Upon recently making my usual after-work, stress-relief trek through the Kaheka Don Quijote (a.k.a. “Holiday Mart”, a.k.a. “Daiei”… because some of us old-timers like me still call it that!), I happened to come across an in-store flyer advertising a sale on Ono Ono™ brand Pork Pasteles.
Now they’re mass-producing Pasteles for retail? THIS I gotta’ try!!!
As you Kama’aina folks are probably familiar with finding in the meat, produce, deli/poke and/or freezer section of your favorite local grocery store., along with competitor Keoki, Ono Ono™ (d.b.a. Hawaii Food Products, Inc) is the same brand stamped on the label of packaged fresh-frozen Luau grindz such as Laulau, Kalua Pig, Pipikaula and Lomi Salmon.
Now add Pasteles (pronounced “Pah-teh-leh”; “S” is silent) to that.
I’ve certainly had my share of this Puerto Rican signature favorite in my lifetime. Being it from a friend’s Puerto Rican grandma’s loving hands, laborously grating the green banana by hand herself, then seasoning and cooking her AMAZING home-cooked Pastele to PERFECTION. To fundraisers, to established, well respected places such as The Pastele Shop in Kalihi and Jackie’s Diner in Waimalu.
So, can Ono Ono™ brand’s mass-produced-for-retail Pasteles really live up to the aforementioned “Pasteles legends” you and I may be more familiar with? Let’s find out!
Here’s one of two Pasteles included in each 12.5 oz. net weight vacuum-sealed FROZEN package…
Each one measures 8″ in length X 2″ width X 3/4″ thick net size with foil wrapper on.
As instructed, I opted for best results in heating it up by “boiling” the Pasteles. Albeit, keeping the water level at braising level (about 1/3 up from the bottom) so that it as much steams as boils, in an effort to retain as much flavor as possible….
After about 15 minutes subject to rapid boil and steam in the pan, then several minutes to let it stand, voila (oh, wait, that’s Italian lol)…
I was actually quite surprised to discover that, not only was it wrapped in a leaf under the foil, but a TI LEAF… and a full one at that!
This of course being the “Hawaiian twist” to Pasteles, whereas they’re usually wrapped in a Banana leaf.
Unwrapping the Ti Leaf and tin foil reveals the pipin’ hot, fully-cooked, ready-fo’-grind Pork Pasteles within…
Oooooooohhhhh. Ahhhhhhhhhh. Of course, like Laulau — or any other foods for that matter, that are wrapped-up and steamed — the final result, as you see here, doesn’t exactly LOOK appetizing. However, believe me, it is VERY APPETIZING in taste!
Or is it? Let’s dig right in and try it…
The verdict? Hmmm. Not bad. As it turns out, Ono Ono’s Pasteles, believe it or not, LOOKS more authentic than it tastes.
Both Diner A and myself agree that it’s lacking a key seasoning component, whether it be garlic, annato/achiote or whatevah it may be. But it just doesn’t have that genuine flavor of at least what we’re familiar with. I also want more olives, as I personally LOVE the salty, robust flavor olive imparts with the masa and pork pastele mixture.
As for the green banana “masa” (that mushy stuff that the ground pork is mixed with and wrapped in) it’s a bit, well, mushy and also tasted like it had been frozen for too long. How long this has really been sitting in the freezer from time of production to table, I can’t say.
The Pastele Shop also uses Ti Leaf to wrap their Pastele, which like it does with Laulau and Kalua Pig, imparts a distinctive flavor profile that I think has much more depth and earthy character than the more traditional banana leaf. However in this case, the steamed[out Ti Leaf wrapper somewhat overpowers the flavor profile of the grated green banana masa and pork core, mainly due to the lack of seasoning.
Those sticking points aside, both Diner A and myself agree that, while not great, Ono Ono’s Pasteles certainly ain’t bad, and worthy of at least a halfway decent representation of this Puerto Rican classic, while also making note that, if purchased on sale, is within a good market valued price point.
Overall, 1 SPAM Musubi (average) for Ono Ono™ Pasteles. Not bad. Not great.
Oh, I also made Gandules Rice to go along with this store-bought Pasteles, which I’ll post a recipe and step-by-step how-to photos in the near future.
If interested in try it, Ono Ono™ brand Pasteles is currently available at Don Quijote @ $5.69 per 12.5 oz. vacuum-packed 2-pack sale price, with the regular price being $7.69. Not sure about availability and price at other retailers.