Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wahiawa Mini Food Tour

So I grew up in Wahiawa, Hawaii. It's where I learned to ride a bicycle and a skateboard, where I went to pre-school, bought my first pair of Levi's, all that.

When it comes to food, my opinion may be biased but I can honestly say that Wahiawa is a oasis of hole in the wall spots within the culinary paradise of Hawaii. This is just a mini tour of what Wahiawa has to offer and for this early lunch, CantStayJose was riding shotgun and I was going to show him what my hometown had to offer. He also shot all the photos for this Mini Tour.

Everybody else had other shit to do that day, I can't remember what exactly but I had a plan to take him on a mini-extravaganza.

I said.

We started out at one of Oahu's BEST Saimin places. I can't say it's THE best because a ton of places had popped up since I been gone (and I would like to try them all). So since I haven't, that's what I gotta state. I bet this place will take the Pepsi Challenge to any other Saimin spots on Oahu.
Just walking into this place was pretty fucking choice and I already had a plan in mind. We had to make sure we didn't get over stuffed because there were TWO MORE SPOTS to hit up before we polished off our late morning breakfast/lunch combo.

Taking a seat at the oh-so comfortable counter. This is the same counter Sasha had her first Loco Moco. The same counter I've picked up hundreds of take-out orders when I worked at my dad's gas station for 1000 years. The same counter I have had dozens of lunches and dinners while dreaming of moving to CA and watching sitcoms on their TV.
I ordered two small, plain Saimin's for Jose and I. The soup itself was a bit more "tastier" than I remembered, not in a bad way though. Tastier in a really good way. Saimin is like Ramen, where it's soup noodles with a few additional items to make it a complete meal. Saimin is known to be slightly on the lighter side. It's simple soup noodle, created by all the different nationalities that had immigrated to Hawaii. I'm sure it was thought up within one of the many plantation homes in the islands back in the day.

The Saimin we ordered contained strips of fried egg, spam (or was is luncheon meat?), onions and Shige's handmade noodles. As you can see below, I took a taste test before I mixed the shoyu into the Chinese hot mustard then dumped it all into the soup.

Remember all you beginner foodies; always taste your food before you add condiments to it. Not only is it somewhat rude in some cases but you may be fucking up a perfectly good meal with non-essentials.
We were outta that place in like 20 minutes. Walking out, I asked Jose to take another quick shot. Gonna miss this place. Lots of memories.
Then from the parking of lot of Shige's, I told Jose to call 621-5031 and say "can I have a Meat Jun Plate for pick up, please? For Nelson..." That he did. And just 2 traffic lights and 3 stop signs later, we were at my favorite Korean spot in all of Oahu:
On one of The Hater's few visits to Hawaii with his family, I told him to check out Dong Yang. After one visit, he had nominated Dong Yang the "Best Korean Food Outside My Mom's Kitchen". I was flattered that he considered the place to be so good, especially in my beloved Wahiawa.

Anyway I picked up our Meat Jun Plate at Dong Yang and headed over to Mililani for Lum's Inn, below. Lum's Inn used to be called Inn And Out but abour 12 years ago In-n-Out Burger called them to change their name. They threatened the place with a lawsuit, so they changed the name immediately. Fucking bummer. Small joint like this in Hawaii, being pushed around by a giant family owned burger chain in the mainland. Aaaah, fuck. What you gonna do though, right?

An old faithful at Lum's Inn is the Teriyaki Beef & Shrimp Combo Plate. I ordered that bad boy for Jose, I knew he'd love it. Lum's Inn is a take-out only spot. No place to eat inside, just a counter, but there's some steps you can eat at right outside. Of course in Hawaii it's always nice to eat outside unless it's raining.
This menu remained unchanged for years. I do remember that sometime in the mid-90's, L&L Hawaiian BBQ (which I consider the "McDonald's of Hawaii") started offering Mini Plates, which is the half size version of the full lunch plate. Just a scoop of rice and one scoop of the mac salad (aka mac daddy), with a smaller portion of the main feature item.

Because of this Mini Plate craze that L&L started, Lum's Inn's biggest competitor, Mililani Restaurant just across the street, started offering Mini Plates. Mililani Restaurant is flexible with a HUGE fucking menu. Lum's Inn is not.

It was a big deal when Lum's Inn started offering Mini Plates. And then on top of that, they started offering a 3-item Daily Special "Mixed Plate". Even crazier! Ok, ok, that was some plate lunch history for you. Check out the menu!
Soo... here's the Meat Jun Plate from Dong Yang, pictured here below. It's thinly sliced beef, which had been marinated in a slightly sweet sauce that is familiar to teriyaki sauce. Then it's dipped in a egg batter and fried. I believe Meat Jun is a Korean dish that was created in Hawaii. I've never seen it at any Korean restaurants in CA. Only at maybe 2 Hawaiian spots here on the mainland so far. I think it derived from Fish Jun, but the locals in Hawaii just switched it up to Meat Jun instead. Good job.

Meat Jun from Dong Yang is servied on a bed of rice with a side of Kim Chee and Korean style pickled veggies. Everybody who's never had this falls in love with it. I miss this:
And below is the Teri Beef & Shrimp Combo. It's what Lum's Inn is famous for and people from all over Oahu come here for it. To be honest, I've had this combo a hundred times in my life so it's usually the last item I order... but since my homey never had, I knew he HAD to. Glad I made that call because Senor Jose loved it. He wanted to get it again the next day.
Almost forgot we got some taegu, which is spicy cuttle fish. More or less dried squid with spicy sauce all over it. It's a perfect side to anything you eat with rice!
That was it... just a portion of the spots in my old stomping grounds. Wish I had 3 stomachs (instead of 2) so I could show you all more of what my hometown has to offer.

If you ever go on a trip to Hawaii. Stay outta Waikiki! Venture out. Hawaii's got an amazing mix of some of the best foods in the world!

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