Posts Tagged ‘haleiwa’

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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Opal Thai Food Wagon – Haleiwa’s Hidden Gem

September 1, 2010

When wifey and I spontaneously decided to have date night out in Haleiwa the other night, I did what any unassuming young American would do: I checked out Yelp one fast one. At the top of the list was this curious place called Opal Thai Food. Curious because 1) it was a wagon and 2) it was a wagon that didn’t serve your banal Haleiwa shrimp. What are the chances? 😛

No offense to you non-locals, but my strategy when it comes to review sites like Yelp is to give higher precedence to da kama`aina. We’re usually quite honest about our eateries and tend not to get caught up in the hype of a place. After that, like most, I take into consideration the rating level and the number of reviewers rating it. Opal Thai Food had a winning combination of all: great reviews from us locals, high ratings (4.5 out of 5), and a high review count (currently at 75).

Done. We were off to visit our north shore neighbors for some curious Thai food for din-din.

Opal Thai Food Wagon in Haleiwa
Opal Thai Food Wagon in Haleiwa

Ed’s Tip: If you Google their listed address, it’ll actually show that they’re somewhere near Matsumoto’s Shave Ice. The Opal Wagon is actually more in the beginning of Haleiwa (coming in from the south), across the street from McDonald’s, where some of the other shrimp wagons are.

We started with their Spicy Glaze Garlic Chicken Wings (with deep fried basil) appetizer.

Woah.

Talk about nom-nom-licious!

Spicy Glaze Garlic Chicken Wings (with deep fried basil) - $7.95
Spicy Glaze Garlic Chicken Wings (with deep fried basil) – $7.95

I’m not even a basil fan, and I loved the way the flavor of the deep-fried basil matched up nicely with their sweet, semi-spicy glaze. This is a MUST TRY!

Next up, we ordered our two go-to Thai dishes: Shrimp Pad Thai and Yellow Chicken Curry, with a side order or Sticky Rice.

Shrimp Pad Thai Noodle - $8.75
Shrimp Pad Thai Noodle – $8.75

Yellow Chicken Curry - $8.25, with a side Order of Sticky Rice - $1.75
Yellow Chicken Curry – $8.25, with a side Order of Sticky Rice – $1.75

Like what some of the Yelp reviewers wrote, the wagon’s proprietor Opal was very friendly. He brought over a tub of a dry chili flake mixture and suggested that we add it to our Pad Thai. Later, he came over and poured the cucumber/onion namasu looking side dish (see above photo) into our curry and said that it’ll enhance the flavor. It did.

Opal seems to have a pay-after-you-eat methodology, much like sit down restaurants. We felt a little guilty digging in without paying for anything, but we just went with it. I’m convinced that he does this so that he can speak to each customer as to how they enjoyed their meal.

If you’re a big eater, you would probably think that the portions are on the small side. We did come near the end of the night (they close at 6pm with last call at 5:30pm) though so that may’ve possibly had something to do with it.

Ed’s Tip: Since you’re pretty much “roughing it” and dining on their outdoor tables, you may experience some annoyances from your friendly neighborhood fly or 6. You may consider asking for a take-out plate so you can close/cover things as you eat or take it with you if da little buggahs get to be a little much for you.

Overall a great find that we will definitely return to for future date nights.

Our Yellow Chicken Curry, Shrimp Pad Thai and Spicy Glaze Garlic Chicken Wings in front of the Opal Thai Food Wagon
Our Yellow Chicken Curry, Shrimp Pad Thai and Spicy Glaze Garlic Chicken Wings in front of the Opal Thai Food Wagon

Ed’s Tip: BTW, bring your Road Runner Mobile connection because it works here as well!

Opal Thai Food Wagon
66-460 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, HI 96712 (map)
(808) 381-8091
Hours: Wed-Sun 11am-6pm (last call at 5:30pm)

Don’t forget… THIS month…

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Rice Fest
Diamond G Rice presents the 1st Annual Hawaii Rice Festival
Waterfront at Aloha Tower Marketplace
September 11, 2010 from 12PM-8PM
For more info:
Ricefest.com / Twitter / Facebook
To RSVP:
Twtvite / Facebook Event
===========================================

Where In Hawaii is Edward Sugimoto? – January 21, 2009

January 21, 2009

Two new faces – Paco and Ed Oshiro – got the correct answer to last week’s photo: Spaghettini in Haleiwa. Props to Paco, however, for being first. Good to see new participants up in hurr though. Welcome one and all. 🙂

For this week’s WIHES, let’s try another strictly food shot. It seemed to be a hit the last time we did it. Heck, anything will be better than yesterday’s comment count. Hahaha! Here ya go yo!

Where In Hawaii is Edward Sugimoto? - January 21, 2009
Where In Hawaii is Edward Sugimoto? – January 21, 2009

Hint: One saimin place. 😛 Nah, I’ll add more if needed, which I doubt.


Da “Where In Hawaii” Winnahz Circle!

Happy Hump Day Where In Hawaii Wednesday y’all. 🙂

Shave Ice Ice Baby

July 1, 2006

Something fishy is definitely going on here… The airports have been bustling with college folk and local eateries and nightclubs are a’ bumpin’. You’re no longer alone at the beaches and malls, and there’s an unusually large amount of parties and family functions to get to. And let’s not ignore the fact that you’re sweating profusely like Kalua pig at a luau. Yep gang… like Bell Biv Devoe’s Poison, Summer is in full effect!

So what should we do this summer as the sun torches down on us and parches our tender little, post-winter throats? Nothing. The weather hasn’t changed here in Hawaii since, like, forever silly.

But seriously… Let’s just say, you know, hypothetically, that we were coming out of one of our coldest “winters” ever. Brrrr… And this “Spring” thing also did a number on us. Wouldn’t we be looking forward to Mr. Sun showing his adorable face to us and defrosting our buns? Wouldn’t you be craving a refreshing, beverage-ish snack, that’s both an island favorite and a tourist attraction all the same?

Say no more. The Ed is here to help you.

Shave Ice, as it’s known here in the islands (not snow cones or shaved ice), is the perfect summertime treat to quench one’s thirst buds after a long, hot day in the sun. Yes, it is a bit cliché, but you have to admit, gathering a bunch of friends to laugh and gossip and share small kid time stories, while lapping up this magical frozen water/syrup-py concoction is still good times.

One such place that specializes in this delicacy is the original Waiola Store, located on the corner of Pa`ani and, of course, Waiola.

Corner of Pa`ani and Waiola
Corner of Pa`ani and Waiola

Hidden on an inconspicuous road, and nestled in between homes in a quiet neighborhood, this island favorite sits peacefully on the corner, as sweets-seeking patrons stop by.

Waiola Store
Waiola Store

(! – Not to be confused with Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice, located on Kapahulu Avenue. For purposes of this review, I’ll be sticking to the O.G. – Original Gem – Waiola Store that got it all started)

Waiola Store actually started as a small convenience store, selling miscellaneous knickknacks like sodas, chips, crack seed and frozen goods many moons ago.

Inside Waiola Store
Inside Waiola Store

It wasn’t until they started gaining popularity as a shave ice selling hotspot that they really took off. Now, you can’t find a day when the crowd inside the store compares to the line outside near their specially created shave ice side window.

Shave Ice window at Waiola Store
Shave Ice window at Waiola Store

Waiola’s, as they are endearingly referred to as, is known for their finely shaved ice. You won’t find the rock-hard chunks of ice here. They also offer a vast menu selection with unique flavors and add-ons that you may not see at other shave ice specialty stores. Unique add-ons like mochi balls, li hing mui seeds, lilikoi cream and chocolate syrup.

Waiola Store's ecclectic menu
Waiola Store’s ecclectic menu

On this occasion, I didn’t get too complicated. I just ordered a small cup with mochi balls and condensed milk… strawberry flavor.

The famous Waiola shave ice
The famous Waiola shave ice

(! – That’s something I forgot to mention. If you’re new at this shave ice ordering thing, the flavor should be the least of your worries. To fit in like you’ve been doing this for years, be sure to order your size and add-ons first. This way, they can start preparing it for you. The flavored syrup is added last and, as such, you would order that last.)

Waiola Store
2135 Waiola Street
Honolulu, HI 96826 (map)
(808) 949-2269

Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice
525 Kapahulu Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815 (map)
(808) 735-8886

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The Island Snow store in Kailua serves up shave ice alongside of their collection of surf/snow/street apparel. It’s a popular stop for those going to one of the many beautiful beaches on the Windward side, Lanikai being my favorite.

Island Snow sign
Island Snow sign

In addition to being able to buy their name brand apparel at the same time as your treat, Island Snow has a few other unique features when it comes to their shave ice flavors. They have catchy names that turn ordinary-sounding flavors into exciting ones. Godzilla Grape, Kuulei Coconut, Da-Kine Lemon Lime and Kailua Coffee to name a few. They also set up their colorful collection of syrups above a lighted counter-top, much like you’d find your assortment of drinks at a fancy nightclub or contemporary bar.

Island Snow flavors
Island Snow flavors

This time, I ordered a regular with no ice cream… Pali Lilikoi & Wacky Watermelon combo. Pretty big eh?

Island Snow shave ice
Island Snow shave ice

(! – All shave ice treats from Island Snow include up to 3 flavors & a scoop of ice cream, unless you don’t want it.)

Island Snow – Kailua
Kailua Beach Center
130 Kailua Road
Kailua, HI 96734 (map)
(808) 263-6339

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What’s a conversation about shave ice in Hawaii without mention of the world famous M. Matsumoto Grocery Store in Haleiwa town, otherwise known as Matsumoto’s Shave Ice?

M. Matsumoto Grocery Store sign
M. Matsumoto Grocery Store sign

Matsumoto’s has the richest history and gets the largest media coverage of any shave ice store in the state and perhaps the world. And though there are many naysayers who claim that Waiola’s or even Haleiwa neighbor Aoki’s is better, you can’t question Matsumoto’s popularity.

Like Waiola Store, Matsumoto’s started as (and continues to be) a convenience-type store. Though, these days, most of their products caters to the tourist and shave ice crowd (sun tan lotion, hats, logo apparel, beachwear, snacks, etc.).

The menu looks like the same one they’ve had since they opened, and the prices seemed to have stayed the same as well. Just $1.30 for a small! Over the years, they’ve attached little one-piecers as they’ve added new flavors like mango, lychee and melona. Funny, but cute. A reminder of the mom and pops feel still present here.

Matsumoto's menu
Matsumoto’s menu

The equipment they use looks quite heavy duty. Is that an industrial strength motor? Wowsers!

Matsumoto's shave ice machines
Matsumoto’s shave ice machines

The photo from my friend’s shave ice came out nicer, so we’ll show it instead of mine. She ordered a vanilla/cotton candy combo FYI.

Matsumoto's shave ice
Matsumoto’s shave ice

(! – Be careful of the killah bees when eating outside. They usually swarm around the trash can slurping on the sweet juices. I’ve never been stung, but you never know… Just be sure you’re not in the area when they are hungry!)

M. Matsumoto Grocery Store
66-087 Kamehameha Highway
Haleiwa, Hawaii 96712 (map)
(808) 637-4827

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Other notable shave ice joints around the state:

Jo Jo’s Clubhouse – Waimea (Kauai)
On the way to or coming back from the long drive to/from Waimea Canyon, you’ll see the bright sign of Jo Jo’s from Kaumualii Highway.

Jo Jo's Clubhouse
Jo Jo’s Clubhouse

Jo Jo’s Clubhouse
Mile Marker 23, Kaumualii Highway (Hwy. 50)
Waimea, Hawaii 96796 (map)
(808) 635-7615

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Itsu’s Fishing Supplies Inc. – Hilo (Big Island)
Known to the locals as “ice shave”, Itsu’s serves up this winner alongside of local style plate lunches, in addition to doubling as as a fishing supplies store.

Itsu's Fishing Supplies, Inc. (Photo by Nancy Vereze)
Itsu’s Fishing Supplies, Inc. (Photo by Nancy Vereze)

Itsu’s Fishing Supplies Inc.
810 Piilani Street
Hilo, HI. 96720 (map)
(808) 935-8082

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Scandinavian Shaved Ice, Inc. – Kailua-Kona (Big Island)
Across from the Palace in town, this shaved ice has ice cream in the middle. (Mahalo for the info Wendy & Jay!)

Scandinavian Shaved Ice, Inc. (Photo courtesy jatbar.com)
Scandinavian Shaved Ice, Inc. (Photo courtesy jatbar.com)

Scandinavian Shaved Ice, Inc.
75-5699 Alii Drive
Kailua-Kona, HI. 96740 (map)
(808) 331-1626

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Tasaka Guri Guri Shop – Maui Mall, Kahului (Maui)
Yeah, I know, this is not really shave ice, but we can’t pass up the chance to mention this famous sweet, sweet, juice, soda and condensed milk concoction can we???

Noelle, Kelvin, Hillary, myself, Grant and Shari outside of Tasaka Guri Guri
Noelle, Kelvin, Hillary, myself, Grant and Shari outside of Tasaka Guri Guri

Tasaka Guri Guri Shop
70 E Kaahumanu Avenue
Kahului, HI 96732 (map)
(808) 871-4513

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I know I’ve missed tons of your favorites from around the state. I guess that’s what you get for keeping me cooped up all day here in Mililani. Sorry dudes and dudettes, but be sure to let me have it by posting your favorite shave ice (or any sweets) hotspot in the comments section below. Now stop reading this and get back out there and enjoy your summer won’tcha?