So while we were in Hawaii, we ate a LOT. I wanted to try local specialties and tiny shops and fresh seafood and fruity drinks. I already miss pina coladas and poke.
Some of my favorite and most inspiring experiences were:
Ramen Nakamura, the teensiest, tiniest, cutest noodle shop ever. Everyone was speaking Japanese except us. It’s really quiet in there… no one really talks much, you just hear lots of slurping. And everyone ate so quickly!
The noodles were so darn perfect, and the broth was worth gulping down. The dumplings on the side were crispy on the outside, flavorful and fresh on the inside. It was quite a feat to eat all those noodles with chopsticks without splattering broth all over myself. But somehow, I managed. I also loved how the spoon was grooved so you could hang it over your bowl.
I’ve been trying to find a place that serves ramen in Austin, and so far I’ve found three possibilities: Banzai, Sushi Sake, and Yu Sushi Izagaya. I’ll let you know how they taste, though I’m sure they will be nothing like my first ramen experience in Hawaii.
I also found out that I LOVE kalua pig. This one is from Keneke’s, near Waimanalo Beach.
It’s traditionally cooked forever in an underground oven, until it’s extremely tender. It’s then shredded and served with rice. I found a recipe for crockpot kalua pig, and I definitely want to try that soon.
It turns out that I love plate lunches in general.
This one is a hamburger steak plate lunch from Ted’s Bakery on the North Shore. I just love that it’s just meat and starch. It could be kalua pig, or grilled mahimahi, or hamburger patties smothered in gravy, but it must be served with two scoops of perfectly sticky white rice and a scoop of macaroni salad. I could do without the mac salad, but that rice! I seriously plan to have more white rice in my life from now on.
I also fell in love with poke (pronounced “poh-kay”).
This is pre-packaged poke available in your average Hawaiian grocery store. I had a few servings of poke at Roy’s, Sansei, and the Beach Bar, and they were all so delicous. It’s a mix of raw seafood (often ahi), soy sauce, sesame oil, seaweed, and whatever other lovely ingredients the chef feels like adding (maybe baby greens or octopus or diced tomato). Why, oh, why do we not have poke in Austin?
I also loved browsing the shops in Chinatown. This little meat shop had a display of duck necks, and as we passed, one woman was choosing the perfect one for dinner.
I loved that there were stalls filled to the brim with mango and dragonfruit and papaya.
I loved that there were bins and bins of dried noodles and squid and fish and other things I didn’t recognize.
I loved that all the shoppers knew exactly what they wanted.
So I fell in love with island cuisine, both local plate lunches and Japanese-influenced dishes. I want to try to make or find:
- Kalua pig
- Sticky white rice
- Really fresh sushi
- Perfect gyoza
- Dim sum
If any of you have any suggestions, let me know! We do have a Roy’s in Austin, and I’ve never tried it, but I definitely will soon.