January 29, 2008

Hamura's Saimin (and several others)

Hamura's Saimin
Originally uploaded by tallasiandude

aaah, saimin.

Ramen by any other name would not be served in such delightful weather -- nor would it contain spam. The night we arrived in Kaua'i we went directly to Hamura's Saimin, both because it sounded AWESOME in the guidebook and because it was about the only place still open at that time of night.

The place was jammed with locals, and we probably looked like the worst sort of fresh-off-the-plane tourists, pasty white and studying the menu with wide eyes. Well, maybe not the *worst* sort, but you get the idea. We got a regular and a wonton saimin, plus some BBQ chicken. (BBQ chicken is hawaii-speak for yakitori, a pleasant discovery.) The regular is in the back and the wonton is in the foreground, wonton being a bit of a superset of the regular, containing meaty wontons and roast pork slices in addition to the spam matchsticks, green onions, and fishcake shreds.

All this arrives on top of well-textured wheat noodles in a rich and savory pork broth. Tallasiandude eats his plain, but I found I prefer the addition of a bit of spicy chili vinegar, just as i prefer my pho with lots of lime. There's also hot sauce, shoyu, and chinese mustard on offer, and we saw all of them used liberally, though the shoyu & mustard was primarily for dipping wontons & pork.

On our return trips, we ordered the special saimin, which comes with everything the wonton comes with, but with a few of the wontons swapped out for a hardcooked egg and some mustard greens. (We saw the guy next to us order this the first time, yummy.)

We had some other saimin on on our trip, and all were good, varying slightly in their toppings and broth but always containing rich pork soup with spam, kamaboko and noodles, a reliable comforting dish. But for pure pleasure, and with special style points for dive-ness and laconic waitresses, Hamura's does take the prize. We can't wait to go back.
Posted by foodnerd at 12:23 PM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2008

li hing mui

Let's just get this out of the way up front: li hing mui is really a borderline revolting food.

I had heard so much about it, how people crave it, how it is the most awesomest flavor since chocolate. And I was hell-bent to try some once I got to Hawaii.

I started out with a passionfruit margarita with li hing mui powder sprinkled in and coated onto the rim with the salt. This was absolutely delightful, and only jet lag and monstrous fatigue kept me from ordering about 5 in a row. For starters, passionfruit + tequila + salt = most perfect cocktail foodnerd can imagine. And the li hing mui gave it a little smoky-tangy kick. I licked the whole rim clean, and loved the whole thiing.

So i had high hopes for the little packets of li hing mui plums, and other things like ginger and mango with li hing flavoring, that I kept scooping up at Longs and at the supermarkets, etc. as gifts for friends back home. Then i figured maybe i better try the damn things before I got too carried away, so I had a little bite of a plum in the airport on the way from Kauai to the Big Island. EEEEW! YUK! I ingested maybe a microgram-sized bite, and it was awful, completely overwhelming, and fake tasting. (I noticed after this that absolutely every single li hing mui product involves aspartame, which i am still befuddled by.)

I scaled it back after that. But i did have a packet of seedless li hing mui plums for spleen and littlelee, and we busted those out a few nights ago. These were slightly less horrible than the seeded ones, but still, spleen made the most appalling faces and ran for the kitchen to spit it out. Littlelee and I could find some pleasure in it, but still that one plum we'd nibbled at got chucked into the trash. I had some li hing ginger for my mom, who loves all ginger things, and she thought it was pretty bad.

So what gives? Why does a tiny bit of the powder do fantastical things for my cocktail, but yet the smallest bites of the dried-fruit forms make even the hardest-core foodnerds run gagging? Are we just Yankee lame-asses? WTF with the aspartame?

I have a packet of the powder, and I will be doing some cocktail experiments as the opportunity arises. But those fruits are all getting the boot, sadly.

Posted by foodnerd at 01:14 PM | Comments (17)

January 01, 2008

new year's eve dinner party: the francophone world

We were lucky enough to be invited to tag along to a fabulous dinner party thrown by friends of friends on New Year's Eve. They managed a fully-plated, multicourse dinner for 20, incorporating dishes from all over the french-speaking world, including both fish and lamb chops that were cooked *perfectly*.

I was impressed. And very well fed. Here are pictures:

brik brik with homemade harissa

brik of chicken, charmoula and egg, with homemade harissa

amuse bouches

amuse bouches: cherry tomato with feta, potato with truffled foie gras, creme fraiche and caviar

vietnamese crab & asparagus soup

vietnamese crab and asparagus soup (in an exquisitely subtle pork/ginger broth)

sea bass in madagascar spices with cuke salad

sea bass in madagascar spices, with cucumber-onion salad

grapefruit granita

palate cleanser of mango and grapefruit granitas

lamb chops, homemade demiglace, green beans and phyllo packet of lobster, chanterelles and nuts

gorgeous lamb chop in homemade demiglace, with wok-fried green beans and a phyllo package of lobster, chanterelles & nuts, in a red-wine-cream sort of sauce. purported to be quebecois; delicious no matter where it's from.

rice salad with chevre

cool rice salad with chevre, sun-dried tomatoes, yellow peppers and scallion

cheese plate, semi-decimated

cheese plate, including dried cherries, date paste and home-candied grapefruit peel

chocolate gateau and gelee of champagne with citrus fruits

chocolate gateau and gelee of champagne with winter citrus fruit

Posted by foodnerd at 08:42 PM | Comments (0)