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. Served with a fork? Ack!
In a recent post, we wanted to know where’s your favorite Chinese restaurant is on Oahu. Well this time around tell us who’s your favorite Okazuya on any island!
Over the years working with Diner E who grew up in Kalihi, he’s introduced me to some of Oahu’s best Okazuya spots. Many of which are located in the vast Honolulu district known as Kalihi, a.k.a. “God’s Country”, a.k.a., “The Center of Hawaii’s Food Universe”.
Diner E is also 100% Uchinanchu (Yomitan), or local Okinawan, which as you may know, most of the best Okazuya shops in town are owned and operated by Uchinanchu folks. They just have that knack for making what is essentially otherwise a raw fusion of Japanese, Okinawan, Chinese and American food taste “local”.
I would go as far as saying long before the likes of Roy’s, Alan Wong’s and Sam Choy’s, the first fusion-based “Hawaii Regional Cuisine” happened at the neighborhood mom ‘n pop Okazuya. Right?
For those of you who don’t know what an Okazuya is, its name is obviously Japanese with Okazu meaning “food with rice” and Ya meaning “shop”. However in Japan, Okazu-Ya establishments aren’t multicultural as they are here in Hawaii. Okazuya shops in Hawaii have historically been run by Okinawan immigrants leaving the pineapple and sugarcane plantations to start their own business. And with that, they adapted all the other various cultures cuisine they learned about while working on the plantation.
Where else would you get a hot dog wrapped in sushi rice? Or fried chicken, ham and luncheon meat on the same plate with shrimp tempura and chow funn noodles? Okazuya shops combine the simplest of east-meets-west comfort foods and makes them taste just fantastic!
What’s interesting to note are typical Okazuya business hours, which especially if the place is being run by older generation Uchinanchu, traditionally they’re closed on Tuesdays. When they are open, it’s usually from as early as 5am in the morning, “while supplies last”. Meaning, if they’re really popular, they could run out of food and close before the noon lunch hour rush, or just after that! Toshi’s is an example of that.
Nuuanu Okazuya: Fish Cake assortment
And every Okazuya in Hawaii are known for their most popular “must have” dishes:
• St. Louis Delicatessen – Chow Funn
• Nuuanu Okazuya – Fish Cake
• Mitsuken – Garlic Chicken
• Tanioka’s – Fish Patty
• Mitsuba’s – Okinawan Sweet Potato Crumble
…and the list goes on and on.
That’s where you come in! Again, where’s your favorite Okazuya, or many there of, and what’s your favorite dish or dishes there?
Toshi’s Delicatessen (King St., Kalihi)– Shoyu Chicken, Shoyu Long Rice, Chow Funn and Nori Musubi.
Gulick Delicatessen (Gulick Ave., Kalihi) – Okazu plate (clockwise from top left): Vegetable Tempura, Tofu Patty (hidden underneath) Shoyu Chicken, Inari (Cone) Sushi, Gobo Kinpira, Nishime, Kombu Maki and Chow Fun noodles.
St. Louis Delicatessen (Waialae Ave., Kaimuki): Fried Chicken, Corned Beef Hash Patty, Fried Ham, Nishime, Nori Musubi, Vegetable Tempura & Shrimp Tempura
Nuuanu Okazuya (Nu’uanu Ave., Downtown Honolulu): Vegetable Tempura, Teriyaki burger, Chow Funn, Nori Fishcake, Gobo Fishcake, Kabocha slice, Nori Musubi and Kobu Maki.
Matsumoto’s Okazuya & Restaurant (Gulick Ave., Kalihi: Corned Beef Hash Patty, Shoyu Hot Dog, Mochi? Spring Roll, BBQ Teriyaki Chicken, Ume Musubi and Chow Funn.
Sato’s Okazuya (Waipa-HOO!): Fried Noodles (Best on the island!)
Masa & Joyce (Kaneohe): Okinawan Yakisoba Noodles, Vegetable Tempura, Ahi Tempura, Ahi Belly, Hot Dog Maki Sushi
Toyo Sushi (Liliha; closed): Shrimp Tempura, Kimpira Gobo, Chow Fun, Teri’ Beef and Furikake Musubi
Fukuya Delicatessen (S. King St., Mo’ili’ili): Cone sushi (aburage) – fried soy bean curd (from Tofu) stuffed with a heavily marinated (pickled) sushi rice and grated carrots, Furikake Musubi (simple with plain rice), Japanese style Corned Beef Hash, Misoyaki Butterfish, Shrimp Tempura (2), Vegetable Tempura, Grilled Saba (fish), Namasu (pickled cucumbers) Nishime
North Shore Bento (Haleiwa): ume omusubi, corned beef hash, shrimp tempura Redondo’s Winner (the red hot dog), and Chow Funn
Tanioka’s Seafood & Catering (Farrington Hwy, Waipa-HOO!): Salmon Patty, Fish Patty, Shrimp Tempura and Aburage Cone Sushi Bento
Mitsuba Delicatessen: Okinawan Sweet Potato Crumble
The Tasty Island Related links:
• Who Serves the Best Chow Funn?