If you know, you know: Regulars at the Pearlridge Farm Lover's Market on Saturday mornings have either seen or stood in the hour-long line for Kahiau Jerky's super fresh, super ono poke. It's nuts. But it's worth it.
Kahiau Jerky isn't leaving the market, but they've expanded to a brick-and-mortar spot in Chinatown, where O'Kims used to be on Smith Street, and now downtown workers can taste the goodness for themselves.
A little history: Hinano Delgado was an Aloha Airlines flight attendant and worked as a commercial fisherman on the side. When the airline closed, he dove into fishing full-time. He still has his boat and he still fishes, but it's become less frequent as he builds this business and flies with Hawaiian Airlines. Nonetheless, Delgado still catches much of the fish he sells, and if he doesn't catch it, he buys it himself directly from the fisherman, not a wholesaler. Delgado's 20-plus years of experience catching, cutting and cooking big game fish is expressed in his poke and jerky, which is why it tastes so freakin good. Just ask anyone who stands in that line every week.
The new shop will be open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., functioning not just as a neighborhood poke shop, but as a spot for grab-and-go lunches for people in the area, stuff that's easy to eat with one hand while you type with the other as you work through lunch. Here's some of the stuff you can expect to see:
The poke-rrito is everything you'd find in a poke bowl, but wrapped in nori for easier one-handed eating. I tried it with spicy poke, which I suspect will be the most popular option, but you can order it with any poke you want.
That's right, you get three poke-topped inari sushi for just $5.99, which is a steal. I love cone sushi, so this one is one of my favorites. The sashimi plate is delicious, but probably not something I could eat at my desk. Delgado pointed out that he can make full platters for parties if you order ahead of time. Another favorite snack is the smoked marlin, which is soft but still meaty enough so you can chew on it and it keeps you going. And finally, Kahiau Jerky's signature limu kohu chili peppa watah, also known as sHOT water. This stuff is a kicked-up version of the stuff you usually have on the luau table, probably due to the extra brininess. It's also good with vodka in a dirty martini. Or so I've heard.
Kahiau Jerky will still have their thin and crispy jerky in bags, but Delgado wanted to offer heftier jerky for people who want something to chew on. These aren't tough at all; they're just made for you to spend a little more time eating, than the crispy type. I was intimidated at first, but was pleasantly surprised to find a really nice balance of flavor on each, and didn't need to floss afterward. Also, if you're wondering about the price to weight value ratio, that whole tray of pipikaula is about two and a half pounds, so you get quite a bit.
I know Delgado prides himself on being a native Hawaiian business, but this is REALLY Hawaiian. He serves fresh, homemade laulau and fresh, homemade poi every day. Isn't that a pain to make? "Well, that's why it tastes so good," Delgado replied. But of course.
You can substitute the rice for poi for $1 more, or order a small poi on the side for 50 cents. And there is no substitute for fresh, homemade laulau. Ever.
Kahiau Jerky also has a refrigerator case with several different kinds of poke daily. These are just a few, all at $17.99 per pound. The ones with sauce will be hand-mixed to order so the fish doesn't get saturated.
One last grab-and-go item:
Kahiau Jerky's spam musubi is comprised of spam and the shoyu poke sauce, pretty straightforward. The ahi musubi has fresh "canned" tuna with fresh tuna, and organic eggs. This is one of Delgado's favorite childhood snacks, very savory and delicate — since it's all fresh fish, it melts in your mouth.
Eventually, Delgado hopes to offer more items at the store. One of my favorites is his smoked ahi dip, which is the best one I've had so far — and I've had a lot of smoked ahi dip. It's so good, I once saw a little girl cuddling her container at the market. He also claims to make mean kine boiled peanuts.
If you don't work downtown, you can still find Kahiau Jerky at the Pearlridge Farm Lovers Market on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon and the Kailua Farm Lovers Market on Sundays from 8:30 a.m. to noon. As of this writing, Delgado hasn't told his wife Tiara that she will also be working in the shop, so hopefully she isn't learning about it for the first time from this blog!
One last thing, if you can't find parking near the shop, you can pull up to the curb and put your hazard lights on, then run in and out.