Sunday, August 17, 2008

Hawaii Journal Day 5: Shrimp, Shave Ice and Cream Puffs (Hey, Where's the Pork?)

Day 5: Thursday

Breakfast: Okazu at Sekiya's

We're heading to the North Shore today, so we grabbed breakfast on the go from Sekiya's Okazuya. An Okazuya is often described as a Hawaiian deli, but it bears little resemblance to any mainland deli. Okazuyas date back from the early days of Hawaii when families would come out to the fields to sell lunch to laborers. The okazu (food sold at the okazuya) generally include a variety of savories such as dried fish sushi, various musubis (rice balls), fried snacks, teriyaki glazed meats, Spam dishes and hot dogs glazed with a scary, bright red sauce.

Most okazuya have limited seating and variable hours. They tend to open early, for the going to work crowd and close when the food runs out, which can be as early as noon.

At Sekiya's we took out a variety of okazu, but the highlight were the hash balls. Little balls of corn beef hash, battered and deep fried. If only the LA County Fair knew about these.

Sekiya's Restaurant & Delicatessen
2746 Kaimuki Ave.
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 732-1656

Aperitif: Matsumoto Shave Ice

After okazu, it was on to Haleiwa town in the North Shore and Matsumoto's Shave Ice. Matsumoto's is probably the most prominent shave ice in the island and by 11:00am, there is a line out the door, so we go early and treat it as a palate cleanser. The beauty of Matsumoto's is the plentiful quantities of ice cream and sweet, black azuki beans that blend together with the ice flavoring to form a little milkshake in the cone. Good stuff. If you don't feel like eating early morning shave ice but don't want to wait in line, Aoki's Shave Ice, just down the street is almost as good without any wait.

Matsumoto Shave Ice
66-087 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, Hawaii 96712

Lunch: Giovanni's Shrimp Truck

Giovanni's Shrimp Truck is a North Shore institution. Founded by a couple from Mozambique who opened their first truck in the midst of the shrimp farms of Kahuku, they have been cooking up fresh shrimp for years. The cult of Giovanni's is so intense that it has spawned a multitude of imitators. From one side of tiny Haleiwa to the other, I counted at least six shrimp trucks other than the original, and several now share space with Giovanni's spot under the bridge on the west side of town. There are many more in nearby Kahuku.

Giovanni's has built up its loyal following through a very simple recipe. Fresh shrimp (at one time, caught that morning - I don't know if that is still the case), doused in oil and tons of sauteed garlic and accompanied by two scoops of rice. You will find yourself sucking every last bit of sauce and garlic bits off of each plump shrimp before shelling it and licking the oil off of your about finger lickin' good.

At $12 a pop, the Giovanni's scampi is a bit pricey for lunch truck food, but not for big luscious shrimp. Eat it at one of the picnic tables or take it to go and have lunch at beautiful Haleiwa Ali'i Beach Park. It's one of the best meals you will have on any trip.

Dessert: Coco Puffs at Liliha Bakery

Conveniently on the way back from Haleiwa is one of our favorite spots. Liliha Bakery is a little diner with counter space seating in the Liliha neighborhood of Honolulu. They serve good breakfasts, including nice fluffy pancakes, but the real draw at Liliha is the Coco Puff.

The Coco Puff is a cream puff, but so much more. Stuffed with a pudding like chocolate cream and topped with a miraculous substance they call chantilly. What makes the puff is the chantilly topping, a rich, buttery, somewhat salty cream with a grainy texture. The combination of the chantilly and the chocolate filling makes these puffs immensely craveable.

Liliha Bakery
515 North Kuakini Street
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 531-1651

Tomorrow: Spam, a lot.

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