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Grindz of the Day: Arirang, Monarch Seafoods & Chocolate-covered Bacon


Arirang Bar-B-Q Korean Quisine – Fish Jun

Repeat visits are an obvious indicator we really dig the place, which brings us back once again to several spots.

We begin today’s “Grindz of the Day” with lunch at Arirang, where this past Aloha Friday Diner A and yours truly visited as we BOTH had da’ “ono’s” (craving) for Fish Jun.

Before I continue, I must note that there’s an ongoing “debate” on where exactly “Jun” originated. Namely “Meat Jun”.  Many folks on the mainland think it must be a “Hawaii thing”, because the Korean restaurants in their neck of the woods don’t have such a dish.

I found this interesting discussion over at WOWGRINDS.com on the subject, where lots of comments have helped to dispel the “Meat Jun Mystery”. One comment reads, “So I discovered this watching this korean show and the Kwangju region in Korea is known for the dish we call “meat jeon.” In korean it’s yukjeon (??), yuk meaning ‘meat.’ So it’s not a local Hawaiian invention, but maybe some Korean from that region brought it over and revised it.” Plus many other insightful comments you should click on over and read if you’re interested.

Apparently the “myth” part is due to how differently the name is SPELLED, as based on the common denominator of that discussion, the PROPER way to spell “Meat Jun” is “Meat Jeon”. or more properly than that, “Gogi Jeon” or “Yukjeon”.

To make it even more confusing, the various Korean restaurants around Oahu each have a slightly different way of spelling it. Arirang and Ah-Lang Korean Restaurant spells it “Meat Jun”, Soon’s Kal-Bi Drive-In spells it “Meat Jhun”, while Jin Joo Korean Restaurant spells it “Meat Chun”. ACK!!

Anyhow, if you have more information on Meat Jun or variation of the dish that you’ve encountered, I’d love to hear about it.

Not to confuse you any more, but another popular version of this flour and egg-battered Korean favorite is what we have here today in the form of Fish Jun…


Arirang Bar-B-Q Korean Quisine – Fish Jun. $8.95 (lunch price)

Or should I spell that Fish Jhun? Or Fish Junn? Or Fish Chun? Or Fish Jeon? Or Fish Joon? Or how about Fish June? lol

That was Diner A’s plate. Here’s mine, where in this shot I’ve broken a piece in half to reveal the super-moist and flaky Mahimahi within…


Arirang Bar-B-Q Korean Quisine – Fish Jun. $8.95 (lunch price)

The key here being they use Mahimahi, which makes for an EXCELLENT Fish Jun, as in my experience over the years, Mahimahi has always been the best type of fish for this dish. Reason being, Mahi has a good amount of oil in the flesh, offering a savory-yet-tame, sort of “buttery” white meat flavor that’s not “fishy” at all, while having a super moist, tender and flaky texture that just melts in your mouth. Awesome.

Rest assured, Mahimahi is what you’ll get in your Fish Jun at Arirang, as it specifically says that right on the menu. Whereas, many places don’t specify, so you never know what may be in it: could be (the cheaper) haddock, pollock or even talapia (not from the Ala Wai Canal of course). I’d love to sample how Ono, a.k.a. Wahoo tastes in Jun (or Junn or Jeon or June) form.

Notice how they cut the egg and flour-battered Mahimahi here, where they’re shaped like medalions that measure approximately 4″Lx3″Wx1/4″ thickness each, with four of them on this lunch-sized portion.

Most “Jun” dishes are served with a dipping sauce that’s pretty much like a simplified version of Japanese Ponzu;  in this case, made with soy sauce, vinegar and sugar…

That said, let’s hit it!..

First of all, as described above, the mahi has a buttery, mildy-savory flavor and is super moist ‘n tender. And it’s cooked to absolute PERFECTION. The flour and egg batter has a nice crunch going on, while being very lightly seasoned with what tastes like just salt, if even that. The egg flavor helps to amplify the wonderful taste of the Mahi within, underscoring the JUN in this Fish Jun.

If there’s one complaint, I’d just say the default “Jun” sauce they provide was too mild, as if the soy sauce (shoyu) they use was the low sodium variety, or something like that, as the sauce tasted like it was watered down.

Not to fret though, as we clearly remember the EXCELLENT house-made Gochujang sauce Arirang put on our table the last time we were here, so we requested that…

OK, let’s try again wit’ da’ Gochujang action…

I’ll put it to you this way: even though the default “ponzu style” Jun dipping sauce was on the mild side, it was still “MONEY”. Now with Arirang’s AWESOME house-made Gochujang sauce joining this Fish Jun party, it is “BANK”!!! Or so Guy Fieri would have said it. Serious “Bank”. Like 5 SPAM Musubi “Bank”. So, so delicious. I swear, if you’re looking for an EXCELLENT Fish Jun, you need to head on over to Arirang. High, HIGHLY recommended.

I’m gonna’ tease you with a few more bite-through shots so you can see just how moist and tender this broke da’ mout’ winnahz Mahimahi-based Fisch Jgeonng was…

Here I combined the default “Jun” Sauce with the Gochujang Sauce at about 3:1 ratio…

Oh yeah, now THAT’s rockin’!  You get a little tang, a little sweet, some heat, along with a savory “bottom” thanks to the miso they use in the Gochujang sauce, which really is its “secret”. In fact, I’m surprised our server admitted that they use that. Yet you can clearly taste there’s miso in the Gochujang sauce. All I know is you could pour that stuff on anything and it would taste good.

Not that this it needs a sauce, as just like the Angry Korean Lady’s Meat Jun and Chive Jun, this Fish Jun is SCUMPTIOUS just by itself, and the sauces are really just icing on an already fantastic cake.

Summing it up, “Bank” 5 SPAM for Arirang’s Fish Jun (jeon, jeong, june, jhun, junn, joon, whatevahz…)

Speaking of “Bank”, also winning top honors is Arirang’s EXCELLENT Banchan side dishes…

Arirang’s Kim Chee is certainly “Money”, while their Korean style Shoyu Potatoes are “BANK”!!! As Diner A noted, they almost “Taste like Shoyu Chicken”, where you could just as well order a plate of this stuff as the main entree along with rice and call it a day. It’s that “meaty”.

Look at how that deep ‘n savory, sweetened shoyu “goodness” penetrates the outer layer of the fork-tender red potatoes…

Rewinding to the beginning of our Fish Jun “experience” on this visit, we enjoyed the included house seaweed soup…

I asked our server if they had the Korean Stainless Steel Chopsticks to accompany the Korean Stainless Steel Spoon, but they didn’t have them.

As Diner A described it, “It’s like sipping on a hot bowl of the ocean”, is the best way to describe it. Seriously, as simple as this Kombu-based soup is, it’s LOVELY. Next time I come here, I’m going to ask them how to make it, so I can do it at home before EVERY meal. Heart-warming, soul-soothing good stuff!

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Moving on to our next “Grindz of the Day”, we go back a week to the previous Aloha Friday, where Diner A and yours truly returned yet again to Monarch Seafoods. This time around where Diner A “hanahou’d” their AWESOME Fried Poke, making that his single entree choice, while I decided to try their Spicy Calamari…


Monarch Seafoods – Spicy Thai Calamari Steak (left) and Fried Poke (right) plates

Let’s zoom in…


Monarch Seafoods – Deep Fried Poke. $7.95

All I can say is, in the battered ‘n fried fish category, next to the Fish Jun featured previously in this post, Monarch Seafood’s Fired Poke is as GOOD AS IT GETS!

Especially when it’s coated in Monarch’s KILLER house dressing…

It tastes like they marinade the ahi — which tastes VERY FRESH (not old stuff) — in some sort of shoyu-based marinade, then they coat it katsu style, taking a dredge in flour, egg and panko, then hitting the deep fryer to give it that “GBD” doneness, with no more and no less. So the Ahi within remains SUPER moist and succulent, especially when combined with that very tasty marinade it’s SOAKED with. FREAKIN’ AWESOME STUFF. PERIOD.

Another “Bank” 5 SPAM Musubi for Monarch Seafood’s Fried Poke. Make sure if you order this to ask for extra house dressing. Liquid Gold I tell ya’, Liquid Gold.

Now let’s check out Monarch’s Spicy Calamari…


Monarch Seafoods – Spicy Thai Calamari Steak. $7.95

These Panko-crusted Calamari (squid) “steaks” are some “tik” (thick) buggahz (suckers)…

As for the “Spicy” factor”, it both appears and tastes like, before hitting the panko and flour batter station, they basically coat the calamari steaks with the same Mae Ploy Sweet Thai Chili Sauce that’s used for dipping after the fact.

As you know, Calamari (squid) is very mild in flavor, as this was, while it was also notably tender, as you know how Calamari can be rubbery if over or undercooked. So “props” to Monarch on that. The panko and thick flour batter didn’t stick well to the Calamari within, yet for what it’s worth, added a nice flavor and texture contrast to it. While the Mae Ploy Sweet Thai Chili Sauce works for Wonton-wrapped stuff, I don’t think it works quite as well with pank0-battered stuff, as was the case here. By far, Monarch’s AWESOME house creamy dressing (the yellow-greenish stuff) is THE ONE to dip the “Spicy Calamari” into.

Spice-wise, it wasn’t hot at all, as Mae Ploy Sweet Thai Chili Sauce is very mild by default (at least to my palate).

Summing it up, I give Monarch Seafood’s Spicy Calamari 3 SPAM Musubi. Which really is saying a lot for someone who isn’t particularly a Calamari fan. If you are, you definitely need to try this.

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Last but never least, we round up today’s “Grindz of the Day” with two of just about everyone’s FAVORITE foods: BACON and CHOCOLATE.

If you’re a Food Network and Travel Channel “Foodie Junkie” like I am, you probably already at least seen it. Yet so far on Oahu, it’s not that commonly found on restaurant menus. Yet recently I was at Eat Cafe, where I noticed they had it sort of “scribbled” on their chalkboard menu as kind of an afterthought. And I thought, “Hmmmmmmm, I wonder?”

Since I had two huge SLABS of Costo-issue sliced Maple flavored smoked bacon in my fridge, I immediately went online to find out how to make the stuff.

As advertised, it’s literally Chocolate-covered Bacon, no more, no less. With Valentine’s Day right behind us, we naturally had a surplus of chocolates hangin’ around – most notably a bunch of Dark Chocolate, as that’s my girlfriend’s favorite.

So I began my Chocolate-covered Bacon quest by first baking half a slab of thick-cut Maple flavored smoked bacon in the oven until it reached a slight “rubberyness”, and not to the point of being “crunchy-crispy”, as I personally don’t like my bacon (over) done that way.

Then I took about 1 cup’s worth of Giradelli brand dark chocolate squares and “nuked” it on low heat in the microwave until it melted. I was a little disappointed that it came out kinda’ clumpy, so I looked online what the base of chocolate is, and it said oil. So I turned around and “tempered” the chocolate by adding a pat of butter to thin it into a usable viscosity.

After the cooked bacon cooled to room temperature, I then proceeded to coat each slice on all surfaces with the butter-tempered dark Giradelli chocolate. Then I stuck it in the refrigerator to “set” the chocolate, where out it came a few hours later looking like this…

The lighting exposure in that shot makes it look like milk chocolate. Here’s another angle that’s more color-accurate…

I SO can’t wait to try this.

Here’s a macro cross-cut shot of one of these Dark Chocolate-covered Bacon slices…

How is it? CRAZY. TASTY indeed, yet simply NUTS. The combination of the sweet, deep and robust dark chocolate, along with the salty, smokey, savory goodness of the bacon WORKS, yet your brain is like “WTH is this?!!!”. That’s the best way I can describe it upon first bite.

Yet, after about the third bite, it becomes pretty addictive. Mainly out of denial that this actually does taste good. But it does! Genius.

If there’s anything I’d improve on, it would be to cook the bacon more crispy, as the congealed fat at the doneness I baked the bacon (ha ha) was a little strange on the palate. I also need to work on my chocolate tempering skills to get it where it’s like “candy”, whereas on this first take, it was kinda’ “messy”. But those are just “minah ‘kine stuffs” (nothing serious).

All I can say is if you like bacon and if you like chocolate, chances are pretty likely you’ll LOVE Chocolate-covered Bacon. I’m personally not a chocolate person, so I can’t really appreciate that element, yet I’ll vouch for the sweet, robust ‘n savory thing going on with this unique hybrid “invention”. 3 SPAM Musubi.

12 thoughts on “Grindz of the Day: Arirang, Monarch Seafoods & Chocolate-covered Bacon

  • March 22, 2011 at 9:13 am
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    My arteries ache as I type this, but I find it all kinds of awesome that you added BUTTER to the chocolate-covered bacon. YESSSS!

    Reply
  • March 22, 2011 at 12:05 pm
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    The most expensive per ounce and reportedly best single estate chocolate in the world is grown on Oahu’s North Shore at Waialua Estate. I’ve given gifts of this dark chocolate out to friends and watch them go into aphrodisiac bliss! http://www.waialuaestate.com/ Malie Kai brand chocolates are made from same chocolate: http://www.maliekai.com/ (Dole Plantation Store, Hilo Hattie’s main store)

    Green Mountain Chocolates makes awesome Chocolate Covered Potato Chips that you can’t stop eating! http://www.greenmountainchocolate.com/

    Reply
  • March 22, 2011 at 7:56 pm
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    ZOWIE …even my blood pressure hit up another notch reading this..

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  • March 22, 2011 at 8:09 pm
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    Born and raised here. But I will admit it. I love Mahimahi. Especially fresh although I have had wonderful plate lunches and tempura with frozen.
    I have a quiz. How many remember Coral Brand Ono, sold at Longs, Oahu? lol

    Reply
  • March 23, 2011 at 7:02 pm
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    I am new to jun and want to know what is the best kind to try first.

    I’ve heard of meat, oyster and now fish jun.

    What are your thoughts?

    Reply
  • March 24, 2011 at 5:31 am
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    Pomai. all this time I had been putting maple syrup on my bacon to eat now chocolate is the thing.

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  • March 24, 2011 at 7:14 am
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    Mm, well, I am Korean, and I grew up eating meat jeon (that’s the way I see it spelled most of the time). My grandma and mother prepare it often… so I think it’s more of a Korean dish.

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  • March 24, 2011 at 7:15 am
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    And I’m from LA, not Hawaii.

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  • March 28, 2011 at 8:29 pm
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    Julia, seriously, a Bacon Peanut Butter Cup? SOUNDS AWESOME! I SO NEED TO TRY THAT!

    I’ll try the shortcut route by taking an off-the-shelf Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup topped with a slice or two of bacon. Should work close enough to give an idea on the palate of what you did from scratch with the bacon all mixed into the peanut buttah filling.

    Reply
  • July 26, 2011 at 10:57 pm
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    add a light bit of peanut butter be better i think reeses with bacon OMG

    Reply

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