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Saimin Survival Kit

A digitally-altered mock-up of what the product label would look like

“Saimin Survival Kit” could just as well be a catchy name for a new instant noodle product line designed with the local college dormitory student or Hawaii resident on a budget in mind. A product which already exists under several guises and brand names, just not named so.

Or it could be a nickname I’ve hypothetically given to what we have here with this handy-dandy Portable Butane Stove, or as the manufacturer calls it, “Portable Gas Burner”. Another product that’s been readily available in retail stores for years now. Yet, I must confess took this last Oahu-wide power outage for me to finally come to grips and throw one in the shopping cart as I went grocery shopping the next day.

Common’, I know there’s some of you out there who’s been through this before, too. You’ve seen those camping/emergency supply kit cross-merchandise displays at the front of Don Quijote, City Mill or your favorite big boxer and thought, “hmmm, I really should get one of them stoves”, but just kept putting if it off, until, like me, finally came to your senses, realizing when – not if – another extended power outage happens again, this will make life back in the stone ages that much more bearable.

Or, some of you just may have not bought one because you were either intimidated by the thought of using butane as fuel or the appliance itself. Or you already have a propane stove or other cooking device as an emergency back-up.

If you don’t already have an alternative energy cooking appliance ready the next time the power grid goes down, a Portable Butane Stove looks is a great choice. It’s relatively cheap for the hardware and software, is lightweight, compact, pretty much all-in-one convenient, and easy to store. Most importantly, after reading on here, you’ll see it’s also capable of putting out a darned good hot meal.

Let’s take a closer look at it.

This particular model named Mr. Hotman Portable Gas Burner was purchased at the Kaheka Don Quijote for $13.99 sale price. It includes the unit, a convenient carry case and instruction booklet. The Butane Gas Cartridges are sold separately, costing $1.17 each from the same place…

The unit itself is fairly light weight, yet hefty enough to feel confident it isn’t going to fall apart after one or two uses. At least we hope not!

Of course safety is the primary concern when it comes to using a tool such as this which uses compressed combustible fuel. unlike propane stoves  and grills that use 1 lb. disposable canisters or a 20 lb. refillable tank, these use 8 oz. disposable butane gas cartridges that look like this…

Click image to see back label

The tip looks like an aerosol spray paint nozzle nub, sans the plastic nozzle…

The notched flange around the tip’s base serves a purpose, which you’ll see in a bit.

Back to the stove, here you see the cooking grate (support grill) is removable…

…this not only makes it easier to clean in case you get a spill-over, but also is necessary, as you must invert this part in order to fit the unit in the carry case.

The four vertical supports for the cookware are called the Trivet, while the circular part around the burner opening functions as a windshield. Also notice there’s a difference in sheen, as the support grill portion is made of a heavier gauge stamped and welded steel construction with a more durable high gloss baked enamel finish, while the surrounding chassis is made of a much lighter gauge stamped steel with a satin black finish.

The control panel on the front of the unit includes the two essential functions: the cartridge lever to lock the butane cartridge in place, and the control knob which dials in the amount of fuel from the regulator to adjust the flame output…

Notice there’s two stars next to the ON on the flame control knob: what that indicates is that if you click the dial past the full-on position, it makes a significant “click” sound which triggers a built-in Piezo electric flame starter, so guess what? No need matches or a lighter! It’s all ready to go, just add fuel. Very nice.

Here’s a close-up of the burner manifold, with that needle-looking assembly pointed towards it the Piezo electric starter…

“Under the hood”, on the right side of the unit behind the control panel is where the butane cartridge is installed…

Lock ‘n load…

Earlier I pointed a that notched flange around the base of the cartridge nozzle. What that does is keep the cartridge’s nozzle tip properly guided into the regulator receptor…

That spring-loaded metal tab is a lock that fits within the notch of the cartridge flange. You simply pull that open to install and remove each cartridge.

If you look back at the photo of the cartridge housing area, take notice to that rectangle-shaped metal “tray” on the bottom. That part is connected to the Cartridge Lever on the front panel via a spring-loaded mechanism. The lip on the back end of it serves as “clamp” to effectively compress the cartridge inward toward the regular receptor.

Here you can see the entire chassis revealed, including the cartridge lever mechanism, burner manifold assembly, it’s support beam underneath, and how it connects to the regulator valve to the right via a welded copper tube connection…

Click for alternate angle

While the steel, cast aluminum/copper manifold and regulator assembly looks adequately built to perform the task of delivering serious BTUs, the safety loop isn’t complete without a sturdy base to support the weight of a scalding hot pot or pan with food cooking on top of it. Which is addressed with four level rubber feet underneath…

And there’s enough clearance between the underside of the burner manifold support that, unless you have a major “Chernobyl” situation,  shouldn’t pose any concerns with heat-related damage to say, a countertop or stove top. For the latter, I wouldn’ t worry about it; for the former, to be safe, I’d still place it on something you could toss in case that does happen, in which I used a large cutting board as a subplatform.

So let’s fire it up!

As mentioned earlier, turn the control knob past the full-high ON position and wait a second for the fuel to flow out the burner manifold, then turn it a bit more until you feel and hear a “click”, which triggers the Piezo electric starter. Flame on, then from there you can immediately bring it down to low, which reveals a beautiful blue-hot, even flame. Here it is at the lowest setting…

Portable Butane Stove at the lowest flame setting

Here it is at medium, or halfway on the control knob…

Portable Butane Stove at medium flame

And here it is on high with the pedal to the metal…

Seeing this makes me wanna sing Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” Top Gun theme song. lol

According to the specifications, this model burns 7,200 BTU/hour.

OK, flyboy, enough fantasizing turnin’ and burnin’ in an F-14, what can this thing do as far as turnin’ around a decent home-cooked meal?

To that I started with one of the most basic cooking methods there is, which is to boil water. Oh many great meals can be had with the magic of H2O when it reaches 212ºF. All the basic staples can be prepared that way, whether it be rice, noodles, pasta or potatoes.

And what else in Hawaii when it comes to basic survival from a  sustenance standpoint to cook using boiled water than either rice or saimin. For this demonstration I chose my favorite, hence the name “Saimin Survival Kit”.

To that, I set off to put this stove’s BTU output to the test by making a bowl of Sun Noodle’s “Hawaii’s Original Saimin”, which is actually a featurette in itself here…

Click to see reverse side of package

According to the directions, this saimin calls for 6 cups total of boiling water; 4 for the noodles and 2 for the broth. I pushed it even further by adding an extra 2 cups water to make a solid 2 quarts of water to boil. Besides, what if, say I wanted saimin, while someone else just wanted some hot chocolate? Covered!

Yeah, sure, realistically during a power outage, you probably wouldn’t attempt to make this “Nama” style of fresh noodles, where everything is less “instant”.  For practicality, you’d probably just open up a can of ready-to-serve (no water needed) Chicken Noodle Soup to heat up or boil just enough water for a Cup Noodle.

But since I really wanted to test the capability of the stove out and see if it could really COOK, not just heat stuff up, decided to go with the “nama style” saimin.

After about 8 minutes with the flame at its highest setting, the water finally began to show signs (bubbling on the bottom) that it was reaching temperature…

It took this pot with 2 quarts of tap cold water a solid 25 minutes to reach a full rapid boil…

That’s a long wait for a bowl of Saimin. To confirm I had “pushed it”, I later boiled 6 cups for another bowl of Saimin, finding out that cut the time almost in half, coming to a rapid boil within 10 minutes.

So obviously you’re not going to set off and cook a community-sized stock pot or vat of beef stew on one of these little light-duty burners.

While the water’s boiling, that’s plenty of time to get the saimin ready…

The package says this includes 2 servings, which is evident by the inclusion of 2 broth packets, but not so evident by the noodles, which are clumped together. Just divide it in half with a knife, so you can cook each serving individually.

Like making ramen, to make this saimin, the powedered dashi-based broth packet is combined with water in the serving bowl before the noodles are added…

Add 2 cups hot water and stir to combine…

That extra time as the water boils also give you time to prepare the protocol “local style” saimin garnishes…

Once you get the water boiling, these fresh “nama” style saimin noodles cook to al dente quickly, within 3 to 4 minutes…

Scoop out or pour cooked noodles into a sieve to drain water and immediately add to the hot broth in the serving bowl…

Those last two photos are the very reason this entire effor exists, which is to showcase those simply fanstastic Saimin noodles Sun Noodle manufactures for this particular product. This is by far THE BEST store-bought Saimin product I’ve ever tried, and my girlfriend seconds that opinion. In fact, being that she just had a bowl of Sam Sato’s Dry Mein, says these are comparable in character, flavor, and texture. Just a little thinner than that, but very comparable.

Of course, saimin just wouldn’t be complete without all the fixinz…

That’s more like it. I could have added sliced omelet in the mix, but wasn’t inclined to go that extra mile for this particular effort. Charsiu (home-made), Kamaboko, Bean Sprouts and Green Onion are enough to round out the dish.

Here’s another angle…


As you see, I spent as much effort presenting this Hawaii’s Original Saimin by Sun Noodle as I did the Portable Stove used to cook it. If you’re a saimin or ramen fan and haven’t tried this one yet, you must. I’m pretty confident you’ll agree it’s one of the best of the genre on the market today, whether from a restaurant or grocery store.

Back again to this portable butane stove, I’ve found it’s also very capable at pan-fying items like Portuguese Sausage, eggs and fried rice or sauteeing a fillet of chicken or fish . I wouldn’t go as far as deep-frying (in a cast-iron skillet) with it though. A stove with more BTUs would be better suited for that. Besides, trying to duplicate Colonel Sanders original recipe while the power’s out isn’t a good idea anyway. Not to mention the added risk of fire doing that.

At just 13.99 on sale, this particular model certainly isn’t the Lexus or Cadillac of the genre in either build or perforomance; there are better models out there, including those with brass burners, cast aluminum or stainless steel housings, and higher (up to 10,000) BTU ratings. Yet this one looks and feels built, and so far performs well enough to serve a hot, home-cooked meal on those few occasions when the power goes out.

As easy as it is to set-up, it’s just as easy to put away for storage. Let the unit cool completely, then simply slide the cartridge lever up to the “OUT” position, which decompresses the cartridge nozzle out of the regulator receptor. Lift the spring-loaded flange lock clip and lift the cartridge out, then cap it. I marked the one I used as “Partially Used” as seen here…

I put a total of approximately 40 minutes on that cartridge, to which according to most manufacturers specifications of these 8 oz. butane cartridges, are rated up to 100 minutes of use each, depending on your stove’s BTU output and how high you set the flame. I know someone who works serving hotel banquets, and they said these typically last about an hour and half each for serving guests at an omelet station.

Finally, to complete my emergency preparedness kit (and to make using this appliance that much safer), I replaced my old fire extinguisher with a new one from City Mill…

Notice this model is UL (Underwriter Laboraties) Rated at 5-B:C. This indicates that this  extinguisher could handle a 12.5 square foot fire that is flammable liquid or electrical based, and therefore ideal for most small kitchen fires. Even if you don’t have a portable propane or butane stove, it’s still recommended to have a working fire extinguisher(s) around the home. Smoke detectors too.

• What? Mr. Hotman Portable Butane Gas Burner Model #GS-90 (a.k.a. “Saimin Survival Kit”)
• Where did you buy it? Don Quijote – Kaheka street locationHow much did it cost? $13.99 sale price, plus $1.17 each Butane Gas Cartridge
• What are its features and benefits? Pressure-sensing shut-off safety device. Aluminum burner head. Piezo electronic ignitor. Gas leak prevention system.
• What are its specifications? 7200 BTU/hour gas consumption. 2.1 Kw nominal heat input. 220g Butane Gas cartridge.
• Big Shaka to: Adequate BTU output for smaller stovetop cooking tasks. Well-managed low-to-high heat control. Even flame distribution at the manifold. Lightweight and compact. Quick and easy set-up and storage. Affordable main unit and replacement fuel costs. Built-in starter (no need matches or lighter). Sun Noodle Saimin, served hot with all the fixinz.
• No shaka to: Not adequate for large (bulk) cooking tasks (ohana style). Questionable long-term durability. Eating cold canned soup  in the dark. Power outages.

20 thoughts on “Saimin Survival Kit

  • December 31, 2008 at 6:19 am

    Eh, you so far behind with a butane stove? Used them for tailgates at Aloha Stadium for nearly 20 years!

    Still get my original one and it still works, though I have a couple more. In fact my oldie is here with me in Oki.

    Many smaller restaurants use it for hot pot stuff at the table. Use mine the same way for sukiyaki or shabu shabu.

    Happy New Year!

  • December 31, 2008 at 8:52 am

    I’ve only seen my mom take this out when there is a power outage, so I guess she just used it the other day, Happy New Year Pomai!

  • December 31, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    Boil mo’ betta wit lid on pot!

  • December 31, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Great tutorial, Pomai! That’s a beautiful bowl of local-style saimin, too.

    Those portable stoves are good for light duty. We generally use it for hotpot. We’ve even used them to stir-fry our Char Kway Teow in a wok and deep fry our kueh pai tee in a small pot.

  • December 31, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Great photographs. I appreciate the effort you put forth to share your cooking and dining experiences.

    I’ve been checking out your blog on a regular basis and I really enjoy reading your posts.

    I am looking forward to further posts in 2009.


  • December 31, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    Oh. I forgot to mention: Have a great new year’s eve and an even greater new year!

  • December 31, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    When I was in Taipei notice many small food stalls businesses were started by using portable burners. Easy low overhead set up. That what Asia special place to see. Yes many noodle stands using portable burners folding tables and chairs.

  • December 31, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    Thanks for the complete review. We’re lucky enough to have a propane fueled unit at home; it saved us from eating cold spam after the earthquake a couple of years ago. I’ll have to pay more attention to how long things take to heat on it the next time.

    As a side topic, thinking about these stoves makes me miss Wing Coffee from Chinatown.

    Hope you have a wonderful New Year’s!

  • December 31, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    Nate, yeah, yeah, I knew I was gonna’ get “grilled” (no pun intended) on not already having one of these. If this cheap $14 one lasts 20 years, I’d be amazed! Perhaps if I “preserve” it by spraying WD-40 all over it while its in storage.

    Kat, yeah, I too only plan on bringing it out when there’s a power outage. Otherwise my electric stove works just fine. Wish we had gas though. So much more superior to electric tops.

    Paul, I did have it covered, all the way up to just before boiling point. I should have mentioned that, as the photos didn’t show it.

    Nate ’88, I’m also a fan of Shabu Shabu, to which I seriously need to try the one we have here on Kapiolani boulevard. These type of stoves could also probably work for Yakiniku, if you use a slotted grill pan as the cooking vessel. At about the cost of $1/hour in fuel cost, that ain’t bad.

    Menehune, glad you enjoy the blog. Will try to add lots more interesting and ono content in ’09!

    And to all of you, Hau’oli Makahiki Hou… have a healthy and prosperous New Year!

  • December 31, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    Love these burners…if you shell out a bit more they have much higher btus in some models, you just need more propane.

    I cooked two pots of rice on mines and made spam musubis for the neighbors and later whipped up some old fashion cornbeef patties for the gang.

    Its da bestest

  • December 31, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Over here get one specially made for cooking yakiniku. Rectangular thing with notched holders for the skewers above the heat that has a different, linear manifold. Took one back to Hawaii but ex-GF took it from me. I’ve never seen one without a bottom! Guess to save money but as you say could be dangerous.

  • January 1, 2009 at 12:56 am

    Happy New Year Pomai. Just got back from HNL a few weeks ago and brought back those Sun Brand saimin which is my favorite. I got them at Sam’s Club in bulk and froze them before bring them back to LA. I see now you can buy them individually at Marukai for $1.39 apiece.

    You have the best Hawaii food blog and the best mouthwatering stuffs hands down! Keep up the good work bruddah! No scaid um!

  • January 6, 2009 at 9:11 am

    lol i love thest things! best camping supply ever! best part is all u need is the stove and the can of butane no lighters needed, way better than the propane burners, and more simple to put together :-)

  • March 2, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Can anybody tell me where my grandson can buy saimin to cook in Eugene, Oregon or nearby. Thanks GM

  • March 4, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    Grandma, try joining the AlohaWorld.com AlohaLanai forums and ask over there. There’s a lot of folks living in Oregon and Washington state who post on there who would know exactly where to steer you to buy made in Hawaii Saimin in your neck of the woods, whether it’s Sun Noodle (S&S) or Okahara’s brand. Hope this helps.

  • March 10, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Hi Pomai,
    As of today (3.10.09, until 3.16.09) the ENTIRE Sun Noodle line of products are on sale at Marukai. I just got back from there and bought 60 packages of the “Nama” style (2 for $1.89), 10 of the Shoyu @ $1.95/ea, 5 Tonkutsu @ $1.95/ea. Plus I thought I would give the Menma a try. Its a good thing I have an EXTRA large chest frezer.
    These prices are cheaper than Sam’s Club. Just wanted to spread the news.

  • September 21, 2009 at 2:50 am

    Hey Pomai,
    When you say, “these fresh “nama” style saimin noodles”.
    What does “nama” mean?

  • September 21, 2009 at 6:48 am

    Pomai, past entry of of butane stove accident was not the stove but the butane container defect. It most important part of the burner must be careful nothing is wrong with butane container used. The period used of it for cooking with a defective container might cause it.

  • September 21, 2009 at 6:57 am

    Yoro, Nama Ramen are raw, fresh, uncooked noodles, usually packaged in the refrigerator section, which usually include a higher quality liquid soup base. Nama Ramen has a relatively short refrigerator shelf life, although they do freeze well. Even if you extend their life by freezing, they taste best eaten at least within three months of manufacture. I find after that they taste a little “dead” and of course freezer-burnt.

    Sun Noodle Ramen Products (Shoyu, Miso, Shio, Tonkotsu flavors) are a perfect example of Nama Ramen, and of course there are plenty more varieties from Japan. I’ve reviewed a number of Nama Ramen products on this blog. Marukai usually brings in the more exotic Japanese-imported Nama Ramen.

  • July 15, 2010 at 11:13 am

    Thank you for the break down of how these work. I actually own one and haven’t used it yet. Reading through your guide made me think that I should understand how to use one since I have one. The fire extinguisher at the end drove that point home. Hehe. Before I use it though I will look for a yakiniku grill top I can use on it. I had all that in Japan but left them. >__<
    Thanks again!


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