Posts Tagged ‘sesame seeds’

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

December 1, 2013

My journey to Agu actually started online.

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

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

Enter the in-laws.

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

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

Outside Agu Ramen Bistro
Outside Agu Ramen Bistro

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

Inside Agu Ramen Bistro
Inside Agu Ramen Bistro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Hawaii Ramen Quest – Part I

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

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

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

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

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

Yotteko-Ya entrance
Yotteko-Ya entrance

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

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

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

Chashu Gohan
Chashu Gohan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bari loves his Tenkaippin Ramen
Bari loves his Tenkaippin Ramen

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

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

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

Video of Kotteri Ramen from Tenkaippin’s

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE: This series served 7,805 customers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel Haili – Haili’s Hawaiian Foods

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

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

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

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

Though they have a nice selection of poke…

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

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

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

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


Rachel Haili of Haili’s Hawaiian Foods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haili's Menu
Haili’s Menu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Edward Sugimoto] OK, thank you very much!

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

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

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

Guy Tamashiro – Tamashiro Market

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


Guy Tamashiro of Tamashiro Market

[Edward Sugimoto] Describe your history with fish.

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

Seafood selection at Tamashiro Market
Seafood selection at Tamashiro Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Edward Sugimoto] What is your personal favorite?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outside Tamashiro Market
Outside Tamashiro Market

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

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

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

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

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

Ahi Onion poke
Ahi Onion poke

Ahi Shoyu poke
Ahi Shoyu poke

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

Furikake Poke
Furikake Poke

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

Poke to Your Taste – Hilo, HI

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

Poke to Your Taste building
Poke to Your Taste building

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

Poke to Your Taste sign
Poke to Your Taste sign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Definitely poke to MY taste.

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

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

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

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

Poke Paradise – Experiencing the Best Poke Around Hawaii – Part 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