5 Lunches That Midtown Needs from Hawaii
I was recently in Hawaii for a week-long vacation. As I write this, my cheeks are flushed with sunburn, my legs are sore from tromping through tropical forests, my arms ache from surfing, and my belly is full of delicious indigenous Hawaiian food. With the plethora of active sports and hobbies that Hawaii natives have at their disposal, it’s no surprise that the local cuisine centers around hearty, calorie intense food. And for a caloric gut bomb of truly epic proportions, it doesn’t get any finer than a plate lunch, or more specifically a plate of loco moco ($6.75 at the Rainbow Drive In – Honolulu, HI), the #1 food item that Midtown needs from Hawaii.
Admittedly, the average midtown luncher likely isn’t engaging in the level of physical activity to necessitate such sustenance, but loco moco serves a dual purpose – it’s great for hangovers. Feeling a little rough after the office holiday party? A healthy dose of salt, grease and starch from the garbage plate – and I use the term ‘garbage’ with the utmost respect here – of white rice topped with hamburger patties, gravy and over easy eggs will cure what ails you. In theory, the loco moco, as well as the subsequent dishes that I describe, are laughably simple to recreate in a Midtown kitchen. It’s a shame that no one has.
Plate lunches can manifest themselves in multiple forms, whether it be the aforementioned loco moco, or a mixed plate ($9.50), such as this one from Kawaihae Kitchen in Kawaihae, HI. This mountain of fried shrimp, Korean style chicken, fried rice and the obligatory mac salad was remarkably reminiscent of lunches that I’ve had from Kim’s Aunt Kitchen Cart. Hell, if Kim’s Aunt threw in a scoop of mac salad to their standard dishes, it would be pretty close to this Hawaiian lunch staple. But for now, I’ll have to stick to Hawaiian Island Grill to get my plate lunch fix, even if it’s not that great.
My love for noodle soups, such as those found at Totto Ramen or Pure Thai Shophouse, has been well documented on Midtown Lunch. The uniquely Hawaiian version is called saimin, and is a veritable United Nations of noodle soup, incorporating ingredients from multiple cultures from around the Pacific Rim. In the version that I sampled at Kuhio Grille in Hilo, HI ($6.29), Japanese kamaboko (fish cake), Chinese egg noodles and cabbage, and American spam are plunked into a bowl of hot dashi broth. It’s a cheap, filling, complete meal of proteins, carbs, veggies – the ideal Midtown lunch.
A sugar rush is the perfect thing to cure afternoon office doldrums, and a plump, fluffy, sweet, greasy malasada would hit the spot. Malasadas are fried yeast donuts of Portuguese origin, and can be filled with a variety of sweet fillings (jam, custard, coconut cream, etc) and dusted with sugar and/or cinnamon. While Leonards in Honolulu, HI is the probably the most blogged about malasada joint, I found true malasada love (3 for $1.50) from a tiny little shack in front of a K-Mart in Lihue, HI.
While looking for a plate lunch around Kawaihae, HI, I stumbled upon Da Fish House Lunch Wagon. The vintage rainbow striped camper wagon is staffed by an unfailingly cheerful woman named Deidre, who cooked us one of the best plate lunches I sampled during my entire trip.
We sat at a beat up picnic table in Mother Nature’s dining room while reggae music pattered out of a clapped out boombox. My plate lunch ($9) was highlighted by a fresh mahi mahi filet, which was simply pan fried with plenty of cajun seasoning. A side of delicate homemade macaroni salad cooled the cajun spices, and a pile of shatteringly crisp french fries provided additional body to the meal. Not only was it the best lunch I had during my trip to Hawaii, it was probably the best food truck experience I’ve ever had.
We Midtown lunchers love our eclectic and adventurous food trucks, whether it be waffle trucks, Korean taco trucks, or souvlaki trucks. However, a plate lunch truck such as Da Fish House in Midtown would be a fantastic addition to the scene. Is anyone up to the challenge? Mahalo!