Dinner at Ezogiku Waikiki (Honolulu, HI)


Miso ramen at Ezogiku

Ezogiku has a large, cult following in Japan of ramen connoisseurs. Since its Tokyo opening in 1968, it has served Sapporo-style ramen. As with any serious ramen shop, it makes its own soups from scratch. On top of that, Ezogiku makes its own miso paste for its signature miso ramen. Its production is confined to its Tokyo branch where its recipe is a closely guarded secret.

In 1974, Ezogiku opened a branch in Hawaii. Since then, several more branches have opened in Hawaii and one in Vancouver, B.C., the only city in North America. We have eaten at the Vancouver restaurant a few years ago. Back then, we were not impressed, the main complaint being its weak broth. In retrospect, this was surprising when you consider how much importance the entire operation places on its miso.

We decided to give the Waikiki branch a try. After all, when we passed by it two days ago, the place was packed with customers, many of them Japanese nationals.

I am happy to say that the ramen served here is much more impressive than Vancouver’s. The broth was rich, appropriately oily, with hints of spice. The noodles were also perfectly cooked. The slices of pork weren’t too lean and there was a single slice of kamaboko (fish cake), all topped with green onions. A very good ramen indeed.

Ezogiku Waikiki
2146 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
808.926.8616

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North Shore of Oahu (HI)


Winds were whipping across Hawaii all week. As we approached the North Shore, located on the windward side of Oahu, I wondered if the famed big surf tides that draws serious surfers (and their fans) from all over the world would put on a good display today. In December of each year, there is a world-famous surfing competition. Big kahunas pound the shoreline here in the winter months–waves can reach stupendous heights of 30-40 ft. At this time of year, it is impossible to find parking places and lodging. Today, it is well past the December-January months of big wave activity, but dedicated surfers were out in the ocean to try to catch the wave barrels as they formed.

We stopped at the Banzai Pipeline to be awed by the power of nature and to cool our heals in the rapidly advancing and retreating waters. There weren’t the crowds that clogged the beaches only a couple of months ago, but people were still standing on the sand, including photographers with huge telephoto lenses, admiring the few hardy souls out on their surfboards.

Barreling surf

Ted’s Bakery (Sunset Beach, HI)


Ted’s chocolate haupia cream pie

I’m not a cream pie fan, with one exception. I much prefer fruit-filled pies, especially fresh (uncooked) marionberry or strawberry pie. Word was though that Ted’s chocolate haupia cream pie was to die for. Since the bakery was on our route to Hale’iwa anyway, we made a dutiful stop here.

This was a great pie. There are two layers, one made with chocolate custard cream, the other haupia (or coconut pudding). The pie is then topped with whipped cream. Not in the least overly sweet, one bite of this pie was enough to have temporary amnesia about berry pies and put it on a level with the other cream pie that I am addicted to—key lime.

Ready to go

Luckily, you don’t have to drive all the way up to the North Shore to have this island classic. Many of the supermarkets in Honolulu sell it.

Ted’s also sells Hawaiian grub, but I didn’t hear much about it. Chocolate haupia. Chocolate haupia. Chocolate haupia. Onolicious, yeah?

Ted’s Bakery
59-024 Kamehameha Hwy
Sunset Beach, HI 96712
808.638.8207

Macadamia Nuts at Tropical Farms (Kane’ohe, HI)


   Macadamia nut trees

Though originally from Australia, the macadamia nut here in the U.S. is associated with the Hawaiian Islands. Just look around the confection section of most supermarkets, and you’re bound to find chocolate-covered macadamia nuts. Several species of the nut are toxic to humans unless specially treated, but the edible varieties are quite delicious, meaty and oily.

We stopped at Tropical Farms, where you can take tours and buy all kinds of macadamia products as well as Kona coffee and souvenirs. Employees also demonstrate how to crack open the nut on a log with a rock. The farm has stately, mature trees on the property, which require 7-10 years after planting to bear fruit. This is a pleasant stop if you have the time.

When ripe, macadamia nuts rattle inside their seeds

Byodo-In Temple (Kahaluu, HI)


Byodo-In Temple

You might have seen it on an episode of Lost, a stand-in for a temple in South Korea. It is the temple of Byodo-In, a half-size replica of its namesake in Uji, Japan, built in 998 AD and considered a national treasure and a UN World Heritage Site.

The temple here is built mostly with concrete, the original being wooden. This may have been for practical reasons, for the one in Japan was repeatedly devastated by fire. It is also much brighter than the original; its posts and eaves are painted red, while the original is not painted at all.

The temple is very impressive on first sight. The Phoenix Hall in the center of the temple houses a 9-ft carving of the Buddha, painted with gold lacquer, later covered over with gold leaf. To the left of the temple is a large brass and tin peace bell, which you are free to ring by swinging the large wooden clapper suspended on ropes. Surrounding the temple are large ponds filled with koi. The grounds are also surrounded by lovely gardens.

Wooden carving of Amida Buddha in the Phoenix Hall

The extensive koi pond is the home to hundreds of specimens

With the Ko’olau Mountains in the background, Byodo-In is one the most beautiful structures on the Islands.

Nu’uanu Pali State Wayside Park


Nu’uanu Pali Wayside overlooks windward Oahu

A spectacular way to get from Honolulu to windward Oahu is State Hwy 61 (Pali Highway) through a pass over the Ko’olau mountain range. There is an overlook near the ridge where you can get a sweeping view of the northeastern side of Oahu.

The winds are strong up here, sometimes so strong that you can literally lean into it. The trade winds from the windward side blow through the pass and, by virtue of the Venturi effect, pick up speed and strength on its way toward Honolulu.

The bloodiest battle in Hawaiian history was also fought here when in 1795 Kamehameha’s forces landed on Oahu from Hawaii and conquered Kalanikupule near this lookout. Soon afterward, Kamehameha became the first king of the Hawaiian Islands.

Zippy’s (multiple locations on Oahu)


Serving since 1966, Zippy’s is a fast-food chain restaurant that operates mainly on Oahu and has a reputation for having solid, if not memorable Hawaiian food. Our local Japanese supermarket in the Seattle area (Uwajimaya) carries its chilis in the freezer section. A friend of ours who has a condo in Waikiki tries to purchase a chocolate dobash cake every time she goes. Whether she eats it all herself, only she knows. As we concluded a visit to Foster Botanical Garden, we noticed a Zippy’s down the street. Inside it looks no different than any other coffee shop or fast-food restaurant, but the menu has distinctive Hawaiian touches as well as standard fare.

We had the saimin, Korean chicken and cold somen salad, serviceable food at good prices. On the minus side, the chicken was served with reheated frozen veggies. Our local Japanese supermarket (Uwajimaya) in the Seattle area carries Zippy’s chilis (both with and without meat). All I can say is that they must appeal to Hawaiian taste buds. They certainly don’t do anything for me.

Zippy’s
59 North Vineyard Boulevard
Honolulu, HI
808.532.4211
Menu

Manoa Falls (Honolulu)


A hike through lush rainforest is the one to Manoa Falls, about 1½ miles from the bus stop to a viewing area of the falls. At the foot of the trailhead is a parking lot where a snack shop also was selling mosquito repellent. We decided to take our chances. As soon as we started the hike, we were beset by the tiny buzzers, so we hightailed it back to the shop and swallowed our pride.

The hike itself is easy, gaining elevation gradually, but recent rains made the path very muddy. Boardwalks on portions of the path helped. In many places, exposed tree roots will force you to consider where you plant your feet. Along the way, there are many flowers and plants, giant ferns, mosses, wild guava trees, bamboo forests, and more. The falls, 150 feet tall, are not approachable beyond a protective fence, where a sign warns of danger beyond.

In all, the hike is a pleasant one when the weather is nice and rewards hikers with many visual splendors.

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On Dong Chinese Restaurant (Honolulu)


Chajiangmyun

Korean-Chinese restaurants have their origins in the 19th century when Chinese immigrants immigrated to Inchon. The evolution of the food makes it a distinct cuisine within Korean cooking. The highly popular chajangmyun (or jjajangmyun) is among its creations, made from roasted black soy bean paste, caramel and meat and/or seafood (except fish), typically topped with shredded cucumber. It has become so popular that mainstream Korean restaurants often have it on their menu. Typically served at Korean-Chinese restaurants are sides of kimchi and sliced raw onions. Takuan (pickled radish) is also served as a side dish in Hawaii.

On our way back to our hotel from Manoa Falls, we had an early dinner at one of these restaurants, On Dong. Their chajangmyun arrived with the sauce and noodles served separately. Never having had it before, based on appearance alone, I was half expecting the sauce to be something similar to Chinese fermented black beans. I also expected it to be bold in flavor. But it was neither. Instead it had a certain blandness belying its intensely black color, a mashed bean texture with silkiness from potato starch, though savory from the addition of some sort of meat I couldn’t identify. If On Dong‘s was representative (it’s purported to be the best in Hawaii) and as immensely popular as chajangmyun is to Koreans, I wondered if this would ever become a sought-after noodle dish of mine. Now, jjampong noodles are another matter.

My wife had a very tasty noodle and wonton soup with pork and seafood (shrimp and squid). In both bowls, the pasta had great texture, handmade in the kitchen.

Noodle and wonton soup with seafood and pork

On Dong Chinese Restaurant
1499 S. King St.
Honolulu, HI 96814
808.947.9444

Zebra Dove


All over Hawaii, the zebra dove is found in abundance, scurrying along grassy areas and pecking at things on the ground with their beaks. Originally from Southeast Asia, they have become adapted to the islands. They have a very distinctive staccato-like coo of short but pleasant bursts. Although their plumage is brownish gray with striping along their breasts and flanks, they do have a bluish-gray cast on their faces with a more distinctive blue around their eyes. We heard them everywhere.

Click on the object below to hear a sample (recorded by R. O’Donnell on the Big Island)