Tourists buy inexpensive souvenirs (and lots of crappy stuff) at the International Market Place, strategically situated in Waikiki on Kalakaua. The most enduring sight here is the giant 100-year-old banyan tree that seems to cover the entire open-air market like an enormous umbrella. Every time we’re in Waikiki, we find ourselves walking through here, not because it’s a destination, but because it’s along the way on several of our walks in the area. We’ve never purchased anything here, but we did have cocktails and snacks at a restaurant bar back in 2009.
Late this afternoon, as we were making our way past the vendors’ carts and tourist shops, we noticed a roped-off area that seemed to be preparing for some kind of food bazaar. Then, it occurred to me that this must be the Thursday afternoon farmers market. Sure enough, it was.
The usual island fruits made their appearance: papayas, mangoes, bananas, pineapples. One man was skillfully slicing up pineapples into chunks that were packaged into plastic tubs. Some containers had the fruit sprinkled with li hing mui powder. The foods were of a different sort than you would find at the KCC Farmers Market—snack foods, mostly deep-fried, and many that are comfort food to the locals, who seemed to make up most of the shoppers. A people’s market. Instead of going out to dinner somewhere, we made a decision to purchase a few snacks here to take back to the condo, including li hing pineapples. All of it was pretty good food, but ones that you don’t want to make a habit of eating often.
The International Market Place has been demolished to make way for yet another shopping mall, this one with Sak’s Fifth Avenue and Macy’s. Eh what? Despite how tourists may have seen it as an open-air market of trinket shops and stalls, it was too valuable a piece of property not to be claimed by developers eager to cash in on the big-spending Asians (Japan, Korea and China) who are ever desirous of labels that can be bought cheaper in Honolulu than back at home. These small shops were at least owned and operated by locals. Gone, too, is the Farmers Market with all its ethnic food.
We were really eager for lunch after the forgettable breakfast on our flight from Auckland. Only a few blocks from our friend’s condo where we were staying, we headed straight for Ramen Nakamura on Kalakaua for their specialty, ox-tail ramen. While my usual choice for ramen broth is miso, Nakamura offering it (as well as shoyu) for an extra 50¢, my wife and I both chose the customary shio broth. The ramen arrived in a big bowl with two colossal sections of ox tail, meaty, bony and generously ribboned with fat. Prying the meat from the cartilage and bony flanges proved to be challenging, but there’s no denying they provided plenty of flavor and gelatin. The slightly thicker than usual ramen noodles were flawless. Adding to the experience were generous slices of baby bok choy, negi (Japanese green onion), slices of seasoned bamboo shoots (menma), roasted peanuts, and thinly julienned strands of ginger. For dipping the meat, a small bowl of grated ginger also arrived, into which the server recommended we pour a shoyu-ponzu sauce. Outstanding! Honolulu’s great ramen shops likely started up to cater to the legions of Japanese tourists who visit Hawaii, but the locals and other visitors have benefitted greatly from their presence.
Ox-tail shio ramen
2141 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI
Breakfast into Honolulu
Breakfast is my least favorite airplane meal. Airlines seem to spend the least amount of effort to make anything remotely appetizing, at least as far as I’m concerned. Most, if not all of the meal consists of pre-packaged items that have been thrown together and weigh in heavily on refined carbohydrates and sugar. Hawaiian Airlines did not disappoint me. The breakfast served two hours before landing in Honolulu from Auckland was made up of pre-packaged croissant, pre-packaged blueberry muffin, pre-packaged butter spread, pre-packaged strawberry jam, pre-packaged apple slices, and pre-packaged yogurt, and served with pre-packaged plastic utensils. For someone who much prefers savory breakfasts, it was all I could do to eat breakfast. To make matters worse, the coffee was just north of lukewarm, meaning it wasn’t freshly brewed. After the surprisingly pleasant dinner that was served on the Honolulu-Auckland arrival leg over a week ago, all other meals have been Standard Airplane Food.
But, what about dinner right after takeoff from Auckland Airport tonight? Even though it essentially was the same dinner served only twelve nights before, it was just as agreeable, proving that the first dinner was not a fluke. Though tonight’s dried shiitake mushrooms weren’t sufficiently hydrated, they at least tasted like they were cooked in, can it be, dashi broth? I was probably dreaming. On top of it all, there was actually silverware with a nice large, turquoise-colored napkin, and pleasant complimentary wines from Redtree, your choice of a fruity cabernet sauvignon or crisp, dry chardonnay that was thankfully only slightly oaked.
Dinner out of Auckland
To be fair, the breakfast was contracted out to a supplier in New Zealand since almost all the items had Kiwi provenances, but it was still under Hawaiian Air’s control. Methinks that the lion’s share of the measly budget set aside for food (sounds too frighteningly close to school lunch programs) goes toward dinner, and everything else, “Katy, bar the door!”
Time has no meaning when you’re in flight. When traveling in any direction other than along a longitudinal line, the clock shifts earlier or later. What does it mean, as a friend wondered, when my flight departed Auckland before midnight on the 28th and arrived in Honolulu on the same calendar date, but early in the morning? The clock is, of course, a device for organizing social activities among human beings, but still the relativity of time is haunting. As we crossed the international dateline out in the Pacific Ocean, the sun rose on the horizon but the dateline marked a dividing line between two time references when the clock on one side is exactly one day earlier or later than the other side, depending on if you’re traveling east or west. Absolutely mind-bending.