Our Top 5: Super Bowl snacks

Fried chicken, chili, cold chow mein: I’ve had enough to last me a lifetime. For this Sunday’s Super Bowl, I replayed the most outstanding potluck dishes in my history of eating and came up with this dream spread.

It hits every category you want in your sports day snackage: crispy appetizer, flavorful noodles, a creamy dessert. There’s even lean protein and some veggies for the health-conscious. Rather than have this Super Bowl be remembered for deflated balls, bring one of these picks. I guarantee it will get you invited back next year.

No. 5: Gau gee and roast pork, Roast Duck Kitchen


This hidden gem in Aiea is known for their roast pork and roast duck. While I highly recommend the crispy skin roast pork, be sure to grab a side order of their crispy gau gee (10 for $8.50). These mega sized gau gee are perfect finger food for the big game. Just a few of these and you’ll feel like a nap.

Roast Duck Kitchen
99-115 Aiea Heights Dr.

No. 4: Sashimi/poke platter, Maguro Brothers Hawaii


Tucked in the back of Chinatown’s Kekaulike Market, Maguro Brothers serves up some of the freshest fish on the island. They do custom platters for parties so you can mix and match. This is my one-stop shop for poke, sashimi, hamachi collars and misoyaki salmon and butterfish.
Photo by Paul Chan
Maguro Brothers Hawaii
1039 Kekaulike St.

No. 3: Pumpkin crunch, The Alley Restaurant Bar & Grill


My dessert pick is the Alley’s famous pumpkin crunch cake ($29.50). This is a classic and always a favorite at parties. The nutty crust delivers a perfect crunchy accompaniment to the silky pumpkin and whipped cream. Pumpkin crunch is one of those things you keep eating even when you’re full.

The Alley Restaurant Bar & Grill
99-115 Aiea Heights Dr.

No. 2: Drunken noodles, Rajanee Thai


Someone always brings crappy chow mein or fried noodles to every Super Bowl party. Rajanee’s drunken noodles ($9) kick things up several notches. The wide rice noodles are tossed with proteins and veggies and seasoned with shoyu, fish sauce and garlic. They’re called drunken noodles because you’re supposed to eat them while drinking. Sometimes Rajanee runs a special of drunken noodles topped with fried softshell crab.

Rajanee Thai
95-390 Kuahelani Ave.

No. 1: Turkey tails, Alicia’s Market


Everyone knows Alicia’s Market for their poke and plate lunch combinations, but the hidden secret in plain view are the char siu turkey tails. At $4.50 per pound the price is right, but it’s the deep, sweet char siu seasoning that lifts these above other turkey tails and makes them worthy of gnawing to the last scrap.

Alicia’s Market
267 Mokauea St.

Here’s a full roundup of Our Top 5 picks.

Hidden gem: Poke on da Run

IMG_1598Massive poke bowls? Hearty plate lunches? I love both, and I especially love my poke. When a friend told me about a hidden gem down the street from the Pearl City police station, I had to check out Poke on da Run.

Here’s the story: Wendell Tavares loves fishing and used to sell his extra catch out of his house and the back of his truck. After getting hurt at his sheet metal job, he started Poke on da Run last November. Using the fish he reels in along with fish fresh from the auction at Pier 38, Tavares mixes all kinds of poke and hot plate lunch specials six days a week.

Tavares runs the store with the help of his wife, son and sister-in-law Monday through Saturday. I stopped by with a bunch of friends to sample this tucked-away spot on the south end of Lehua Avenue.

Poke on da Run

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The sheer size of Poke on da Run's poke bowls is enough to feed two people. Packed with your choice of rice and topped with your choice of poke (choose as many kinds as you wish) you have a satisfying meal all for $12.

This is the spicy tako, Hawaiian style ahi and spicy ahi pokes. The spicy tako is creamy with a savory oyster sauce drizzle giving a hit of sweetness to the kick of the pepper. The Hawaiian style and spicy ahi are staples for all poke lovers and the four of us inhaled this huge poke bowl.

Poke on da Run
909 Lehua Ave.
Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Something new: Aloha Tofu Town

IMG_1437Until recently, I never really thought the words “tofu” and “plate lunch” belonged in the same sentence. They seem like opposite ends of the spectrum: One is healthy and the other, not so much. Then I heard Aloha Tofu had opened a plate lunch place — and it was supposed to be very good. I headed to Dole Cannery the first chance I got.

It turns out that after Kanai Tofu closed in 2011, Aloha Tofu owners Paul and Misa Uyehara looked for a location to step up production of their aburaage fried tofu skins and discovered a 5,000-square-foot space at Dole Cannery. That’s good news, since Aloha is a third-generation family business and one of the few remaining local tofu makers. And since customers had been asking to buy prepared tofu dishes (Aloha puts a lot of tofu recipes on its website), the Uyeharas created a cozy takeout spot for plate lunches, bentos, musubis and sweets.

IMG_1424I found Aloha Tofu Town in the same building as the Dole Cannery Theaters and Tachibana Enterprises golf shop. Customers can park in the theater parking and get two hours of free validation. Since opening on Jan. 6, Aloha Tofu Town is open only for lunch (for now) from 11 a.m. til 2 p.m. I asked if they had plans to serve dinner, since movie-goers (myself included) would love a spot to grab a bite. Misa Uyehara’s response was promising: “We hope to allow other restaurants to serve meals out of our kitchen as a pop-up restaurant space,” she said.

Tuesday’s special was an Aloha Tofu loco moco. Tofu is mixed in with ground beef to form the two patties that come in a regular order ($8) topped with an egg and a hearty demi-glace. The patties are incredibly tender, unlike a pure beef patty that tends to get very firm when cooked. The loco moco retains a strong beef flavor that is enhanced by the thick and savory demi-glace poured all over. Had I tasted this when making my Top 5 loco moco list, it would definitely rank up there with the best.

IMG_1450Along with the loco moco, I sampled the tofu mousse, okara cream puffs, tofu poke and sesame soybean musubi.

The musubi is the best musubi I’ve had in Hawaii. Mochi rice is mixed in with your standard grains, and the rice ball is then flavored with an umami-packed sauce of seaweed, sesame oil, shoyu, sake, mirin and dashi.

I was pleasantly surprised by the airiness of the sweets — then found out they were crafted by the masterful hand of a former pastry chef at Tokyo’s elite Hotel Okura who is best known for serving her cheesecake to the emperor of Japan.

Uyehara notes that they are hoping to expand their menu after they work out the kinks of getting the factory up to speed. She is especially looking forward to roll cakes.

I’m impressed with the quality of the food at Aloha Tofu Town. Each item is meticulously prepared to a high standard and satisfies. The only downside is their selection could be bigger, but that will come with time. I hear good things about their Aloha Friday bentos (they take pre-orders via phone or fax) and look forward to enjoying one this Friday.

Aloha Tofu Town

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You read that right, okara cream puffs. Okara is the fluffy, commonly discarded byproduct left over from making tofu. Aloha Tofu Town uses it to make lightly sweet cream puffs that hit the spot.

Aloha Tofu Town
735 Iwilei Rd.
Monday to Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where real Thais eat Thai food

Thai Spice ShackWhen it comes to Thai food, we know flavorful pad Thai noodles, crispy fried spring rolls and green curry. And that’s about it. But when we see pages of menu items with names like pad gar pao, por pia and som tum, your guess is as good as ours.

In the spirit of Frolic’s ongoing quest to get to the heart of every cuisine we can think of, we’re following up on our posts about where real Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese nationals eat Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese food with a look at real Thai favorites.

Here’s a shoutout to one of our readers, Janjeera, for the idea. And here are the favorite dishes of some of our Thai friends who’ve helped broaden our horizons and find the flavors at the heart of Thai cuisine.

Nanz Yotsaya

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Growing up in Thailand, Nanz Yotsaya watched her mother cook Thai food from scratch using fresh ingredients and vibrant seasonings. Nanz is an avid surfer and yogi and loves clean and healthy eating.

Hidden gem: Ka’ili Cafe

IMG_1176Three days a week, Ka’ili Cafe pops up in a Kakaako surf store, serving auction fresh fish in poke bowls. It launched last fall, but because of its somewhat discreet location — across the street from the UFC Gym on Pohukaina Street — it’s known primarily to those who work in and around the neighborhood.

The story goes that owner Tisha Tom’s husband, Jim Hayes, always craved poke bowls for lunch, but there was never a place within walking distance from their surf store, Tropical Blends Surf, so they decided to open a eatery focused on that. For now, Ka’ili is open only on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. until 3 or 4 p.m.

IMG_1151I’m always in the mood for poke, so I decided to check it out. Immediately upon walking in, I was greeted by Tom and Staci Imamura, who provided an overview of their menu, which along with poke bowls, includes fresh salads and organic sorbets. “We just want to feed people; come hang out,” Tom said.

In many ways, Ka’ili Cafe is a throwback to past times in Hawaii, when mom-and-pop shopkeepers knew not only all of their customers by name, but also their favorite orders. That’s the vibe inside this quirky cafe with Hawaiian-style woven straw walls, where you eat poke in a room lined with surfboards for sale. There’s seating too, on small tables and along a counter inside and a few tables on an outside patio.

I ordered each of the three pokes — a spicy ahi and kajiki, shoyu ahi and shoyu tofu ($8.25-$8.75.) — a fish taco salad ($8.75) and sampled Imamura’s organic sorbets. The pokes are made from fish straight from the fish auction and mixed to order. The cubes are lightly marinated with either a spicy sauce or shoyu before being added to rice or greens. The cafe offers two salads that change weekly. And Imamura makes Staci Mae’s organic sorbets using local, organic fruits, including mango, starfruit, pineapple and orange.

Here’s a look inside:

Ka'ili Cafe

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The cafe is located at 810 Pohukaina St. across from the UFC BJ Penn gym. Park in front in their driveway or on their lawn.

Kaili Cafe
810 Pohukaina St.
Thursday-Saturday 11 a.m.-4 p.m.