Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Hainan Turkey Rice Day

Not really, but wouldn't it be delicious to have a turkey version of the popular Hainan chicken rice dish. Moist pieces of dark meat accompanied by the lovely sweet, chili, ginger sauce and chicken broth-flavored rice. I plan to make that with my leftovers – I'll post it when it happens. Happy thanksgiving to everyone and I hope you overdose on gravy like I will.
Read more!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ondal 2, Mid-City Los Angeles - The Four Acts of Ondal's Spicy Crab Soup

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

When it comes to avoiding wastefulness, you've got to hand it to the Koreans, over any of the ethnicities in Asia.  Each asian country has its way of using up every part of an animal or vegetable but I've noticed that the Koreans definitely shine in the double-meal category.  There's shul lung tang, a dish that is made from boiling discarded leg bones and oxtails overnight to produce a thick, white soup accompanied by various boiled meat and green onions. The meat from the bones usually graduates to a spicy beef soup or even for bbq. If you've eaten spicy korean tofu stew, soon doo boo, you'll sometimes have rice served in a stone pot, known as dol sot. After the rice is scooped out of the stone pot, water or barley tea is then added to create a makeshift 'soup'. The taste from the burnt brown rice adds a subtle char to the soup which is then in need of salt and pepper for taste.  I enjoy the burnt pieces of rice but have yet to finish a full bowl of tea soup.  I've also seen many people in restaurants, particularly males, finish up a particular stew or soup and then dump in another bowl of rice to sop up the soup. My Korean friends from high school would always do the same thing with their instant kimchi bowls... eat all the noodles, drink some soup, add rice and finish up everything – making it a double meal.

Last week, this observation on Korean 'double-mealing' has been taken to another level after my coworkers and I tried a place known for their spicy korean crab soup, kkot gae tang.   I had seen Ondal 2 many times, partly because it sticks out like a sore thumb in a pre-dominantly African American and Latino part of Mid-City Los Angeles.  And the sight of a silly looking Sanrio-style crab on the sign only makes the place more approachable.   

We walked in and were greeted by two servers.  TVs blared the latest world news in Korean.  All in an empty restaurant at 12:30.  We were handed menus and right away, my eyes went straight to the prices.  $55 for a medium sized crab soup.  I was well aware of it through some reviews on Yelp but with only three people, we had better be starving to make this even worth it.

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

My coworker PR was wearing a light shirt and asking for trouble.  A spicy orange soup is a force to be reckoned with especially if you still have the rest of the workday to survive. He took his placemat and constructed his own bib/napkin.  As you can see, not much real estate and straight up looks stupid haha.

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

Luckily, our server saw us messing around and quickly brought over some official Ondal 2 aprons.  She then stared me in the eye, closing her eyes to focus better and asked if I was Chinese.  She spoke both Korean and Chinese, and only made this a better experience for us since we could communicate.    

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

After munching on some side dishes, we saw our server come out of the kitchen with a large steaming pot and all three of us were stoked.  It was simply beautiful.  Four decent-sized crabs comfortably enjoying a hot tub moment.  I had never seen crabs like these, especially with the red circular markings which probably denote the crab's sex.  The server told us that these crabs are straight from Korea.  Did they come dressed in black?  I wonder if they like K-clubbing, have a singing contract, excel in online multiplayer games and binge off soju all day long.  Not that I'm profiling or anything, just saying.  

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

What you're about to see is not a double or triple meal, but a quadruple meal.  For us consumers, Ondal 2 is somewhat economical.  For a Korean crab, it is a nightmare that they have to relive over and over and over and over again. Imagine knowing that fate has brought you to this very restaurant on Washington Blvd.   The meal we had here really plays out like a Saw-like horror movie broken into four cruel, yet delicious acts.  And just a note, a coworker of mine has emphasized the fact that is dish is not particularly native to Korean cuisine, but more so a culinary creation that has caught people's attention.

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

Act 1 - The Shell
Once the pot of crabs is set down on the table, it is brought to a boil.  Our lovely mortician then takes each crab shell and begins to compile a dish that reminds me of a Brazilian favorite known as casquinha de siri.  A crab shell is hollowed out and filled with a mixture of goodies, and then baked or deep fried.  Great stuff.  This was a little different and dare I say, much better.  Here at Ondal 2, they only use female crabs so that Act 1 can exist.  The server takes the crab shell and begins to add crab roe, rice and bean sprouts into the shell.  And tops it off with a nice shot of crab-flavored soup from the hot pot.  

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

I'm not sure that I would feel right eating meat from an animal's skull, but this seems perfectly moral and legal to me.  The soup is really, really tasty and just full of crab flavor.  The roe was good as usual and went well with the crunch of the bean sprouts and flavored rice.  This rocked.

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

Act II - The Claws & Legs
The server then proceeds to make use of the handy Korean scissors.  I've grown to love the usage of scissors, especially with cutting meat.  It's the Korean version of arts & crafts time.  The soup is so spicy that any bacteria on those scissors stands no chance of proliferating.  She hacks up all the claws and legs, making the four crabs into forty various pieces.  At this point, it looks like sheer disaster.   

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

This particular type of crab really is something new to me.  The meat was almost more textured, and I could feel the many muscle fibers.  It was not overly sweet and very easy to pull out of the shell.  I pulled out all the claw and leg meat and ate them with soup.  Again, very tasty. 

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

Act III - The Broth & "Noodles"
At this point, we are getting pretty full.  We had already eaten a concoction served in a crab shell and numerous pieces of claw and leg meat.  Not to mention that the soup was also pretty damn spicy.  I was starting to break into sweat and the server seeing this, just gave us our own pitcher of water.  Good thinking.  She let out a sinister laugh when I ask her if there'll be more.  Her pupils turned red like a demon's and I knew right then not to really question her anymore.  Nevermind I asked!  She takes out all the bean sprouts and crab parts and dumps them in another bowl.  The hot pot is refilled with more stock and zuccini slices and onions are added and brought to a boil.  

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

Out of nowhere, she pulls out a piece of dough wrapped tightly in saran wrap.  She plays with the dough a little, giving a little tug here and there and begins to rip the dough into flat shapes of 'noodles'.  This is known as su jae bi, and somewhat similar in texture to Korean rice ovalettes.  These were pretty fun to eat.

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

Act IV - The Fried Rice
By now, we were way too full.  The thought of taking another bite of crab was tough but again, I saw our server back with her shenanigans.  This time with a small plate of white rice, seaweed and sesame oil.  My coworkers just shook their head in disbelief.   

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

The server added some sesame oil in the pot that once housed the soup, the noodles, the crab parts, crab roe and crab shell.  Then rice, seaweed and of course, crab stock, was added.  All this done at the table by the multi-tasking Korean server.  Why did I have a feeling that this would be killer? 
Ondal 2, Los Angeles

Do you now know what I mean by Korean 'multi-mealing'?  I think I took a few bites of this before tapping out with the ref.  We couldn't do it.  We ended up doggy-bagging the rice, soup and remaining crab parts  All of which could provide a full snack for two people.  This was good after adding more crab stock and some soy sauce.  

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

Whether or not the Korean tradition of 'multi-mealing' emerged from periods of poverty in Korea or simply because Koreans enjoy stuffing their faces, I find myself still thinking about this particular meal in which I, along with coworkers, really got to know these four crabs.  Inside out.  The $55 is jarring at first, but once you see how much food you get, it's quite a deal.  I highly recommend getting this medium and asking for your own paste to spice up your broth.  I'll be back here again.  I heard the steamed beef hot pot and monkfish hot pot is good as well but I don't know that I can veer away from crab.  Thanks for reading.

Hot Pot Recommendations
Medium = 3-4 people (I recommend 4 people at least)
Large = 5-6 people
X-Large = 6-8 

Ondal 2
4566 W. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA  90016
(323) 933-3228
Read more!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Taco Tour with New York-Based Vendr.TV

Taco Crawl with New York's Vendr.tv

A few months back, I received an email from someone from New York that runs his own internet-based street food show called Vendr.TV. I was already exhausted from my taco table escapades over the last year but it's hard for me to not want to help anyone that wants delicious food. Part of being a foodie isn't just knowing where to find the best of anything, but also the ability to read someone's mind and stomach and help them find their edible soulmates. So a few weeks later, Daniel Delaney, producer and host came down for a quick taco tour.

Taco Crawl with New York's Vendr.tv

I believe he was to meet Roy Choi of Kogi BBQ later at night so we only did three of my favorite taco stands in the eastside. We checked out Fletcher/Larga, Verdugo/Avenue 31 and Figueroa/Pasadena. It had been almost 4 months since I last touched a taco, but once I took a bite out of crisped up buche (pig stomach), I rememebered why I loved it so much. I was actually very surprised how much Daniel could put down. In addition to the tacos, one stand even treated us with their delicious squash blossom huaraches and quesadillas.

Thanks to Daniel for letting me be a host – great meeting you and appreciate your open-mindedness. Thanks for reading.

Watch the video here.
Read more!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Olympic Noodle, Koreatown - Korean-Style Knife-Cut Noodles

Olympic Noodle, Koreatown Los Angeles

As a noodle enthusiast, I give every cultures's offerings a chance whenever I can. Up until a few years ago, I didn't think Korean food had much to offer outside of their cold noodles (naeng myun), fried vermicelli noodles (jaap chae) and more popular amongst pimple-faced, brace-wearing teenagers, the instant kimchi noodle bowls loaded with MSG. Then I was introduced to Ma Dang Gook Soo and Myung Dong KyoJa, both of which are popular noodle joints in Koreatown. It was the first time I had eaten Korean-style knife-cut noodles and it was pretty good. I lost interest in MDGS pretty quickly because the soup was just too starchy. MDK's style of soup noodles also reminded me a lot of Chinese ground pork noodles (rou zhao and ja jiang mian). The dish itself is tasty when you add all the necessary condiments but the overcooking noodles was sadly consistent and really killed it for me. Korean noodles are good, but in the minor leagues compared to Chinese knife-shaven noodles (dao xiao mian). This style of noodle was done really well at places like Heavy Noodling and Kang Kang Food Court in SGV, and more recently, JTYH Restaurant in Rosemead. But there's a certain simplicity and homeyness to Korean food that I really enjoy. I'm not Korean but I certainly eat a lot of Korean food.

Given the option to spend $12-15 for a lunch in Culver City, I'd rather take El Diez down to Crenshaw for a place almost 1/2 the cost of it – and that's where I've been eating a lot of lunch. The fact that I've been back here nearly 10 times... bringing my wife Jeni, 3-4 coworkers and in the near future, the members of the Le Club de Grub project at work, it is clear that I really do enjoy this place.

You can expect your typical Korean restaurant set-up and decor here. Wood-laminate walls, a TV blaring Korean soap-operas and a large fridge loaded with condiments. The majority of the clientele here during lunch are older Korean businessmen, wearing napkins to shield any oily splash-back from the broth. But what you'll notice here if you pay attention is just how silent it is, with exception to a few loud slurpers. Everyone is pretty busy with their face in the large metal bowls. Always a good sign.

Olympic Noodle, Koreatown Los Angeles

Here's the first reason why I like Olympic Noodle: their kimchi. It's not that bullshit watery, acidic kind from Cosmos jars. It's fresh, pasty, spicy and garlicky kimchi that is made like every few days. If you touch the kimchi with your fingers, you can still feel its pulse. Also, the servers are as nice as your own mother (hopefully). When it's not busy, they'll come and cut up your kimchi, making you a prince instantly for that $7.69 you're spending on their soup noodles – not bad right? AND, peppermint candy for your breath.

Olympic Noodle, Koreatown Los Angeles

Steamed Dumplings
The Chinese make solid dumplings. I never had a huge liking for Korean dumplings because (A) they overstuff their dumplings, (B) don't go beyond meat and green onion filling and (C) I can't for the life of me figure out why a bag of 40 Korean dumplings will cost $12 at the market. And after trying Myung Dong Kyoja's dumplings, which I know is a big Koreatown favorite as well, I think I decided to stay with Chinese dumplings. And then, I find this place thanks to a coworker and I am liking Korean dumplings again. You can order these steamed, boiled or fried but I highly recommend steaming because you'll get the maximum flavor. But either of these will taste good unless you have your dipping sauce. A simple mix of soy sauce, vinegar, red chili paste and a few dashes of sesame oil – you're good.

Olympic Noodle, Koreatown Los Angeles

Portrait of a Dumpling About to Be Eaten, 2009, Oil, Paint, Printed on Canvas
It was steamed perfectly and full of flavor. My coworker and I downed these in like 5 minutes. Note: Korean-style fried dumplings usually mean they are dumped in the fry-o-lator, not pan fried like potstickers or gyoza. Fried is good as well.

Olympic Noodle, Koreatown Los Angeles

Main Event: Chicken Noodle Soup
This is what most people order and it's tasty. You can tell the soup is boiled with bones when it has that muddier color like tonkotsu ramen, which is known for its rich, pork bone broth. They give a lot of chicken actually and boiling it for a while is probably the easiest way to eat a dry-ass piece of chicken breast. The noodles have curves and jagged edges from inconsistent knife-work but have a nice bite to it. On the side, you'll see a red chili powder/scallion paste that you add to the chicken soup noodles. Then there's a soy sauce/scallion "relish" jar too for you to flavor the broth if needed. A few dashes of sesame oil can make it taste pretty good too. I prefer the Anchovy broth noodle soup because it has that nice dashi taste to it. But with first-timers, I always order them the chicken incase the word 'anchovy' makes them run for the hills.

Olympic Noodle, Koreatown Los Angeles

Just a note, one bowl of soup noodles is usually good between two people if you order the dumplings – only costing you $15 total with tax. Actually at Olympic Noodle, I usually see TWO GIRLS, ONE BOWL. K, bad joke – I'm not even going to provide a reference link. If you're in the mood for something homey and tasty, Olympic Noodle will do the trick. Thanks for reading.

Olympic Noodle
4008 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 931-0007 Read more!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Hawaii 2009 - Meeting the Family and the Poké Party

Hawaii 2009

A few months ago, Jeni received a pleasant surprise in the mail. It was from her grandfather and in the form of a check. It wasn't for her birthday or Christmas, but rather a significant calling. Her grandmother is at a critical point in her aging life and a long overdue visit was not only obligatory but much needed. If we weren't married, she would have probably gone with her family to see the relatives in Hawaii. But being married to her now, I was now an addition to her family. This would be a different and possibly difficult time for everyone in my wife's family, and my first time meeting them. When it comes to Hawaii, many have an overdone perception of what it is. Hawaiian shirts everywhere, piña coladas in an ACTUAL pineapple, oily, tanned people carefully spinning torches of fire, a huge volcano erupting, etc. Thanks to the media, Oahu is pretty much an ugly tourist trap. Until you go with the right people.

The first time I came to Hawaii was a few years back with my good friends. We of course found the best deal we could on Waikiki Beach. Every hotel is either named Beach Front, Sand View, Water Front, etc... and they all sounded promising. We stayed at some place called Beach Comber or something and we enjoyed the beautiful, romantic view of the sunset falling behind a huge gray parking structure above the ubiquitous ABC convenience store. We really never drove around for food but stayed within walking distance. Would it be Cheeseburger Paradise or the unpleasant choices at the International Market food court for dinner? It wasn't until we drove our rental car around the island that we realized how beautiful Hawaii was. It was nice to know that Hawaii was really more than just a view of some fat, hairy guy with burnt red skin in neon green shorts and arm floaties. We had a blast on the trip of course but I think the Waikiki experience really turned us all off. I didn't think I would be going back for a long time.

This time around, I knew it would be more interesting. And more meaningful.

On our first night, we were ready to go to an izakaya after doing research. Instead, we were called over by one of Jeni's aunts for a house dinner. I was kind of bummed because I had my ambitions of eating poké all night long. We arrived, and in the driveway, tables had already been set with all types of take-out food. A few of her cousins were sitting down, and dogs were running around. Shortly after getting a warm welcoming from her relatives, we were handed beers and urged to sit back and take in the beautiful weather. They had local island music playing in the background and I just looked at everyone. It was very... comforting. This is exactly what I wanted to do – nothing. I didn't even miss the hairy white guy with burnt red skin in neon green shorts and arm floaties.

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

Two hour laters, I felt like I had gotten to know everyone pretty well and simply felt welcomed. The food was nothing to write home about but it brought everyone together a very pleasant evening of jolly-juice-induced fun.

However the next day would prove to be off on the other side of the emotional spectrum. I can see in Jeni's eyes that she didn't want to see her Grandmother in her condition. On their last visit, she didn't even remember Jeni or her brother. We arrived at her grandparent's house on the east side of the island and met her relatives. I could see from the screen door her grandmother's hospital bed facing the opposite direction and prepared to be there for my wife. I looked back and saw that Jeni was getting a little nervous and reached for her hand.

Hawaii 2009

We let her father and brother step forward first to greet the bedridden mother/grandmother and I could see some slight discomfort even in her father who hasn't seen her for years. Her grandmother didn't even recognize her own son. This was going to be hard.

Hawaii 2009

It was now our turn and Jeni said hello and kissed her on the cheek. And she just stared at Jeni with a cold confused look. She had no idea who Jeni was. Jeni's eyes welled up and immediately sat down. I introduced myself and not surprisingly, she said:

Grandma: "I don't know you!"
We all laughed.
Me: "That's ok. I'm Jeni's husband, nice to meet you."
Grandma: "Sorry I don't know you!"

It took a good 15-20 minutes of small talk amongst everyone before we could clear up the uncomfortable silence. We started eating some food and with most of Jeni's family there and grandparents in full view, I think everyone cheered up. Jeni and her brother didn't look at their grandmother much but I knew they were happy to be there. Her grandfather was so happy on his armchair, sipping on his coke can. It was nice.

About an hour into it, Grandma suddenly exclaimed, "Alvin!" She realized that her son was there and that he had brought his children and a random Chinese guy. Her father got up and smiled, saying "Hi Mom, it's me Alvin."

When we decided to leave, Jeni went over to her grandmother to say goodbye. I'll never forget what they said:

Jeni: "Bye grandma."
Grandmother: "Bye! I'm sorry I'm in bed. Next time you come back, I will be up and walking."
Jeni: "Okay, we'll go dancing ok?"
Grandmother: "Haha. Yes, dancing!"

As we left the house, Jeni started to cry and I told her that whether or not this would be the last visit, she made her laugh for that one moment and graced her with family presence. And that's what's important. Jeni and I hope to visit her once more.

But for Jeni and me, you might be able to guess what one of our favorite things to do, if not the main reason for traveling, is to find the most palatable of food and share our experiences with you. Aside from an emotional yet enlightening visit with her family, we had a separate agenda to make the whole trip worthwhile. Time to tuck the napkins in your shirt!

Hawaii 2009

Waiola's Shaved Ice
I've never been into shaved ice – not Taiwanese, Korean or Hawaiian. But the Chinese-owned Waiola Store made me change my mind as Jeni and I fought over this cup of shaved ice. On my last visit, we stopped by Matsumoto's and it wasn't memorable. Is it better engineering on the ice shaver or a better grade of multi-colored high fructose corn syrup? Whatever it was, it was so nice to sit on a bench on a beautiful day and paint the tongue/lips different colors. Her dad told us that this is what they used to do as kids - walk here barefooted for some tasty stuff.

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

You pick your ice cream flavor, toppings and flavored syrup. Voila, this is Hawaiian shaved ice.

Hawaii 2009

Driving Around the Island
Life exists outside of Waikiki Beach. Should you decide to drive around the island, it's a good idea to buy a plate lunch for a spontaneous picnic along the beaches/shore. We stopped over at this place called Diamond Head Market & Grill, known for their delicious blueberry scones and plate lunches. I had to have my Portuguese sausage and eggs for breakfast – something even McDonald's offers, which isn't bad at all for $4.

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

We drove around stopping whenever someone wanted to check out a view. I brought my Holga camera and snapped the scenery.

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

Before we even embarked on this trip to Hawaii, I would tell Jeni just how much I missed real poke. What is poke? It's a traditional Hawaiian dish that involves mixing raw seafood with seaweed, soy sauce, salt, scallions, onions, kukui nut and sesame oil. I heard that traditional Hawaiian poke is made with alaea salt (red clay salt) and seaweed. The Japanese introduced the soy sauce and sesame oil version. And up until this trip, I had NO IDEA just how many types of poke there were. And so here begins another one of my comparison postings so that you don't have to scramble all over the internet looking for the top five places. I could not have done this without the help of Hawaii-based Reid of Ono Kine Grindz and San Diego's Kirk of Mmm-Yoso. Poké party!!!

Hawaii 2009

Yama's Fish Market
2332 Young Street
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 941-9994
www.yamasfishmarket.com

Our first stop was Yama's Fish Market straight out of the airport. Everyone was in the mood for lau lau, lomi lomi and of course, poke.

Hawaii 2009

The lau lau was moist and steamed beautifully in the banana leaf wrapper. A bit on the salty side but nothing rice couldn't balance out.

Hawaii 2009

Mmm, my first bowl of ahi tuna poke in 3 years. The tuna was cut into nice cubes and had a thicker seaweed known as limu seaweed. Most versions have the skinnier red seaweed known as ogo seaweed. Limu is by far better with its crunchy texture. I devoured this bowl so fast that I got a strange look from my father-in-law haha.

Hawaii 2009

Fort Ruger Market
3585 Alohae Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 737-4531

This was mentioned a lot by locals so we had to try this out. We were a bit disappointed because of the price and freshness of it. Poke on average is $11-13/lb, I believe they were $17/lb! And not to mention that it was pre-mixed and a bit soggy. The tuna had a 2-day old stench to it. I would go back here though to try it once more. All restaurants have bad days unless you're Chili's or Outback Steakhouse.

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

Ono Seafood
747 Kapahulu Avenue Apt. 4
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 732-4806

Apartment 4? What the. Sure enough, if you didn't know you were looking for a little fish market in an apartment complex, you may be missing what I think to be the 2nd best place we tried out of 7-8 places. To avoid getting clowned on by my FIL on my poke addiction, we kept day 1 at two poke places. The VERY next morning at 9 am when they opened, I was the first customer.

Hawaii 2009

I was happy to know that not only did Ono Seafood offer poke, they had special treats like smoked octopus (tako), smoked marlin and tuna jerky that I had not tried before. I sampled the smoked tako which tasted very similar to Chinese cuttlefish jerky, a fobby favorite of my childhood. So good. We both loved it and considered buying the entire stock. But at $5 a pack, not very affordable.

Hawaii 2009

At 9 am, nothing sounded better than the ahi tuna breakfast. Beautiful cuts of ahi tuna are mixed right on the spot and served over HOT RICE. This was simply divine and another dish that made Jeni and I act like hyenas over. Not to mention that this is good and spicy. The next time I'm here, I'm bringing my own fried eggs to eat along with this. GO HERE. We came here twice.

Hawaii 2009

Foodland Supermarket
2939 Harding Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 734-6303
www.foodland.com

No matter how hungry I am, I cannot stomach deli food from Ralph's, Albertson's, Von's or Pavilion's. The food is not fresh and chilled into a rubbery state. The fried chicken and mac n' cheese may look tempting but they aren't, so don't bother. When I heard that Foodland had poke, we thought about it. Since we had to pick up some picnicking goods for our island drive, we stopped by anyway. And man, I was in HEAVEN – it was like a candy store. They had a whole section called the Poke Corner, or something like that. Everything looked so clean and fresh and the prices were very good. Jeni's friends and relatives said they usually just go here to buy poke.

Hawaii 2009
Hawaii 2009
We bought the lightly-blanched octopus poke and I was very happy with it. Flavored and cooked beautifully.

Hawaii 2009

And here is the ahi tuna poke, which did not disappoint me. For consistency and value, come to Foodland, the land of poke.

Hawaii 2009

Tamura's Fine Wines and Liquors
3496 Waialae Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 735-7100

I only came here for a routine beer stop since they have a great selection of craft beers and wine. I didn't expect much from their poke deli and usually, when you go in to a place with no expectations, you get slapped with a reward.

Hawaii 2009

For those worried about MSG, they don't use it at all.

Hawaii 2009

I drove back quickly to our classy hotel with the view of the parking structure and busted out the two containers of poke: octopus and ahi tuna/wasabi. Both were fantastic. In the octopus poke, I could taste small sea salt crystals which were good. The octopus was blanched even better than Foodland's and the seaweed had maximum crunch. Loved it.

Hawaii 2009

For fun, I decided to try the ahi tuna/wasabi flavored poke. I really like punishing my nostrils with wasabi and this had a very strong kick. My nosehairs were on fire but this was simply divine. I wasn't sure what kind of pickled vegetable was mixed into this... reminded me of Mexican cactus (nopales). I give Tamura's 1st place.

Hawaii 2009

Alicia's Market
267 Mokauea Street
Honolulu, HI 96819
(808) 841-1921

It was our last day and by now I'm teeming with mercury. I could be a lamer version of a comic book hero that uses oceanic powers to eliminate villains and seduce women. My FIL has given up on me and declared me CRAZY. He probably questioned Jeni on her decision to spend our lives together. So with one last request, we ended up at Alicia's Market, a local favorite.

Conveniently located next to a correctional facility, inmates on the loose now have a tasty place to rob. This is a real mom & pop market and full of goodies as you can see below.

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009
This place has way more variety than Foodland for sure. I saw poke made with oysters, abalone, mussels, shrimp, squid, mermaids, etc. They had it all and it all looked very fresh. After a tasting, we stuck with the basic ahi tuna poke and it wasn't bad at all. Only problem with this place was that it was far from where we were staying – it's close to the airport.

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009
Leonard's Bakery
933 Kapahulu Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 737-5591
www.leonardshawaii.com

Leonard's is known for their portuguese fried donut known as malasadas., which are sugar-coated caloried grenades. My FIL requested this before going back to LA because he had enjoyed eating here since he was a kid.

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

Malasadas are served hot and are really delicious. It was my first time eating it and I loved it.

Hawaii 2009
With every bite, my FIL let out a grunt of satisfaction. He looked like a kid eating it. Beware, this place is a tour bus stop and can promise a mean wait.

Hawaii 2009

Romy's Prawn & Shrimp
56-781 Kamehameha Highway (North Shore)
Kahuku, HI 96731
(808) 232-2202

To really complete the island drive, you've got to stop for roadside shrimp vendors. Jeni and her brother had never eaten at Romy's or Giovani's so we stopped by. With a good 50+ people lingering around the Romy shrimp shack, seems like they are doing something right. But at nearly $13 for 8-10 garlic shrimp and rice, I think it's pricey. It is good but I would have rather continued my Poke Party.

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009
What was once a typical vacation destination for most people has now become an actual home away from home for me since I married Jeni. Everyone was super cool and really made us feel at home. I felt this time around that I had done Hawaii the right away. No volcanoes, hairy people-watching or fire shows performed by oily tanned people. And I hope the next time you go to Hawaii, rent a car and drive out to where people aren't for a picnic. Maybe even do your own Poke Party. Thanks for reading.
Read more!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin

ShareThis