Oahu is very culturally diverse and has a large population of people from across the Asian continent. One of our favorite Asian derived dishes was the Japanese food we had at Marukame Udon, though there were many other great finds including:
Royal Kitchen (Chinese, Cheap Eats, Lunch, Honolulu)
This is an amazing tiny Chinese take out joint located in the Chinatown Cultural Plaza. On our first day to the Plaza we came searching for the place and by the time we actually found it, the shop was closed. The people we asked didn’t speak or read English, but we finally found a directory, which led us to the location within the Plaza, but on the perimeter and unseen from within. We weren’t terribly upset because I didn’t even know the Plaza existed and it was very interesting to walk around. We also picked up a few desserts from the Regal Bakery there so we didn’t leave empty handed. We popped back in another day knowing exactly where to go looking for manapua, little baked buns filled with various substances. The place is SMALL and crowded, you pick a number which gets called quite quickly and the ladies behind the counter were very patient. They answered our questions and directed us towards the cha sui, a sweet pork filling which Jeff chose and really enjoyed, and the chicken curry which I got and really enjoyed. We took our manapua and sat right outside in a scenic park by a canal, across from a temple, and the stone tables had checkerboards on them. It was nice, we stuffed our faces, and we were still hungry. The buns were cheap and good, so we thought about grabbing more and almost did, until we noticed the dumplings. We decided to grab a few of the pork dumplings which were amazingly moist, savory and flavorful, certainly the best I have ever had. I also asked what the lighter ones were and the lady told me it was a vegetable one, while I was interested, I declined thinking I had enough food. She threw one in the bag for me anyway on the house which was very generous and really made my day for some reason. Free dumpling, woo! It ended up being really yummy and the texture was great, could have eaten a whole sleeve of them. This place was amazing, and I wish I lived next door so I could try the rest of their food behind the glass that looked fantastic as well. Wandering around the Plaza is fun (it feels like a different country!), and if you park in their garage you can get your ticket validated for free with purchase of food. It was so cheap to grab these memorable eats here, my mouth is still watering especially for the dumplings, a perfect lunch spot!
Mana-Bu (Musubi, Cheap Eats, Healthy, Breakfast/Lunch, Honolulu)
This is said to be the go-to spot for musubi, and I completely understand why. I never tried the Japanese snack of musubi before visiting Oahu, I’d never even heard of it. Now I could eat this stuff everyday; it is so simple, yet so delicious. It’s mainly composed of rice, sometimes a filling, and wrapped in a bit of seaweed. At Tanioka’s we tried the fish patty filled musubi and fell in love at first bite. Reading that everything is delicious here, I ventured to try something I never thought I’d eat in my life, and because it is extremely popular in Hawaiian cuisine… I got Spam! The terri-lite Spam musubi to be exact, and it exceeded my expectations. The quality and combination of the hand picked rice and seaweed ingredients were wonderful, and the main attraction of spam was delightfully dressed. I loved it and was so happy to have crossed spam off my list, but honestly it wasn’t just a bucket list fling, I could eat that again and again. I was happy to find upon arrival that this place has a parking lot, the shop is very small and although filled with people quiet. The food is on display and you pick up what you would like and pop it into a basket, take it to the counter, and leave with it. I was also lucky enough (and early enough!) to scoop up the last of the strawberry mochis, of which only eight a day are prepared. Super score. It was hefty filled with a large fresh strawberry, cloaked with red bean paste, and then covered in soft and perfectly chewy mochi. It was an extremely affordable and healthy snack, and so darn tasty, truly a special gem in the city. Come early and check their website for times of the day that certain items come out, because they only make a certain number of items a day and close when they sell out.
Elena’s (Filipino, Cheap Eats, Dinner, Leeward)
For some reason I have always wanted to try Filipino cuisine, maybe because one of my best childhood friends came from a fantastic Filipino family, and back then I was too picky to eat anything but white rice. Times have changed, and I was lucky enough to get my chance to dine at an excellent joint. Lots of construction on the highway currently so at night we had a real hard time finding the place. Addresses on the island are a little funny, but we made it! It’s in a strip mall with a big parking lot, small inside, and filled with locals. We grabbed the last open table and checked out the menu; Jeff decided to go with Lechon Special (a pork dish), and I went buffet style (only $13 all you can eat) unsure of what I want and curious to try a bit of everything. Jeff’s dish was delicious he ate the entire plate, probably would have eaten a second even though the portion was perfect. The small buffet was hot and fresh only a few dishes to choose from but they were really good. I especially liked the scrumptious chicken adobo, light pansit, and comforting lumpia. Food was so good, service was friendly and comfortable, the bill was very affordable. We also got halo halo, a shave ice, evaporated milk, ice cream, and odd goodies concoction formed into a yummy dessert. Do you use a spoon or a straw? I used both. If you are into the food channel like I am, this place was featured on DDD, cool points.