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Grindz of the Day: Royal Kitchen Dim Sum, Fried Tofu, Naniwa-Ya Ramen & Sunnyside Banana Pie

It’s that time again folks, where I take the opportunity to share bits and pieces of ono kine grindz from various places over about a month’s time span, all within one convenient glance.

Well, not really at a glance, as I think I suffer from “OCD” (obsessive-compulsive disorder) of the bloggers kind, as you’ll soon see by the ridiculously redundant amount of photos on essentially the same subject. I know I’m the type of blogger that absolutely PI$$ES Anthony Bourdain off, which makes it all the better! Ha!

First up, we have some ono kine dim sum grindz from Royal Kitchen, which Diner E was so kind and generous to share with us as his token of giving and Aloha this past holiday season…

Royal Kitchen – Baked Manapua (the original!)

Royal Kitchen – Pork Hash and Half Moon

Royal Kitchen – Look Funn

Look Funn not fun enough? Then how’s about some Chow Funn…

Royal Kitchen – Chow Fun

Royal Kitchen – Rice Cake and Ma Tai Su (Chop Suey Cake)

Zongzi, a.k.a. Joong (Cantonese)

Time for some “OCD” close-ups (eat that, Bourdain!)…

Royal Kitchen – Baked Manapua, Pork Hash, Half Moon and Look Fun Dim Sum (with hot mustard and shoyu sauce)

Royal Kitchen –   Baked Charsiu Manapua, Baked Chicken Curry Manapua, Pork Hash, Look Fun and Chow Fun. How fun!

Royal Kitchen – Ma Tai Su (Chop Suey Cake)

Ma Tai Su cutaway view, which think “Chinese Manju”, albeit much bigger and more savory…

The Ma Tai Su’s crust is doughy on the inside, and delicately flaky on the surface…

The filling is somewhat nondescript, being meaty, yet without any distinctive flavoring component, att least in Royal Kitchen’s take on it. Dip it in the Chinese (Coleman’s lol) mustard and shoyu sauce, and it’s all good. That really is what makes ALL dim sum good!

Royal Kitchen – Charsiu Pork Baked Manapua

According to their website, Royal Kitchen was the first Chinese shop in Honolulu to offer baked manapua, and I must say, theirs is EXCELLENT. The bun has a fantastic pillowy texture, and the charsiu pork filling is both plentiful and true to what it should taste like, which is indeed very tasty. EXCELLENT baked Manapua from the originators at Royal Kitchen!

I wasn’t nearly as fond about their Baked Chicken Curry Manapua…

Royal Kitchen – Curry Chicken Baked Manapua

As you see, it’s totally lacking filling, and whatever filling there was, was bland. And sorry, chicken just can’t stack-up to the superior flavor of pork, especially when it’s marinaded in the bold flavor of charsiu. Next.

Royal Kitchen – Rice Cake

All I can say about their Rice Cake is only that it doesn’t get better than this folks. PERFECT super soft, open-pored ‘n glutenous texture, PERFECT level of sweetness and screaming RICE in its flavor profile. Just PERFECT. I guess I had more to say about it.

Now let’s take apart and dissect that Joong….

Royal Kitchen – Joong (a.k.a. Zongzi)

According to Wikipedia, Zongzi‘s cultural tradition goes like this, “Zongzi are traditionally eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival (Mandarin: Duānwǔ; Cantonese: Tuen Ng), which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar (approximately late-May to mid-June), commemorating the death of Qu Yuan, a famous Chinese poet from the kingdom of Chu who lived during the Warring States period.”

However, you can find Joong year-round in Chinatown and select neighborhood Dim Sum shops.

We were disappointed that Royal Kitchen’s take on Joong didn’t have Lup Cheong and/or Duck Egg in it, which is what can be found from this “other shop” in Chinatown (we forget which one!). With that, this Joong was quite bland, even with the Azuki Beans and piece of roast pork in it; the latter of which at least gave the rice a slightly meaty flavor, yet it was very subtle. The rice was certainly sticky, which personally, isn’t my thing. I LOVE Natto, but not sticky rice.

Notice this Joong is wrapped in a Ti Leaf, which certainly gave it a unique almost Laulau-like flavor to the rice, but that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. I give Royal Kitchen’s Joong 1 SPAM Musubi. I’ve had better.

Other than that, the Dim Sum from Royal Kitchen hit da’ spot! 4 SPAM Musubi! Big mahalos to braddah Diner E for sharing da’ Mele Kalikimaka ‘kine Aloha spirit. You da’ man!

Next up, also from Diner “Saimin Kaukau” E, a.k.a. “Uncle Aloha”, we have these here very interesting FRIED TOFU from, of all places, directly from Vietnam, care of one of his relatives who traveled from there recently….

Vietnamese Fried Tofu

And? Well, they’re super fluffy, light and crispy, with a texture similar to Cheetos. Flavor-wise, they taste kinda’ like Chicharon (pork cracklings), I kid you not! And this is totally meatless tofu.

Then again, they may not really be totally meatless, as I’m guessing they get their Chicharon flavor from being cooked in pure pig’s lard. It’s GOTTA’ be. What I don know is it’s FREEKIN’ ONO! And I’m not one who cares for Chicharon, but man, these Fried Tofu Chicharon imposters ROCK! 5 SPAM Musubi.

Next up, we’re at Ala Moana Center’s Food Court for some “authentic” Japanese Ramen from Naniwa-Ya Ramen. Or so we hope so!…

The customer personal garnishment station…

Garlic chips? In Ramen? Seriously? Whatevahz…

My Shoyu Ramen…

Naniwa-Ya Shoyu Ramen

Hai, itadakimasu!…

And? Oishii. Very good. Different. But good. Can’t touch Goma Tei, but not bad at all for a food court ramen shop, especially considering it’s served out of an admittedly inferior styrofoam takeout bowl, which surely must have at least some adverse effect on the broth’s flavor.

Then again, NO ramen can touch the Shoyu Ramen from that little shop in Tokyo’s Ginza district. DA’ BEST, and by which all others must compare to and be judged by. That’s where I stand on that, and you ain’t shaking me on it.

Let’s put it this way and call that benchmark ramen shop in Tokyo “The little Ginza Ramen Ramen Shop” (because we can’t remember its name, darned it!). On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the closest on where “authentic” Japanese Ramen in Hawaii stands compared to “The Little Ginza Ramen Shop”, Goma Tei is at around 7, as is Ramen Nakamura in Waikiki. Naniwa-Ya Ramen in Ala Moana Food Court is at about 5.5, which ain’t bad, actually, all things considered. Nissin Cup-O-Noodle is at around -10. lol

The Chashu was certainly tender and very tasty, and rather generous, considering this is their basic Shoyu Ramen, and not the “fully loaded” Chashu Ramen. The noodles definitely tasted like Sun, which is always a good thing.

Best of all, they put Menma (marinated bamboo shoots) in their Ramen, which always earns my respect. No menma, no go. Sorry. So kudos to Naniwa-Ya for paying attention to this all-important detail!

I’m not a big fan of the fried garlic chips in ramen, as that’s akin to also putting tomatoes and corn in there, totally “Un-Japanesing” it”. Stick with the tradition and make it good. Let the broth speak the loudest. Not the toppings.

Other than that, for what its worth, Naniwa-Ya’s Shoyu Ramen is at the least, acceptably authentic (5.5 on the scale) and decent. At best, a great value that’s well executed, with most of the details on the checklist checked. 2 SPAM Musubi.

We wrap up today’s “Grindz of the Day” with a Banana Pie from Sunnyside Bakery in Wahiawa…

And? Well, I’ve had more than my share of Sunnyside’s Blueberry, Chocolate Creme and Apple Pie in the past, to which the Blueberry has always been my favorite. However, this is the first trying their Banana Pie, where I must note, the Banana sans the “creme” part doesn’t work.

Whatever the type of custard or “vessel” is that the fresh-sliced bananas are carried in, isn’t moist, creamy or sweet enough, so it tastes essentially like eating peeled and cut ripe bananas that just so happens to have a crust around it. I mean it ain’t bad, but I think some creamy element would really kick it up and round it out better. Perhaps a drizzle of some flambéed Brandy, butter and brown sugar caramel sauce, ala Bananas Foster, over the slice would do the trick. Hey now!

Still, Sunnyside’s pie crust is a winner, so that thankfully catches up some of the slack. Summing it up, I’ll give Sunnyside’s Banana Pie 2 SPAM Musubi by a thin margin. Big Mahalo to Diner C for sharing it with us!

P.S. Check out this unusual, very low vertical rainbow I was able to capture last weekend in Manoa Valley…

Then another day, this one showed up…

Go bows! Err, Warriors! lol

Finally, according to the driver, this is the only cab in the state proudly sporting its name as ‘Hawaii Five-O’…

This ‘Hawaii Five-O’ themed cab driver/owner said, every time new passengers get in the car, he plays the Hawaii Five-O theme song for the “full experience”. Too funny!


13 thoughts on “Grindz of the Day: Royal Kitchen Dim Sum, Fried Tofu, Naniwa-Ya Ramen & Sunnyside Banana Pie

  • January 16, 2012 at 2:50 am

    Pomai, the look fun you is really called cheng fun. Cheng in Chinese mean long. That what it is long fun. Mai tai soo look good but most Chinese people would get it from Char Heng Suet for they been selling long before Royal Kitchen came around. That joong is not so good from Royal Kitchen it indeed should have salty egg and lup cheong in it .

    • January 16, 2012 at 9:26 pm

      Amy, after your comment, I called Royal Kitchen this morning to verify the name, and the lady working there said it is called Look Fun. But she said something over the phone (in a HEAVY Chinese accent) that it’s called “Look Fun Lo” or “Look Fun Lau”. There was an interesting commentary discussion over the subject of Cheong Funn vs. Long Funn at Reid’s ‘Ono Kine Grindz blog here in his coverage of Yin Leong Look Funn Factory.

      • January 17, 2012 at 4:33 am

        Pomai, the word looks in Chinese is blanch or boil and funn is noodle sheets. My late grandmother and her friends always called it cheng funn and the plain white one slice up looks funn to be use in noodle soup. To be honest people do called it whatever they want to call it.

        In teahouse it called cheng funn. Chee cheng funn is the plain white rice sheets nothing on it use stir fried or soup dishes.
        Another funny thing in life Chinese people sometime rather not be bother to say it right way just to say time also.

        The Ono Kinde web is right and wrong on Look Funn but it all depend on the person who buying it too use in dishes.

        • January 17, 2012 at 5:48 am

          The word Look in Chinese is blanch or poach and boil. So Look Funn is Boil Noodle

      • January 17, 2012 at 5:45 am

        Pomai, in regarding the subject of Look Funn my mother who is Chinese said there no right or wrong way of calling it. People in stores and shops called by many names still. The counter workers will still know what you want. I called it cheong funn for that what is look like (long rice sheet roll) . In San Francisco dim sums shops called cheong funn too. If you called look funn they will correct you on it.

  • January 16, 2012 at 7:40 am

    Hi Pomai! I found it interesting there were azuki beans in a savory zongzi. Typically azuki beans are used in sweet versions. Too bad that one didn’t have the sausage or duck yolk, which are so good in the savory ones.

    • January 16, 2012 at 9:33 pm

      Carol, I found the Azuki beans a redundant “starch” if you will, when mixed in with the sticky rice, as they were just, well, too legume-like, not having any significant contrast.

      Now if it were the more bold, savory and salty black beans, that probably would have been a better match. Perhaps add some Fried Dace in there, and POW!

  • January 17, 2012 at 11:59 am

    Pomai, have you done a entry on Tamashiro Market on Kaliha? They serve also plates lunches too and of course lot pokes. Which got me to think is white crab poke safe to eat? I see it every where but not sure in buying some to try.

  • January 17, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Ordering- Doz baked manapua, doz pork hash and doz rice cake.
    Thank You very much.

  • June 22, 2013 at 2:22 am

    Pomai, Ma Tai Soo is really radish cake and recipe started out with radish dried shrimp and green onion in it but most places added char siu also. It called Mrs Ma flakey pastry in Chinese or Water Chestnut pastry but there no water chestnut in it so strange.

    • June 22, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      Kelike, to be honest, just like Japanese desserts such as Mochi and Manju, to this day I’ve never been a big fan of Chinese desserts. I mean, I if they’re good, I’ll whack it, but it’s not something I’d choose if given other options. Mainly because they’re often too rice ‘n bean based, and overly glutenous. I like “puff” in my pastries, which is more of European thing.

      That said, EXCEPT! Except the FANTASTIC Crispy Egg Cream Buns from Fook Lam, in the Chinese Cultural Plaza, across the river from that Hawaii Unites States of America credit union place. OMG, AMAZING!


  • September 24, 2016 at 11:33 am

    A friend just brought over a box of Royal Kitchen Baked char Siu Manapua. Light, meaty, excellent.


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