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The Never Ending Story of Mr. Koko: Chapter 3

The decoding of Mr. Koko via ono ‘kine grindz

Continued from Chapter 2

‘Naks rejoiced, “Koko, that’s a great starter list! However, I thought the island of Niihau and Kahoolawe were off limits to the general public. How did you hear of those places?” To which Koko replied somewhat defensively, “On the internet. And everything you read on the internet is true. Just like the French “bonjour” male model that gal met online from that insurance commercial.

I even met the Geico Gecko once in Waikiki at Kelley O’Neils when he was here for an insurance convention. Cool chap. Talks just like he does in the commercial. The bloke is a total “Chick Magnet”. I asked if it was his charming British accent, and he told me that helps, but what really gets them is his tail. I quickly changed the subject after that. LOL!

Seriously though, you gotta’ try the Pulehu TNT-Bone at Missile Hill Steak House on Kahoolawe. The bomb, no pun intended. ‘Naks, gotta’ run, literally. Hitting the beach for my daily run ‘n swim. Catch you later.”

After exercising, Koko dropped by the nearby 7-Eleven for his usual cool down via their sugar-free 50% less calories Slurpee, when while there, tummy growling, he decided to try one of their new Maru Maru Musubi, this first time opting for the Salmon Wakame Musubi…

7-Eleven Hawaii’s new Salmon Wakame Maru Maru Musubi. $1.29 each.

7-Eleven Hawaii’s new Salmon Wakame Maru Maru Musubi.

7-Eleven Hawaii’s new Salmon Wakame Maru Maru Musubi.

7-Eleven Hawaii’s new Salmon Wakame Maru Maru Musubi.

“Don’t you think that’s enough pictures? Let me eat the damned thing already!” Koko snapped at Pomai, the narrator of this story. lol

7-Eleven Hawaii’s new Salmon Wakame Maru Maru Musubi

“Meh. Not as good as I thought it’d be. Then again, Iyasume and Manabu’s have set the bar really high, and it’s tough to beat them. Especially for their superior rice quality. In comparison, the rice in this Maru Maru Musubi tastes “stiff”.” Mr. Koko thought out loud.

Which isn’t surprising, being that these are made in advance at a central location and delivered island-wide to all 7-Eleven stores. Just like everything else in their hot and refrigerated deli case. Come to find out, they’re kept in the refrigerated deli case, and the store clerks microwave them and keep them in the warmer as needed for restocking throughout the day. Ouch.

You just can’t beat the made-to-order, perfectly salt-seasoned Musubi at Iyasume, and fresh made Musubi at Manabu’s. Mr. Koko also noted that the salmon in this Maru Maru Musubi tasted a little “fishy”, indicating the salmon was probably near the end of its shelf date. Not so much that it tasted spoiled, but certainly not sushi restaurant fresh. Thankfully the Wakame flavor sort of offset that. Of course, what can you expect for just $1.29.

Summing it up, Mr. Koko gave 7-Eleven’s Maru Maru Salmon Wakame Musubi 1 Ume Musubi. The narrator of this story will try the rest and blog them later in a “Great Musubi Shootout”, pitting them against Iyasume, Manabu’s, Shirokiya, and wherever else he can think of. That should be fun! Surely very filling as well.

7-Eleven Hawaii SPAM Musubi, winner of the Star Advertiser’s “Hawaii’s Best” Award EVERY YEAR.

Mr. Koko also thought it was ironic that the Maru Maru Musubi rice didn’t quite cut it, as the rice in 7-Eleven’s ever popular SPAM Musubi has excellent texture, being very moist and sticky, not stiff at all. They must be from different vendors.

Speaking of SPAM, the last place you think would celebrate this canned meat local favorite is Safeway, where even here in Hawaii, they tend to merchandise products geared for the “western mindset”. But low and behold, Safeway Kapahulu had this floor stack of SPAM on sale, making it yet another “Only in Hawaii” thing lol…

Hormel SPAM Club Price at Safeway Kapahulu

As another in situ irony, filling the background of that photo of the glorious SPAM, is the health conscious produce department. At least it’s the 25% less sodium version. lol

Later that evening, Mr. Koko attended a little get together at Agent T’nJ’s house, where they were doing the cookin’. Starting things off was some Ahi Poke…

Agent T’nJ’s Shoyu Ahi Poke

That went perfect with Koko’s favorite liquid relaxation, Blue Moon with an Orange wedge. Following that, some Stuffed Mussels landed on the pupu table…

Agent T’nJ’s Stuffed Mussels with homemade Marinara and Mozzarella

Those Stuffed Mussels were made by topping them with homemade marinara sauce and smothered with shredded mozzarella, then baked ‘n broiled until pipin’ hot ‘n gooey. And oh did Koko enjoy those; so much so that he ate about 4 of them. Interestingly, he never cared for Mussels before, preferring clams, however the marinara and cheese did a good job of taming that “Mussel-ee” flavor, making them in fact, taste more like clams. “So simple, yet so ono!” Koko exclaimed. Super sweet,tender ‘n juicy as well, not being rubbery at all. Excellent.

Not stopping there, putting the “turf” in this “surf” fest, some sliced steak landed on the pupu table…

Agent T’nJ’s Pupu Steak Platter

Yeah, that may be “just” your ordinary pan-fried sirloin steak, seasoned simply with salt ‘n pepper and sliced-up pupu style. HOWEVER, what sets this apart from your “ordinary” pan-fried steak is the SAUCE it was served with!…

Agent T’nJ’s “Special” Steak Sauce

All the sauce is, is Shoyu and Vinegar mixed at about a 3:2 ratio (more Shoyu), then for the “Kick”, lots of minced Hawaiian Chili Pepper. That’s it. Again, so simple, yet, when the beefy steak hits it and absorbs that acidic-meets-robust-meets-spicy goodness of the sauce, oh man is it so ono! Next time you cook a steak, try making that simple Shoyu-Vinegar-Hawaiian Chili Pepper (or whatever HOT pepper you can get) dipping sauce. Make sure you cut the steak into thin bite-size pieces so it can really absorb the thin, yet flavor-packed sauce. Winner!

Speaking of peppers, next to land on the pupu table were these bacon-wrapped cream-cheese stuffed Jalapeno peppers…

Agent T’nJ’s Bacon-wrapped Cream Cheese-stuffed Jalapenos

“Oh. My. Gawd! Lawd have Mercy-ah! Say Amen, Hallelujah my brothah & sistah-ah! I say to you my brothah & sistah, say Hallelujah-ah! Amen to Bacon my Fatha’ah! I said give me an Amen to Bacon my Fatha’-ah!” Koko began preaching out loudly, seeming possessed by the Holy Spirit himself as he circled the dinner table, taking a bite of these scrumptious pepper masterpieces between each praise.

Seriously though. Bacon? Cream Cheese? Chili Peppers? Do the math and you can figure out this thing is gonna’ be slammah jammah TASTY. The crispy, fatty, smokey, porky bacon totally absorbed into the cream cheese, so every bite literally EXPLODES in your mouth with flavor. Then you get the green spicy hot kick from the Jalapeno and POW! Mama gonna’ knock you out, suckah! So, so ONO!

We need one more angle of these masterpieces…

Agent T’nJ’s Bacon-wrapped Cream Cheese-stuffed Jalapenos

Frickin’ so good, you GOTTA’ make these pupu for your next party. Guaranz wipe out. Guaranz! Any of what you just seen are GREAT pupu platter ideas. Super easy to make, fairly reasonable in cost, and most importantly super-duper ONO!

That was just the pupus. Next comes the main course, starting with some local style beef stew…

Bowl that over some rice, but of course!…

Notice the portion is small, as Mr. Koko was already getting full from the awesome pupu spread, plus there’s still more to come! And how was it? EXCELLENT. Mr. Koko was honestly skeptical at first, being that this stew was on the really thin side, so he was concerned it would taste more like beef soup. But you know what? It turned out really ono, and on-point! Super fork tender morsels of beef that were buttery soft, while the stew stock flavor hit it right on the nail, being seasoned  perfectly, while having just the right level of “tomatoeyness”. The veggies were also cooked perfectly, not being too soggy or firm. Perfectly al dente. Even though the stew “gravy” was much thinner than Koko is used to with his own recipe, it totally worked! All that was missing was a bowl of poi on the side, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers.

Not stopping there, Pesto Shrimp anyone?…

Agent T’nJ’s Pesto Shrimp

Plate ‘er up with some simple sauteed veggies, cold tossed salad, rice and dig in…

Agent T’nJ’s Pesto Shrimp Dinner, with a side of tossed salad, sauteed veggies and rice

Again, yet another one of them “Only in Hawaii” moments. Why’s that? Rice. Rice instead of Pasta, regardless of the notion that PESTO is the sauce. LOL!!!!

And how was it? Koko again gave it 2 big thumbs-up of approval. The pesto was spot-on, with the only thing missing is Pine Nuts. But man, have you seen how much Pine Nuts have gone up in price? That big bag at Costco used to be like $12, where now it’s something crazy, like over $20. Macadamia Nuts are a great substitute in Pesto. Works like a charm. Anyhow, this Pesto had every ingredient except nuts, which actually gave it a more velvety texture. “Kinda’ nice!” Koko thought. The shrimp was also cooked perfectly, not being raw or rubbery at all. Sweet ‘n juicy. The sauteed veggies were cooked simply with EVOO, Garlic Salt and pepper until al dente. Delicious.

Food always taste better when someone else does the cooking!

Mr. Koko sends out a huge, huge mahalo and hugs to Agent T&J for the good time, onolicious paina pupus and wonderful dinner meal. 10 SPAM Musubi!

The next day back at K-Team Headquarters, it was time for lunch, where Agent JG brought Koko a Spring Roll with Peanut Sauce from Down to Earth…

Veggie Spring Roll with Peanut Sauce from Down to Earth on King Street

As you can see, it’s all veggies, and all GOOD! That velvety-smooth and tasty Peanut Sauce gave it the “oomph” it needed, being that there was no meat in it. The avocado also gave it a faux “meatyness”, while the Bean Sprouts also added an interesting texture element along with the thin rice noodles. Overall, the combination of super fresh ingredients and delicious Peanut Sauce gave this veggie Summer Roll from Whole Foods a solid 5 Ume Musubi from Mr. Koko.

Just as he took the last bite of his delicious veggie Spring Roll, Ms. Miyage excitedly entered his office announcing…


9 thoughts on “The Never Ending Story of Mr. Koko: Chapter 3

  • February 25, 2013 at 7:04 am

    Well, it is beef stew weather and that is what we had last night. Sauteed chicken livers,shitaki,sun dried tomatoes in a balsamic reduction for pupu. Those mussels and jalapenos would have been well received.

    • February 25, 2013 at 11:20 am

      Mmm-mm-mm, Chicken Livers. Yum. NOT. Gotta’ say though, the complimentary Chicken Liver Pate & Popovers at BLT Steak in Trump Tower is pretty tasty. Otherwise, I’ll pass on liver of any kind. Ick.

      Pat, I made a list of “must do” places to eat around Hawaii in comments in Chapter 2 of this series (see link at top), with only limited choices for Kauai. As a “Kauaiian” yourself, where would you recommend as THE “must-do” places to eat on Kauai for the visiting foodie? Especially the “insider” places where the locals go. Best Kauai bakeries, restaurants, open markets, etc..

  • February 25, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Well for plate lunch I like Waipouli Deli and Restaurant in Kapaa best, next to food land it has a all menu available all day. closed monday. Also Keokis in the Lihue Industrial Park, Phase 2. No seating. Also Mark’s Place, Puhi Industrial Park, outside seating only. For oxtail soup, you cannot beat Tip Top Cafe, Lihue, which also has an old fashioned plain style saimin. Tip Top is an absolute must for oxtail.It has been degreased and is quite healthy. It also invented the macadamia nut pancake. And yes, you can Oxtail for breakfast. Another sit down our family likes is the very old fashioned BBQ Inn, Kress Street, drink, soup included, Lihue. For a unique saimin, try Kako’s Lihue. behind Lihue Professional building (City Liquor). For a fish wrap, Kilauea fish market, and for all things poke, Fish Express Lihue. For a ribeye, Gaylords at Kilohana for dinner. For local grass fed beef, Wranglers in Waimea, try the ribeye or the teriyaki. Soup bar included with meal.

    • February 25, 2013 at 5:48 pm

      PS. Keoki’s has a mean Luau Stew on Friday and Sat. Lean beef with luau leaves, Hawaiian style soupy. Healthy. Well worth the exploration of a new dish from a very simple working man’s joint.

      • February 25, 2013 at 7:32 pm

        Kinda’ reminds of Pasteles (“Patele”) stew. Essentially a deconstructed Puerto Rican style Pasteles, “stewified”. Tastes EXACTLY how it sounds, and really ONO!

        Here’s a plate of Pasteles Stew ($7) from Hilo Hattie’s Kona Bean Cafe…

        Yeah, I know, not very appetizing looking, to put it lightly! However, believe me, in taste? “Stewified” Pasteles over rice? No can go wrong! Broke da’ mout’ winnahz!

        Here’s a mini plate version of Kona Bean Cafe’s Pasteles Stew ($5)…

        Notice get choke olives. Love that!

        One thing I didn’t care for is is Beef Luau. Doesn’t match, IMO. Gotta’ be Hawaiian Octopus in it, a.k.a. Tako, which we ironically misname as “Squid Luau”. Chicken Luau works as a close second (regardless of my personal feelings for chicken), however, Squid Luau for the win! Pass me the Lomi Salmon and Poi, please.

    • February 25, 2013 at 7:23 pm

      Excellent as always, Pat-san!

      I kinda’ cringed on one person’s Yelp review of finding a roach in the Oxtail Soup at BBQ Inn. However, in all fairness, every old school restaurant will have questionable cleanliness. It just goes with the territory. We kinda’ have this unspoken creed that “the more roach motel, the better it tastes!”. Kinda’ gross in thought, but really, if you ask any health inspector (or better yet, someone who works in those establishments), they’ll tell you the busiest, most popular restaurants have the most “questionable” kitchens.

      I’ll elaborate more on each of your recommendations as I get time to read through Yelp reviews.

      Hey, have you ever been to that Hongwangi Obon Fair in Koloa that sells them “Flying Saucer” thing-a-ma-jigs? Supposedly it’s like a Sloppy Joe (with cheese?) that’s sandwiched between two pieces of sliced bread and toasted over an open fire in a special contraption that you can’t buy anymore, looking like a branding clamp device. We found it for sale on eBay once, but I forget the manufacturer.


      • February 25, 2013 at 9:11 pm

        Well the Waimea Town festival is just pau. i did not make it but wife did. Flying saucers in formation. LOL. Actually with 700 rodeo teams (not a misprint), she refused to go in town and stayed at the beach house. As for BBQ, they likely mistook fresh anise root for a roach. But the building was old when they opened during WWII. And it is owned by one of the nicest families around. Truly decent people that opened up a tent kitchen in our neighborhood after Hurricane Iniki. For free.

  • March 4, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    been quite cold here in NorCal…..so soups & stews are great. been making a clam chowder from a pkg’d mix from world famous ivar’s in seattle, wa. the basic recipe only asks that you put milk in. but i would put extra clams, potatos, bacon also. i have some smoked salmon here…might add that to my next batch for some smoked salmon & clam chowder. also made a tasty gumbo using zatarain’s gumbo base. this mix doesn’t include rice–you make that yourself :D and again, mixes like this are always better if you add your own touches :D i sauteed the cajun trinity of onion, bell pepper & celery with lotsa garlic, some cayenne & black pepper. added that to the mix, then sliced hot links on the bias (any sausage will do!)…..and then tore apart a costco rotisserie chicken…..finally added some frozen corn on the cob. when hot, ladle the meat & sausage over some hot rice. ouuuu wee it’s good, i guarantee!!! https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10101900168783333&l=3381d96602
    check that out for the pic of the gumbo.


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