My Hawaii Food Tour 2015
On my first return home to Hawaii in several years, I spent most of my time catching up with old friends and family. Besides being my family’s tour guide, I did my best Anthony Bourdain impersonation. My foodie adventure is just a sliver what Hawaii has to offer. But if you ever stop by Hawaii and are itching for some good eats, you can’t go wrong with this ono (Hawaiian for delicious) menu.
Chun Wah Kam Noodle Factory
Many of my days began with a baked char siu manapua (buns) from Chun Wah Kam Noodle Factory. I prefer the baked ones over the traditional steamed ones because of the firmer texture and sweet honey glaze.
The tasty red roasted pork shreds gushes out after your first bite like a busted pinata. I can’t believe how much meat they stuff into one bun. They are doing something right since they now have four locations. If your cravings start early, the Kalihi branch opens before sunrise at 6:00 AM!
Helena’s Hawaiian Food
For lunch one day, I took my family to Helena’s for a pre noon Hawaiian cuisine sampling. I heard great things, but the restaurant doesn’t have many tables. Even with our early start, the place was packed. We lucked out on parking as spaces are limited, but we still needed to wait for over half an hour.
The dishes were small ala pupus or finger food. Instead of ordering larger sizes, I recommend going small so you can taste more of their offerings. The kalua pig was moist and not too salty. The lomi salmon and chicken long rice was fresh and flavorful. The pipikaula ribs was to die for! The meat was mouthwatering and per our friendly waitress’s recommendation, we further accentuated the flavor by adding sea salt and biting into strips of raw onion. Broke da mouth!
On our way to Waikiki, we stopped off at world famous Leonard’s Bakery in Kapahulu. My friends and I grew up snacking on these malasadas (sugary Portugese holeless doughnuts).
One bite and I whisked back to my hanabata days (Hawaiian for childhood times). I’ve tried other bakeries’ rendition of this classic treat before. But you can’t beat the original, doughy goodness of Leonard’s.
Island Vintage Shave Ice
One day while exploring Waikiki in the hot afternoon sun, we stumbled upon an oasis. A fellow traveler was gorging a colorful, icy creation. She said it was called Heavenly Lilikoi (passion fruit) and it came from a vendor at a corner of the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center on Seaside and Kalakua. We got one ourselves and we were in heaven! It was the perfect combination of fine snow powder, sweet fruity syrup, passion fruit boba bubbles that burst in your mouth, and chewy mochi balls. We were so addicted that we got a second serving named Pink Island, which used lychee boba bubbles and syrup, a few days later!
Moon Garden Restaurant
Even before I arrived in Hawaii, my mom was excitedly planning our special dinner at Moon Garden. We had to make our reservations a day in advanced. I wondered, “Can a small Chinese restaurant in Hawaii really be that good? IT SURE CAN!” The black pepper beef and fish in black bean sauce were tasty. But the highlight of the evening was the roasted (char siu) pork ribs. They required special preparation, hence the one day in advanced reservation. Once you bite down into the tender pork meat, the sweet glaze and savory juices rush into your mouth. They really were finger licking good!
There you have it. A complete day’s menu from paradise. Chun Wah Kam Noodle Factory char siu buns for breakfast. Helena’s Hawaiian Food for lunch. Afternoon snacks from Leonard’s Bakery and Island Vintage Shave Ice. Topped off by dinner at Moon Garden Restaurant. I hope I did Anthony Bourdain proud and I’m sure he would feel exactly the same way.
Do you have any island favorites that I missed?
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