The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Honolulu, Night 1: Dinner at Grandma's House

I visited Honolulu with Kathy from May 9-16. Goal: Eat a ton. Goal status: ATTAINED! Now I just have to blog about it all. ...This may take a while.

First snack on the plane
Mm, turkey hotdog in dough.

After about 11 hours on the plane during which I ate two or three airplane meals (the only one I remember is the one I photographed), watched When In Rome (oh god, the things you'll watch when you're stuck on an airplane), bits of Ratatouille, three episodes of CSI, an episode of What Not To Wear, and whatever else Continental was able to grab their hands on for our viewing enjoyment (which wasn't a whole lot), I landed in the sunny, temperate bosom of Honolulu. And I was pretty excited.

But it wasn't until a promotional video narrated by Governor Linda Lingle popped onto all the TV screens in the cabin near the end of the flight that I got the super excited, "OH MAN, I AM ALMOST THERE, HOO MAMA!" feeling. She was all like, "Welcome to our beautiful beaches, our lush forests, our majestic volcanoes, our bagillion endangered species, AND WE HAVE RAINBOWS, oh boy do we have rainbows, just wait till you see them" (not her exact words, but it sounded like that in my head). She mentioned most of the things Hawaii is known for, except for one.

Food. Seriously, why do you think I went there?

...I mean, I did other stuff besides eat, but not a whole lot more. When you have one of the best food guides to Honolulu at your side, Kathy YL Chan, you take advantage of that knowledge. More important than going to Waikiki Beach or hiking was that I, with the help of Kathy, consume shave ice and plate lunches and sushi up the wazoo and malasadas and more varieties of mochi than I've ever imagined and pastries and things like that.

And it happened. But not on the first night. After I hopped in a car with Kathy, her sister Tiffany, and their mom, we drove to Kathy's grandma's house for a big home cooked family meal.

Get ready to eaaaat
FOOD. With newspaper-covered table for easy clean up.

Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. The dinner was for Kathy's family (mom, dad, sister), her two cousins and uncle who live with her grandma, her aunt and uncle visiting from France, her grandpa, and me. And...her grandma, although she doesn't eat meat. But her food comes out great anyway; I think her husband acts as a taste tester.

roast duck and pork

First up, roast duck and roast pork. Not homemade, but Chinatown-made.

eggplant mash
Eggplant mash.

Fried mashed eggplant with chili peppers and egg, totally homemade. It tastes much better than it looks—Kathy said this was her favorite dish on the table. It basically tastes like the description, but that doesn't tell you much. A light, soft mash that's sort of eggplant-y and scrambled egg-y with a bit of spiciness. Does that help? Probably not.

egg and peanut and stuff
Thousand Year Old Egg.

My favorite was the thousand-year-old duck egg with pickled ginger, cilantro, crushed peanuts, and vinegar. That's a lot of flavors and textures in every bite (I'm a big fan of the peanuts). Hell, you could even make this at home—I just listed all the ingredients for you.


I also liked the fried yi-mein, bright yellow egg noodles with a pleasantly soft and springy texture, mixed with mushrooms and green onions, and probably other things. Why aren't these noodles more prominent in my life? WHY?

dinner table
Pot o stuff.

I forgot to take a good photo of the centerpiece, a huge pot of beef ball soup (here's Kathy's photo). The beef balls were super dense and smooth with a bit of a sproingy texture. They had a bit of a funky flavor, perhaps from fish sauce.

fermented fish and stuff
Salted fish.

Much funkier than the beef balls was the steamed salted fish with pork and ginger. The fish (which is sort of poking out in the bottom left part of the bowl) was super salty and funky, but those flavors were offset by the pork and ginger...and gobs of rice. I ate gobs of rice with pretty much everything. I'M CHINESE, THAT'S HOW I ROLL.

Cream mochi Cream mochi
Cream mochi.

For dessert we shared a box of mochi from Mochicream...which closed that day. So no Mochicream for you. I guess they have locations in Japan, but their stand at Shirokiya in the Ala Moana Center has been replaced with a Mikawaya ice cream mochi stand, which seems less special since it's not hard to find Mikawaya's mochi in stores. The mochi from Mochicream weren't filled with ice cream, but some other sort of...cream, best served chilled. While tasty, I wouldn't prefer it over regular mochi. I'd rather eat more mochi than cream.

Buddy! Buddy is sleepy Buddy = dog loaf

Here's Kathy's adorable dog Buddy. He's at least 14 years old, and it shows; he has a wobbly walk due to a busted front knee cap, and his hair is falling out (you can see a patch on his butt in the above photo). :( But he seems to be doing alright for his age. He's particularly fond of having his belly scratched, but if you flip him over on his back he can't roll back over without help. Aw. It's sort of funny in a sad way.

Eating a big home cooked family meal, something I rarely do, was a great way to spend my first night in Honolulu. I don't have anything against my relatives; we're just not close. One major similarity between this meal and a big family meal I might have with my relatives was that I couldn't understand what anyone was saying 75% of the time. You think I would've picked up some Chinese over the last 24 years of my life, but, as I tell most people, I only remember a few words from my early childhood, the most prominent one being "dapigu." THANKS A BUNCH, MOM AND DAD! (My parents spoke to my brother and me in English, and to each other in Chinese.)

Where I slept
Nice living room, yeah.

I would've visited Honolulu years ago if not for Kathy's insistence that I visit when her family moved into their new house that they'd been working on for five years (her dad's an architect). And it looks like the work paid off; look at that beautiful living room. Crazy high ceilings and windows-for-walls = AWESOME HOUSE. Alas, the house still has quite a ways to go before it's finished; I woke up each morning to the sound of clanging and drilling and other noises that indicate a house is being built. But it worked out fine since we had to wake up early anyway. Also, since they didn't have Internet installed yet, I went to bed around midnight every night. That is crazy early in my world. CRAZY.

Kathy's backyard
Nice backyard.

And that's her "looks like the set of Lost" backyard. Nice.

There's the end of Night 1 (plus a bit of the next morning). There are about 500000 more virtual calories coming your way. Soon. I hope.


Marvo / May 21, 2010 2:34 AM

Well, technically, midnight here is 5 am for you in NY. So wouldn't it be about the normal time you go to sleep?

I'm sorry for being a slumber killjoy. :(


Belinda @zomppa / May 21, 2010 7:40 AM

I venture to say...that meal far beats that turkey dog. Buddy is toooooo adorable! BTW - salted fish? MY FAVORITE...cuz that's how we roll...=)

kim / May 21, 2010 7:43 AM

I looove family meal. You can consume more caloric 'absently' that way, lol.

Love that Chinese newspaper spread. We used to do that with takeout, but stopped after realizing how unhygenic it is, hehe.

Did you speak Chinese (Madarin or Cantaonese) with K's family?

roboppy / May 21, 2010 9:23 AM

Marvo: HARDEEHARhuhhuuh..

I went to bed at 2 last night! That's more normal for me. Yeah.

I feel super tired right now. :(

Nicholas: Spank! It means both. I'm quite sure.

Belinda: Salted fish HIGH FIVE!

Kim: I don't speak any Chinese, so ..I spent a lot of my trip not saying anything, haha. My parents speak Mandarin though.

Julie / May 21, 2010 1:13 PM

I miss big family meals like that. Growing up, all the aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., often a hundred times removed, would get together at holidays and big celebrations like graduation. Everyone would bring a potluck dish or two to share, and we'd just eat all day.

How big is that dog, because he looks like he's the size of a guinea pig--a pocket dog!

I wish my parents had taught us (or at least me) Tagalog or Ilocano. All I know is kitchen Filipino, and like you, they seemed to want it that way. Guess they just wanted us all to integrate or whatever. =\ Oh, my culture!

Danny / May 21, 2010 2:46 PM

that backyard looks super awesome. very pollen-y, yet awesome. love the dog too.. look at him!

Jiuyen / May 21, 2010 4:52 PM

Chinese tones are fun. "Da" can mean either "big" or "hit." Depends on the tone. They are also written differently.

I loved how authentic the Chinese meal was, by the way. From the roasted stuff from the market (no one makes this at home) to the newspaper on the table, that is just so Chinese.

Now I want to go home to visit my family!

Ellen / May 21, 2010 5:14 PM

Ok, I know this is a long shot, but do you know (or could you ask Kathy) what the plants are that I can see out the window of that gorgeous living room? It looks like the slope behind the window has been freshly planted. Yes, I know this is a FOOD blog, not a PLANT blog, but...

gtrine / May 21, 2010 10:47 PM

I absolutely love the newspaper under all the dishes! And the steamed pork with salty fish. Yum!

Buddy is still super cute, despite his age.

roboppy / May 22, 2010 1:18 AM

Julie: The dog is weenie! Not guine pig-weenie, but quite small.

My mom said I refused to learn Chinese, and I totally believe her. My brother and I were hopeless when it came to learning Chinese as kids. But I also feel like she could've forced it into me if necessary, and I wouldn't have grown up to hate her. :)

Danny: Oh yes, the pollen...THE..ALLERGIES EVERY MORNING.. ah well, it looked awesome.

Jiuyen: They definitely told me the spank version. It was a "DO THIS THING, OR ELSE, DAPIGU." Man, they just said it a lot to me. I think it was mostly my dad though. I can't remember my mom saying it.

I can't do tones for the life of me. Admittedly, as a kid I didn't try very hard.

Window on the Prairie: Yeah, definitely. No processed turkey logs, woohoo!

Ellen: I forwarded your comment to Kathy! ANSWERS SHALL BE FOUND! Maybe. The view out of the living room is gonna look sweeet.

gtrine: Yeah, Buddy is adorable! Until you scratch his scabby skin patches...actually he's still cute then. I scratched his belly for a bit and when I would stop he'd look at me like, "No, keep going. [Glare.]" And then back to scratching.

bionicgrrrl / May 22, 2010 2:01 AM

Oooh, I love thousand year old egg. And thx for the list of ingredients, I will try to make it at home! And Buddy is so cute. My dog Romeo is getting old too, but he still acts like a puppy.

Woodson / May 22, 2010 2:38 PM

That's what Continental served on a trans-continental flight? They were just named the second best North America airline by SkyTrax. Can North American airlines come close to the standards of the Asian carriers?

Christina / May 22, 2010 11:04 PM

Woo! I get excited just thinking about Hawaii! I hope you ate some spam fried rice.

About the lack of internet, I sort of feel like a piece of my soul is lost when I don't have access to the internet. This is either sad to many, or understood by others.

Maurice / May 23, 2010 9:52 AM

Hi, roboppy. Long time, no talk. All this Hawaiiness is teh w1n, but I'm still waiting to hear about the gigantic piles of meat and rice. I feel like that chapter of this saga will appeal to the Caribbean in me. :-D

Eileen / May 23, 2010 7:02 PM

Awwww, Buddy is sooo cute!! And mochi ice cream is really good, although I'm not sure what the mochi cream thingee you had was. I heard Hawaii is quite famous for mochi ice cream though (probably due to the large Japanese population).

And that eggplant dish sounds amazing! (I'm a huge fan of eggplant)

sophia / May 24, 2010 10:33 AM

Um, wow. When I get homecooked meals from others, it's usually reheated lasagne from Costco. Not such a lavish spread!

Is there ANYWAY I can get that recipe for the fried mashed eggplant with chili peppers and egg? It sounds wonderful

roboppy / May 24, 2010 4:35 PM

bionicgrrr: Iv'e rarely eaten thousand year old egg. I SHOULD EAT MORE. Yeah. As a kid I probably thought it looked to weird to eat.

Woodson: Asian airlines seem to have the best food. I loved getting bibimbap on my flight to Korea last year! (I feel like Continental would probably serve something different if it were a flight to Japan. Like Japanese food. Hopefully.)

Christina: Oh noes, I didn't get spam fried rice! But I did eat a spam musubi.

Maurice: Ah yeah, I will get to the gigantic meat piles ...eventually! I'm so behind, as you can see. :(

Eileen: I should've eaten more mochi ice cream here. I went to the most famous place (methinks), Bubbies...but I ate a lot of ice cream sans mochi. GIANT BOWL OF ICE CREAM. You will see.

Sophia: I will ask Kathy for the recipe! :)

Tanya / May 25, 2010 1:27 PM

Wow, looks like you had an "awful" first night in HI. ;o) Let me know if you ever need an eating...errrr...traveling companion! ;o) The steamed salted fish is my old-school comfort food except my grandma used sliced pork belly instead of what I'm guessing was ground pork (unless they made the Chinese steamed ground pork dish with salty fish...then that's another story). Great photos and I would've taken Buddy home with me!

foodhoe / May 25, 2010 4:22 PM

I love the newspaper lined table and that dog... people tell me never eat thousand year old egg with fizzy soda. Damn but I want some of those noodles and the dog!

roboppy / May 26, 2010 9:28 PM

Tanya: SLICED PORK BELLY WOULD BE AWESOME. I want that. Yeah. I gotta learn how to make this stuff at home. When I cook, I'm pretty good at making bland dishes.

foodhoe: Are thousand year old egg burps particularly bad? I might have to try it to find out.

roboppy / June 4, 2010 10:28 AM

Annie: Are you basing that on the first photo of the table? Not in that photo are pot of beef ball soup and the bowls of salted fish. Coupled with a bowl of rice for everyone, it was definitely enough food.

Laura T. / June 4, 2010 11:58 AM

Wow, this reminded me of one of my favorite restaurants back when I lived in LA--Aloha Food Factory. The Lau Lau and Macadamia Nut Pancakes were to die for!!! I really miss that food...

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