foods by the pint, or the pound as we sold it in the market before.

[Edward Sugimoto] And business is booming. We’re here today and it’s pretty packed.

[Rachel Haili] *modest smile* Well, we always can use more business. We’ve only been open for about 90 days now and, it’s evolving. Customers are learning about us. The location is nice because it’s close to Waikiki. We get more tourists coming in too. Before we used to service primarily local people so now we’re getting a different mixture of people.

[Edward Sugimoto] You folks are big on using social media to market and stay in touch with the community. How did that come about and how are you enjoying it so far?

[Rachel Haili] That was something new for us too. When we did the lunch wagon, our friend suggested that we start using that more. So we’re still learning to use the social media but it’s amazing how fast you can spread the word, or you get more information out by using that. It’s fun, but you gotta keep up with it because once you put information out, you get a lot of feedback right away, so you gotta be on top of it all the time. I hope we’re doing good. *laughs*

[Edward Sugimoto] Yeah, you are! You have two poke items on your menu: Shoyu Ahi and Limu Ahi, and you mentioned that you had more in your display case…

Haili's Menu
Haili’s Menu

[Rachel Haili] Yeah, unfortunately our menu board could only hold like primary items, but our showcase over here also carries our larger selection of poke, which is you know like the poke awa, the aku palu, lomi oio. We specialize more in traditional poke so that’s why we have like the raw crabs and the aku palu.

Aku Palu [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Aku Palu [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

Later we’ll be doing our poke bowls also. But it’s just that because we’re busy getting adjusted in here, we’re like slowly introducing or building up items. Poke bowls seem to be popular because it’s fast and people can pick it up and go right away. And then they get to personalize it too.

[Edward Sugimoto] What are some of your personal favorites types of poke?

[Rachel Haili] My personal favorite type of poke is, well, we’re gonna be creating this, um, sorta like a poke mountain. You know, where it’s like with rice on the bottom, some sliced ahi with avocado, tomato and masago. It’s really nice looking. When we were in Waikiki for a while, we sold those. However, we can’t do everything all at once, so, but we’re going to expand our poke bar and also our food menus. You know, we do catering too, so hopefully we’ll be expanding our catering service.

[Edward Sugimoto] Do you have anything else to add to your current or future customers?

[Rachel Haili] Well I hope all of you have a chance to come in and visit us because we really try to create a spirit of Aloha here, where you’re welcome to come in. We can mix and match whatever you want here and even if you don’t see what you want, you can either pre-order or ask us if we’re able to make it for you because that’s how we started so that’s how we still want to be. Also we make a really good dried aku, and that’s hard to find in town, so come down and check our aku out.

[Edward Sugimoto] OK, thank you very much!

Rachel (right) with her sister Lorraine [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Rachel (right) with her sister Lorraine [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

For more information on the Haili’s Hawaiian Foods, visit their web site at www.hailis.net or follow them on Twitter at @Hailis808.

Haili’s Hawaiian Foods
760 Palani Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 735-8019
Mon-Thu: 9am-7pm
Fri-Sat: 9am-8pm
Sun: 8am-3pm

Guy Tamashiro – Tamashiro Market

Also at the Honolulu Fish Auction, I made contact with Guy Tamashiro of Tamashiro Market. Spontaneously, we did an impromptu interview in preparation for my visit to his shop.


Guy Tamashiro of Tamashiro Market

[Edward Sugimoto] Describe your history with fish.

[Guy Tamashiro] OK, well, I think we first started with fish, actually my dad had a feed store and all that, the first Tamashiro Market, but then he started selling a little bit of fish. I think the story was that he bartered it at that time for some opelu. Then it sold, so he said “ok, that was fun.” So he started going down to the auction across from Aala Park, then he started selling a little bit more, and it started selling well, so he just started expanding it from there. And then, in 1962, he constructed the building that it’s in now, and then from there, it just started seafood as the emphasis.

Seafood selection at Tamashiro Market
Seafood selection at Tamashiro Market

[Edward Sugimoto] And you guys started doing poke after a while?

[Guy Tamashiro] Yeah, yeah, actually, poke was just one/two pans. When I first started working it was only 1 or two pans, and then from there, we, I don’t know, maybe 30 something?

Partial selection of poke at Tamashiro Market
Partial selection of poke at Tamashiro Market

[Edward Sugimoto] Out of that, which one is the most popular one?

[Guy Tamashiro] Ahi is, by far, the MOST popular. And if aku is available, that’s pretty popular too.

[Edward Sugimoto] Ahi limu or any kind of ahi?

[Guy Tamashiro] Ahi limu, ahi shoyu, ahi onion. We’re getting new flavors in too now. As we go on, we want to add to the different tastes that you can get from it, not just the plain type, but also other tastes we want to try out too.

Ahi poke, all wiped out at the end of the day!
Ahi poke, all wiped out at the end of the day!

[Edward Sugimoto] What is your personal favorite?

[Guy Tamashiro] Oh, that’s a hard one. Well, I love aku. Large aku. But for ahi, because they’re coming out with different flavors now, I don’t know. I have a poke lunch maybe 3/4 times a week, and it’s not always the same lunch. Hard to have one favorite, it’s just different flavors.

[Edward Sugimoto] What’s in store for Tamashiro Market?

[Guy Tamashiro] Well, we just hope we do a lot more sales. *laughs*

[Edward Sugimoto] Do you have any words for your customers out there?

[Guy Tamashiro] Sure. You know where to shop. You know where we are. Come down, see us. *smiles*

Located on North King Street in the heart of Kalihi, Tamashiro Market boasts the largest selection of seafood (over 75 varieties) in the state. With their unmistakable pink building and trademark crab statue hanging above, Tamashiro’s was definitely a can’t-miss stop on this Poke in Paradise tour.

Outside Tamashiro Market
Outside Tamashiro Market

Showing their love of the sea (and perhaps an ode to the Japanese boat in the war bearing the same name), a good-sized fishing boat sits atop the center island, overlooking the store.

The Tama Maru boat in Tamashiro Market
The Tama Maru boat in Tamashiro Market

It’s always busy whenever I go, but on this occasion, I just so happen to be there right before closing, so the “getting-stuffs-for-dinner” rush was in full effect.

The evening rush at Tamashiro Market
The evening rush at Tamashiro Market

As Guy suggested, I picked up some Ahi poke. Ahi Onion and Ahi Shoyu to be exact.

Ahi Onion poke
Ahi Onion poke

Ahi Shoyu poke
Ahi Shoyu poke

Sometimes, if I’m in the area for lunch, I’ll pick up some poke from Tamashiro’s and drive over to nearby Boulevard Saimin. The cold poke and hot saimin make for a good marriage (as mentioned before). Here’s a photo at Boulevard Saimin, after I bought some Furikake poke from Tamashiro’s and took it over.

Furikake Poke
Furikake Poke

Tamashiro Market
802 N King St
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 841-8047
Mon-Fri: 9am-6pm
Sat 8am-6pm
Sun 8am-4pm

Poke to Your Taste – Hilo, HI

And finally, here’s an interesting find while visiting the east side of the Big Island.

Poke to Your Taste building
Poke to Your Taste building

Hidden in an inconspicuous building (with no visible signage to speak of) on Leilani Street near the airport, Poke to Your Taste caters to those who prefer to concoct their own batches of poke. “Mix ’em how you like ’em!” is their motto, which I, along with their logo/signage, was finally able to find under an awning on one of their smaller side windows.

Poke to Your Taste sign
Poke to Your Taste sign

The inside of Poke to Your Taste is just as curious as the outside. Most of the usable space is empty or scattered with random items, while a small display case with just 4 items (Hawaiian Poke, Shoyu Poke, Kim Chee Tako Poke, and Imitation Crab Poke) sits to one side.

Display case at Poke to Your Taste
Display case at Poke to Your Taste

Solomon, or Uncle Sol as many call him, stands behind the counter and scoops out your preferred order. On this occasion my choices were to only be one of their two fish options: “Hawaiian Poke” or “Shoyu Poke”.

Starting with your basic poke (Hawaiian or Shoyu style) as your base
Starting with your basic poke (Hawaiian or Shoyu style) as your base

I went Haaaaawaiian because I wanted there to be as little flavor on there as possible to start. From there, Uncle Sol scooped it into my container…

Uncle Sol serving up my poke
Uncle Sol serving up my poke

… and it was just my creativity between me and poke bliss.

You can add a variety of “spices” like Hawaiian salt, furikake, sesame seeds and chili pepper flakes…

Hawaiian salt, furikake, sesame seeds and chili pepper flakes
Hawaiian salt, furikake, sesame seeds and chili pepper flakes

… and, for lack of a better word, “toppings” like ginger, garlic, inamona, green onions, onions, and hot sauce.

Ginger, garlic, inamona, green onions, onions, and hot sauce
Ginger, garlic, inamona, green onions, onions, and hot sauce

No fo-get da sesame seed oil, shoyu and chili peppah watah! 😉

Sesame seed oil, shoyu and chili pepper water
Sesame seed oil, shoyu and chili pepper water

I went with the super combo of furikake, sesame seeds, chili peppers, garlic, inamona, green onions, sesame seed oil and chili pepper water. She go!

My batch of poke had furikake, sesame seeds, chili peppers, garlic, inamona, green onions, sesame seed oil and chili pepper water - $6
My batch of poke had furikake, sesame seeds, chili peppers, garlic, inamona, green onions, sesame seed oil and chili pepper water – $6

Definitely poke to MY taste.

Poke to Your Taste
790 Leilani St.
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 989-9962
Mon-Sat: 10am-6pm

So there it is. Part IV is in the books. Honestly speaking though, this Poke Paradise is not even close to being complete. I’m seriously considering making this a 12 part series and carrying it through the entire year. Wanna help? Email me or comment below where you’d like to see me hit up next. I’ve still got many on my hit list (Ruger Market, Fresh Catch, Tamura’s, Masa & Joyce, Da Pokeman, Young’s Fish Market, Alicia’s, etc.), but send me your tips k?

A special mahalo this month to Rachel Haili and the Haili’s Hawaiian Foods `ohana, Guy Tamashiro and the Tamashiro Market `ohana, Uncle Sol at Poke to Your Taste, and Dave Oi for actually finding the hard to find Poke to Your Taste! LOL! See y’all next month gang!

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V

Poke Paradise – Experiencing the Best Poke Around Hawaii – Part III

March 1, 2010
Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V

Following Part I of this Poke Paradise series, I received an invitation from a Mr. Jed Inouye to come and spend the day with him. In my article, I had mentioned that I was planning on covering the poke from Sam’s Club in a future article and Jed wanted to make sure that I got the inside scoops. You see, Jed is the president of Seafood Hawaii, Inc., a 100% local company who, for all intents and purposes, supplies and runs the seafood departments at both Sam’s Club locations in Hawaii.

The problem with Jed is that he is painfully humble. Shy even. He refused to be filmed at all during the day and wanted the focus to instead be on the process and educating me on the ins and outs of it. He constantly wanted to divert the attention away from himself and towards his partner and employees, repeating his mantra for the day, “It’s not a me thing, but a we thing.”

This is normally where I’d embed my Youtube interview, but this was an unconventional interview with an unconventional guy. So instead, here’s a pictorial glimpse of our “day in the life” activities, starting from the shores of the United Fishing Agency fish auction at Pier 38, to the display case at Sam’s Club.

As described by Jed, the action all starts at the boat.

Boat unloading their catch [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Boat unloading their catch [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

“This fish hole [image above] is well insulated yeah, so it’s all packed in ice. Time and temperature is really important. The fishermen come in and unload their catch into carts.”

Loading their fish into the cart [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Loading their fish into the cart [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

“Nobody’s throwing anything around. Everything is handled with care. Taking care of the fish is real important. Not to bounce it around… It all starts from the fishing. If it starts right on boat, it ends right on plate.”

Every day is different. You have your slow days and you have days like this day when the bounty was quite plentiful. 85,000 pounds from 6 boats to be exact.

Ahi loaded up in cart [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Ahi loaded up in cart [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

Once the cart is loaded up, the fish is taken to the receiving area where they are scaled, weighed and tagged, before hitting the auction floor.

Auction floor at the United Fishing Agency fish auction [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Auction floor at the United Fishing Agency fish auction [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

“The facility is HACCP managed by the federal government,” says Inouye. “Food safety is of the upmost importance. Core temperature must be below 40 degrees. The longer the fish is out of ice, you get temperature fluctuations, especially when it’s over 40 degrees, it’s no good. You don’t want that to happen. You want to be below 40 degrees all the time. If you noticed, it’s all ice. Ice is 32 degrees.”

Fish is kept under ice to ensure that its core temperature is always below 40 degrees
Fish is kept under ice to ensure that its core temperature is always below 40 degrees

“That’s what’s good about buying the fish here in Hawaii vs. other places. You know, you don’t know where the fish has been, if it’s been out of temp. We try to simulate the bin of the boat because that’s how the fish is best kept: in the hole of the boat. In here, we put it in bins and we ice it again.”

We were then allowed to go into a room at the far end of the auction where boatloads (literally) of swordfish were being stored until they were ready to be shipped away.

Lineup of swordfish, ready to be shipped away [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Lineup of swordfish, ready to be shipped away [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

“I used to send a lot of fish away, but I decided I just wanna take care of the local people. The difference is that there’s no middle man for us. We go right from boat to the troat (throat). Taking care of the customer is essential. By doing this, there’s a lot of value, so we can offer it at a cheaper price so everyone can afford it.”

After the fish is auctioned off…

In the middle of an auction
In the middle of an auction

… it heads straight outside to be loaded into the various refrigerated delivery trucks.

Refrigerated delivery trucks receive the fish that was just purchased [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Refrigerated delivery trucks receive the fish that was just purchased [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

“This is a really good way of taking care of the fish,” says Inouye. “Again, they go ahead and, after they buy it, they put it in bins, and re-ice it. Because it simulates the hole again, because you have ice right around the fish. The temperatures don’t change. You’re keeping the temperature constant.”

Fish kept under ice in delivery bins [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Fish kept under ice in delivery bins [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

Like a scene out of “A Night at the Roxbury”, Jed then said it was time to head to “the club.” So we loaded up Jed’s truck with the fish he just purchased from the auction and headed to the Honolulu Sam’s Club location. On the ride down, he opened up.

“You gotta be real passionate about this job or you’re not gonna be able to last. Over the years, 7 days a week. So every day I pretty much do the same thing. My routine yeah. Nothing fancy. I like driving the truck [even though he’s the president of the company] because I’ve always been with the fish so I know it’s fresh. I enjoy this. I really enjoy this. The fish part, the work part, I really enjoy this.”

Then I asked him about his thoughts on poke.

“Poke is something for the imagination. People in Hawaii, they do a good job with poke. It’s just your preference. For us, we have to make sure that the product you start off with is a good product. Once you start off with that… and if you buy the fish in Hawaii, ahhh, can’t get bettah than that. Look, we going to the market now already. I mean fish came off the boat, 5:30 they selling um, it’s 8:30… three hours! How you goin’ beat that?”

“From here, we go to the club. When you hit the club, I mean there’s not much time change. So quality wise, you know. You saw the fish from the boat, it was purchased, went into the bin, all ice, BANG, right to the club. From there, we cut it.”

Preparing the fish for display
Preparing the fish for display

“When you take a look at the way we do things, you’re gonna understand where the ‘we’ comes from. Our people do a lot of work. They do a good job. They spend a lot of time, they wake up early in the morning. It’s a whole team. A lot of our workers make it what it is. I got my brother (Gerald aka ‘Lucky’), my partner (Arick Yanagihara), my employees. That’s why, keep the video off of me because we get plenny good, really good people. It’s a ‘we’ thing, not a ‘me’ thing. Everybody works hard, so they’re the stars, not me.”

Mike is a professional sashimi cutter with 20+ years of experience [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Mike is a professional sashimi cutter with 20+ years of experience [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

Theresa, an employee of 14 years [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Theresa, an employee of 14 years [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

Julie, an employee of 20 combined years [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Julie, an employee of 20 combined years [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

“The product that you put out should represent the people behind it. If you put out a good product the sales should be reflective. But again, food safety and value. Those two things are KEY.”

Imitation Crab Meat Masago ($4.37/lb), White Crab previously frozen ($6.87/lb), and 50/60 shrimp [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Imitation Crab Meat Masago ($4.37/lb), White Crab previously frozen ($6.87/lb), and 50/60 shrimp [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

“The main message is the fish. If the fish is of good quality, that’s what makes everything. It’s the fish.”

Fresh ahi poke - all under $9/lb [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Fresh ahi poke – all under $9/lb [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

“The customer is your boss. No matter what, the customer is your boss. What they say goes. That’s the one that you have to take care of all the time. You have to please your customer, no matter what. As long as they keep coming back, you know you’re doing something right.”

I asked him how he keeps his prices so low.

“For the average person, when the price of the fish gets too high, they cannot afford it. There are times when we do lose money. The main thing is that we want to make sure that the consumer knows that we’re consistent and that we’ll take care of them. I guess that’s the message that really we try to push: We wanna take care of the local people. For our company anyway, we wanna take care of the local people.”

Jed Inouye, employees Julie and Theresa, and general partner Arick Yanagihara [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Jed Inouye, employees Julie and Theresa, and general partner Arick Yanagihara [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

Wow. If that didn’t make you shed a tear, I don’t know what will. 😉 At the very least, it should make you want to join Sam’s Club and visit/support them. Jed Inouye and his Seafood Hawaii, Inc. family exemplifies the true meaning of what a giving, local company should be. And although he will humbly deny it to no end, this truck driving President truly is the star.

Sam’s Club – Honolulu
750 Keeaumoku St,
Honolulu, HI 96814 (map)
(808) 945-9841
Mon-Fri: 10am-8:30pm, Sat: 9am-8:30pm, Sun: 10am-6pm

Sam’s Club – Pearl Highlands
1000 Kamehameha Hwy 100,
Pearl City, HI 96782 (map)
(808) 456-7788
Mon-Fri: 10am-8:30pm, Sat: 9am-8:30pm, Sun: 10am-6pm

During my tour of the fish auction with Jed, I was introduced to Brooks Takenaka, the manager of the United Fishing Agency, the company behind the auction. I sat down with Brooks to get more info on his company and the history behind the fish auction.

Brooks Takenaka – United Fishing Agency

An Interview with Brooks Takenaka – Part I

[Edward Sugimoto] Describe a little bit about your history with fish in the islands. You know, hana battah kid time?

[Brooks Takenaka] Well basically I was born and raised in a fisherman’s family. So my grandfather was a longline fisherman. My father and my uncles were fishermen as well. And until we were born, my father basically stayed on the boat, they stayed fishing. So I come from a fishing family, commercial longline fishing family, and, as a kid, I was always interested in fish, and I could tell you the scientific names of fish, the common names and all that. I used to raise some fish. They didn’t want me to go into fishing. So I had done all the trolling and diving, all kinds of different forms of fishing and all of that, and they didn’t want me to go into fishing, so I pursued a career in Marine Biology. I studied Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii. Then I did some research with the Oceanic Institute. Well, Coconut Island, worked out of Coconut Island, in the university system. And then I worked out at Oceanic Institute, and then I worked for the Sea Grant Program for a bout 3 and a half years and that’s when I came to appreciate education and outreach. So I was working for those guys and then the industry was going through some changes and they made me an offer and so I came back into the industry and have been here ever since. I’ve been here for about 30 years now with the United Fishing Agency.

[Edward Sugimoto] To those who don’t know, explain who exactly the United Fishing Agency is and its role is in the fish auction?

United Fishing Agency sign
United Fishing Agency sign

[Brooks Takenaka] Well, the United Fishing Agency is the fish auction, and basically, it’s a company that was put together many many many years ago, decades ago actually [incorporated in 1952]. And the whole idea, which is really a beautiful one, was put together by the senior Otani [Matsujiro Otani], and then basically it was a matter of bringing together wholesalers and fishermen to form an organization that basically put together a program that brought together the daily fish demand with the fish supply. And so back then, it was a far more expansive reality in terms of the type of species because you had reef fish, deep sea bottom fish, as well as open ocean pelagic fish. Maybe not in these kinds of numbers that you have today, but back then, when I was a kid, I remember going to the auction and there was a lot of reef fish. Trapping, netting, diving… all kinds of reef fish, and then there was a few bottom fish, and longline. Certainly the situation now is different in that the reef fish is pretty much sold as a different entity. They have their own market, and we don’t get involved with the reef fish anymore. But we do sell the deep sea bottom fish and the longline stuff, the um, pelagic stuff. So how the auction works basically is that when these fishermen provision up to go out fishing, the purveyors they buy their products from – the food, the fuel, the water… those purveyors would send their billing here to United Fishing Agency. These fishermen go out fishing, they come back, first up on the dock, first up on the floor. And every day, six days a week, the list of boats is listed on the board there. There is a phone service that people can call in to find out you know what we’ve got, how much they’ve got. So then we basically put up their fish, we unload their fish and put up their fish. All of every boat’s fish is color coded, and we sell one boat’s fish at a time. So we start off with the bigeye tuna, which is the target species of this fleet, and then with the yellowfin, and then the different tuna species, like your albacore or tombo, and then your skipjack or aku, and sometimes some kawa kawa. But longline not so much kawa kawa. Then um, your marlins, then your mahimahi, ono, other species like that: monchong, walu, opah. One of the good things about the Hawaii fleet is that historically, they’ve always brought back all the species they catch, with the exception of the blue fish, the blue shark, they bring back everything. And the nice thing about the Hawaii situation is that there’s a fond appreciation for all the species, so we don’t waste any of these species at all. And with the cultural diversity that we have, there’s so many different ways of preparing these fish, that you know people have a good appreciation for all these species. So that’s basically how it works. In terms of how we get paid, we take 10% off the gross sales for our payment. Basically that’s how it works.

[Edward Sugimoto] I read somewhere that this market is based off of the Tsukiji market (in Japan) in a little sense. Is that the true?

[Brooks Takenaka] Not in a little sense. Very very much so. We’re actually a very junior version of Tsukiji. It’s based after the traditional Japanese method of auction selling fish.

[Edward Sugimoto] You were kinda briefly walking us through the process. Can you in a little more detail (explain the process), how it comes off the boat, you do the scaling, you do the weighing and all of that?

[Brooks Takenaka] Yeah. How it all works is basically, when they come home, we unload the boats. If you go outside and take a look at some of the carts, the carts were built… Actually, prior to coming, moving to this facility, we were over in Kewalo, and what we used to do is we used to send trucks out to go pick up the fish at the various piers. Since moving here, the accommodations are great because we unload the boats right here. So it’s much more timely and the freshness and quality are significantly better. So it’s a far better facility. And basically how it works is these boats come home and we have an answering service, so first in, first up, and the answering service lets us know who’s first, second, third and all this. So, in order for us to start the auction at 5:30 (AM), my guys come in at 1 o’clock. They call the answering service, they figure out who’s first, then they just start unloading the boats. Those carts that we have now to unload the boats basically represent the same size of the truck bed that we used to go pick up fish with. And one of the reasons why we did that was because we have a good idea of about how many pounds are in each truckload. So that way, it’s another form of checks and balance(s). So that, we built the carts to be the same size, and about the same amount of fish, so we know there’s about 3,000 pounds of fish in that cart. Around there, yeah, depending on the species and sizes. So then, the boat unloads the fish into the carts. Those carts then are moved over to the facility, and then you see the weighing area where we stage it all out, and then the fish gets weighed and then tagged. And then you have a weight tag as well as a bar code and on the bar code, you have the information of the boat, the date, all this kind, what kind of species, how many pieces, that sort of thing. Then those fish are lined up, like I said, bigeye, big to small, yellowfins big to small, and then the others by catch species. And, that’s basically how we started. At 5:30, the bell rings, and off they go. What we do with the tunas however, is that you’ll notice that we do a tail cut, wedge cut, and then we’ll do an anterior coring. So basically, that’s all on each fish, each tuna in particular. And so the buyer has a good profile of what that fish is in terms of quality. And that facilitates and expedites their bidding on the fish. So that’s how it works.

The tail cut, wedge cut, and anterior coring shows buyer the quality of the fish [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
The tail cut, wedge cut, and anterior coring shows buyer the quality of the fish [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

[Edward Sugimoto] What do they kind of look for: bloodline?

[Brooks Takenaka] Well, what they’re looking for is freshness and quality, also relative to their client base. OK, so in other words, they have a good feel for their client base and then they’re bidding on fish that basically services their clientele. And so you have companies in there that play the whole gamut in terms of quality and range and prices, and you have those that are more of a niche market type of situation. And so, what’s interesting is that you have a whole different approach by different people in terms of how they’re buying, what they’re buying, how much they’re willing to spend, depending on what kind of client base they have. So some of these companies do send fish to the mainland. They work with people on the mainland, they’ll send fish to the mainland. Others will send… they’re even marketing in Vancouver. On occasion, you’ll hear comments about some of these fish maybe going to Japan. Not as much as before because what’s happened is that the world has come to appreciate sashimi and sushi and raw fish a bit more than it has in the past, and so what’s happening is there… and people are beginning to appreciate the value, and so, there are more people that are buying tuna today as compared to before. So not as much ends up in the Japanese market. A lot of it does go to the mainland United States. Canada. Vancouver’s a very strong market. So the rest of the world has figured out what’s happening with fish and that’s part of the reason why we’re talking this sustainability today. So that’s why we talk about those kind of issues today.

An Interview with Brooks Takenaka – Part II

[Edward Sugimoto] What kind of famous chefs/people come through here that you rub elbows with?

[Brooks Takenaka] Oh jeez. You name um, we’ve had um. Aw cheez, we’ve had Nobu (Matsuhisa), we’ve had Iron Chef (Masaharu Morimoto), we’ve had Paul Prudhomme, Ming Tsai, Chan Can (Martin Yan?). We’ve had a number. Of course and then there’s people like Chef Mavro (George Mavrothalassitis) and Alan Wong and Roy (Yamaguchi) and D.K.’s (David “D.K.” Kodama), you know, those people. And we also have a fair amount of visiting chefs from around the world and the country. So, far more than I can name. In fact we’ve also done tours for a lot of associations like nutritionists and people like that. I teach the coast guard… actually I also teach culinary classes, marine biology, oceanography classes, and I teach the coast guard.

[Edward Sugimoto] So your (Marine Biology) education comes in handy then?

[Brooks Takenaka] Yes, very much so. That was the purpose of it all. We have an incredible industry, but I think the industry was remiss for a long time because they pretty much did their own thing and kept to themselves. And then, in the meantime, what’s happened is that of course there’s interest that has just generated with respect to issues like sustainability and all this. And so we felt that it was important for us as an industry to get this message out, get some information out. And that’s the reason why we started the program that we have. So the program that we have now is called the Hawaii Seafood Council. It’s a non-profit organization, and we’ve set that up to develop the educational programs and materials to assist the industry.

[Edward Sugimoto] In terms of poke, what’s your favorite type?

[Brooks Takenaka] It all depends on what kind of fish there is and what kind of ingredients there are and what I’m jonesin’ for. I love aku poke and I happen to also love a lot of limus like waiwaihole and limu kohu, and lipoa, as well as the ogo. Actually the ogo to me doesn’t have that much taste. Lipoa, which is a really stinky one, is to me a real good limu to use for poke, but most people cannot eat that because of the strength. It’s kinda strong. So in terms of poke again, there’s so many different ways of preparing it, and in reality you can use all kinds of fish to do this. So it really becomes a matter of how you want to prepare it, what you want to prepare. But for me, I like aku poke. I like ahi poke, marlin poke (either nairagi, kajiki), and then, there’s also, you know again, like I said, poke is really a matter of imagination. You can do all kinds of things with that. Lobster poke is ono, you know, opihi poke is ono, so it depends. Crab, you can make crab poke, you know raw crab, stuff like that.

[Edward Sugimoto] It must be pretty hard to please you though since you’re so used to the freshness here?

[Brooks Takenaka] Well yeah, I’m a stickler for quality. And so, if you know of like say Take’s Fish Market in Moiliili, that’s the kind of place my wife will buy sashimi. I mean you know it could cost us $60-$80 for a pound and a half or two pounds you know, but it’s worth it. So here, again, it depends on what you’re used to. And since I was born and raised with fish, I’ve eaten parts of fish that most people don’t even consider. So again, my appreciation with fish is far greater or different than most. Like I said today, when I was a kid, I remember eating parts of fish that nobody else would eat. That was poor man’s food. Today, because of health, people are looking into other parts of the fish too, so we’re finally getting to… it’s gone 180. I mean now people are beginning to appreciate some of the other parts of the fish too. So I would venture to guess that anybody learning how to eat fish from people in Hawaii, they really learn how to eat fish. Hawaii people know how to eat fish.

[Edward Sugimoto] Speaking of kinda “stranger” pieces of the fish, the abura mi, the fatty parts, that’s of more value as opposed to the (aka mi)…

[Brooks Takenaka] Yeah well, you know, as the chefs say, the fat is where the flavor is. And so, in this case, one of the things that we teach the culinary kids of course is that the difference between the aka mi, or red meat, and the abura, or fatty fish vs. non-fatty fish, that doesn’t mean that the non-fatty fish is no good. In fact, some of these non-fatty fish can be nice enough that it can go 7, 8, 9, 10, 12 dollars a pound. But, if that same fish had some fat in it, it can probably go dollar, two dollars more a pound. And there is a significant difference even from species to species, there’s difference in terms of. So recently, I shared some fatty yellowfin and some fatty bigeye with Chef Mavro and Alan Wong, and they noticed the difference, the significant difference between the two species. Different kind of flavor, different kind of intensity in terms of the fat. So there’s a lot of things we can do, to share with the public in terms of understanding about quality and appreciation for quality.

Ahi, freshly cut on the auction floor [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]
Ahi, freshly cut on the auction floor [Photo Credit: Arthur Betts]

[Edward Sugimoto] What’s in store for the United Fishing Agency?

[Brooks Takenaka] Well, I hope that we can work our way through some of the issues that we have to deal with in terms of the sustainability issues, and protecting species like turtles and birds and things like that. We certainly, you know the United Fishing Agency has been around since 1952, and I certainly hope that in history, we continue to succeed and can move forward you know, for the next generation. And I hope that we can continue to be innovative and stay ahead of the curve in terms of doing things the right way for the right reasons, and being able to continue to supply fish for our people because I think it’s a very significant part of our culture as well as lifestyle. And seafood of course, fresh seafood is, I think very very healthful. And so from that perspective alone, I certainly would like to continue to be able to provide good, healthy fish for the public. And, if you think about it, like I ask people think about this: what is the only form of food today that has no chemical additives in it? Wild fish, right? And you have concerns like bird flu, swine flu, all this other kind of stuff, but, you ever heard of fish flu? No. So the demand for fish, the concern for protecting the resource is important and we need to continue to do things to protect that resource. But, the thing is, I think people can also realize… learn and realize that some efforts are in fact being done the right way for the right reasons and I think the Hawaii effort is indeed one of those exemplary efforts. So I think if the rest of the world were to in fact conduct their fishing like we do here, then we may not have the kind of concerns that we have for the resources and stuff, so it would be better for the resources.

[Edward Sugimoto] And your auction is open to the public. Is there anything else you want to mention?

[Brooks Takenaka] Yeah, it’s open to the public, but we gotta be careful about how many people we get over here. That’s one of the things that again, we do these kinds of interviews, and I’ve got a few others to do within the next couple of weeks, but again, I do this with a grain of salt because the thing is, on one hand, we want people to know about our industry, but I also have a business to run and I gotta be careful about my time. But I mean people are welcome to come. It is open to the public.

[Edward Sugimoto] OK, thank you very much!

[Brooks Takenaka] You’re very welcome.

For more information on the Hawaii Seafood Council and what Brooks folks are doing for the seafood community, please visit: http://www.hawaii-seafood.org.

Since we’ve already covered Sam’s Club, let’s turn this one into a “supermarket kine poke” piece and take a virtual stroll through some of the others doing poke here in the islands shall we?

Costco Poke

One of my favorites from Costco is their Japan Clam Poke, which, according to the label, contains: Japan clam meat, alae salt, chili pepper flakes, green onions, sliced sweet onion, and sesame seed oil.

Japan Clam Poke - Japan clam meat, alae salt, chili pepper flakes, green onions, sliced sweet onion, and sesame seed oil ($11.99/lb)
Japan Clam Poke – Japan clam meat, alae salt, chili pepper flakes, green onions, sliced sweet onion, and sesame seed oil ($11.99/lb)

I haven’t seen it in some time though, but I’m hoping and praying that it’s a “seasonal” thing as opposed to a “discontinued” thing. :

Other good ones include their Fresh Ahi Limu Poke,

Fresh Ahi Limu Poke - ($12.99/lb)
Fresh Ahi Limu Poke – ($12.99/lb)

their Fresh Ahi Shoyu Poke,

Fresh Ahi Shoyu Poke - ($11.99/lb)
Fresh Ahi Shoyu Poke – ($11.99/lb)

and their Garlic Shrimp Poke.

Garlic Shrimp Poke - ($9.99/lb)
Garlic Shrimp Poke – ($9.99/lb)

Costco
(Many locations)

Safeway Poke

I have a soft spot in my heart for Safeway ’cause they be my peeps. They were the ones to give me my first part-time gig during high school daze, where I eventually moved up to the “Fish Cutter” position in the seafood department. This is where I experienced my first taste (literally) of the art of poke making.

Back then, there was no such thing as “spicy tuna” (as it’s known today), and some of the other “fancy” kine styles like wasabi, furikake, avocado, etc. My bread and butter was the ahi limu poke. A batch I recently picked up, though previously frozen, tasted eerily similar to the one I used to make.

(Previously Frozen) Ahi Limu Poke ($7.99/lb)
(Previously Frozen) Ahi Limu Poke ($7.99/lb)

If it’s available, and you can at all help it (and can afford it), my recommendation is to always go for the “fresh” version. There’s a HUGE difference in taste, texture and quality. Not to mention that a lot of times, places will treat/preserve their fish with carbon monoxide in order to “promote color retention” (keeps their fish looking red or from turning brown). Any time you can eat poke naturally (or any food for that matter) and avoid the chemicals, I advise it. Unfortunately, on this occasion, Safeway (and some of those below) didn’t have many fresh options.

Next to the Ahi Limu Poke, wifey particularly enjoyed the Ahi Poke Furikake from Safeway.

(Previously Frozen) Ahi Poke Furikake ($7.99/lb)
(Previously Frozen) Ahi Poke Furikake ($7.99/lb)

The current Fish Cutter told us that these next two batches were new, so we gave them a whirl. The Hot Ahi Poke (made with Sriracha sauce)…

(Previously Frozen) Hot Ahi Poke ($7.99/lb)
(Previously Frozen) Hot Ahi Poke ($7.99/lb)

… and the Ahi Wasabi Poke.

(Previously Frozen) Ahi Wasabi Poke ($7.99/lb)
(Previously Frozen) Ahi Wasabi Poke ($7.99/lb)

In the mood for some octopus, we rounded out our visit to Safeway with their popular Kim Chee Tako Poke.

Kim Chee Tako Poke
Kim Chee Tako Poke

Safeway
(Many locations)

Foodland Poke

I have to be perfectly honest. I’ve never been a fan of Foodland’s poke, though I do strangely enjoy some of Sack N Save’s versions on the neighbor islands. It could’ve been the taste/flavoring, the fish itself, the fact that I worked at Safeway (Ha!), or perhaps that I’ve just been unlucky whenever I ordered from there. To be fair, I picked up 4 types of their previously frozen styles: their Spicy Ahi…

(Previously Frozen) Spicy Ahi Poke ($7.99/lb)
(Previously Frozen) Spicy Ahi Poke ($7.99/lb)

… their Ahi Limu…

(Previously Frozen) Ahi Limu Poke ($7.99/lb)
(Previously Frozen) Ahi Limu Poke ($7.99/lb)

… their Ahi Shoyu…

(Previously Frozen) Ahi Shoyu Poke ($7.99/lb)
(Previously Frozen) Ahi Shoyu Poke ($7.99/lb)

… and their new Ahi & Avocado Poke.

(Previously Frozen) Ahi & Avocado Poke ($7.99/lb)
(Previously Frozen) Ahi & Avocado Poke ($7.99/lb)

They also had signage speaking of the carbon monoxide preservation methods, but interestingly enough, they also mentioned this: “From Philippines.” Not quite sure why, but perhaps because it is not local to Hawaii?

If anyone from Foodland wants to fill us in, complete the feedback form on the right and I’ll put your statement in here for ya.

Foodland
(Many locations)

Poke from TKS in Honokaa, Hawaii

To make sure I cover those doing poke well on the neighbor islands, I flew over to Hilo to visit my friend Dave. We found time to hit up KTA and Sack N Save, as well as the T Kaneshiro Store or TKS in “nearby” Honokaa.

T Kaneshiro Store (TKS) in Honokaa, Hawaii
T Kaneshiro Store (TKS) in Honokaa, Hawaii

As with many mom and pop type groceries like this, they didn’t have a dedicated seafood department, but they did provide a handful of poke options in their refrigerated section, including Ahi Poke – Korean Style, Ahi Poke with Sesame Oil, and Ahi Shoyu Poke.

Ahi Shoyu Poke
Ahi Shoyu Poke

T Kaneshiro Store
45-5002 Lehua Street
Honokaa, HI 96727
(808) 775-0631

Poke from KTA Super Stores – Hilo

There are two KTA locations in Hilo: on Keawe street and Puainako Stree, but we made sure to hit up the significantly larger Puainako locale.

KTA Punainako
KTA Punainako

Woah. In order to match the sheer size of their store (I’m guessing), the size of their seafood department is equally enormous!

Bruddah Dave checking out the wide range of goodies
Bruddah Dave checking out the wide range of goodies

Their selection included such items as Tako Miso, Tako Hawaiian, Tako Kim Chee with Cucumber, Tako Shoyu, Tako Sesame, Spicy Tako, Marlin (Au) Korean, Marlin Nori, Marlin Low Salt Shoyu, Marlin Shoyu, Ahi Korean, Ahi Nori, Spicy Ahi, Ahi Hawaiian, Ahi Shoyu, Kim Chee Soybeans, Crab Poke, Shoyu Clams, Nori Tofu, Mussel Poke, Shoyu Hokkigai (Surf Clam), Pipi Kaula, Kim Chee Shrimp, etc.

Numerous poke choices at KTA
Numerous poke choices at KTA

I know it’s hard to tell (based on the amateur panoramic photo attempt above), but take my word for it, they had CHOKE options. 🙂

We sampled the Ahi Shoyu and Ahi Korean options (BTW, they weren’t labeled, but they tasted of the pre-frozen variety).

Ahi Korean Poke (left/top) and Ahi Shoyu Poke (right/bottom) and from KTA ($7.99/lb each)
Ahi Korean Poke (left/top) and Ahi Shoyu Poke (right/bottom) and from KTA ($7.99/lb each)

KTA Super Stores
(Many locations)

Sack N Save Poke

And finally, we hit up the Kinoole Street Sack N Save location in Hilo.

Kinoole Street Sack N Save in Hilo
Kinoole Street Sack N Save in Hilo

They had a pretty reasonably sized selection that included Ahi Hawaiian Style, Ahi Shoyu, Ahi Sesame, Ahi Furikake, Spicy Ahi, Ahi Oyster Sauce, Ahi Limu, Ahi Garlic, Avocado Ahi, Korean Ahi, Ahi Wasabi and Fresh Ahi Poke, as well as Soybeans, Tako Kim Chee Poke, Tako Furikake Poke, Cooked Madako Tako Poke, and Smoked Tako Poke.

Sack N Save's Poke Selection
Sack N Save’s Poke Selection

The Avocado Ahi was a big seller, so we picked up the rest of that tray along with some Spicy Ahi.

(Previously Frozen) Spicy Ahi Poke ($7.99/lb)
(Previously Frozen) Spicy Ahi Poke ($7.99/lb)

(Previously Frozen) Avocado Ahi Poke ($8.99/lb)
(Previously Frozen) Avocado Ahi Poke ($8.99/lb)

As with their sister/mothership Foodland, they had their previously frozen trays clearly marked with the “carbon monoxide” and “from Philippines” warning labels.

Comparing the poke from Hilo’s Sack N Save to the Oahu equivalents from Foodland, I really enjoyed the Hilo versions more, especially the Avocado Ahi one FBI (From Big Island)! Good job B.I.!

Sack N Save
(Many locations)

Home Made Poke

And finally, as if I didn’t bombard you enough with photos already 😛 , here’s a step-by-step look at a home made batch I recently put together for a family gathering. Enjoy!

Cubed up Aku
Cubed up Aku

I started by cubing up some aku that my mom had purchased from downtown. Aku has a stronger/fishier taste than Ahi, but to me, is a LOT better for making poke.

Below are some of the “ingrediments” I used including shoyu, chili pepper flakes, chili pepper watah (water), green onions, tobiko, and a generous serving of sesame seed oil (I have a preference for Kadoya brand sesame seed oil).

Ingredients for my poke - Shoyu, chili pepper flakes, chili pepper water, green onions, tobiko, and Kadoya sesame seed oil
Ingredients for my poke – Shoyu, chili pepper flakes, chili pepper water, green onions, tobiko, and Kadoya sesame seed oil

Don’t forget the limu/ogo!

Mixing the ingredients together as the limu/ogo awaits
Mixing the ingredients together as the limu/ogo awaits

We add all the ingredients to the bowl (I like to save the sesame seed oil for last) and it looks a little sumthin’ like this…

Poke mixture before mixing
Poke mixture before mixing

Here it is up close.

Poke mixture up close
Poke mixture up close

I then added some furikake and the sesame seed oil and we got something that looked like this.

Ed's Aku Poke
Ed’s Aku Poke

Yeah, the color turned a little dark because of the shoyu, but it was yummy nonetheless… If I do say so myself. 😛

Ed’s Fish Hut
1 Ono Way
Honolulu, HI.
(808) 999-NEVAH-MINE!

A-ight, that’s it for Part III of this Poke Paradise series. Stay tuned for next month, when I interview Rachel Haili of Haili’s Hawaiian Foods, Guy Tamashiro of Tamashiro’s Fish Market, and visit a few other island favorite poke spots.

A big mahalo to Jed Inouye, Arick Yanagihara, Steve Rudolph, and the entire Seafood Hawaii, Inc. team, Brooks Takenaka and everyone at the United Fishing Agency fish auction at Pier 38, Dave Oi for the FBI Hilo hospitality and Grant Lau for assistance with the air accommodations. See y’all next month!

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V

Poke Paradise – Experiencing the Best Poke Around Hawaii – Part I

January 1, 2010
 Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V

I gotta admit… One of the perks of working on these “best of” pieces is the eating. I’m lucky enough to grind some of the most onolicious foods Hawaii’s got to offer and live to write about it. This month, I’m covering one of my all-time favorite snack/food/pupu/whatever-you-wanna-call-it: Poke! Aurite!

According to Wikipedia, poke (pronounced poh-kay) is “a raw fish salad served as an appetizer or main course in Hawaiian cuisine. Poke is Hawaiian for ‘section’ or ‘to slice or cut’.”

The expert in local kine poke is local kine chef Sam Choy. In his new book, simply named “Poke” he shares some history: “In the old days, the whole slice would be eaten, skin, bones, and all. Inedible portions were picked or spat out. When the raw fish was ‘prepared,’ it meant the fish was mashed (lomi), or other ingredients were added to it, mostly salt and savories like ‘opihi, lobster, sea urchin roe, kukui nut relish, and different kinds of limu (seaweed) – manauea, lipe`epe`e, kohu, lipoa, etc.”


Buy This Book from Amazon.com

Growing up as a second generation Japanese-American, raw fish and seafood has always been a part of my life, so poke was a natural and, frankly, easy transition for my taste buds. In high school, I worked in the seafood department at my neighborhood market and became somewhat known for my poke concoctions. I remember customers asking if I made the poke that day, and, if I said, “No, I just came in,” they would frown and walk away. I took that as a great compliment.

My goal with this article is simple: Give props to the local establishments, big and small, who are doing poke right, right here in Hawaii. I’m proud to be from Hawaii, and feel that it’s almost my duty as a local boy to spread the word about those who are doing their part to perpetuate the rich culture that is poke.

Yama’s Fish Market
Yama’s is a small fish market I used to frequent during my old school UH days, back when they were near Poha Lane. Now, they’re right down the road on Young Street and is almost always a pumpin’!

Yama's Fish Market Sign
Yama’s Fish Market Sign

Though their Hawaiian plate lunches are pretty mean, my main focus whenever I go to Yama’s is their Ahi Masago Poke. It’s to die for! Trust.

Ahi Masago Poke - just made for me! - $11.95/pound
Ahi Masago Poke – just made for me! – $11.95/pound

Masago is already an escape from the norm of “standard” poke ingredients, but furikake on top of that? Combine that with green onions, sesame seeds (which may be part of the furikake), shoyu maybe?, and choke sesame seed oil, and you getcho self one winnah!

Yama's Ahi Masago Poke up close
Yama’s Ahi Masago Poke up close

I’ve been trying to reach Yama’s Fish Market’s President Brian Yamamoto for a soundbite, but da buggah is hard to reach. If you’re out there Brian, holla, and I’ll add your quote here.

(UPDATE! Mr. Yamamoto emailed me, thanking me for the plug. Mahaloz!)

Until then, go give the Ahi Masago Poke from Yama’s a try, but be sure to save some for me kay? 🙂

Yama’s Fish Market
2332 Young Street
Honolulu, HI 96826 (map)
(808) 941-9994
Mon-Sat: 9am-7pm
Sun: 9am-5pm
(Holiday Hours)


Golden Mart
Not too many people know about this hidden gem in Mililani, but it’s quickly become one of my all-time favorite places to get my poke fix on (like Donkey Kong).

Outside Golden Mart in Mililani
Outside Golden Mart in Mililani

Located in a small strip mall on the Mililani Golf Course side of Kamehameha Highway (across Mililani Shopping Center), Golden Mart sells what you’d traditionally find at a local mini mart like snacks, beer and cigarettes. How they separate themselves from the pack however, is their mouth-watering selection of hot foods, boiled peanuts, and poke.

Three popular pokes from Golden Mart: Creamy Wasabi Ahi, Spicy Tuna and the Golden Mart Special
Three popular pokes from Golden Mart: Creamy Wasabi Ahi, Spicy Tuna and the Golden Mart Special

Employee Cori, and owner Julie Miyatake, who doubles as a USPS employee, both agree that Fridays are the best days to come if you’re looking for poke as the entire display case is filled with the different varieties they carry. My personal favorites are the Creamy Wasabi Ahi Poke…

Creamy Wasabi Ahi Poke in the display case
Creamy Wasabi Ahi Poke in the display case

Creamy Wasabi Ahi Poke up close - $10.99/pound
Creamy Wasabi Ahi Poke up close – $10.99/pound

… and the Golden Mart Special.

Golden Mart Special with the special sauce on the side -$9.99/pound
Golden Mart Special with the special sauce on the side -$9.99/pound

Golden Mart Special with the special sauce inside
Golden Mart Special with the special sauce inside

Although, I’m not a fan of wasabi (I don’t even use it on my sashimi/sushi), the Creamy Wasabi Ahi Poke brok’ da mout’! How they make it is still a mystery, but if I had to guess, I’d say the tobiko-like topping (they’re green!) is filled with (or marinated in?) wasabi flavoring, while the rest of the poke is mixed with mayo (and wasabi?) in a creamy ahi sorta way. 😛

The Golden Mart Special’s lure is the Golden Mart special sauce, hands down. Filled with a concoction of liquids including shoyu, sesame seed oil and other mysterious ingredients that I’d pay to know 😛 , this sauce is what keeps ’em comin’ back. You can’t even get the special sauce (other than paying for it separately) if you don’t order the Golden Mart Special!

For good measure (and since I’ve got the photo 😉 ), here’s also a shot of Golden Mart’s Spicy Tuna poke for kicks… another winnah!

Spicy Tuna Poke
Spicy Tuna Poke

Golden Mart
95-119 Kamehameha Highway
Mililani, HI, 96789 (map)
(808) 625-2442‎

While, we’re in the Mililani area, let’s visit the place that Diners, Drive-ins and Dives’ Guy Fieri recently visited: Poke Stop.

Poke Stop
Chef Elmer Guzman, a graduate of the Kapiolani Community College Culinary Arts program, has trained under Alan Wong, worked as a sous chef under Emeril Lagasse, and was the Executive Chef at Sam Choy’s Diamond Head Restaurant before opening his two Poke Stop locations (one in Waipahu and one in Mililani Mauka).

In addition to serving up “gourmet food at plate lunch prices” (their catch phrase), Guzman and company offer a bevy of poke to live up to their namesake. Some of their “must tries” are the Sweet Onion Ahi poke, the Blackened Ahi poke, the Furikake Salmon poke, the Ginger Scallion Shrimp poke, “Da Works” Oio poke, and my personal favorite, the Spicy Creamy Ahi poke.

Spicy Creamy Ahi Poke - $10.95/pound
Spicy Creamy Ahi Poke – $10.95/pound

Poke Stop – Waipahu
94-050 Farrington Highway, E-4
Waipahu, HI, 96797 (map)
(808) 676-8100

Poke Stop – Mililani Mauka
95-1840 Meheula Parkway
Mililani, HI, 96789 (link on Google maps is inaccurate. Should be here.)
(808) 626-3400

And, to my neighbor island bruthas and sistahs, no worries. I gotcho back! Here’s a little Honolulu love to The Fish Express in Lihue, Kauai.

The Fish Express
Very conveniently located on Kuhio Highway in Lihue, Kauai…

Outside The Fish Express in Lihue, Kauai
Outside The Fish Express in Lihue, Kauai

… I like to pick up a quarter pound or so on my way to Hamura’s Saimin. The cold saltiness of the fish matches perfectly with the hot saltiness of the saimin.

(Previously Frozen) Ahi Limu Poke from The Fish Express - $6.99/pound
(Previously Frozen) Ahi Limu Poke from The Fish Express – $6.99/pound

The Fish Express (Kauai)
3343 Kuhio Hwy. # 10
Lihue, HI 96766 (map)
(808) 245-9918
Mon-Sat: 10am-6pm
Sun: 10am-4pm

Alas, I’ve been tasked to make my poke for a New Year’s family gathering, so here’s a lil’ step by step action that will 1) help you if/when you make your own batch and 2) help to refresh my memory! LOL! Enjoy!

Diced/Cubed Ahi blocks with Hawaiian salt and green onions added (props to Ryan Moriguchi for reeling in the fish!)
Diced/Cubed Ahi blocks with Hawaiian salt and green onions added (props to Ryan Moriguchi for reeling in the fish!)

Inamona (kukui nut) added
Inamona (kukui nut) added

Limu Kohu/Ogo (seaweed) added
Limu Kohu/Ogo (seaweed) added

Close up of each portion greeting each other
Close up of each portion greeting each other

Everything mixed together with sesame seed oil and shoyu
Everything mixed together with sesame seed oil and shoyu

Though, I’d love to continue, I don’t think my stomach can take any more of this torture (it’s lunch time as I write this 😛 )! Besides, I need to save some poke shots for parts 2 and 3 (and 4?)! 😛

Here’s a sneak peek at what I’ve got in store: Tokkuri-tei, Tamashiro Market Inc., JJ’s Seafood, Pa`ina Café, Off the Wall, Safeway, Costco, and Sam’s Club. My “To Do” list includes: Ruger Market, Ono’s (Kapahulu), Fresh Catch, Masa & Joyce, Alicia’s Market, Tamura’s, and Tanioka’s.

If you have any hook-ups/connections to any of the places above, holla! I’d love to interview them! If you have any poke (dish) suggestions for the above as well, or new locations altogether, feel free to let me know in the comment area below!

Happy New Year y’all! Shoots!

 Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V

EATS! – Poke Monday

September 8, 2008

Last Monday, I was lucky enough to buy fresh ahi from a friend’s fishing expedition. Since it was sold to me at such a good price, I thought I’d spoil myself (and others) by making poke out of the entire 2-3 pounds; something I’d never even consider doing at regular prices.

I’m not much of a chef (YET!), but I’d like to think that limu poke is my bag baby. You see, I used to work as a “Fish Cutter” (yes, that’s the official title of those peeps) for Safeway, and my poke was da bomb yo. Hehe. Of course that’s just my opinion, but it sure was a good feeling when customers would only buy if I was the one who made the current batch. 8)

Anyway, since the last post about poke was a hit (at least by WWE standards), we’re testing the waters again with another poke post. This time with shots of my poke making process. Hope y’all enjoy!

Da Poke with Haaaaawaiian Salt, and fresh green onions from the mama-in-law's garden. Thanks mom! :)
Da Poke with Haaaaawaiian Salt, and fresh green onions from the mama-in-law’s garden. Thanks mom! 🙂

Adding da inamona (kukui nut)
Adding da inamona (kukui nut)

Adding da ogo
Adding da ogo

Mixing um all up with CHOKE sesame seed oil
Mixing um all up with CHOKE sesame seed oil

There ya have it. Pretty easy yeah? Try um out and let me know how it goes. Also, if you have any other secret poke recipes, be sure to share them with us k?

Talk to me!
* How much do you love poke?
* What is your favorite kind of poke? (Ahi, Aku, Au, Tako, Clam, etc.)
* Is beer your beverage of choice to go along with your poke?
* Is this close to your poke recipe?
* Any other secret ingredients we should try?