Posts Tagged ‘Honolulu Magazine’

Hawaii Ramen Quest – Part V

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

Although varying in sizes and flavors, many of the ramen shops we covered in this series have one thing in common: their noodles are supplied by the same, local, noodle factory based right here in Hawaii. So what better way to close this series out than with where ramen in Hawaii all begins… Sun Noodle.

Outside Sun Noodle's Honolulu Factory
Outside Sun Noodle’s Honolulu Factory

At the helm of it all is Sun Noodle Founder and President Mr. Hidehito Uki who started the business more than 30 years ago (founded way back on July 10, 1981). Uki-san in fact comes from a noodle making bloodline. His family had a fresh noodle making “ya” (store) in the Tochigi Prefecture (then) named the Ikeda Noodle Company. Here, he perfected the art of “men” before moving to Hawaii.

Sun Noodle President Mr. Hidehito Uki
Sun Noodle President Mr. Hidehito Uki

While studying ESL (English as a Second Language) here at Hawaii Pacific University (Hawaii Pacific College at the time), he would often eat at local ramen shops looking for a place that reminded him of home. Frustrated, he set out to do something about it and that’s how Sun Noodle was born.

“There’s nothing more powerful than the sun. When you think of Hawaii, you think of the sun. That’s why I named the business Sun Noodle.”

His 10,000 square foot Honolulu factory on Colburn Street can produce up to 30,000 servings of raw noodles per 8 hour day. They churn out over 100 products like yakisoba, udon, chow fun, pancit, gyoza and won ton wrappers, and, for ramen alone, they make over 30 different styles!

Overlooking the Sun Noodle factory from above
Overlooking the Sun Noodle factory from above

Amazingly, even with that many choices, Mr. Uki’s philosophy is that every noodle order must be custom made for his clients based, on the flavor of their soup.

“Every soup our customer makes is their personality. The noodles and the soup have to have a nice combination. Even if you make good noodles and good soup, if it doesn’t match, it’s no good. That’s why we go out there and taste the soup from each client and try to figure out what noodle would go best with that particular soup. We keep trying until we get it right. Sometimes I spend months to find the perfect noodle to match their soup.”

Most of his factory’s noodles start with the same base: flour, water, salt and potassium carbonate. It is the variances in flour type and water that makes all the difference.

“We are lucky to have good water here in Hawaii. It makes good noodles.”

The ingredients are thrown in (by hand) to a large vat…

Sun Noodle employee throwing in the ingredients for this batch of noodles
Sun Noodle employee throwing in the ingredients for this batch of noodles

… where it is mixed together…

Ingredients are mixed together
Ingredients are mixed together

… and flattened into a thin sheet by automated machinery. Large rolls of these flattened concoctions are then fed into another machine…

Large flour rolls feeding into the machine that cuts them into noodles
Large flour rolls feeding into the machine that cuts them into noodles

… which slices and dices them into their famous noodle shape.

Where noodles are cut into their famous shape(s)
Where noodles are cut into their famous shape(s)

Some are straight, some are wavy, and some even have a different color to them (based on the type of flour). Here’s a batch of noodles being prepared for Zippy’s Restaurants’ famous Zip Min.

Noodles for Zippy's Restaurants' Zip Min
Noodles for Zippy’s Restaurants’ Zip Min

Depending on what is being made, the noodles are then either packaged right there or sent off to the steaming/cooking room where they (usually yakisoba or udon) take a bath before being packaged.

Trays of yakisoba noodles are cooked in hot water before being packaged
Trays of yakisoba noodles are cooked in hot water before being packaged

For a while, he tried to service his mainland customers out of this factory alone, but it proved to be a difficult task with them being spread throughout California, Washington, Nevada, Vancouver BC (Canada), and parts of the East Coast. Ultimately, in order to provide the freshest noodles possible to his mainland customers, he decided to open up another factory in the greater Los Angeles area (on W Mahalo Place ironically) in 2004. Not satisfied, he will soon open up another factory in the New Jersey area so that his East Coast customers and their clientele get the freshest Sun Noodles they can get.

“Providing fresh noodle is the best! Instead of making the noodles in L.A., freezing it, and shipping it to the East Coast, we decided to make a factory in the East Coast so we can provide the freshest noodles possible.”

During the tour, I asked Mr. Uki what he thought of Saimin (compared to ramen), and his answer, which I really enjoyed, gave me that ultimate “a-ha” moment.

“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.”

I never thought of it that way, but it’s very true! I now have a new found appreciation for saimin. Being from Hawaii, I’m required to be proud of it. šŸ˜‰

I also asked him what his thoughts were on slurping as a custom. I once asked my parents (who are also from Japan) why people slurp so loudly when eating their ramen. They told me that it is a sign of respect and appreciation for the ramen chef. It tells them that the noodles are delicious and is the ultimate compliment you can give to them. Mr. Uki had a different explanation:

“It looks tasty if you slurp your noodles. If you don’t smell the noodles, you can’t taste it. Of course, when you slurp, you bring in the air, which is important to help you smell and taste the ramen. Nowadays, even the non-Japanese community is starting to slurp their noodles.”

In my brief conversation with Mr. Uki, I could tell that his passion for noodles ran deep.

“We try to make the best noodle possible. We will try to make best noodle market in Hawaii for everybody to enjoy ramen.”

He truly loves what he does and best exemplifies what I love so much about ramen: a warm base with humble beginnings… Here’s to another 30 years!


Mahalo for following along during this obsessive, noodle & soup-filled expedition. Although the Hawaii Ramen Quest series has come to an end, the journey continues. See y’all at the next ramen stop!

Note: R.I.P. to Hawaii Journalism legend Mr. John Heckathorn who also covered Hidehito Uki and Sun Noodle in his noodle series: “In Search of the Ultimate Noodle“.

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

2011 Rice Fest is TODAY (Schedule of Events from 10am-6pm)

September 11, 2011

Well, my baby has finally arrived. It took 1 whole year (again), but I pushed and I pushed and am ready to deliver it to you today. Hope you can make it down to Rice Fest at Ala Moana’s Magic Island today between 10am-6pm.

Check out the below for an hour by hour breakdown of the day’s festivities including celebrity & chef cooking demonstrations, “Riceipe” cooking competitions, live entertainment by Jody Kamisato, Bruce Shimabukuro and a Taiko Drum Performance by Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko Hawaii, a SPAMĀ® Musubi Eating Contest, and a Guinness World Recordā„¢ attempt to create the Largest SPAMĀ® Musubi in the world!

2nd Annual Hawaii Rice Fest
2nd Annual Hawaii Rice Festival

Magic Island at Ala Moana Beach Park
TODAY from @ 10am-6pm

10am – Rice Fest (at Ala Moana’s Magic Island) starts, hosted by 102.7 Da Bomb’s Bruddah Bryan

Bruddah Bryan
102.7 Da Bomb’s Bruddah Bryan

10:15am-10:45am – Ukulele performances by Jody Kamisato & Uke’s Rising Stars

Bruddah Bryan
Jody Kamisato & Uke’s Rising Stars

11am-11:20am – 1st Celebrity/Chef Cooking Demo (with Chef Kent Thompson and Hawaii News Now’s Minna Sugimoto)

Kent ThompsonMinna Sugimoto
Chef Kent Thompson and Hawaii News Now’s Minna Sugimoto

11:30am-12:30pm – “Riceipe” Cooking Competition – Amateur Division (including Leticia Buhr, Cathy Nobriga Kim, Loreen Matsushima, Mao Moeng, and Joan Murata).

Leticia BuhrCathy Nobriga Kim
Loreen MatsushimaMao MoengJoan Murata
“Riceipe” Competition Amateurs: Leticia Buhr, Cathy Nobriga Kim, Loreen Matsushima, Mao Moeng, and Joan Murata

12:30pm-1:30pm – “Riceipe” Cooking Competition – Professional Division (including returning champ Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi from Tokkuri Tei, Executive Chef Wayne Hirabayashi from the Kahala Hotel & Resort, Executive Chef Hector Morales from the Turtle Bay Resort, and retired chef Kent Thompson).

Hideaki 'Santa' MiyoshiWayne Hirabayashi
Hector MoralesKent Thompson
“Riceipe” Competition Professionals: Chef Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi (Tokkuri Tei), Executive Chef Wayne Hirabayashi (Kahala Hotel & Resort), Executive Chef Hector Morales (Turtle Bay Resort), Chef Kent Thompson (retired)

“Riceipe” Cooking Competition – Judges (11:30pm-1:30pm) – Food experts John Heckathorn from Honolulu Magazine, Nadine Kam from the Honolulu Star Advertiser and Melissa Chang and Mari Taketa from Nonstop Honolulu.

John HeckathornNadine Kam
Melissa ChangMari Taketa
Judges John Heckathorn, Nadine Kam, Melissa Chang Mari Taketa

2pm-2:20pm – 2nd Celebrity/Chef Cooking Demo (with Chef Mavro’s George Mavrothalassitis and The Cat Dish’s Catherine Toth)

Chef George MavrothalassitisCatherine Toth
Chef/Proprietor George Mavrothalassitis (Chef Mavro) & Catherine Toth (Cat Dish)

2:30pm-3pm – Taiko Drum Performance by Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko Hawaii

Taiko Drum Performance by Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko Hawaii
Taiko Drum Performance by Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko Hawaii

3pm-3:30pm – Ukulele performance by Bruce Shimabukuro

Bruce Shimabukuro
Bruce Shimabukuro

4pm-4:20pm – 3rd Celebrity/Chef Cooking Demo (with Maui’s Sea House Restaurant’s Executive Chef Craig Erickson and KHON2’s Justin Cruz)

Executive Chef Craig EricksonJustin Cruz
Executive Chef Craig Erickson (Maui’s Sea House Restaurant) & Justin Cruz (KHON2)

4:30pm-5pm – Guinness World Recordā„¢ for Largest SPAMĀ® Musubi – Official Weigh-In

5pm-5:30pm – 2nd Annual SPAMĀ® Musubi Eating Contest

5:30pm-6pm – Contest winner announcements

6pm – Rice Fest concludes

All Day (10am-6pm)
* Rice Donation Center – Donate your brown rice to Lanakila Meals on Wheels and white rice to Hawaii Foodbank
* Guinness World Recordā„¢ attempt to create the Largest SPAMĀ® Musubi
* Live Tweetup/Scavenger Hunt – Compete in this Tweetup/Scavenger Hunt for a chance to win great prizes!
* Rice Education Booth – Learn all about Rice from the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Professor of Nutrition Dr. Maria Stewart, and
* The Keiki Zone – coloring contest hosted by members of the 2011 Narcissus Festival Court from 10am-2pm, bouncies, balloons and fun from Douglas Odani, Crystal Face Painting & Tattoos by Lei Crystal Tattoos, and games from JMJ Gaming.

2011 Narcissus Festival Court
2011 Narcissus Festival Court

And let’s not forget about all of the participating vendors & booths:

  • Bruce Shimabukuro / The Ukebox
  • Douglas Odani – Balloon Twister
  • Dr. Maria Stewart – University of Hawaii at Manoa Professor of Nutrition
  • Grandma G’s Kitchen
  • Hawaii Book of Rice / Watermark Publishing
  • Hawaii Foodbank
  • Hawaiian Style Chili Co.
  • Island Fruits
  • JMJ Gaming
  • Kat’s Sushi
  • The Keiki Zone
  • Lanakila Meals on Wheels
  • Lei Crystal Tattoos
  • Oceanic Time Warner Cable
  • Ono Local Foods
  • Ono Pops
  • Project Grad
  • Raised on Rice
  • Sam’s Kitchen
  • Shiga’licious
  • SNOW |F|A|C|T|O|R|Y|
  • Taste & See Delights

Hope you can make it down to experience another long year of my blood, sweat and tears for this event… See y’all there! šŸ™‚