Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Oahu Trip | Day 3: Hawaii Food Tour!

One of the highlights of our trip to Oahu, Hawaii this time was the Hawaii Food Tour that we signed up for.  The tour is called the “Hole-In-The-Wall” tour and they take you in a van to where the locals eat.  My favorite kind of tour!  The tour is designed by Matthew Gray, who used to be an executive chef and personal chef to celebrities in LA.  Then he moved to Honolulu and became the food critic and restaurant reviewer for Hawaii’s largest newspaper, The Honolulu Advertiser. 


Our pickup was at 9:15am, so we had a very small breakfast and headed downstairs.  Our tour guides were Greg and Jess, and they were as nice as can be.  They were very knowledgeable about local food and loved to talk about food and favorite places to eat.  We were on the tour with 3 other couples:  Maria and Warren from Vancouver, Todd (he was named “Todd 2” because my Todd was picked up first in the van, LOL) and Yumiko from Toronto, and Rachel and Jonathan from New York.

Our first stop was at Royal Kitchen for baked manapuas. 

Baked manapua is a Hawaiian-Chinese fusion based on the Chinese bao buns.  If you’ve ever been to Chinese dim sum, you may have had steamed buns filled with char siu pork.  These are like those, except they’re baked and they were filled with different meats and sweets, such as smoked kalua pork, curry chicken, Portuguese sausage, char siu pork, Okinawan purple sweet potato, coconut, etc.
We each got one to try.  Some of us ate two if we were fast.

Next, we headed to Chinatown for a walking tour.  We stopped at a floral shop where the ladies made leis out of all kinds of fragrant flowers.  This is where locals order leis for graduations, weddings, and other celebrations.

Then we walked into Kekaulike Mall, which wasn’t really a mall but a square with buildings around it.  The buildings housed all kinds of produce, meat, and food markets.

There were lots of fresh fruits and veggies, some more exotic than others.
This is where locals come to shop because it’s so much cheaper than going to a regular grocery store, plus there are more varieties.

Next we visited the Ying Leong Look Funn Factory.  The owner’s name is Fu Ying Chee.  He’s originally from Hong Kong and his factory has been making rice noodles for 50 years.  They make thousands of pounds of rice noodle sheets every day!
We watched the workers oiling pans filled with rice noodle batter, which is then steamed and folded into stacks.  Plain noodle sheets are sent off to restaurants that make fresh chow fun (noodle) dishes.  
They also made noodles filled with dried shrimp and spring onions, which they sell out of the shop.

After the noodle factory tour, we got to taste the shrimp & spring onion, and the roasted pork & spring onion versions of their rice noodles, along with Korean BBQ chicken from Jackie’s Kitchen inside the Maunakea Marketplace food court.
These were really good.  I loved the noodles, while Todd’s favorite was the Korean BBQ chicken. 

After that, we got 15 minutes to explorer the marketplace on our own.  It was fantastic and slightly scary.  There were vendors with all kinds of produce, some I’d never seen before. 
Fresh whole fish and lobsters.
And some poor frogs in a tank… these are… not for sale as pets, if you know what I mean.
There were some live abalones too.

Next, we tasted some taro dumpling from Legends Vegetarian Dim Sum, and some ma tai su flakey pastries (Chinese pot pie) from Sing Cheong Yuan Bakery.  Todd liked the pastries better, while I liked the taro dumplings more.

Next, we tasted the exotic fruit rambutan.
It was a hairy red fruit that tasted like a more sour lychee, also with a seed in the middle.  It was very good! 

Then, we had some apple bananas (they smelled so good!) and some flakey chewy coconut tarts from Rainbow Tea Shop.  So good!  Todd doesn’t like coconuts but even he liked the tarts.

Next we had some local favorites… spam musubi and ahi poke, along with some fresh starfruit.  The first time I ever had ahi poke was our 2009 trip to Kauai, and I LOVED it! 

Next, we had some pineapple and pineapple with li hing powder on it.  So good!

Then, it was cocktail time!  Jess got us some Lychee Pineapple Li Hing smoothies…

Then Greg poured in some Li Hing Vodka from his flask… making it a cocktail!
It was nice and smooth.  They taught us the Hawaiian toast for “Bottom’s Up”, which is “Okole Maluna”.

Next stop was the Sun Chong store, a very colorful shop in Chinatown that sells “crack seeds” and exotic preserved fruits, nuts, seeds, crackers, fish and candies.
This really brought back memories of Taiwan for me.  When I was a kid we used to frequent stores like this to buy snacks.  We bought a bag of li hing powder to take back to San Diego so we can dip our fruits into them!

Next was Char Sui House, where we had yummy Hong-Kong style barbecued char siu (Chinese sweet boneless pork) and the “5 Layers of Heaven Roast Pork” with crunchy skin (what Greg was pointing at).


Unfortunately I didn’t get a good photo of the pork.  Todd really loved it, while I took a couple of small bites because I was so full already!

Then we drove out of the Chinatown area and went to Bubbies for homemade mochi ice cream!  They had flavors like guava, li hing mango, passion fruit, sakura, chocolate mint, azuki, lychee, etc.
Mochi ice cream is ice cream covered with mochi, so you can hold your ice cream while you eat it.
Guess who loved it?

Our final stop was to Leonard’s for malasadas, or Portuguese doughnuts. Oh my, yes please!   

My friend Richard at work had recommended this place as a must-go.  He lived here during his school years and went to Punahou School and was a classmate of President Obama there (referred to as “Barry” during high school).  He even worked at the same Baskins Robbins as “Barry”. 
Anyways, back to the malasadas.  They remind me so much of how doughnuts looked and tasted in Taiwan, which I guess is no surprise since Taiwan was once occupied by Portugal (and was named “Formosa” at the time).
Todd got a cinnamon sugar malasada…
while I got a li hing powder sugar one… yum yum!  These were served warm directly from the back kitchen.  They were golden and moist, fried doughy goodness.  But light and airy at the same time. 

Thus concluded our Hawaii Food Tour.  It was four hours of piggy-ness I won’t ever get back.  But I don’t want to.  It was so awesome.

After we got dropped off at our condo, we had to rest for a while.  You would too, if you ate for four hours.  After we finished resting, we had to go run off the food (or a very small part of the calorie consumption).  So we walked to the Ala Wai canal and ran up and down the sidewalk beside it.  Each lap was about 2.8 miles.  You can see Diamond Head in the distance. 

Todd ran 5.2 miles while I ran 3.5 miles.  Along the way, we saw some people in outrigger canoes, practicing and drilling in the canal. 

Glad we were able to run some of that food off!  For dinner, we just ate some of our Kona Brewing Co. leftover pizza from the night before. We watched some Monday Night Football and Kung Fu Panda.  Then I fell asleep at 9 o’clock!


  1. Woohooo!!! YAY for food tours! i'm glad you liked the rambutan, you can have it over here too :) Haha, I love that mochi pic--when I first had it I was so weirded out. But then, I was also weirded out by Dippin' Dots ice cream, hahaha!

    Oh god, now I really want some freshly baked donuts, haha!

  2. Ooh yum! A food tour sounds delicious!

  3. They have some good stops! Everyone who visits must have Leonard's Malasadas (they have a small store less then 5 minutes from my house), dim sum from Legends, manapua, and yes crispy pork. Bubbies, love bubbies. In fact, tate and I went there on our first date for dessert. I prefer apple bananas over regular ones because they are a tad bit sweeter and the perfect size for a small snack. Do you know if the rambutan was grown locally? There are not too many farms that grow them on Oahu. If anything they were flown in from Hilo on the Big Island or Thailand. None the less, a wonderful treat for you to try. You guys are so disciplined to go for a run after all that eating. If it was me, I would be out like a light. Can't wait to hear more about your trip.

  4. Note to self..don't eat for a week before the Oahu vacation.

    Great photos and post..I'd be really hungry except for the mint brownie and heath bar brownie that I consumed (inhaled) after supper. I bet my brownie wasn't as good as the malasada..YUMMO!

  5. That looks like so much fun, although those donuts were mynfavorite part - they look delicious!

  6. I would have never thought to go on a food tour but it looked like so much fun.

  7. Just what I would like - a food tour. You really saw some very different food.


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