Soup dumplings at Jin Din Rou
It’s mesmerizing watching the cooks shape dumplings through Jin Din Rou’s street-side window. It’s even more mesmerizing to bite into these delicate dumplings encasing meat and hot, porky broth. This is the stuff of wet food dreams.
Tater tot nachos at Home Bar and Grill
Apparently, it wasn’t the kitchen’s idea to include these tater tot nachos on the menu, but rather owner Chris Tai’s. They’ve since become a runaway hit. We’re hardly surprised–the love child of tater tots and nachos could hardly find a better home than at this sports bar.
Fried chicken at KJ’s Local Grindz
The name of this joint will prepare you for the type of place it is, but it will not prepare you for the best fried chicken on the island.
Chicharrones at Baja Style
It’s true we’re a bit swine-happy right now, but these chicharrones from Baja Style, a farmers’ market vendor, can’t be overlooked. These aren’t the usual pork skin chips, but rather roasted pork belly with crunchy skin, doused in a bright chile verde sauce.
Tangy and sweet, these berry, banana and granola bowls are a “healthy” fix. Açai bowl fanatics tend to fall into two camps: Jewel or Juice and Da Cove. Try both and then decide for yourself.
Mochi bread at Boulangerie Bakery
At this Korean-French bakery, puffy mochi breads studded with black sesame offer up a curiously chewy experience.
Hot pot, shabu shabu, nabe
No matter the temperature outside, Honolulu-ites always seem eager for hot, steaming, communal bowls of soup to dip goodies like mushrooms; four varieties of tofu; thinly-sliced pork, lamb or beef; beef tongue; lotus root; meatballs; fishballs…the list is almost exhausting, but we’ll never tire of Sweet Home Cafe (Taiwanese-style hot pot), Imanas Tei and Ichiriki (Japanese nabe).
We’re blessed with plenty of options for good, fresh noodles, which are more toothsome than the dried or frozen variety. Go to Matsugen for soba noodles; Marukame Udon for udon; Town for handcut Italian pastas; Zippy’s for saimin with a bit of chew. If you want to cook fresh noodles at home, Yat Tung Chow Noodle Factory offers nine varieties of Chinese noodles, skinny to fat.
Shio tempura at Zenshu
Try the medley of tempura vegetables and Hamakua mushrooms, all expertly fried. But what elevates the tempura here are the accompanying salts: housemade goma (sesame), kombu (kelp) and ume (plum).
Oxtail ramen at Ramen Nakamura
Meaty oxtail bones with chewy cartilage are bathed in Ramen Nakamura’s famous deeply flavorful broth and noodles. It’s the perfect bowl of noodle soup.
Uni, those rich, velvety tongues of sea urchin roe, are turning up in pastas almost as much as sushi these days. The dish is expensive in restaurants but easy enough to prepare at home: Simply cook half a pound of spaghetti to al dente, drain, add about 3 ounces of uni and the juice of half a lemon to the pasta and stir until thick. Season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with chopped chives.