Grace Ryu is that embarrassing friend with her camera and phone that asks you to “give her light” while she takes a pic of everything that passes her lips. While passionate about food, travel, and family, she’s all about talking story and big laughs. Grace is the face behind @grobusteats, a Honolulu foodie Instagram feed.
Want to hear a not-so-secret secret? Hawaii is the land of kimcheehoo! Have an ono piece of meat? Put kimchee on it. Have a hot dog? Put kimchee on it. Have a stack of fries? Put kimchee on it! Why? Because kimchee does a dish right!
Chefs across the islands are doing what Korean home cooks have been doing for centuries — putting kimchee on it, in it and around it. It’s for a good reason — kimchee accents so many dishes, especially those fatty, juicy, dripping cuts of meat that I hold so dear and close to (and in) my heart!
Being Korean, kimchee is an everyday food, but for many folks, especially for east coasters like me, it was an anomaly. I recall the days when classmates would ask what that weird red stuff was while grimacing as though I was eating worms. My mom would even omit the garlic so that I wouldn’t be reeking every time I opened my mouth. But those days are long gone. Kimchee is the “it” ingredient that pervades quick-stop bentos, food chains, grocery aisles and even high-end restaurants.
Folks at Zippy’s recognized our affinity for kimchee and did a great collaboration with the guys from Seoul Sausage this past summer, rolling out their Kalbi Sausage Sandwich ($6.95) loaded with kimchee, coleslaw, sriracha mayo on a King’s Hawaiian Sweet Roll Bun. Aw yeah. This item was meant to be available only for a limited time, but due to its popularity, will remain available for the foreseeable future. Yay for us!
Zippy's • Various locations • zippys.com
If you’ve ever visited the KCC Farmers’ Market on a hangry early morn, you’ve probably seen, and likely have eaten, Kukui Sausage’s most popular item — their Kimchee sausage. It is conveniently mounted on a stick or tucked lovingly in a bun. No topping necessary for this flavor-packed force meat, but of course that’s your prerogative. If you haven’t been able to check out the KCC Farmers’ Market, these bad boys can also be found at Marukai, Don Quijote and Tamuras.
Kukui Sausage Co. • Various grocery stores and Saturday morning Kapiolani Community College Farmers' Market • kukuisausageco.com
Not enough kimchee for you? Well, you can get your pipes ready and sing a song at this popular karaoke joint, Cafe Duck Butt, and chow down on Loaded Kimchee Fries ($14). Topped with chopped kimchi, bulgogi, cheese, jalapenos and sour cream, this yahmminess can be found both at Cafe Duck Butt and their westside sister restaurant, DB Grill.
Cafe Duck Butt • 901 Kawaiahao St. • Kakaako • 593-1880 • DB Grill • 4450 Kapolei Pkwy • Kapolei • 376-0885 • dbgrillhi.com
Kimchee on white linen? MW Restaurant chefs Michelle Karr-Ueoka and Wade Ueoka incorporate kimchee into their Kimchee Portuguese Bean Soup and their Kimchee Potato Salad and the results are double-clap ono!
Served in a traditional Korean stone pot, their Portuguese bean soup is reminiscent of kimchee jigae (kimchee stew with pork), but is still very much Portuguese bean soup. Made with Redondo’s and Kukui’s portuguese sausage, ham hock, pork and corned beef, the soup is meaty and satisfying. Green beans add nice texture and color while the kimchee adds sweetness and spice. The soup is straight-up slurpable!
One would think the Kimchee Potato Salad would have loads of chopped kimchee in it, but it’s mild with a slight tang. Though kimchee and kalbi are a classic combo, this definitely feels elevated and new. The cucumber kimchee adds brightness and crunch but eaten with a piece of kalbi and ragu, it’s close-your-eyes good.
MW Restaurant • 1538 Kapiolani Blvd. • Ala Moana • 955-6505 • mwrestaurant.com
There is no doubt that kimchee is here to stay and will be showing up more often and in new and innovative ways. Maybe you can create your own kimchee masterpiece — on scrambled eggs, tacos, or pizza — to find your own kimcheehoo heaven.