Kauai Grindz: Po’s Box Lunch, Breadsticks, Manju & Kulolo

Well hello there. How have you all been? Gosh, it’s been a while since my last post, so in case you forgot, my name is Pomai, and I run this blog site. Everything’s been pretty much fine since, I’ve just been really busy. On top of that, I went through a period of “writer’s block” and overall lack of “creative juice” if you will, which any of you who are familiar with, know exactly where I’m coming from.

Anyhow, let’s get right to it once again with an ohana (family) visit my girlfriend made recently to the lovely “Garden Isle” of Kauai. Where of course, like the other neighbor islands of Hawaii, has those “must eat” places, as well as unique snacks to bring back home as “omiyage” (gifts) for family and friends.

We begin in the “big city” of Lihue (because pretty much the rest of Kauai is very COUNTRY), at a hole-in-the-wall joint popular with the locals called Po’s Kitchen. This is where Mrs. Po serves up classic Okazuya fare in an even more classic way, which we’ll talk more about shortly. First, check out Po’s menu…

Kept short and simple, that’s pretty much it. Which are obviously EXCELLENT prices, especially considering this being on a neighbor island, where the cost of consumer goods are typically higher than Oahu.

As for how they serve ‘n pack da’ grindz, Po’s is as OLD SCHOOL as it gets! Check this out…

Cardboard lunchbox? Check. A pink-colored box like Libby Manapua would have been even more nostalgic, but this works.

Company stamp in red ink (commonly seen with Chinese takeout)? Check.

While on this subject, after you finish reading this, you might also wanna’ check out a past post here on The Tasty Island titled “Plate Lunch Presentation 101“.  Back to Po’s…

Square sheet of wax paper (“papah”) top liner to seal in the heat and absorb excess oil? Check.

Paper plate? Any plate? Um, where’s the plate? No moah (there is none)! No check. Now THIS my friends is as CLASSIC OLD SCHOOL as local-style box lunches get!

Who needs a plate? Ah’ come on.. too expensive! Plus, “Poho” (waste resources)! Load da’ grindz straight in da’ box, wrap ’em up, and DAS (THAT’s) IT!

Which was probably very common a few decades past or more ago here in Hawaii, but certainly not today.

Po’s Kitchen (Lihue, Kauai) – “Deluxe” Okazuya box lunch: (clockwise from top left) Shoyu Hot Dog, Teri’ Meat (Beef), Corned Beef Hash, Egg, Ham, Musubi (2), Shrimp Tempura (2), Fried Chicken (wings; 2), Tsukemono (cabbage), Salad (spaghetti “mac sal”) and Shoyu Long Rice. $7.95

Oh my-oh-my-oh-my, sometimes the simplest of “local ‘kine grindz” such as this are all that’s needed to hit da’ spot!

Remembering me asking about this particular place after seeing a plate of this stuff on my last visit to the Garden Isle, my girlfriend brought a couple plates from Po’s Kitchen back to Oahu on the the day of her flight home from Kauai so we could enjoy this for lunch together. And believe me, it was ONO.

Po’s Kitchen (Lihue, Kauai) – “Deluxe” Okazuya box lunch: (clockwise from top left) Shoyu Long Rice, Ham,, Corned Beef Hash, Teri’ Meat (Beef), Shoyu Hot Dog, Musubi (2), Shrimp Tempura (2), Fried Chicken (wings x2), Tsukemono (cabbage) and Salad (spaghetti “mac sal”). $7.95

Without going into details on each item, the sum of its parts in this “Deluxe” lunch box truly define what makes Okazuya-style box lunches GREAT. It’s all about simplicity, with everything seasoned right, cooked right, making a fantastic medley of meats ‘n starch FEAST. “Health Police” look the other way, onegaishimasu.

Ultimately, this is the kinda’ box lunch where, all you need add are them “negative ions” from the salty mist of the ocean as you sit on the sand enjoying your lunch, and at that very in moment in time, nothing in the world could taste better.

Actually, there was so much food in this box lunch, that I could only eat half in one sitting, having to rest a few hours before polishing it off… which I did. How’s them “savage” musubi? Da’ kine just shape ’em real quick and throw ’em in da’ box. Gotta’ love that. lol

5 SPAM Musubi for Po’s Kitchen “Deluxe” Okazuya lunch box. Quite literally a box of lunch, no more, no less. Lots of variety in flavors on one plate that’s cooked right, seasoned right and priced right. Perfect.

Next up, not far from Po’s Kitchen in Lihue, we head on over to Da Kine Foods, located adjacent to the popular Tip Top Cafe, to pick up some of Kauai’s “famous” Breadsticks…

Shown are the Cinnamon and Maui Onion flavors, while they also offer Sesame, Garlic and Chili Breadsticks as well. My girlfriend got the Cinnamon, Maui Onion and Garlic flavors.

Kauai Breadsticks are available at retailers all over Kauai. However, it must be noted, I’ve never seen it available at any retailer here on Oahu, so this really is something exclusive to the Garden Isle, similar as currently is Maui’s Kitch’n Cook’d Potato Chips, amongst many other “goodies” exclusive to the neighbor islands.

Kauai’s Cinnamon and Maui Onion Breadsticks

How’s it taste? Unfortunately these arrived shipped somewhat STALE, as we discovered far too late to rectify. However, I HAVE had them in prime condition a few times before and will still speak highly of them. When in prime condition, they’re quite buttery, super crispy and overall very tasty, making them a great snack by itself, or perhaps a nice accompaniment along with a salad (the garlic flavor) or a cup ‘o joe (the cinnamon flavor). After my girlfriend’s experience of buying a whole bunch of bags of somewhat stale breadsticks as Omiyage to bring back home, I’d recommend before leaving the shop or store, that you taste-check them (the bags are only sealed with twist-ties) to make sure they’re fresh before leaving to the airport (or wherever on Kauai you’re heading to).

Lawai Azuki Bean Manju from Menehune Food Mart, Kalaheo, Kauai

Moving along, we head out of the “big city” (ha ha!) of Lihue, on out west, past Koloa and into Kalaheo in the Lawai area over at Menehune Food Mart, a.k.a. “Lawai Store” for their AWESOME, and now famous MANJU!

Lawai Azuki Bean Manju from Menehune Food Mart, Kalaheo, Kauai

As I’ve already written in my recent Yelp review, “I’m not particularly a Manju, nor specifically an Azuki bean fan. However, there’s no doubt Lawai Azuki Bean Manju is THE BEST I’ve had yet in the state. Move over Home Maid on Maui, Lawai on Kauai is IN DA’ HOUSE!

A rich, golden, flaky crust that melts in your mouth, while the Azuki Bean filling has the perfect blend of smooth-yet-gritty texture, sweetness and overall “legume-like” flavor.

Lawai Azuki Bean Manju from Menehune Food Mart, Kalaheo, Kauai

If you’re looking for Omiyage (a food gift) to bring back home from Kauai, look no further than Lawai Manju from Menehune Food Mart. THIS is what everyone back home WILL WANT!”

True that. In fact, if space is limited (Hawaiian Air now charges $25 for extra luggage), skip all else and just fill all the extra space in your carry on with Lawai Manju from Kauai. Guaranz whoever you give it to will LOVE IT!

Finally for today’s “Kauai Grindz of the Day”, you can’t leave this island without having some of Kauai’s Kululo…

Fresh Kulolo from Menehune Food Mart, a.k.a. “Lawai Store”, Kalaheo, Kauai

The VERY FRESH Kululo here was also purchased at Menehune Food Mart, a.k.a. “Lawai Store”.

Fresh Kulolo from Menehune Food Mart, a.k.a. “Lawai Store”, Kalaheo, Kauai

Kulolo is made of steamed Hawaiian wetland taro (the same corm root used to make Poi) that’s mashed and mixed with coconut meat and/or milk and brown sugar, then wrapped in Ti Leaf and steam-roasted/baked in an imu or otherwise conventional oven. GOOD Kulolo should be very soft and glutenous, almost “mochi-like”, with a somewhat gritty texture from the taro corm, along with a deep, perhaps slightly smokey, robust, somewhat sweet caramel-like accent to it, but not TOO sweet. The Kulolo here from Lawai Store exemplified all those traits to the “T”, or err, the “K”.

As you know, Hanelei, Kauai is the largest producer of Hawaiian wetland taro in Hawaii, so it’s no surprise the best Kulolo, which is essentially the “dessert version of Poi” also comes from K-land.

Finally, before I sign off, check this out…

A rainbow-colored light formation off Kukui’ula Harbor, Kauai. Photo taken 10.01.11 @ approx. 2pm.

Notice that rainbow-colored light “formation” up in the clouds (click on photo to enlarge it). WHAT IS THAT?

I promise you, this is NOT a Photoshop job. It’s an actual unedited photo taken by my girlfriend on her iPhone (as well as other family members who also caught this on video and phone cameras) that suddenly appeared in the sky just as they had finished an ohana ceremonial send-off for her grandma who had recently passed away. This, having occured on Saturday, October 1, 2011 @ approximately 2pm off-shore of Kukui’ula Harbor Beach Park on the west side of Kauai, where her grandma grew up.

Appearing like some sort of aurora, if I were to give any logical/scientific explanation, I’d say it was refracted sun light from rainfall that created this sort of preformed rainbow-like anomaly between the higher and lower level cloud layers . I tried “Google-foo’ing” if anyone has seen this before on Kauai or anywhere else, but not knowing specifically which keyword to use, couldn’t find an answer.

Still, imagine you just got done sending off a loved one who passed away, along with all your family at the beach, and then right after you’ve all said your goodbyes and cries, this shows up in the sky? Is this grandma’s way of saying she’s in a beautiful place? A spiritual message that’s become visual to all her loved ones (and now you) that all is well? I don’t know about you, but when I seen that photo and heard the circumstance, it gave me “chicken skin”, and still does everytime I look at that photograph.

Logical/scientific explanations of what this is aside, because of the irony of the timing that this unusual formation appeared, it strikes as something deeper than that. Everyone there at Kukui’ula sending Grandma off to a better place felt it was a very spiritual moment. And we can certainly see why, right there in the sky.

More information:
Po’s Kitchen – Yelp
Menehune Food Mart  – Yelp
Da Kine Foods Inc. – KauaiMade.net
Kukui’ula Harbor – HawaiiWeb.com


Kauai Grindz: Po’s Box Lunch, Breadsticks, Manju & Kulolo — 27 Comments

  1. Aloha Pomai! I’ve been checking out your blog for a few weeks now and I must say you make me HUNGRY!! HAHAHA! glad the creative juices are flowing again.. btw that Kulolo Looked Supah ono!! keep on with your great blog… and I think the unusual rainbow was a fitting tribute after a loved one’s passing..

  2. Mahalo everyone for the warm welcoming back. :-)

    sd, that’s it! That question sure was answered and solved quickly! Thanks! So it’s a “Sundog”. What an odd name.

    I’ve certainly never seen anything like that here on Oahu, nor anywhere else in my lifetime for that matter. I noticed while site seeing at Waimea Canyon on Kauai (a MUST-PLACE to visit!), that you can easily see condensation trails from passing jetliners up in the sky. This “Sundog”, along with the visible aircraft contrails must have something to do with the unique atmospheric conditions over this part of the island chain.

    Here’s another pic of a Sundog taken over North Idaho I found on the web that looks similar to the one they saw over Kauai…

  3. Brah! You took so long to write that post! Just kidding (*actually not kidding — i come to your site daily –it’s bookmarked, to get my HI food kick delivered to me here in Portland, OR) The kulolo looked REAL fresh without any graying. Foodland used to have kulolo flown in from K-land and maybe they still do. When I did live in the 808 I only bought kulolo once a year at the Kamehameha Ho’olaule’a.

    Anyway, mahalo for the update. I know all about writer’s block, but if you show up at your keyboard and start writing the muses will reward you. Don’t worry about how good your post is–we’ll eat it up!

  4. Pomai, after seeing that kulolo my family have go out and get some. Only place I know is Young Fish Market. The breadsticks can it be purchase in Honolulu?

  5. Welcome back!!!! I have also checked your website daily, hoping to see a new post and today was that day. Your insight into Hawaiian food culture is unparalleled and I had this crazy thought that you were under some sort of ‘gag order’ as you were negotiating with some big network over your upcoming food show. I can only dream……….

    I can understand writers block as well but I mirror Kekoa’s sentiment- jus’ serve em up. It will be good… garanz.

  6. Hey, Pomai! Your “break” came at the end of my Labor Day trip, so I had nothing to help with my Oahu withdrawal pains (except Hawaii Five-0!).

    Glad to see you back!

  7. Those breadsticks bring back memories…they were super popular locally about 10 years ago. But I believe they were mail ordered and sold at a craft fair back then. I thought they went out of business.

    btw I KNEW I had seen that “Eagle Noodle Factory” label …and sure enough I found where I had seen them…they sell their mundoo wrappers at the local korean markets. Just got some the other day. Mystery solved. It was good stuff.

  8. HI Pomai, Welcome Back! Kaua’i is one of my favorite islands:-) Enjoyed reading what you had to say! Such a touching story about your girlfriend’s grandma. . . By the way, what was captured in the photo is an example of cloud iridescence.

  9. I took Po the link to the review. She looked at me very nervously and asked if it was bad. I said the review was very good. She said ” thank you. thank you.” For Po, who is very stoic, that is like jumping up and down. lol

  10. Welcome back Pomai. Now in a few weeks, you will have a new post to report when we go to the big city in the mainland. Lots of restaurants and new taste.
    Aloha and keep up the good writing and tasting. PS, Kauai is the only place for good ole box lunch, back in the 70’s was great even better.

  11. Aloha, Pomai! Welcome back to the blog-o-sphere! That is one ono-licious looking box lunch and the manju looks like the perfect thing to go with a hot cup of milky coffee for a spot-on-good breakfast. :D

  12. Welcome back Pomai! So great that you got your juices flowing and started with my favorite island! Love Kauai!!!! Thanks for the info on Po’s, it looks great!!!!! Did you see Hawaii Magazine this month? It’s all about eating on the islands and there’s a fun Food Truck section too. You should write for them!!!

  13. Nice to see a new post from you — the waiting was worth it, this was a good one! Now I want to go eat okazuya plate AND hunt down some kulolo. That grandma photo was pretty darn awesome too. Chicken skin indeed.

  14. I’ve been checking in on your blogs for a few years now off and on. I’ve always enjoyed them. I was very moved by the beautiful and meaningful picture of your rainbow aurora. Thanks for sharing a beautiful and inspiring event.

  15. J and Spotty, glad to hear grandma Dora’s “Sundog over Kukui’ula” photo moved you. Inspiring, indeed.

    Paki, haven’t seen the latest Hawaii Magazine issue, but I’ll be sure to look out for it. Thanks for the tip!

    Midge, “milky” coffee is exactly how I like it. “Choke” da’ cream!

    Maui Ohana, my camera and notepad’s fired-up ‘n ready for the vacay! Gonna’ be a fun one!

    Syndrax, mahalo for that!

    More replies to you folks coming soon. Gotta’ run. :-)

  16. Welcome back, Pomai…I used to mail order the breadsticks to Oregon a while back, but at some point they stopped shipping to the mainland. I love their breadsticks and miss the garlic ones. The kulolo and manju look SO yummy…and the box lunch, oy! I wish we had that kind here.

  17. ah wow….if i could only reach out and eat that plate lunch…..haha lol @the ‘savage’ musubi–:D nice pics & excellent writing as always bruddah–way cool pic too of the sundog too! :)

  18. Pomai, thank you for the Kauai post! I’m truly missing it now hahha! I haven’t been back there in a while, but I made my fam run around to Lawai Market, Puka dog, Jojo’s shave ice, Hamura’s, pick up breadsticks..and more lol, the last time I visited my gramma’s house. Reading about your gf’s gramma made me all teary eyed.. even if it IS explainable I think it was a spiritual thing too! Po’s is on my list for next time! YUMZ!

  19. I miss my Kauai ; ), used to always go to Po’s for lunch cuz I worked in Lihue! in Florida, so junk no moa stuff ova hea like that .

  20. Pingback: Pos Kitchen

  21. Hey Pomai, thanks very much for this post. I would never have known what kulolo is, let alone try it. Picked some up from Pono Market in Kapaa recently. Kulolo is some tasty stuff, but a little goes a long way!

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