Ireh’s Haemul Kalguksu

Photo By Grace Ryu

Hot slurps: Best soupy bowls for cold nights

Frolic team picks from ramen and saimin to hot pot and jook
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Since when is March so cold? When there's snow on the volcanoes and it's chilly all over, there's no better way to warm up than from the inside out. Here are some of our team's fave comfort meals in a bowl.

Mama Le's chao bo, Pig and the Lady farmers market booth, $12

Chao bo with bits of beef, fresh herbs, chili sauce, fried shallots and side of Chinese doughnut 

Chao. Congee. Jook. Whatever you call it, rice porridge isn't the most exciting soup by any measure. The exception is Loan "Mama" Le's Hanoi-style chao bo, or beef congee, which will get me to drive from Kapolei to the Blaisdell Farmers Market at the height of rush hour. This comforting hot slurp is like that favorite jacket you've held onto for years: classic, reliable and incredibly warm. It comes dressed up with bits of beef, fresh herbs, chili sauce and fried shallots in a broth that rivals pho, with a side of youtiao (Chinese fried doughnut) for dipping. Mama Le rarely makes chao, so I bring home extra bowls for rainy days.  — Thomas Obungen 

777 Ward Avenue • Ward •

Char siu shio ramen, Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, $11.50

Char siu shio ramen with bamboo shoots, wood ear mushrooms, fishcake and green onions

When the urge for a great soupy bowl strikes, I head to Santouka for char siu shio ramen. Unassuming in looks, this bowl has everything I need to transport my taste buds and soul to Japan. Santouka's deeply umami-rich tonkotsu broth is a playground for the firm yet yielding noodles and toppings. This is the only place in Hawaii where I always finish every last comforting drop.  — Gregg Hoshida
801 Kaheka St A-8 • Kaheka • 941-1101 •

Beef flank and tendon look funn, Lam's Kitchen, $8.99

Beef flank and tendon look funn with choi sum and green onions

This bowl at Lam's Kitchen holds a special place in my heart. Lam's success was built on this dish it's packed with more flavor than any other place in town. They also make their own look funn in-house and it's as good as you'll find anywhere. Though they do make other fantastic dishes, I don't even bother looking at the menu because this is a guaranteed winner every time. — Jason Chin 

1152 Maunakea St • Chinatown • 536-6222 •

AYCE dinner hotpot, Rokaru Shabu Shabu, $29.95

Rokaru's AYCE hotpot in Pearl City

My wife and I are willing to brave afternoon westbound traffic for a taste of Rokaru's hotpot. While a bit on the pricey side at $29.95, the flavor of their tonkotsu broth suits our taste and the all-you-can-eat meat and vegetables makes it so we can get our money's worth. As an added bonus, the set comes with appetizers and dessert, and there are complimentary refills of matcha tea. — Eric Baranda

1140 Kuala St. • Pearl City • 455-3000 •

Motsu menchanko with extra noodles, Menchanko Tei, $17.25

Motsu menchanko with cabbage, tofu, chives, red chili pepper and extra noodles

The motsu menchanko from Menchanko Tei is one of my favorite hot slurps because the collagen-rich shoyu broth is so thick and garlicy, and the chewy egg noodles soak up all the delicious flavor. When I’m really hungry, I make sure to order it with extra noodles. This restaurant's menchanko dishes are all served in a cast iron pot, so it stays hot down to the last bite. — Cavina Quach

903 Keeaumoku St C101A • Keeamoku • 946-1888 •

Menya tsukemen, Menya le Nood, $16

Menya tsukemen with braised pork belly, ajitama, bamboo shoots, green onions and nori

I like my noodles thick and chewy, so tsukemen at Menya le Nood (formerly Menya Musashi) is my go-to. I always get the Menya Tsukemen with creamy tonkotsu broth and mild spice. It comes with two thick pieces of kakuni (Japanese braised pork belly), a lusciously yolky ajitama boiled egg, bamboo shoots, green onions and nori. There’s something fun and comforting about dipping my noodles into the broth and enjoying the explosion of flavors one bite at a time. If I’m starving, I’ll go for the extra-large noodle portion — it’s a free upgrade.  — Kelli Shiroma

560 Pensacola St • Ala Moana • 589-0634 •

Beautifying hot pot, Minori Craft Japanese Tavern, $19.80

Beautifying hot pot with chicken, tsukune meatballs, and greens from the salad bar

The first time I had this was as a sample in a plastic cup. The miso-colored broth with chicken and aburaage strips looked so boring I gave it away; when I started hearing compliments I asked for it back. This is the most unctuous paitan you will ever put in your mouth. Slow-cooked from chicken bones and frozen overnight, it melts in the pot atop a live flame, rich with a silky, viscous mouthfeel. The chicken option comes with fresh chicken chunks and tsukune meatballs to cook at your table. Unlimited salad bar with local kale, watermelon radish, okra and eggplant is included in the $19.80 price. That's $19.80 per hot pot, not per person. — Mari Taketa 

1731 Kalakaua Ave. • Ala Moana • 951-4444 •

Saimin, Forty Niner Restaurant, $5.50

Small saimin with spam, char siu, kamaboko and green onions

I grew up in Aiea and along the walk from school to my home was Forty Niner. Nothing says cold weather comfort food more than a hot bowl of their saimin. Since 1947, Forty Niner has been serving our community. These are not firm noodles, they are soft, almost melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. Their soup noodle is topped with the four essentials of a saimin: Spam, char siu, kamaboko and green onion. The soup is very mild so you can add condiments such as shoyu, pepper or Tabasco to your liking. They have four sizes to accommodate any appetite, with their small bowl costing only $5.50. — Toby Tamaye 

98-110 Honomanu St • Aiea • 484-1940 •

Haemul kalguksu, Ireh, $13.95

Haemul kalguksu with daikon and zucchini 

Nothing is more comforting than a bowl of warm noodles. My cold weather go-to is Ireh’s haemul kalguksu. These knife-cut wheat noodles swim in a steaming bowl of seafood dashi broth. It’s so simple but as comforting as mama’s hug. It takes me straight to my childhood. What makes Ireh’s so good? It’s completely unadulterated nostalgia — just like mom’s! The slightly thickened soup, slabs of soft, sweet daikon and julienned zucchini atop a bed of plentiful chewy noodles: This soup feeds more than your belly.  — Grace Ryu

911 Keeaumoku St • Keeamoku • 943-6000 •

Pork belly noodles, Joy Cup Noodles Mean, $13.99

Pork belly noodles with level 6 spice

My favorite hot slurp right now is from Joy Cup Noodles Mean. If I'm looking to keep warm, it would have to be the pork belly noodles, level 6. You can choose the spice level from 1 to 14, so if you prefer something spicier to really make you sweat, have at it! The pork belly is a nice contrast against the spicy chongqing noodles. — Melissa Chang

1608 Kalakaua Ave • McCully • 725-2898 •

Pig feet soup, Marukai, $6.99

Pig feet soup with choi sum, shiitake, daikon, and kombu

Some places da pig feet soup no more nuff flavor to me. Marukai's one soooo good and da feet get meat that's fall-off-da-bone tender. But what I like bestestest about theirs one is da price. — Lee Tonouchi

2310 Kamehameha Hwy• Kalihi • 845-5051 •