The weather in Hawaii has reached its winter lows. For us, cold is when our low temperatures deep to the 60s and sometimes 50s! For many on the mainland, this is probably no big deal, but in Hawaii it is when people start breaking out the extra blanket at night! It's also great weather for saimin! What is saimin? Saimin is the quintessential local dish composed of Chinese noodles, Japanese dashi (soup), and toppings that range from Japanese & Chinese, to Portuguese and beyond! Some may even consider it our state dish! It represents who we are and where we came from as a state, as it is a dish that was created in Hawaii's plantation days, when most of our ancestors immigrated here from all over Asia, Puerto Rico, and Portugal/Azores. Today, you'll find it on menus across the state, including at McDonalds! But as you'll find out, every place makes theirs differently and quality can vary quite widely. So, for today's post, we'll leave my home island of Oahu, and head for Kauai to cover one of the oldest places to get saimin, Hamura's Saimin.
Hamura's Saimin is a small mom & pop shop in a back street in Lihue. It looks more like a house than a business from the outside, while it has an old-school, almost diner feel on the inside. No menus here, just a Coca-Cola menu board surrounded by a long, curvy counter with stools. So what to get? Last time I went I ordered the Special, which was basically saimin with wonton, ham, charsui, kamaboko (fish cake), half a boiled egg, and veggies. The dashi here is on the salty side, and the noodles, while tasty old-fashion style, were overcooked and a little on the mushy side. Given that, another item that is often recommended is the fried saimin. I didn't get to try this, but you're less likely to have mushy, overcooked noodles if you go this route. Fried saimin, I might add, is one of my favorite things to eat! Check out my Heights Drive Inn entry to see my favorite place for fried saimin/noodles.
Another thing people love to get here is the lilikoi chiffon pie. I didn't try it myself when I went, as it didn't sound like something I'd care much for. Basically its a chilled pie with a light, airy filling flavored with lilikoi (passion fruit). But its something that everyone says you've gotta try, so if you do come, do give it a try if you like passion fruit or want to try something different. I do know people that have tried it and really like it, so I'd say it's worth a shot! You can also buy noodles here to take back and cook yourself! However, they do need to be refrigerated, so it's probably not a good idea to take back with you to the mainland, unless you plan on taking a cooler with you! One more thing you should know is that this establishment is purely cash only. No checks, no credit cards! Now that's old school!