Posts Tagged ‘Sam Choy’

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 II

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

Wow! What an unbelievable month! I guess y’all really love your poke eh?

Last month, we struck gold when I introduced a topic that was near and dear to my heart. She went by the name of Poke. 8) Your feedback and comments were amazing and, as a result, I was able to make contact with some of the “giants” of the industry.

This month, we’ve got a very special treat for you with a star-studded lineup of exclusive interviews from the likes of Sam Choy (Sam Choy’s Breakfast, Lunch, Crab & Big Island Brewery), Mel and Justin Tanioka (Tanioka’s Seafoods & Catering), Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi (Tokkuri-Tei) and Alan Wong (Alan Wong’s Restaurants)! Normally, an interview with these living legends, would each merit its own column, but this is Poke Paradise and this is how we roll, 😉 so strap on your seatbelts and get ready to go go go!

Sam Choy

What’s a special on poke without some words of wisdom from Hawaii’s poke authority Sam Choy? Yep, my thoughts exactly. That’s why it was imperative that I get a few soundbites from bruddah Sam.

Hawaii's Poke Authority: Sam Choy
Hawaii’s Poke Authority: Sam Choy

[Edward Sugimoto] You are often looked to as THE preeminent expert/authority in poke. It’s even been said that the popularity of poke in Hawaii can be traced back to you. How does that make you feel?

[Sam Choy] It is an honor for people to trace the popularity back to me. My love for poke has made me want to make poke recognized as much as sashimi and sushi.


Buy This Book from Amazon.com

[Edward Sugimoto] Your poke contests/festivals are legend. Are you still doing them and if/so, when can we expect the next one?

[Sam Choy] We are working with Turtle Bay to have our Poke Contest there again later this year.

[Edward Sugimoto] What are your top 3 favorite pokes and where are they from?

[Sam Choy] My top three pokes are traditional ahi poke with Hawaiian salt, limu kohu and inamona, kole or opelu poke and oio poke which I make at home.

[Edward Sugimoto] Where is your “go to” poke place (besides your own kitchen)? 😉

[Sam Choy] Besides my own kitchen, Tanioka’s is my “go to” poke place. How can you go wrong with poke and one of Mel’s famous cone sushis? Try the alae poke! Have you ever tried the mochiko chicken? I was there doing a book signing with Mel in December and got to have it right out of the fryer… broke da mouth!!

[Edward Sugimoto] I’ve read somewhere that you even have a recipe that includes peanut butter? Is that true and how/why did you come up with that?

[Sam Choy] I actually got the peanut butter poke recipe from my dad who got it from his dad.

[Edward Sugimoto] What is one unique ingredient that surprised you (in a good way)?

[Sam Choy] The texture and the flavor of uni has surprised me. It is truly like taking a bite of the ocean!

[Edward Sugimoto] What’s in store for Mr. Sam Choy?

[Sam Choy] I am in the process of opening a new restaurant in Kona and looking forward to possibly expanding to the mainland (once) we’re up and running. The sky’s the limit!

Sam Choy’s Breakfast, Lunch, Crab & Big Aloha Brewery
580 N. Nimitz Highway
Honolulu, HI 96817 (map)
Tel: (808) 545-7979
Breakfast Hours: Mon-Fri: 7am-10:30am, Sat & Sun: 7am-11:30am, Breakfast Buffet: Sat & Sun: 9am-12noon.
Lunch Hours: Mon-Thurs: 10:30am-3pm, Fri: 10:30am-4pm, Sat & Sun: 11:30am-4pm
Dinner Hours: Sun-Thurs: 5pm-9:30pm, Fri & Sat: 5pm-10pm

Tanioka’s

Sam Choy’s self proclaimed “go to” place for poke is Tanioka’s. What say we head over to Waipahu and have a chat with father-son super combo Mel and Justin Tanioka to talk poke?

Tanioka's Seafoods and Catering Sign
Tanioka’s Seafoods and Catering Sign

An Interview with Mel and Justin Tanioka of Tanioka’s Seafoods and Catering

[Edward Sugimoto] You first opened your doors in 1978 in a thousand square foot space with just four employees. What were those first years like?

[Justin Tanioka] I don’t know. *laughs* I was one years old.

[Edward Sugimoto] Yeah I heard you were like a kid sleeping on the cooler or something like that right?

[Justin Tanioka] Yeah, I was actually born one month before we opened.

[Edward Sugimoto] Oh wow, OK. So no memories of that huh?

[Justin Tanioka] Yeah. The first four years, I don’t know… *looks to dad*

[Mel Tanioka] It was simple. We had less items. So basically we were more like a fish market, selling just fish. No sushi, no chicken, you know, anything like that. It was just you know, mostly filets, poke. The trend of poke was just starting then.

[Edward Sugimoto] Oh so you didn’t have poke from the very beginning?

[Mel Tanioka] Oh we did.

[Edward Sugimoto] You now have a very successful catering business (like you said) to add to your seafood side. How or why did that come about?

[Mel Tanioka] Well, in the 1990s, we looked at the fish availability, and I felt that… If it started to get depleted, which we look at in the 90s and we thought if it starts to get depleted, what else, what kind of income is going to subsidize our market. So we decided to start our catering business, which has grown to equalize our fish. Before it was just a small percentage, but now it’s becoming a larger percentage of our business. So in the future, we’re going to hopefully gear towards more catering as the fish start depleting, unless you go into frozen fish. But for 30 years we’ve been dealing with fresh fish, so we’re trying to avoid that, but eventually it’s gonna come yeah.

[Edward Sugimoto] What are your top sellers in terms of poke?

[Justin Tanioka] Probably our Limu Poke. That’s our top seller.

Limu Poke ($12.95/pound)
Limu Poke ($12.95/pound)

[Justin Tanioka] Onion with Limu Poke is right there with it.

Onion Limu Poke ($12.95/pound)
Onion Limu Poke ($12.95/pound)

[Edward Sugimoto] It’s just onions on top of that (the limu poke)?

[Justin Tanioka] Yeah kind of. A little different mix. A little bit stronger flavor on the onion poke side (with limu yeah). But the limu poke has been our item.

[Mel Tanioka] For parties, Spicy Ahi has been one of the best sellers because it stretches. You know the rice and spicy. For parties of two to three hundred, if you put like 20 pounds of poke, they’re gonna eat it up in a few minutes. So we thought that at least Spicy Ahi would stretch it out so everyone would have a share.

[Edward Sugimoto] What about not in terms of customers, but your guys’ personal favorite? Do you guys have any from here?

[Justin Tanioka] Mine would probably be the Onion with Limu. His is probably the Alae.

[Mel Tanioka] (*in unison*) Alae. *laughs* He knows yeah?

Alae Poke ($12.95/pound)
Alae Poke ($12.95/pound)

[Mel Tanioka] I love the Alae Poke. Chili pepper water oooh, that’s my favorite. With some poi and dry aku.

[Edward Sugimoto] Yeah, you guys have dry aku poke too right?

[Mel Tanioka] Yeah yeah yeah.

[Justin Tanioka] Yeah, we have dried poke. That one, it’s like a salty candy. When you eat it, it’s good, you know, just to pick on.

[Mel Tanioka] I always brag that we were one of the first guys to do that. Eventually, I don’t know who else does it yeah? *looks to Justin*

[Justin Tanioka] I’m not too sure. The only hard part about that is the price yeah? It’s priced kind of high, but, you know, after you dry it, you lose over 50% of your product just off the bat, and that’s not including the time and all of that.

[Mel Tanioka] So if you can picture a $10 pound of poke, when you dry it, it becomes $20 yeah? But the drying process is again, the labor process, the equipment used to dry, and all of that. For me it’s worth the price, but when you look at it at $19.95 (per pound) you’re like “woah”, but when you eat it, it’s worth it. *laughs*

[Edward Sugimoto] You guys have, like, I heard over 40 different types of poke, or almost there?

[Mel Tanioka] Yeah, probably.

[Justin Tanioka] Close to that. Yeah, maybe 30 something. We never really took a count.

The Different Types of Poke from Tanioka's
The Different Types of Poke from Tanioka’s

[Edward Sugimoto] Are you guys continuing to think of new ones here and there?

[Mel Tanioka] We try to.

[Justin Tanioka] We try to. It’s hard to step away from the… Even when we make a new one, people kind of like it, but, like if they had to choose between a pound of the old Limu Poke or the new Garlic Poke, the Limu Poke is going to always come first.

[Edward Sugimoto] When making poke for yourself maybe like at home, what’s your one, go-to ingredient?

[Justin Tanioka] Aloha Shoyu. *laughs*

[Mel Tanioka] Our famous friends is Aloha Shoyu. We’ve been with them for 31 years.

[Justin Tanioka] Tell Sam (Choy) I said that.

[Mel Tanioka] Yeah, we’ve been using Aloha Shoyu for 31 years.

[Edward Sugimoto] You were mentioning earlier that Justin and your daughter Jasmine’s gonna be taking over. What else is in the future of Tanioka’s?

[Justin Tanioka] So far, everything’s up in the air yeah?

[Mel Tanioka] Yeah.

[Justin Tanioka] It depends on the economy. You know how everybody bounces back. I think some of it is fate you know? You gotta look, if you see something, maybe something might pop up (like) “Eh, you wanna be a part of this” or whatever, that’s how we would…

[Mel Tanioka] We did create a franchise. We went through the manual. But we’re not sure right now yeah ’cause it’s hard to… I tried, we had three stores at once, but it’s hard to keep the quality. You can expand a lot, but sometimes you lose the quality. So it’s trying to keep that quality vs. trying to expand… I guess people expand because they want to make more money right? But the end result is… You gotta expand with the intentions of keeping the quality.

A look inside Tanioka's during a rare down time
A look inside Tanioka’s during a rare down time

[Justin Tanioka] And with it being harder and harder to get fresh ahi.

[Mel Tanioka] Yeah. That’s the part.

[Justin Tanioka] You know, each store is going to have to get their own fish and if we’re having trouble getting fish sometimes, like I don’t know what’s going to happen to them.

[Mel Tanioka] There’s a lot of factors. The Fresh Limu Factory is another one to consider. On a daily basis, it’s easy to get, but when it gets to the holiday time, I mean everybody is scrambling to get it, because you know, the volume goes higher. So that’s another thing that we’re looking at. But I think the franchise stores will probably go into like a different type of program. Not maybe 40 different types of poke, maybe they’ll have like 5 of just the basic sellers. Spicy Ahi, Shoyu Poke, Limu Poke.

[Justin Tanioka] And then of course the cooked food side. You know like the okazu-ya, just grab and go. Fried Chicken, Fish Patties, Shrimp Tempura, you know, stuff that’s consistent every day, tastes good. You know, it’s basic things that you would eat every day too yeah?

Family Bento with Fried Noodles ($5.50)
Family Bento with Fried Noodles ($5.50)

[Justin Tanioka] But as for me, I think my future is here at the market. Just keep it going. Keep this place going.

[Edward Sugimoto] Carry on the name ah?

[Justin Tanioka] Yup. Make my father proud. Make my parents proud.

The Tanioka `Ohana: Mel, Lynn and Justin (not pictured: daughter Jasmine Tanioka Lum)
The Tanioka `Ohana: Mel, Lynn and Justin (not pictured: daughter Jasmine Tanioka Lum)

[Edward Sugimoto] You guys have anything to add to your loyal customers or future customers?

[Justin Tanioka] Well, I would like to thank our customers. Thank you for standing in line. Some days are so busy. We try to get them (in and) out of here as fast as we can. I think we have a pretty good system right now.

[Mel Tanioka] And they’re so pleasant. Our customers are like, “Oh sorry, sorry you gotta wait in line,” (and they’re like) “No, no, no, it’s worth the wait.” They’re so positive and we’re just, we appreciate that yeah.

[Justin Tanioka] A lot. We appreciate it a lot.

[Mel Tanioka] And first of all we always trust in the Lord to guide us.

[Justin Tanioka] And our employees too. Our employees are what makes us. You know, without our employees, we wouldn’t be Tanioka’s you know. But our employees work hard, they work, you know they work fast… *looks at dad* Anything else?

[Mel Tanioka] *smiles*

It was great to see a truly genuine family doing good here in Hawaii. Justin was super cool and mellow, like he could’ve been your high school buddy growing up, while Mel Tanioka was very generous in packing, and I mean PACKING 3 shopping bags full of okazu items – like maki sushi, cone sushi, and even a bento to go along with their popular Limu Poke – for us to take back to the office. And though I didn’t get to meet daughter Jasmine, mom Lynn was just as warm and bubbly and always smiling.

Not only is their poke winnahz, they, as a family, are as well. Go and support the Taniokas k?

Tanioka’s Seafood and Catering
94-903 Farrington Highway
Waipahu, HI 96797 (map)
Tel: (808) 671-3779
Email: Onopoke@taniokas.com
Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am-5pm
Sat: 9am-5pm
Sun: 9am-3pm

Tokkuri-Tei

No stranger to the world of poke, Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi of the Izakaya style Japanese restaurant Tokkuri-Tei, is the winner of many cooking competitions, including Sam Choy’s Poke Contest, and has been delighting clientele to his unique poke stylings since the ’90s. Celebrating his 21st anniversary this year (the restaurant’s, not his 😉 ), Santa continues to push the culinary envelope for creative eats in Hawaii.

Hideaki "Santa" Miyoshi inside his restaurant Tokkuri-Tei
Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi inside his restaurant Tokkuri-Tei

Here’s a quick interview with the man simply known as “Santa”:

An Interview with Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi of Tokkuri-Tei

[Edward Sugimoto] Hi Santa, did you have poke on your menu from the beginning and if not, when did you start carrying it (and why)?

[Santa Miyoshi] Why? We didn’t have before, but after the poke contest (1997), we start carrying some poke.

[Edward Sugimoto] Was it a good seller in the beginning?

[Santa Miyoshi] Uh yeah, kind of.

[Edward Sugimoto] You won numerous awards at, like you said, the poke contests. What made you first want to enter the contests?

[Santa Miyoshi] Ah, well, it was Aloha Shoyu Cooking Contest I entered (in 1996), and I won a prize so I tried looking into other cooking contests, and there was one poke contest come up so I just entered. *laughs* There was no particular reason.

[Edward Sugimoto] And you had a story about wearing sweat pants and the security guard stopped you or something like that?

[Santa Miyoshi] Oh yeah yeah, because I just wear like T-shirt and start running around the display area and they told me not to, you know, stick around there because only for the chefs. Um, I have a badge saying I can enter. *laughs*

[Edward Sugimoto] On your menu, you have quite a few poke dishes (Ahi Poke, Spicy Ahi Poke, Ahi Tempura Poke, There’s a Spider in Da Poke, and Ahi Tar-tare Poke). Which is the most popular and which is your personal favorite?

[Santa Miyoshi] I think the Ahi Tar-tare Poke is the most popular one. And then Spider Poke is very popular too.

Ahi Tar-Tare Poke - 1997 Sam Choy's Poke Contest Winner ($15)
Ahi Tar-Tare Poke – 1997 Sam Choy’s Poke Contest Winner ($15)

There's a Spider in Da Poke - 2000 Sam Choy's Poke Contest Winner ($16)
There’s a Spider in Da Poke – 2000 Sam Choy’s Poke Contest Winner ($16)

Also on the menu: Ahi Tempura Poke - Tempura Fresh Ahi with Shrimp Tempura ($16)
Also on the menu: Ahi Tempura Poke – Tempura Fresh Ahi with Shrimp Tempura ($16)

[Edward Sugimoto] How about your personal favorite?

[Santa Miyoshi] My favorite is maybe Amaebi poke which we don’t serve here.

[Edward Sugimoto] You also have some that are not on the menu (Ericka’s Poke, New Age Amaebi Nigiri Poke, Lilipuna Poke, Redefined Lomi Salmon Poke, Poke-ing Emi, and Poke Pasta Italian). Which is your favorite from these and why don’t you include them in your menu? Can customers order (them)?

[Santa Miyoshi] Some of the stuff is very hard to prep and we don’t have it (the ingredients) all the time so it’s really hard to make all the time.

(Off the menu) Lilipuna Poke - named after the street that some of Santa's regulars live on.
(Off the menu) Lilipuna Poke – named after the street that some of Santa’s regulars live on.

(Off the menu) Seafood Risotto - not necessarily listed as a "poke" dish, but I just had to mention it 'cause it's literally to die for!
(Off the menu) Seafood Risotto – not necessarily listed as a “poke” dish, but I just had to mention it ’cause it’s literally to die for!

[Edward Sugimoto] Are you working on any new poke dishes?

[Santa Miyoshi] Not necessarily but any kind of new item I’m always thinking (of).

Santa served this (hamachi, truffle, & shiso roll) to us recently, jokingly referring to it as the Sugimoto Roll! Could it be??? Santa san, douzo yoroshiku onegai shimasu! If not, maybe you can rename the Seafood Risotto to Sugimoto Risotto (or Risotto Sugimoto?)?
Santa served this (hamachi, truffle, & shiso roll) to us recently, jokingly referring to it as the Sugimoto Roll! Could it be??? Santa san, douzo yoroshiku onegai shimasu! If not, maybe you can rename the Seafood Risotto to Sugimoto Risotto (or Risotto Sugimoto?)? 🙂

[Edward Sugimoto] And how about some of your favorite poke not from here?

[Santa Miyoshi] I like the one (jalapeño ahi) from Tamura’s. They make pretty good poke.

[Edward Sugimoto] Your new book Izakaya Hawai (Tokkuri-Tei Cooking), tell me a little bit about that.

[Santa Miyoshi] It’s just a history of this restaurant plus whatever I’ve been working on to make new dishes. It just consolidates all of the stuff we did (for) over 20 years.

Buy Izakaya Hawaii - Tokkuri-Tei Cooking from Amazon.com
Buy “Izakaya Hawaii – Tokkuri-Tei Cooking” from Amazon.com

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

[Santa Miyoshi] Thank you for coming. *waves at camera and laughs*

Tokkuri Tei
611 Kapahulu Ave, Suite 102
Honolulu, HI 96815 (map)
(808) 739-2800
Mon-Fri 10:30am-2pm
Mon-Fri 5:30pm-12am

Alan Wong

Last but definitely not least, we feature the god of Hawaii chefs: Alan Wong. Alan graciously took some time out of his insanely busy schedule to sit down with me to talk about poke, his use of it in his restaurants, and the importance of buying local.

An Interview with Alan Wong of Alan Wong’s Restaurants

[Edward Sugimoto] As a local boy, what are your fondest memories of poke?

[Alan Wong] You know when you’re raised in Hawaii, you grow up with that. It’s at every potluck, it’s at every gathering. I mean, you know, when you think of the holidays, New Year’s, Christmas, Thanksgiving, you’re always going to have red sashimi. Think of all the tailgating and all the hibachis. When you go tailgating at the football games, what does everybody have in their cooler? Poke, great pupus. You just grow up with it.

[Edward Sugimoto] Why was it important for you “the Master of Hawaii Regional Cuisine” to add poke dishes to both of your Hawaii locations?

[Alan Wong] I think what’s important is for people to taste Hawaii when they come to the restaurant. We want people to taste Hawaii so how do you taste Hawaii? We feature things grown/raised here in Hawaii, we also feature dishes that local people like to eat, whether it’s an ingredient, or whether it’s a concept like Loco Moco. So how do you take the Loco Moco and put it into this kind of a setting? Poke is a natural because it’s a big part of our culture. And so, every household eats that, so how do you take the poke, just like the Loco Moco, and put it in the setting?

[Edward Sugimoto] What’s the story behind Poki-Pines and how did you come up with it?

[Alan Wong] You know, Poki-Pines is, first of all a play on words. You know the animal the porcupine. *smiles* And so, cooking ahi or frying the ahi is one way to eat poke. You know, especially after it’s marinated. You marinate the poke and sometimes when you add shoyu to the poke it gets kind of dark, it doesn’t look very attractive, but you know, you can still eat it. Then you fry it and it tastes good. So we just wanted to encase that in the won ton strips, and it came all like you know, all this, like a porcupine. So it’s a play on words, and when you think about the crispy texture that you have on the outside, with the cooked poke, and then you marry that with wasabi sauce but with avocados, you know, that makes a good marriage.

Ahi Poki-Pines - Crispy Won Ton Ahi Poke Balls On Avocado with Wasabi Sauce ($15)
Ahi Poki-Pines – Crispy Won Ton Ahi Poke Balls On Avocado with Wasabi Sauce ($15)

Restaurant Manager Kerry Ichimasa describes the Poki-Pines dish

[Edward Sugimoto] In your book New Wave Luau, you mention several different types of poke (Ahi Poke, Ahi Poke Gyozas with Soy-Vinegar Chile Dipping Sauce, Ahi Poke Nigiri, Nairagi and Kajiki Carpaccio with Swordfish Poke, Nori-wrapped Akule Stuffed with Poke, Seared Ahi Poke Cakes on Crostini, as well as the Poki-Pines). Are there any plans of making any of these available on your menu in the future?

Buy New Wave Luau from Amazon.com
Buy “Alan Wong’s New Wave Luau: Recipes from Honolulu’s Award-Winning Chef” from Amazon.com

[Alan Wong] They come in and out. We’ve served things in the book, in the various restaurants, but, you know, it’s like you gotta keep moving forward and try new things and different things and as you learn more, as you travel more as you taste more things, see more things, you’re cooking style evolves. So I think we will have more. Let’s say instead of poke dishes, more raw preparations yeah? It’s something that we love to do so we’ll always see those evolutions happening in our restaurants.

Chopped Ahi Sashimi and Avocado Salsa Stack - Stacked Crispy Won Ton, Spicy Aioli and Wasabi Soy ($19.50)
Chopped Ahi Sashimi and Avocado Salsa Stack – Stacked Crispy Won Ton, Spicy Aioli and Wasabi Soy ($19.50)

Restaurant Manager Kerry Ichimasa describes the Chopped Ahi Sashimi and Avocado Salsa Stack dish

[Edward Sugimoto] So even you’re still evolving as a chef?

[Alan Wong] Oh, you know, the local people love to eat raw fish. We are an island state, we’re surrounded by the ocean so, we like to serve the fishes from our waters, we are a culture that eats a lot of raw fish, and so it’s only natural that if you want people to taste Hawaii, and taste the culture, that you serve a lot of these preparations, whether they’re in poke form, or tartare form, a carpaccio form, or a kind of seviche or sashimi form, it’s all kind of one big category.

Alan Wong (Photo Credit: Arthur Betts)
Alan Wong (Photo Credit: Arthur Betts)

[Edward Sugimoto] Do you eat poke outside of the restaurant…

[Alan Wong] Of course. *smiles*

[Edward Sugimoto] … and if so, where do you like to go?

[Alan Wong] Well, you know, I don’t go out too often, but every once in a while, the poke at side street, my buddy Colin (Nishida), you know. I don’t go out too often.

[Edward Sugimoto] What’s in store for you personally, and what’s also in store for your restaurants?

[Alan Wong] Well, I think, you know, you put the economy aside, you still have to do your thing. I think I’m ready to cook up another concept or two, and I hope that we can grow as a company, I think we can grow as individuals within our company, so that I think, you know, we want to move forward, but sensibly in this time.

Alan Wong's Restaurant Sign
Alan Wong’s Restaurant Sign

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

[Alan Wong] *laughs* Well, besides come taste Hawaii, um, this past Christmas I said, imagine if every dollar you spend buying Christmas presents for your friends and family, you bought everything that was made or raised in Hawaii, or produced in Hawaii. With the economy the way it is, what better way to fuel our own economy. So I think I speak on behalf of all the restaurants, all the mom and pop stores and restaurants that dot the community and become the community, we need to support our local restaurants. That’s what it is. It’s like the farmers. If we don’t buy local, we don’t support the local farmers, well, we’re not going to have farmers. Well you know, it’s the same with the restaurant industry. It’s time to come out and support your local restaurants, and *looks at camera* I hope to see you.

Alan Wong’s Honolulu
1857 S. King Street
Honolulu, HI 96826 (map)
Tel: (808) 949-1939
Reservations: (808) 949-2526
Hours: 5-10pm daily

The Pineapple Room by Alan Wong
1450 Ala Moana Blvd.
Honolulu, HI 96814 (map)
Tel: (808) 945-5529
Reservations: (808) 945-6573
Breakfast Hours: Sat: 8-11am, Sun: 9-11am
Lunch Hours: Mon-Sat: 11am-4pm, Sun: 11am-3pm
Dinner Hours: Mon-Sat: 4-8:30pm

I’d like to send a big Mahalo to all of the folks who made this possible: Sam Choy and his Executive Assistant Sally Watanabe; Mel Tanioka, Justin Tanioka, Lynn Tanioka; Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi; and Alan Wong, his Project Coordinator Nicole Ng, his Restaurant Manager Kerry Ichimasa, and his entire kitchen staff!

Stay tuned for Part III, when we spend a day in the life of Seafood Hawaii, Inc.’s President Jed Inouye. From the fish market on the pier, to the kitchen, to the market at Sam’s Club, we get a history lesson from one of Hawaii’s experts. We’ll also pay a visit to some of the other supermarkets’ poke offerings from the likes of Safeway, Costco, Foodland, and more.

As always, if you know of anyone in the industry, send them my way and I’ll include them in this series. Shoots!

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

Photography at the Right Angle – Caption Contest (5 of 23)

February 1, 2010

Another Monday… Yep, another photo caption contest. Just 19 more to go gang! LOL!

There were a lot that made me crack up last week, like bB‘s “stop……….don’t turn around……….give me your wallet” and our lovely Rosette‘s “ARGH HE FARTED!” but I went with skycastles’ “Eeeek!!! Spider . . . get it, get it!! Omigod, omigod, omigod!” for the creativity (and acting skills 😛 ). Congrats skizzai! 😉

I know y’all will have some hilarious (and gross?) ones for this week. Have at it!

World Wide Ed
Photography at the Right Angle – Caption Contest (5 of 23)


Da “Photography at the Right Angle – Caption Contest” Winnahz Circle! 🙂

  1. Week 1 – “Look, Ma! No hands!” (frankie)
  2. Week 2 – “Eh? No can hear. Got beer in my ear.” (Dave)
  3. Week 3TIE: “Pawn to Queen 4…errrr WOOF!” (b.) and “Doggie go long. On 3, On 3. Ready. Break.” (rayboyjr)
  4. Week 4“Eeeek!!! Spider . . . get it, get it!! Omigod, omigod, omigod!” (skycastles)
  5. Week 5 – ???
  6. Week 6 – ???
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  8. Week 8 – ???
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  10. Week 10 – ???
  11. Week 11 – ???
  12. Week 12 – ???
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  23. Week 23 – ???

Post your most creative/funny/witty/entertaining caption below for the photo above. Have a great Monday and week y’all! Shoots!

P.S. Don’t forget to read Part II of my Poke Paradise series, including interviews with Sam Choy, Mel and Justin Tanioka of Tanioka’s Seafoods and Catering, Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi of Tokkuri-Tei, and Alan Wong:

Poke Paradise - Experiencing the Best Poke Around Hawaii - Part II
Poke Paradise – Experiencing the Best Poke Around Hawaii – Part II

Fave Friday – Hawaii Chefs

January 29, 2010

I know, I know, there are not many to choose from, in terms of really well-known chefs from Hawaii. Let’s see, off the top of my head, we got the big dogs like Roy Yamaguchi, Alan Wong, Sam Choy, Russell Siu, Chai Chaowasaree, Chef Mavro (George Mavrothalassitis), etc., and some of the lesser known, but equally impressive, like Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi, Collin Nishida and Onjin Kim (anybody know what happened to her btw?).

In the comment area below, list your favorite Hawaii Chef(s) and why. Whether it be their cooking ability, ono-ness of their restaurant, their personality, or all of the above. I have a few for various reasons:

  • Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi: He’s the co-owner of Tokkuri-Tei, my all-time favorite restaurant, hands-down. He’s down to earth and has a hilarious sense of humor. Santa always makes me crack up without even saying a word.
  • Chuck Furuya: Yeah, he’s not really a chef, but close enough. He runs Vino Italian Tapas & Wine Bar in Restaurant Row, and, oh by the way, is one of only two Master Sommeliers in the state of Hawaii. He’s genuine and friendly and has a knack for taking the intimidation out of wine. Back in college when I worked at KHET Hawaii Public Television, we filmed a segment with him for one of our shows. During setup, he yells to this little student grunt (me) across the room and says “Eh, I know you! I played ball with you in Hawaii Kai the other weekend! Remember me?” Stunned, I was like “Huh!?” Then I realized he was talking to me and was able to muster up this glorious response: “Me? Oh yeah!” We continued to shoot segments with him and he would always take the time to make conversation with all of us about anything and everything. Recently, I saw him with his son at Cafe Laufer and he still recognized me and shook my hand. What an awesome guy!
  • Sam Choy: just seems really friendly and welcoming. Plus, he loves him some poke. My kinda guy!
  • Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong: though insanely intimidating, these two guys seem warm hearted in person and continue to stay true to their roots, choosing to buy local whenever possible. My “claim to fame” for Roy Yamaguchi was that I gave him a ride to and from Roy’s Hawaii Kai – in my little Civic hatchback – before and after a shoot in our KHET studios (I lived in Hawaii Kai at the time and it was looked at as a better, more economical idea than sending a production van out to Hawaii Kai to pick him up). My “claim to fame” for Alan Wong was actually a few days ago when I interviewed him for Part II of my “Poke Paradise” series for AroundHawaii.com, set to be published on February 1st. 8) Here’s a little sneak peek for y’all! Let me know what you think!


An Interview with Alan Wong

Talk to me!
* Post your favorite Hawaii chefs below and why.
* Thoughts on the above interview?
* Excited about the new iPad?
* Excited about the Olympics?

Have a happy VH07V Friday and weekend y’all! See you on the flipside! 🙂

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

Finger Garlickin’ Good! – Sugoi Bento & Catering

April 1, 2007

Doesn’t allium sativum sound like some potent ingredient listed on the label of some dangerous cleaning ingredient? Well, it’s potent alright, but believe you-me, it’s far from dangerous. In fact, it’s wondrously edible and delectable at that, and there are three “just gotta” reasons to ingest this here allium sativum: 1) for its medicinal value(s), 2) the notion that it wards off evil and 3) Sugoi’s!

OK, ‘scuse the ambiguous opening paragraph. If you know exactly what I’m talking about, then you’re either a plant expert or a psychic. Either way, I should probably take a few steps back and attempt to clarify some thangs.

Allium Sativum is a species in the onion family, more commonly known by its recognized name of garlic. This tiny, but powerful bulb is used to prevent heart disease and improve the human immune system, and may even aid in cancer prevention. In addition, there is a superstition that says that if you wear garlic or hang it from notable locations (e.g. windows, doors, etc.), it will protect you from evil, vampires in particular.

The vague “Sugoi” reference in the paragraph (which, translates to “wow” or “great” or “awesome” in Japanese) actually eluded to Sugoi Bento & Catering, a popular plate lunch joint, whose specialty is… you got it, their garlic chicken.

[pause for gears in brain to start clicking]

Ahhh, all making sense now eh? Now that we’ve got that squared away, let’s profile “Sugoi” and their famous eats now shall we?

Sugoi sign
Sugoi sign

Located in the City Square Building in Kalihi, this local hotspot has been serving up lip-smackin’ chow to satisfied customers for nearly 7 years. Their #1 seller, by far, is their garlic chicken, which has won numerous awards, including the “Best Plate Lunch” in the annual Top 100 Restaurants on Oahu publication (Honolulu Advertiser) for 4 years in a row, “Best Chicken Plate Lunch” on the island by Lyle Galdeira’s “Cheap Eats” on KHNL News, 3rd Place for “Best Bento” in the 2006 Best of the Best awards (Honolulu Advertiser).

Sugoi's Awards Display
Sugoi’s Awards Display

They also won “Best Mochiko Chicken” honors by Chef Sam Choy and gained national notoriety when featured on two shows on the Food Network: “Secret Life Of… Luau” and “Surf and Turf.”

In other words, making up your mind on what to order there is, well, so easy a caveman can do it (sorry GEICO).

However, if you’ve got a hot date with a vampire tonight or garlic just ain’t your cup of tea, they’ve got a bevy of items to choose from off their sizeable menu.

Sugoi's Menu
Sugoi’s Menu

(! – If you’re not in the mood for garlic, but still want to get a feel for their delish chicken stylings, try one of their other prepared poultry options: spicy, mochiko or sesame. They are made the same way as the garlic chicken, without the need for a breath mint. My personal favorite is the sesame chicken in the bento.).

Sugoi's Sesame Chicken Bento - $7.45
Sugoi’s Sesame Chicken Bento – $7.45

Local boy Zachary Lee is the owner of this great/awesome/wow place, and his kind-hearted, appreciative, good nature is very refreshing. He’s probably going to kill me for publishing this part of our email conversation, but, I wanted to give you an idea of what kind of guy he is:

“That’s really nice of you to showcase Sugoi, I can’t thank you enough. I really like what I do, and it’s nice to see so many customers come to my restaurant, and leave with a happy experience. I try to create a positive environment with my staff, I really feel that is where it starts.”

Keep in mind that this wasn’t part of the interview. It was just informal chit-chat before the real deal. Makes you wanna give him a great big bearhug now don’t it? 🙂

OK, all together now…

Awwww…

Zack Lee (far right) and his staff at Sugoi's
Zack Lee (far right) and his staff at Sugoi’s

Before you get all mushy on me/us, let’s continue with our interview.

We’re both baseball boys (he at McKinley and I at Kaiser) so he knew a lot of guys from my former team. You know, those who actually played. *grin* And, as I was writing this, a co-worker of mine randomly walked into my “office” and said “Eh, Zack! You know him too!? Cool guy yeah?” The point I’m trying to make is that this “cool” guy (who enjoys golfing, lifting weights, and collecting comics in his spare time) is well regarded and adorned by many.

On interview morning, Zack gave me a chance to try some items from his breakfast menu. I ordered the Two Eggs & (Fried) Rice with choice of Corn Beef Hash. The corn beef hash was prepared in a way I’ve never seen. Panko-crusted and deep fried. Sugoi!

Two Eggs & (Fried) Rice with choice of Corn Beef Hash - $5.50
Two Eggs & (Fried) Rice with choice of Corn Beef Hash – $5.50

Customer favorites also include the Hamburger Steak plate ($6.75), Short Ribs ($7.50) and Yakisoba plates (from $5.95). Zack also tells me that their original bottled sauces (launched in 2005) are doing well:

“These 16-ounce bottles are sealed air-tight, contain absolutely no MSG, and will stay fresh for 6 months! Sugoi sauces go great with anything you love to eat; steak, roasts and ribs, to chicken, duck, turkey and ham, or drizzled over oodles of noodles… even as a salad dressing.”

Sugoi's Bottled Sauce Display
Sugoi’s Bottled Sauce Display

You can find these bottled gems at Marukai, Chili in Hawaii, Star Market, Wholesale Unlimited, Pat’s Island Delights, Menehune Mac Factory, Chit Chat, Foodland, Times, and Sugoi’s as well as their web site: www.sugoihawaii.com (they ship to the mainland US every week). Speaking of their web site, you can also use it to preorder food (must be made at least 2 days in advance), check out their menu and catering prices, and even contact them electronically.

Sugoi’s future, according to Zack, is to expand the menu and bottled sauces, and improve on their current location. Zack would also like to thank all of Sugoi’s great customers for the support and thank the great employees that make up the team.

One more time now: Awwww!

So if you’ve never been to Sugoi Bento & Catering, why not give them a whirl? If you have, give them a return whirl. If this is one of your favorites, become a Whirling Dervish and give them many, repeat whirls. OK, that was lame, but you get the point. Go check um out a-ight?

If you need any more convincing, I’ve got three “just gotta” reasons for you my friends… 1) Wow, 2) Great and 3) Awesome!

Sugoi Bento & Catering
City Square Building
1286 Kalani St. #B-106
Honolulu, HI 96817 (map)
(808) 841-7984
Monday-Saturday 8AM-7PM
Sunday: Catering Only

Last Minute Christmas Shopping? Duck Soup!

December 1, 2006

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Content for this article is very dated. Many links will not work.]

If you’re anything like me, your brain has not yet started to fathom the fact that Christmas is right around the corner. Still hazy from the turkey leftovers that seem to return in every form and fashion, you convince yourself that there’s still planny time to do your shopping.

The reality is that there isn’t. C-Day: Monday, December 25, 2006 is like, right around the corner! Holy Kris Kringle, Batman!

Lucky for you, The Ed is here to save you and your valued relationships yet again. Come with me as we explore a few, last minute Christmas shopping options for us berry belated individuals.

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Shop.AroundHawaii.com

Shop.AroundHawaii.com
If you click the Marketplace button on this site, you’ll reach AroundHawaii.com’s Marketplace, an online shopping site for chic Hawaii products. No tiki torches or geeky aloha print shirts here… Just hip apparel and entertainment goods dope enough to give as gifts to locals and locals-at-heart.

Powered by our friends at e808, the selection of truly “local” products is mind-boggling. You can purchase apparel from Kai Clothing, Maiden Hawaii and even exclusive stuff from the Duke Kahanamoku collection, among others.

Kai Clothing Special!
During the month of December, BUY 3 KAI CLOTHING TEES, GET THE 4TH FREE!
(Purchase 4 Kai Clothing tees, and within five business days, 1 tee will be refunded back to your credit card. You will receive an emailed credit receipt within five business days.):: BUY 3 GET THE 4TH FREE! ::

 
And what about local kine books like “The 50 Greatest Hawai`i Music Albums of All-Time,” “Israel Kamakawiwo’ole ‘IZ: The Songbook Collection’ Sheet Music,” “Eddie Would Go,” “Pidgin To Da Max,” or cookbooks from our great island chefs: Sam Choy, Roy Yamaguchi, Alan Wong, Dave “DK” Kodama and Elmer Guzman.

Not enough? How about the cheapest local CDs around for $11.98!? You can find CDs from your island favorites like the Makaha Sons, Israel Kamakawiwoole, Jack Johnson, Jake Shimabukuro, Kealii Reichel, Kalapana, Natural Vibrations, Hapa, Keahiwai and more

How about DVDs from Rell Sunn, Israel Kamakawiwoole, Jake Shimabukuro, Augie T, Bu La’ia, Rap Reiplinger, Mel Cabang, Andy Bumatai and Da Braddahs or miscellaneous goodies like Coffees from Hawaii, Island Home and Kitchen products, Stickers & Things and Calendars from Kim Taylor Reece? Yep, these are all available from the comfort of your own home, but be sure to order early! With the Christmas rush, e808.com recommends ordering before the following dates in order to get your products delivered by Christmas:

Order by:

  • 12/15 via Priority Mail or
  • 12/18 via Express Mail

 

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Oceanic Mall

Oceanic Mall
Don’t have a computer? Why not give the Oceanic Mall on Digital Channel 001 a whirl? Powered by Fulfillment Werks, the Oceanic Mall empowers you to browse products from popular merchants around the island through the magic of your digital cable enabled television.

Merchants like McCully Bicycle, Paradise Florists, SWAM (Shiroma’s Wine and More), Island Mall, Wholesale Unlimited and RainBowTique offer a bevy of products that you can browse through and ultimately order through a posted telephone number. Phase 2, with real time credit card transaction through your TV is currently scheduled for 2007. To get to the Oceanic Mall,

  1. Tune to Oceanic Digital Channel 001
  2. Select Marketplace
  3. Select Mall

Don’t have Digital Cable? Call (808) 643-2337 to order today.

Jan Nadamoto of Fulfillment Werks also suggests placing your order at least 2 weeks prior to Christmas in order to receive your products in time for the holidays.

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Oceanic.com Marketplace

Oceanic.com Marketplace
Similar to the Oceanic Mall on Channel 001, the Oceanic.com Marketplace allows you to browse from the UH RainBowTique and Wholesale Unlimited product lines – using your Internet connected computer – and place orders using a posted telephone number. Secure, online ordering is scheduled to become available shortly after the Oceanic Mall version.

The Oceanic Food Court

The Oceanic Food Court (also in the Oceanic.com Marketplace), however, is fully interactive as we speak. Just punch in a few details about your Oceanic Account or come here after logging into MyAccount and BAM! you’re added to the mix… with essence! Choose items from Cybee Restaurant’s or Flamingo Pearl City’s or Pizza Hut’s menu and have them delivered after placing your order online. But Ed, what does having food delivered to me have to do with my last minute Christmas shopping? Ah, details. Let’s just call it a Christmas present to yourself and move on shall we… ? 😉

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Actually, that’s pretty much all I’ve got to report to you for this month regarding last minute Christmas shopping through Oceanic Time Warner Cable’s array of products and services. Well, you can always, as they say, give the gift of cable… which ranges from Digital Cable Service, Road Runner, Digital Phone, DVR, etc. Oceanic’s offers for the month of December are as follows FYI (find the complete details on these at whatsnew.oceanic.com):

  • Order Road Runner or Digital Phone and get HBO and HBO On Demand for $7 more per month for the first 6 months.
  • Order Road Runner and get the First Month Free
  • Order Digital Phone and receive Free Installation and Your First Month Free
  • Order DVR Self-Install and get the First Month Free
  • Get DVR for $4.95 per month for 6 months.

Call 643-2337 to order any of the above for yourself or as gifts.

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One last hint for you extremely late gift givers… Once you pass the cut-off dates mentioned above and start sweating in your shorts about what to do, why not give the electronic superstores a looksee. Many of them, like BestBuy and Circuit City, have In-Store pick-up options so you can browse for and place your order online, and then physically pick it up without having to go through the whole rigmarole of looking for the product at the store and standing in line to purchase it.

Good luck with your shopping folks… Which reminds me… I have to get crack-a-lackin’ on mine! Yikes! Have a happy holiday season with your friends and family gang. I’ll see you here again next year!