When I spotted this Undried Saimin by the Iwamoto Natto Factory on the shelf in the refrigerator case in Ah Fook’s Supermarket in Kahului, I was immediately determined to bring some home with me. Being aware these are the same noodles Sam Sato’s uses for their famous Dry Noodle (a.k.a. Dry Mein), I was looking forward to replicating the dish once again, this time using the genuine article.
So the moment has finally come where I can see if the noodles makes all the difference. Not to mention a tip I got on how to prepare the dish like Sam Sato’s does it.
In doing this, I included a version of Dry Noodle using Sun Noodle’s Original Hawaii Saimin (as I’ve done before here) in the taste testing so I could compare them said-by-side…
Here you see Iwamoto’s Undried Saimin uncooked out of the package…
At 1½ pounds (24 oz.), this hefty bulk-sized package of Iwamoto Saimin would be more appropriate for sale at Costco or Sam’s Club, but here they were in a rather obscure location in Ah Fooks, a small mom ‘n pop neighborhood market in Kahului, Maui, rebuilt in recent years after a fire destroyed their original building right next to the location of the current store.
According to Patsy Yamashita, the current owner of Iwamoto Natto Factory in Paia, besides Ah Fook’s, you can also purchase their saimin and natto products at all Foodland locations on Maui, as well as Takamiya Market in Wailuku. I wish I knew about Takamiya Market while I was there. That would have also been a neat store to visit. What this all ultimately means is that this is yet another product exclusive to the island of Maui. Gotta’ love that kinda’ stuff.
The Iwamoto Saimin packaging doesn’t include any instructions how to cook it, nor does it include any seasoning packet to make the saimin broth, so you’re pretty much on your own here. Which is what lead me to give the factory a call. Although I had a hunch all it takes to cook it is to boil it in water until it’s al dente, I wanted to make sure I did it the right way. So Patsy (who is very nice BTW) instructed me to do just that, making it a point that the water needs to be at a rapid boil before adding the noodles, just like it should be when boiling pasta.
I told her the waitress at Sam Sato said they boil their noodles in beef broth, but she was skeptical about that. She said stick with good ‘ole H20. Once it reaches the proper doneness, you rinse it in cold water to get rid of any residual starch, as well as to stop the cooking process. After that, it’s ready to serve.
Here’s the Sun Noodle Saimin uncooked straight out of the package so you can visually compare it with the Iwamoto brand in this state…
Rewind back a few weeks ago when I was there at Sam Sato’s eating their original Dry Noodle, lucky me, a “regular” was sitting next to me in the restaurant, who hinted to me that the noodles are flavored by adding oyster sauce and shoyu after it’s boiled and rinsed. So, that was her take on it, and she was sure on it. Aha! Well, that sounds about right to me.
Yamasa Shoyu, Shirakiku Premium Quality Oyster Sauce and Vegetable Oil
Following the noodle cooking instructions by Patsy and flavoring tip mentioned above, here they are in a saute pan after being cooked and rinsed, given just a dash of oyster sauce and shoyu along with a little bit of cooking oil to keep the noodles from sticking to the pan and each other over medium-low heat…
I didn’t attempt to “fry” the noodles, as that’s not the impression I have of Sam Sato’s dish. As advertised, it just tastes, well, “dry”, with a delicate balance of self-inherent moisture still retained. I just gently kept tossing it until the noodles were evenly coated with the shoyu and oyster sauce and heated up for service.
Now it’s ready to plate…err bowl. Simply top with garnishes, which in Sam Sato’s case, is mung bean sprouts, sliced charsiu and green onions, along with the broth on the side…
For the mung bean sprouts, I blanched them in the noodles’ boiling water just to slightly soften them so they won’t taste so raw, yet still retain a little of its crunchy texture.
Here’s a closer look at the bowl of Dry Noodles…
O.K., hold that thought. Before we move on, let’s look back at the actual bowl of Sam Sato’s Dry Noodle I had just recently at the restaurant…
If you ask me, the noodles at Sam Sato’s look thicker. Perhaps that could be due to my saimin bowl being larger than theirs, throwing off the scale of the noodle in relation to the bowl. Or perhaps I still didn’t “master” how to cook them exactly like how Sam Sato does it.
Their noodles also look more golden, whereas the one I prepared looks more tannish-brown, which I’m sure has mostly to due with seasoning and/or boiling methods. Darned it, them little secrets and tricks always stump ya’!
As for the broth (on the side), my guess based on first-hand taste at the restaurant is that Sam Sato’s is simply chicken stock and nothing else. Therefore that’s what I used here, except I insisted to add some dashinomoto to mine as a personal preference…
Of course, to your personal preference, you can add whatever you want to the basic dish, whether it be shoyu, chili pepper watah, ketchup (hah?) or whatevahz.
OK, enough with the visual analysis, how does this new attempt of replicating Sam Sato’s Dry Noodle taste, this time using Iwamoto Saimin?
First gotta’ drizzle some of the broth over the noodles…
Mix it around a little, then dig in!…
Oh yeah, this definitely works. Pretty darned close to the real McCoy.l The noodles are a little thicker than Sun Noodle’s Original Saimin, but not by much. Case in point, here’s both noodles side by side uncooked…
Sun Noodle Original Hawaii Saimin on the left, Iwamoto Undried Saimin on the right (both uncooked)
Flavor wise for the Iwamoto (dry) saimin, the oyster sauce and shoyu provide a pleasantly-mild savory coating to the otherwise starchy noodle. While the doneness was acceptible, it could have stood to be a little more firm than where I had it on this particular serving. But that’s my own fault, not the product.
Summing it up here, it seems to me the perfect bowl of Dry Noodle is just as reliant on the execution and preparation as it is on the noodle itself, as was evident by having both Maui’s own Iwamoto Saimin version to compare with side-by-side against the Sun Noodle Saimin version. They both were equally oishii in their own unique way.
I found the Sun Noodle Saimin noodle to taste a little more “eggy” (in a good way), with the texture being a bit more slippery like ramen, while the Iwamoto Saimin Noodle was more starchy in flavor, with just a bit more “grit” in texture in comparison to Sun. It’s slightly thicker profile helped give the Iwamoto Saimin noodle a little more chewable substance to it as well. Simply a more hefty noodle.
You’re probably wondering how Iwamoto’s Saimin stacks up against Sun Noodle when made in the form of traditional Saimin, served with the broth filled up in the bowl with with the noodles. I’ll try that later and let you now how they compare.
If the Iwamoto brand were readily available in Oahu markets, of course I’d buy that whenever I feel like replicating Sam Sato’s Dry Noodle dish at home in the future. Since that’s not the case, based on the comparison here, I’m comfortable with having Sun Noodle’s Saimin as the next best thing.
What? Undried Saimin
Who makes it? Iwamoto Natto Factory in Paia, Maui
Where did you buy and how much? Ah Fook’s Supermarket in Kahului, Maui, $4.95 per 24 oz. package
Big shacka to: Thick, hearty noodle. Cooks quickly. Packaged and sold fresh, not frozen. Freezes well. Unique product to the island of Maui. The foundation of Sam Sato’s famous Dry Noodle. Maui.
No shaka to: Packaging doesn’t include cooking instructions or broth seasoning packets. Noodles can overcook quickly if not supervised carefully. Not available on Oahu. The inability to crack and perfect secret recipes.
The Tasty Island SPAM Musubi rating: 3
P.S. Summer time means mango season, hence here’s a basket of common mangoes harvested this past weekend….
A beautiful and fragrant 5-strand Pakalana Lei for mom on her Birthday…
Since we have yet to get “Smell-O-Vision”, let me just say next to Gardenia, Pakalana is one of my favorite flowers as far as smell. Not the prettiest looking, but its fragrance is just beautiful.