dessert Hawaii Hawaiian Oahu plate lunch

Ted’s Bakery – Sunset Beach, HI

When people talk about Ted’s Bakery, they’re usually talking about one thing: chocolate haupia pie. I’ve had Ted’s famous pie before, and you can get their pies at almost any market on Oahu, but on this trip, I wanted to get one directly from the source. But Ted’s has a lot more to offer than just pie; their selection of bentos and sandwiches is pretty impressive too.

Ted's Bakery

Let’s start with the pie since I ate a slice while I was waiting for the rest of our food to arrive. It’s a simple pie crust with chocolate filling on the bottom, a layer of haupia in the middle and topped with whipped cream. The consistency of the chocolate filling is somewhere between pudding and mousse; it’s light but sturdy enough to support the denser haupia on top. Aside from the flavors, the texture contrast between the chocolate and haupia might be the best thing about this pie. The pie crust is forgettable so it’s only real purpose is to provide structure, but it’s blandness also lets the rest of the pie shine.

Chocolate Haupia PieTed’s Famous Chocolate Haupia Pie

My wife ordered the Crab and Bacon Combo off the Hot Foods menu. It’s basically a crab salad and bacon sandwich served on a hamburger bun and served with fries. This sounds weird on paper, but it’s a brilliant combination.

Crab & Bacon Combo SandwichTed’s Crab & Bacon Combo Sandwich

I ordered the Ted’s Bento, an amazing array of Hawaiian plate lunch standards—teriyaki beef, fried SPAM, fried mahi mahi, and fried chicken—served inexplicably over four scoops of rice. I only ate half the rice and think the folks at Ted’s would really be onto something if they went with two scoops of rice and then topped this bento with a fried egg or two on top. Doesn’t that sound perfect? ;)

Ted's BentoTed’s Bento

If you’re on the North Shore and looking for a great alternative to all the shrimp trucks that roam the area, look for Ted’s. They’ve got a lot going on besides those famous chocolate haupia pies. My only regret was that we didn’t get there in time for breakfast.

Ted’s Bakery
59-024 Kamehameha Highway
Sunset Beach, Hawaii 96712
Web site

Hawaii Hawaiian musings plate lunch reviews

Reinventing Loco Moco

Loco Moco is a classic Hawaiian plate lunch offering that’s made up of hamburger patties smothered with gravy, topped with two eggs and served with rice and mac salad. If you’ve never seen it before, it looks like this:

Loco Moco

We had dinner at Alan Wong’s Restaurant last week, and one of the menu items that jumped out at us was the “Mini Loco Moco” appetizer. The menu describes it as “mochi-crusted unagi meatloaf, sunny-side quail egg, wasabi kabayaki sauce,” and we just had to try it.

Mini Loco Moco
Alan Wong’s “Mini Loco Moco”

Breaking it down, the mochi crust takes the place of the rice, the unagi meatloaf is the hamburger, quail egg replaces the hen egg and the wasabi kabayaki sauce replaces the gravy. It’s a perfect way to bring the loco moco concept into a fine dining setting, and it was excellent.

On the other end of the spectrum is Beard Papa and their Loco Moco Puff. It’s part of the Japanese cream puff chain’s localized Hawaii menu that also includes Breakfast Puffs, Creme Brulee Puffs, eclairs and pita sandwiches. Beard Papa describes their Loco Moco Puff as “two slices of oven-baked meat loaf, a fresh egg, sunny side up, onion-mushroom gravy with a dash of furikake on our signature puff shell,” which is more straightforward than Alan Wong’s. Basically, it’s an open-faced sandwich with the puff serving as the bread.

Loco Moco Puff
Beard Papa’s Loco Moco Puff

The finished product looked good and tasted like loco moco, but the puff really didn’t contribute anything to the dish and would have been fine without it. What was a bit disturbing was watching them assemble it. Without a proper kitchen, all of the cooked elements were microwaved right in front of us, and even then, I’m still not sure how they cooked the egg properly. I guess if you were on the run, this might be decent alternative, but I’d still rather have an Egg McMuffin.

Nothing could ever replace the traditional preparation of loco moco, especially since I love the side benefit of mixing the warm gravy with the cold mac salad. However, I always like to see if classic dishes can be modernized or deconstructed without diluting its essence. While Alan Wong’s radical take on loco moco might look foreign to traditionalists, the end result was delicious, refined, and reminded me of the original.

Hawaii Hawaiian Oahu reviews

Helena’s Hawaiian Foods – Honolulu, HI

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.

Short ribs curing above the oven at Helena's.

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

dessert Hawaii Hawaiian Kauai Oahu reviews shave ice

Shave Ice Showdown!

It’s hot in Hawaii year round, and shave ice is a great way to cool off. Most people know the Big 3 in Oahu, but there’s one in Kauai that’s giving them a run for their money. Here my list in order of preference.

Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice

Waiola is the king of shave ice on Oahu with its finely shaved, snow-like ice and the killer selection of toppings. Plus it’s near Waikiki, especially Waiola II on Kapahulu Avenue (below), so you don’t have to drive an hour and half outside of town to get some. It’s really no contest.

Waiola Shave Ice

On our last trip back, I discovered the power of Calpico at the Kapahulu store. Calpico is a Japanese drink with a tart yogurt flavor that is popular in Asia and other fine Asian delicacies, such as Yakult, yogurt soju, and Pinkberry.

Melona and Calpico Shave Ice
Waiola’s Melona and Calpico shave ice

When you combine Calpico with Melona on shave ice, it’s the best of both worlds. The sweetness of the Melona works perfectly with the sour Calpico, and with vanilla ice cream on the bottom, you create a wonderful sweet-and-tart-and-creamy shave ice.

Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice
2135 Waiola Street
Honolulu, HI 96805 map

525 Kapahulu Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815 map

Hawaiian Blizzard

If shave ice was judged on purely on the ice, Kauai’s Hawaiian Blizzard might be the best in Hawaii. Yes…better than my Oahu favorites, Waiola and Aoki’s, and it makes Matsumoto look like a regular snow cone. It’s the lightest, fluffiest and most divine ice I’ve ever had.

shave ice

Hawaiian Blizzard is a shave ice stand that sets up shop Mon-Fri from 1:30–5pm in front of the Big Save market in Kapaa. On our trip to Kauai in January, we landed in Lihue at around 3pm on a Friday and went straight to Kapaa to get some shave ice before driving down to our homebase of Poipu. The detour was definitely worth the trip.

Flavor selection is pretty standard, but I was excited that they had Melona, which in my mind is the perfect shave ice flavor. They might not have the flavors and varieties that the other guys offer, especially pretty standard add-ons like red beans or vanilla ice cream, but you can also opt for a “Snow Cap,” a drizzling of evaporated milk on top of the shave ice that’s a delicious alternative.

Hawaiian Blizzard
(in front of Big Save Market)
4-1105 Kuhio Highway
Kapaa, HI 96746 map
Hours: Mon-Fri 1:30pm-5pm

Aoki’s Shave Ice

Aoki’s a couple hundred feet from their more famous competitor Matsumoto Shave Ice. The lines are much shorter, which means you generally don’t have to wait 20 minutes to get your shave ice, which is a big deal when it’s hot.

I like Aoki’s more than Matsumoto for one simple reason…the ice is shaved a lot finer, so it’s smooth and melts instantly once it hits your tongue. It’s actually very similar to Waiola, and my wife and I favor Waiola to Matsumoto anyway. Aoki’s is also where I discovered that Melona is my favorite shave ice flavor.

Aoki's Lychee and Melona Shave IceAoki’s Lychee and Melona Shave Ice.

If it’s your first time to visit Haleiwa, then go to Matsumoto’s just because it’s the “famous” one. But if you’re in Haleiwa for a repeat visit to Matsumoto’s, stop by Aoki’s and do a taste test and see which one you really like.

Aoki’s Shave Ice
66-117 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, HI 96715 map

Matsumoto Shave Ice

Matsumoto was my first shave ice experience and it set an excellent baseline for every other shave ice I’ve ever had. But with Aoki’s just a few hundred feet away, and the fact that my wife’s family is walking distance from Waiola, there’s really no need for us to go to Matsumoto anymore.

Nowadays, I only go into Matsumoto if we’re with a shave ice newbie or to buy souvenirs because they’ve got some of the best T-shirts on the island. The selection is great and they have sizes for everyone from newborns to adults.

Melona and Ling Hing Mui Shave Ice
Picture by Soozums at flickr.

There will likely be a line when you get to Matsumoto’s because it’s so popular, but you’re on vacation…relax and check out the souvenirs and study the menu while you’re in line. But Matsumoto’s fame is probably best reserved for the souvenirs.

Matsumoto Shave Ice
66-087 Kamehameha Highway
Haleiwa, HI 96712 map
Web site

A shout out to House of Annie for inspiring this post.

Anthony Bourdain entertainment Hawaii Hawaiian Oahu SPAM TV

Bourdain Latest in Long Line of SPAM Converts

This week’s episode of No Reservations brought Anthony Bourdain to Hawaii, and it was fun watching him enjoy some of the great food and drink Hawaii has to offer. I’ve been waiting for this show to air because I was curious about his impressions of local culture and cuisine, and I figured he’d be brutally honest about his experience.

Overall, the show did a pretty good job covering Hawaii in a short amount of time, but the most satisfying part of the show was when Bourdain professed his love for everyone’s favorite mystery meat…SPAM!

At the New Uptown Fountain in Kalihi, Bourdain settled into a meal with Honolulu Advertiser food columnist David Choo that can best be described as a local “tasting menu” that featured several local favorites, including different presentations of SPAM. (Choo chronicles his entire Bourdain experience on his blog, appropriately called Choo On This.

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First up was SPAM Musubi (a.k.a. SPAM sushi), but this version had a fried rice filling instead of the traditional steamed rice.

“That’s great,” Bourdain said. “I’m thinking stoned at two o’clock in the morning, watching TV…I want this really badly.”

Hawaii Hawaiian Oahu plate lunch reviews

Eating Oahu, Part 2: New Discoveries

The old favorites are always nice, but we did get to try some new stuff in Oahu. Here’s some places you might not have read about in the tourist guides.

Hapa Grill

Hapa Grill is known for their teri beef, a family recipe that was a mainstay of the Sassy Kassy Lunch Wagon back in the day, and there are those who say it’s the best teri beef in Oahu. I think I’m inclined to agree, especially because it’s not overly sweet.

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My wife had the fried noodles and teri beef and it was great. A huge plate of fried noodles with spam, eggs, fish cake with a side of the famous teri beef. The noodles were really good and it was (amazingly enough) the first bit of spam I’d had on this trip. I stole a piece of teri beef from my wife’s plate and immediately ordered myself a side order to complement my beef stew. The stew is the Wed. special and it was really good on this cool evening, esp. when it was mixed up with the rice. For dessert, we had an awesome chocolate mac nut brownie

It’s long drive out to Kapolei from town, but if you’re in the neighborhood or want a nice place to eat after shopping in Waikele, Hapa Grill’s not too far (about seven miles down H1 from Waikele) and definitely worth the drive.

Hapa Grill
91590 Farrington Hwy
Kapolei, HI 96707 map
Web site

Grass Skirt Grill

I really needed a break from eating meat, so when we were in Haleiwa on the North Shore visiting my sister-in-law, we ended up at Grass Skirt Grill for lunch (even though Kua Aina Burger smelled amazing when we walked by).

Grilled Hebi Salad

I ordered the excellent Grilled Hebi Salad because it featured locally grown vegetables and fresh, perfectly grilled fish (Hebi is a short-billed spearfish native to Hawaii). My wife and sister-in-law split a teri chicken sandwich that they both liked. We also got an order of onion rings and fries, but they were unremarkable.

Stick with the grilled fish and fresh veggies, especially if you’ve OD’ed on meat eating around the island, and you’ll have a light, satisfying lunch.

Grass Skirt Grill
66-214 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, HI 96712 map

Hawaii Hawaiian Oahu plate lunch reviews

Eating Oahu, Part 1: Local Favorites

Trips to Oahu are annual since we’ve got to visit the family, and this also means good and CHEAP eats. If you’re planning on going to visit Oahu, here’s some places where you can eat like a local.

Ono Hawaiian Foods

If Kapahulu Avenue was a baseball team comprised of restaurants and their lineup included Leonard’s Bakery, Waiola Shave Ice, and Rainbow Drive-In batting in the 1,2, and 3 spots, Ono Hawaiian Foods would be the clean up hitter waiting to drive them all in. There’s a reason Ono is an all the tourist books, and you know the place is good because the locals will put up with all the tourists to eat there.

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Ono is THE place to get authentic Hawaiian food in Oahu. They’re known for their kalua pig and their enormous, almost plate-sized lau laus. And it’s not all taro leaves either…it’s a generous amount of pork, enough for two or three people to split. The pipikaula (Hawaiian beef jerky) is also excellent and something I’ll be ordering from now on. The ahi poke is fresh and wonderful and the butterfish luau was also really good.

Ono Hawaiian Foods
726 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816 map

Gina’s Bar-B-Q

Gina’s serves local-style Korean food, and it is one of my favorite places to eat in Hawaii because I love meat jun, which is almost impossible to find in this form on the mainland. Meat Jun is basically a really thin steak that’s dipped in egg batter and then fried. It’s kind of like a thin egg pancake with a sliver of steak in the middle. They serve it with a sweet dipping sauce that takes this humble dish to a whole other level.

On this trip, I paired my meat jun with some spicy fried chicken wings that were excellent. The crunchy, slightly spicy skin really hit the spot.

Meat Jun and Spicy Fried Chicken Combo

In addition to rice, you get your choice of four sides, which include basic Korean banchan offerings such as taegu, kim chee and pickled daikon, as well as local favorites like mac salad.

It’s small inside, so most of their business is take out, which is what we did. Best of all, Gina’s is cheap and the portions are extremely generous, so you get a lot of food for the money.

Gina’s Bar-B-Q
2919 Kapiolani Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96826 map

Hawaii Hawaiian Kauai noodles reviews shave ice

Eating Kauai

We were in Kauai for a wedding last weekend and didn’t have much time to explore the island and all its beauty, but we did our best to eat well. Here’s a rundown of our brief stay on the Garden Isle.

Hawaiian Blizzard

Hawaiian Blizzard is a shave ice stand that sets up shop Mon-Fri from 1:30-5pm in front of the Big Save market in Kapaa. We landed in Lihue at around 3pm Friday and went straight to Kapaa to get some shave ice before driving down to our homebase of Poipu, and it was definitely worth the trip.

If shave ice was judged on purely on the ice, Hawaiian Blizzard might be the best in Hawaii. Yes…better than my Oahu favorites, Aoki’s and Waiola, and it makes Matsumoto look like a regular snow cone. It’s the lightest, fluffiest and most divine ice I’ve ever had.

shave ice

Flavor selection is pretty standard, but I was excited that they had Melona, which in my mind is the perfect shave ice flavor. They might not have the flavors and varieties that the other guys offer, especially pretty standard add-ons like red beans or vanilla ice cream, but you can also opt for a “Snow Cap,” a drizzling of evaporated milk on top of the shave ice that’s a delicious alternative.

Hawaiian Blizzard
(in front of Big Save Market)
4-1105 Kuhio Highway
Kapaa, HI 96746 map
Hours: Mon-Fri 1:30pm-5pm

Hamura’s Saimin

Hamura’s Saimin is what’s great about eating like a local in Hawaii. It’s cheap, the service is friendly and fast, and even though the place looks like a hole in the wall, the food makes you forget your surroundings and focus solely on the amazing meal that’s sitting in front of you. Also, if you see tons of locals eating there alongside the tourists, you know the place has to be good.

My wife and I aren’t the biggest saimin fans, but if we lived in Kauai, we’d definitely be regulars. My main problem with saimin is the broth. A bowl of L&L saimin I had a while back reminded me of dirty socks. Hamura’s broth was delicious and erased that crappy bowl of saimin from my memory. We both ordered the Special Saimin and feasted on the roast pork, thin slices of ham, wontons, kamaboko, vegetables and hard-boiled egg that topped the perfectly cooked noodles.

We also ordered a couple of meat sticks (beef and chicken) and a perfect piece of tempura shrimp. We finished off the meal with a slice of their lilikoi (passion fruit) chiffon pie, which was light and airy…perfect after all the other food we had just polished off.

If you’re in Kauai, Hamura’s Saimin is probably the one place that you MUST visit. Otherwise your trip just isn’t complete.

Hamura’s Saimin
2956 Kress Street
Lihue, HI 96766 map

beef Hawaiian recipes

Brandon’s Teriyaki Meatloaf

This is my friend’s Teriyaki Meatloaf recipe and it’s really good. It’s sweeter than traditional meatloaf, which I just love.

2 lg. onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 eggs
4 slices of bread torn apart (pref. white)
2 lb. ground beef (80/20 preferable)
1/2 cup shoyu (soy sauce for you non-Asians)
1/2 cup sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix ingredients together and put into loaf pan or form into a loaf on a cookie sheet.
  3. Bake for 1.5 hours or until internal temperature is at least 150 degrees
Hawaiian pork recipes

Grandma Watanabe’s Pineapple-Glazed Ham

Our friends made this ham for a Christmas party we had one year, and it was awesome. It’s a bit of work, but the results are amazing.


1 8-12 lb whole ham or 5-7 lb canned ham (whole ham is better and weighs more because of the bone)
Whole cloves
1 cup brown sugar (tightly packed)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
20 oz canned pineapple slices in syrup
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon hot mustard (optional)


  • You may want to double the glaze and reserve half for basting. Depends on how much area your ham occupies. Recommended for whole ham.
  • You’ll need a V-rack or sturdy pie-pan with holes poked/drilled through (like Marie Callendar’s pan) to support the ham off the bottom of the roasting pan.

    1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
    2. Place V-rack (or pie pan inverted) in roasting pan. This will keep the ham from sitting directly on the bottom of the roasting pan.
    3. Place ham fat side UP on rack or inverted pie pan and put in the oven
    4. Bake ham, cooking at rate of around 18-24 min per pound. It may be helpful to use an electronic timer.
    5. While the ham is baking, prepare the glaze:

    6. Quarter (or 6th or 8th) the pineapple slices. You want flat pieces and you want to keep the syrup.
    7. Combine brown sugar, cornstarch, salt, pineapple with syrup, lemon juice and mustard in saucepan on Medium.
    8. Heat until sugar and cornstarch are dissolved.
    9. 45 minutes *before* end of ham baking time, pause timer and remove ham.
    10. Lightly score ham in a cross-hatch pattern.
    11. Place whole cloves in cuts.
    12. Glaze ham with sauce and drippings
    13. Put ham back in oven and finish cooking
    14. After baking, remove ham and let cool.
    15. Remove cloves.
    16. This next section is optional, but will impart even more flavor to the ham.

    17. Carve the ham and lay slices into an oven-friendly serving dish.
    18. Place pineapple pieces between slices for spacing.
    19. Apply remaining glaze (this is why I double the glaze)
    20. Bake an additional 15-30 minutes, basting regularly.