Skinny Girls Roadshow LIVE from Hawaii — Local Grinds

It is a sad thing, really, when upon returning from an epic summer vacation traveling across Italy, Switzerland and France, you are somewhat blasé about your upcoming 8-day trip to Hawaii.

Willa on Waimanalo Beach

Willa on Waimanalo Beach

I grew up spending a good part of the year in Hawaii, and have always cherished my visits to the breathtaking island of Maui. And it had been six or seven years since the last time we had been, for the wedding of my pal Gary on the equally ravishing isle of Kauai. This time, however, we would be going for the marriage of one of my wife’s nephews, and would be staying in a communal family house in crowded Honolulu on the island of Oahu. So my excitement was a bit more tempered.

That is, until I began researching the food.



Garlic ahi and deluxe saimin at Ono Steak and Shrimp

Turns out, first of all, that we are not in Honolulu proper, but over the mountains 40 minutes away in a small town called Waimanalo, described by various websites as something of a rural paradise. The house is spacious and on the beach, with the dramatic Pali mountains sheltering us from the buzz of Honolulu.

But back to my food research:

Turns out, secondly, that Oahu is regarded as the “foodie” isle of Hawaii. Around the corner from the house, I discovered from the comfort of my desk at home in Topanga, was the highly (Yelp and Trip Advisor) rated “local grinds” (i.e. comfort food) restaurant, Ono Steak and Shrimp.

Ono Steak and Shrimp

Ono Steak and Shrimp

We arrived at the house, the first of the extended family to check in, around middle afternoon. Having deposited our bags and done a bit of shopping, we determined it was time for an early dinner. Our first meal on Oahu would be at Ono Steak and Shrimp.

I ordered a garlic ahi plate with rice and macaroni salad and a bowl of deluxe saimin (the Hawaiian take on ramen) for the bigs, hamburgers for the littles.

“Do you need mayonnaise?” the large and cheerful Hawaiian girl behind the counter asked when our food was ready.

“No, I don’t think so,” I replied.

Willa likes her hamburger at Ono Steak and Shrimp

Willa likes her hamburger at Ono Steak and Shrimp

It seems mayonnaise is the official condiment of the Hawaiian Islands.

The food was delicious and fresh, the bill $30.

The next stop on the itinerary, a couple miles up the highway, was Shima’s Supermarket, which my pre-vacation research revealed to have a somewhat legendary poke bar. Poke, for the last few of you out there who might not know, is a kind of Asian-inspired seafood salad popular in Hawaii. Traditional poke is ahi tuna tossed with soy sauce, sesame oil, minced green onion and chile flakes. From there, the possibilities are unlimited, as I discovered at Shima’s poke bar. There were a dozen different kinds of ahi poke, several versions each of octopus and crab and salmon, even more featuring shrimp and clams… Some were spicy, some had kim chee, some featured seaweed. It was positively overwhelming in the best way.

Ahi, garlic shrimp and clam kim chee pokes from Shima's Supermarket

Ahi, garlic shrimp and clam kim chee pokes from Shima’s Supermarket

For my first dive into the Shima’s poke bar, I bought traditional ahi poke, clam kim chee poke and garlic shrimp poke. (The next day I would return and sample the spicy ahi poke and king crab tail meat poke.)

I love shopping at Hawaiian grocery stores. I buy Maui Kula onions and papayas and poi and guava breads and shrimp chips — whatever I can find that is grown or made locally. On Oahu, there is a strong aesthetic for locally grown and produced. I purchased these and other goods for the first dinner I would cook here — on our second night on the island for my wife’s parents, sister and brother-in-law and bride-and-groom-to-be, her nephew Colin and his fiancé Kaysha (plus two-year-old son Phoenix).

When my mother-in-law, Sharon, asked what kind of food I was preparing, I said, “Hawaiian!” Specifically, my cooking when in the islands has been informed over the years by the style known as Hawaiian Regional Cooking, in which older-generation chefs like Roy Yamaguchi, Alan Wong and Sam Choy pioneered the use of local traditions and ingredients with Pacific Rim influences and flavors.

Sautéed garlic shrimp poke with grilled King's Hawaiian Bread and taegu sweet shredded pollack

Sautéed garlic shrimp poke with grilled King’s Hawaiian Bread and taegu sweet shredded pollack

Our three-course dinner: sautéed garlic shrimp poke with grilled King’s Hawaiian Bread and taegu sweet shredded pollack; kalua pig and Maui onion potstickers with kim chee arugula salad and Vietnamese chile sauce; and sweet ginger short ribs with pancit noodles and fresh local mustard greens.

While at the barbecue grilling the short ribs, we discovered a large and beautiful snail crossing the pathway to the house that we determined might’ve wound up on the menu had it been three weeks earlier while we were still in France. Two-year-old Phoenix thought the snail less as food than some sort of alien invader. “Runnnn!!!” he screamed as he took off in a mad sprint the opposite direction.

Fruit from the coop

Fruit from the coop

The food odyssey in the coming five days — interrupted only by a wedding, snorkeling and the requisite visit to Pearl Harbor — would include a stop at the local coop market (where I would find several of the tropical fruits I’d be searching for and receive an exhaustive education in why there was no local fish to be had); a planned pilgrimage to J Shop in the Japanese section of Honolulu in search of grade 5 Kobe beef; shave ice for the kids and more poke for dad; farmers markets and food festivals; and a 15th wedding anniversary dinner at the buzzy local food restaurant.

Not such a bad follow up after all.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Patricia Colvig
    Aug 10, 2016 @ 02:39:20

    You always manage to find your culinary self in any locale. Thank you for taking the time to write this blog post. Willa will regret that photo forever!


  2. Trackback: Thankful Thursdays 8.11.16 – Mon Abri Farm

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