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Palama Super Market Korean Treats ‘n Eats

As a Don Quijote Kaheka regular, it’s obvious the main demo’ who shop there are “mixed race” locals and Nihonjin transplants, along with the occasionally adventurous visitors from the hotels in nearby Waikiki. However as a newer, somewhat regular now at Palama Super Market next door, I notice for the most part, the clientele there are mostly Korean folks; at least 95% in my observation on any given day. So much so, sometimes I get looked at as a foreigner by some shoppers there. Not in a bad way, just in a “you look different than everyone else here” kinda’ way. Which is kind of awkward, yet flattering at the same time. I guess. lol

The only reason I elaborate on demo’, is I’m trying to get more of you readers here who don’t normally adventure “outside the box” to check it out, as I think Palama Super Market is still one of those “undiscovered” gems only the Koreans are in on, that you should be reacquainted with. And they’ll surely welcome your business. ;-)

In case you haven’t noticed by now (they’ve been there for years now), there IS a Palama Super Market store just a short block next door to Don Quijote Kaheka, right behind DQ’s overflow parking  structure, at the corner of Makaloa Street and Kalakaua Avenue. This Palama Market branch replaced what was once a Gas ‘n Glo service station dating back to the 80s and earlier, that featured an automated car wash service similar to McKinley Car Wash.

The original Palama Super Market in the Kapalama Shopping Center moved to a much larger location in Kalihi on N. King Street back in 2012, while this second location here near Ala Moana next to Don Quijote opened long before that move back in the early 90s.

What’s funny is, if you didn’t know it was a Korean market, other than the “subbed” Korean marquee, you’d as well assume by the name ‘Palama Super Market’ it was just another local mom ‘n pop type grocery store or butcher shop.

However if you love Korean food and all that is Korean culture as I do (except for those hot tempers lol), you’ll be in HEAVEN upon entering Palama Super Market. From the wafting aroma of grilled Kalbi coming from their in-store food court, to unique imported Korean groceries and housewares abound, this is arguably the next best place to browse and shop on the island for such goods, short of being right there in Seoul.

The good thing is, all the Korean products have labels that at least translate the descriptions in English, so you shouldn’t need to bust out that translator app. Some also have English translations deeper than that, including the entire information on the label, both back and front. Also, the prices for many of the product and food court items are very reasonable!

Of course not everything’s from Korea, with some of it produced either locally or from the mainland.

While I’ve been to their former Dillingham location several times, I’ve honestly never been to the new 20,000 sq. ft. King Street Kalihi location yet (right across the street from the Ferguson showroom; formerly Plumbing Specialties).

There’s another Korean market on “Koreamoku Street” (Keeaumoku St.), across Walmart, which I went into once, where the selection looks pretty good, but no can touch Palama Super Market; at least from my first impression.

I won’t go into the details much more, as I’m certainly no expert on Korean cuisine or culture, however certainly a fan of whatever it is I try. I LOVE Korean food, never having one dish disappoint me yet, right down to that side dish of squid banchan.

Which is kinda’ ironic, while neither she nor I (obviously) have Korean blood, my mom is a HUGE Korean “soaps”, a.k.a. “K-Drama” fan, watching those shows pretty much around the clock. Nuts, I tell ya’. lol

That said, here’s a brief walk around the ready-to-go trays of prepared foods, along with some food court specialties the Palama Super Market Makaloa location had to offer on the day of this visit this past week. Of course like any other spread, it changes quite a bit, so every day there’s something interesting and new to check out. And you really should more often. It’s such a neat store, parking is a plenty in the area, the people in there are very nice, and again, it’s reasonably priced!

Mashikeh-mogoseyo. ;-)

Zucchini Jun, Spicy Rice Cake with Pork, Inari Sushi & Gobo Kimbap, Shrimp Summer Rolls, Japchae, Fishcake, Gobo and Sausage Kimbap (Korean style sushi)

Red Bean Porridge, Pumpkin Porridge, Sliced Cooked Pig’s Feet, Fish Jun, Kimchee Jun, Chives Jun, Zucchini Jun, Spicy Squid and Spicy Rice Cake with Pork

Chicken Katsu, Meat Jun and Fish Jun Bento selections

Spicy Pork Bento and Shrimp Fried Rice

Egg with Vegetable (Korean Egg Fu Yung?)

Steamed Beef Mandoo

Curry Croquettes

Veggie Kimbap (think Maki Sushi with Korean Banchan pickled veggies in it; meaning there’s a distinctive sesame flavor)

Korean Rice Cakes: Bin Roo Duk, Hin Duk, Song Pyun, Jul Pyun, Si Roo Duk and Kong Duk (these will soon be the name of new Pokemon Go characters lol)

Olivia Rice Cakes: Molsiinjulmi, Julpyun and Baram Duk

Korean Rice Cake: Yak Sik, Song Pyun, Injulmi and Siru Duek (yup, I buy this stuff all the time; ask me, I’m an expert at this stuff! lol)

Korean Rice Cake: Siru Duek, Rainbow Duek, Kong Duek and Pumpkin Duek… not to be confused with the Captain and Tenille duet…. “Muskrat, Muskrat, candle light” lol

German Bakery Sesame Bar

Now we’re in the food court area, which is to the right as you enter, with about 4 or 5 main vendors in there. This is their in-house specialties menu…

Pretty much the usual suspects you’ll find at most Korean takeout joints on the island. Except here you can’t pick and choose your banchan up to 4 like most other places, but it’s set (and they won’t budge, I asked several times). However the prices are really cheap, yet the portions are generous and the taste of the food is FANTASTIC! For just $11 (the price went up a buck since I took that shot), their Kalbi plate is a winnah!…

Palama Market grilled-to-order Kalbi plate (3 big pieces of Kalbi!) with 3 set banchan: Sprouts, Pumpkin and Kimchee (you can’t pick and choose). $11

Again, while you can’t pick and choose the banchan, the ones they give you are OUTSTANDING. Especially the Kimchee, which has that hint of fish sauce in it, giving it a nice “Umami” flavor. And their Kalbi is pretty much as good as it gets for takeout. Excellent char-grilled, perfectly marinaded flavor, decent tenderness, and they give “choke” (plenty) for just $11! If you’re craving Kalbi, for the taste, portion and price, can’t go wrong here!

In the center of the food court is Von’s Chicken…

Von’s Chicken menu at Palama Market Makaloa Street

While I haven’t tried them yet, apparently Yelpers really like Von’s Chicken, as they have a “People Love Us on Yelp!” certificate placard displayed proudly right in front.

On the right back corner of the food court is this Korean Soup and Stew shop, that specializes in kinds of stuff,  as you see by the menu.

This is one of the quick-bite specialties sitting on the counter at this shop…

Korean style Kabocha Pumpkin with stick Sekihan style rice, mixed with nuts and fried sweet potato… is that an interesting combo’ or what?!

Here’s a couple of bowls that came out of that shop the other day, courtesy of some nice Korean patrons sitting next to me who were willing to let me take a photo of their dish….

This last dish (bowl) was VERY interesting, as it was basically sekihan (sticky mochi style) rice topped with greens and cubes of fresh ahi and salmon, mixed together by the diner with Kochujang sauce. The guy eating it said it’s AMAZING, and just $11 for this MASSIVE bowl, including the Banchan sides! All I know is I’m SO ordering this exact same spread on my next stop there!

Next time, if I get permission from their manager, I’ll share what’s available at the Palama Super Market Kim Chee self-serve station. That “Bizarre Foods” section alone deserves its own post!

Palama Super Market… CHECK IT OUT!

Palama Super Market
1670 Makaloa Street (near Don Quijote Kaheka), or
1070 N. King Street (across Ferguson showroom)

The Tasty Island rating:
5 SPAM Musubi


9 thoughts on “Palama Super Market Korean Treats ‘n Eats

  • September 28, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    I have always found the staff and clientele treat non-Koreans with the utmost respect. The place is as clean as clean or cleaner than any market I have ever been in. The food is invariably very fresh and the meat, which we rarely buy because we don’t cook that much on Oahu, is really fresh looking, as good as Whole Foods and much cheaper.   People should go just for the kim chee bar alone. All fresh and as cheap as in factory made.

  • September 29, 2016 at 3:44 am

    Pomai, never yet been to Palama .  I wonder if they have bibimbap in take

    out to go container for one person to try?   Had Korean food on my traveled

    and street was awesome too.


  • September 30, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    We have two Korean restaurants in Waianae on Leeward Side that are very interesting and good. You got me hooked on Palama Super Market for Korean products but I go to the Aiea market on Farrington, Hwy for my product staples. They are a mirror image of main market.
    I now have three Korean cookbooks with over 400 recipes and my weekly dinning menus include grilled Kalbi or Bulgogi with rice and various home-made banchan. Kimchi is now a weekly staple in my diet and I’m learning the Korean names for a lot of food products and how they are used.

  • October 1, 2016 at 4:29 am

    @ pat ~ Oh, absolutely. I always get treated very nicely there. I was just saying when I walk around there, some folks tend to look at me sort of like, “oh cool, finally someone NOT Korean is shopping here with us.” lol

    I’m especially surprised how reasonable the meat prices are there. And they have interesting cuts you don’t see in other markets, done especially for Korean style cooking. Like, they have Pork Belly that’s cut thin like Kalbi short ribs. I want to get some of that and try making Tonkatsu out of it. I bet it’s be awesome with all that pork fat in a Katsu style cut!

    I definitely want to get a full set of photos of their Kim Chee Bar. There’s some stuff on there fit for Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods show! And their house-made Kim Chee is the best. Beats any bottled brand.

    @ Kelike ~ Yes, all their soups and bap dishes (rice and vegetables) at the grill shop are available for takeout as well, served in a medium-sized styrofoam bowl. And I’ve seen them pack it very nicely where what needs to be separated is done so. Honestly though, I’d rather eat those dishes right there, being’s those probably won’t keep as well as “entree and rice” style plated dishes. And they serve it dine-in in much nicer steel bowls.

    @ Ken ~ Thanks for the tip on Aiea Market. Didn’t know about that one. I believe there’s also a Korean market in Waimalu Shopping Center (across Best Buy Aiea), where Marujyu Market used to be.

    Speaking of which, Marujyu Market is another super local Okazuya style deli you need to check out. Everything from Hawaiian food, to Pasteles, to Turkey Tails, you name it. Plus their Poke and Boiled Peanuts (the big Virginia style) are famous as well.  I would call them “The OTHER Alicia’s Market”.

    Wow, 400 Korean recipes. Personally I wouldn’t even bother to cook my own Korean food, as there’s so many great Korean restaurants here to choose that will do that for you, and probably way better than you can at home, being, well, they’re Korean!  Probably a lot cheaper too, factoring in all the unusual Korean ingredients (noodles, seaweed, sauces, seasonings and stuff) you’d need to add to your pantry. In general, being single without kids, I find it cheaper to eat out than to cook at home, factoring in all the time and cost to prepare the food, plus the leftovers I get sick of the 3rd day, tops. I mean, I know there’s strategies for “cooking at home single economics 101”, but I’m not bothering. Just buy the damned meal. lol


    • October 1, 2016 at 4:36 pm

      You are talking about Palama Super Market in Aiea that is in Waimalu Shopping Center.
      The three Korean cookbooks are pretty clear and most of the 400 recipes are very short with few ingredients and cover a wide array of dishes and drinks. You don’t need a pantry full of staples plus one book shows you how to make 5 basic kimchis and how to apply it to many different banchan dishes for the whole week thus saving you time just having to make you main dish. I’m in and out of the kitchen in less than 30 minutes with a meal.
      Yes, there are a lot of Korean restaurants in downtown Honolulu but I live on the Leeward Side (God’s Country) and we are lucky to have the two Korean restaurants that we do  however there are only so many times you can eat in a restaurant till you run out of menu choices!
      I make my Korean marinades and I buy Costco Prime grade short ribs for Kaibi which means I don’t have to marinade meat for long and I have my large ribbed grill so a 5 minute sear 2 ½ minutes each side and I’m plating juicy tasty kaibi that pairs well with rice and banchan done and taste the way I like it.
      What really exploded into my mouth was a recipe for kimchi pineapple. I mean like its da bomb! I can’t stop eating it!!
      Another recipe is the secret to Korean Fried Chicken with skin that shatters when you bite into it. It comes out like glass and you know how much I like my chicken wings. Dakgangjeong (KFC chicken) is a whole new level of crispness.
      These are the type of Korean foods you are not going to find going to local Korean restaurants and BBQs.
      BTW, Coquito’s Latin Cuisine restaurant owners closed down Valentina’s Italian Ristorante but because it is the only restaurant on the Leeward side with an old fashion pizza oven in it they are reopening as “Seaside Grill and Pizza”. Also the Piilau Army Rest Camp, Waianae (only restaurant right on the beach) is being renovated as Sam Choy is opening a new restaurant there. Leeward side has a Roy Yamaguchi and Peter Merriman restaurants now a Sam Choy is being added!

  • October 1, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    Pomai, LOL. Right about Palama and nonKoreans.

    I think we need a review of Marujyu Market. I had never heard of it. And I still think you should take your Alphabet Diners to The Poi Bowl. I promise you the food is rotated off the buffet very fast.


    • October 1, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      pat, is there a large Korean community on Kauai? I’m guessing not. It’s interesting that one of the most respected Okazuya there is Po’s kitchen, run by a Chinese lady. Funny, all the good Hawaiian food places on Oahu are owned and operated by Okinawans (Masa & Joyce, Ono’s and Highway Inn), Japanese and Chinese (Marujyu Market and Helena’s), not pure Hawaiians.

      I assume you’re referring to Poi Bowl Ala Moana, as I’ve tried the Kaneohe Poi Bowl and LOVED IT! Oh, that’s another one owned by Japanese. ;-)

      • October 1, 2016 at 8:49 pm


        Po is Thai, was married to a Japanese I believe. And you are right. No more Okazuya on Kauai.

        The Korean community is tiny, but they have a presence in the food and restaurant trade, and are stalwart members of the business community.

        And yes, it is my infamous Ala Moana Poi Bowl I used to frequent as a child, still there. Used to be next to Patty’s and Lynn’s in the old Ala Moana. The Hawaiian food has gotten a bit more modern (no more Watercress and Beef for instance, and no squid in the squid luau (is there ever any more?), but he stew, Spam, Kalua cabbage, tripe, all the same. Ono.  Pure nostalgia.

  • October 2, 2016 at 11:20 am


    Ah, Po is Thai. I thought she was Chinese, being “Po” (short for Popo) can be a local Chinese nickname for ‘Grandma’.

    IIRC, People’s Cafe, a Hawaiian food eatery by Pali Longs and Safeway still serves Watercress and Salted Beef (like a soup). That is SO ONO with Poi!

    I must say, every time I pass by Poi Bowl in the Ala Moana Food Court, I’m always curious how their food taste, however never given them a try, as I simply am not in the mood for Hawaiian food at the time while there.

    Hawaiian Food really is one of those foods where I REALLY have to be in the mood to want to eat it. Oddly, being part-Hawaiian myself (1/4th), I don’t crave it that often. Even my mom, who is half Hawaiian, hardly eats Hawaiian food. She eats way more Chinese food, and she’s not even Chinese!

    I remember though when I grew up, we ALWAYS had at least a bowl of poi in the kitchen. ALWAYS. As much as Japanese have cooked rice, we always had a bowl of Poi.


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