When a hole-in-the-wall place like Helena’s Hawaiian Foods wins a James Beard award for outstanding American regional cuisine, you know there’s something special going on over there. In Helena’s case, it’s definitely the pipikaula short ribs and as many of you know, I’m a freak for short ribs. Pipikaula is a Hawaiian version of beef jerky, but this is the first time I’ve seen it made with short ribs. They’re crispy on the outside and tender on the inside and even better if you dip it in the chili pepper water that comes on the side.
Here’s a rundown of the rest of our order, which included familiar Hawaiian standards:
- kalua pork – good but could have been smokier
- squid luau – squid content was low but the flavors were spot on. My wife’s friend said this was just like the squid luau she grew up eating.
- lomi salmon – not normally a fan, but I actually liked Helena’s.
- chicken long rice – strong ginger flavor, which I liked, but it masks the chicken.
- beef stew – solid
- fried butterfish collar – rich and fatty…excellent.
- poi – Nice purple color, but we don’t like poi. Our friend and her two-year-old daughter loved it, though.
- haupia – the pipikaula had me in their trance and I forgot to have some! :( My wife liked it and said it was smooth and not watery like some haupias.
Helena’s is an a weird location for out-of-town visitors, but if you can make it over there, the pipikaula short ribs are definitely worth a try. Plus, everyone there is super nice, and they’ll make you feel at home.
Helena’s Hawaiian Foods
1240 N. School Street
Honolulu, HI 96817 map
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