The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Honolulu, Day 2, Part 2: Shave Ice at Waiola, Icee at Uncle Clay's, Food Coma at Kats Sushi

I visited Honolulu with Kathy from May 9-16. Yup, almost a month ago. You'll be reading about this trip for the next few months at the rate that I'm going. HOPE YOU'RE OKAY WITH THAT. If you missed it, read Part 1.


Aside from malasadas, the local food I most wanted to eat in Hawaii was shave ice. Yup. ...Frozen water. But frozen water so finely shaved that it looks like snow and fully soaks up whatever syrup it's doused in. We don't get that in New York City—among the few shaved ice desserts available here, most seem to consist of slovenly crushed ice, unappealingly chunky and crunchy, instead of gossamer-like shavings. This just wouldn't fly in Hawaii. Because crushed ice blows.

lilikoi and li hing mui

Kathy brought me to Waiola, her favorite shave ice spot, where we shared a bowl of lilikoi (passion fruit) and li hing mui-flavored ice on top of custard (the flan-like sort) and mochi nubbins ($5). The first bite was a shock: It was smooth as Italian ice or sorbet, but fluffier and juicier, aka, unlike any other shaved ices I've ever had. Also unlike any other shaves ice I've had is that every bit of ice was saturated in syrup—no unsightly pockets of naked ice. As the bottom of of the bowl fills with melted syrup-soaked ice, you can slurp it up with the skinny straw (or you can just leave it and not ingest more sugar than necessary, but hey, the straw is there for a reason).

mochi and custard together
Mm, good spoonful.

While the ice alone was great, I liked it more with the custard and mochi for extra creaminess and chew. VARIEGATED TEXTURES, GIVE THEM TO ME.

They haz snacks (crackseed)
The fun don't stop!

Waiola offers more than just piles of finely shaved ice—they also sell crack seed! And if you're me, you didn't know what crack seed was until you went to Hawaii. Judging from Kathy's reaction to my state of crack seed ignorance, I may as well have told her I didn't know what a potato was. She, along with probably every other Hawaiian, grew up eating crack seed.

So...what is it? (Not drugs, although in a related matter, crystal meth seems to be the main problem drug in Honolulu. In case anyone was wondering. ...Probably not. I WAS CURIOUS SO I LOOKED IT UP.) It's a category of Hawaiian snacks encompassing dried fruits, Japanese cookies, rice crackers, li hing mui-flavored everything, dried seafood, and...more stuff like that, if the categorization of those snacks means anything to you (I describe them a bit more on Serious Eats). They did to me—because they're Asian! Hey, I'm Asian (sort of)! Neat. But unlike on the Mainland (I got used to that term for "the rest of the US" by the end of my trip) where my best chance at finding these types of snacks would be at an Asian food store, these snacks are available all over the place in Honolulu, from drug stores to dedicated crack seed shops...or select shave ice joints.

A Cupcake and Icee at Aina Haina Shopping Center

I EXPERIENCED IT!!! Image from

Perhaps just a smidge less scandalous than me not knowing what crack seed was me not ever having ingested an Icee before. I wasn't even sure what an Icee was until I saw the red and blue logo, at which point my brain had some sort of wooshy "ta da!" moment and said, "Ohhh, I've seen that logo about a gazillion times, yet I never realized it was advertising a semi-frozen carbonated beverage." I regarded it, foolishly perhaps, as nothing special, just like everything else at strip mall convenience stores. (By the way, my attitude towards convenience stores is completely different in Asia, because in Asia they are full of ASIAN FOOD, and that is way better than the average convenience store in the US.) The anthropomorphic polar bear and artificial colors just didn't reel me in.

Doe Fang Co
Doe Fang.

To rectify my non-Icee existence, we popped by Aina Haina Shopping Center to get a special Icee from Uncle Clay's (original name Doe Fang). But first, we ate a cupcake. Because. That's what we do.

cupcakes Chocolate cupcake

Gourmet cupcake shop Cake Couture doesn't have a Hawaiian feel to it (more like a minimalist feel), but that seems to be the point. The flavors were standard, nothing Hawaiian like, say, lilikoi, coconut, or mango. Although red velvet was the most popular—it got twice as much shelf space as any other cupcake—we went with a chocolate frosted chocolate cupcake ($2.50). Moist, fluffy cake? Check. Smooth, thick, creamy frosting? Check. Tooth decaying sweetness? Thankfully not present. Overall, a solid cupcake, although it'd be better with less frosting.

people want icees! wall
Uncle Clay's.

Unlike Cake Couture, Uncle Clay's, named after owner Clayton Chang, is all about Hawaiian-ness. One side of the store is lined with crack seed and candies, while the other side features a sitting area, photos of famous customers, Uncle Clay t-shirts, random knick knacks, and a poster of Uncle Clay's "Pure Aloha" oath:

pure aloha
Pure Aloha.

I hadn't noticed the sign until I was on my way out of the store. Otherwise I would've been more prepared for the friendly sunshine punchy spirit of Uncle Clay.

Uncle Clay mixes it up
Uncle Clay doing his thaaang.

Actually, that's a lie. Nothing really prepares you for meeting Uncle Clay. Although Uncle Clay is known for his Magic Icees—Icee with added mix-ins like creamy sauce, lychee, chocolate sauce, li hing powder, mochi crunch, red bean paste, coconut, and more—the most memorable part of visiting the shop is experiencing Uncle Clay's gentle graciousness. The Yelp reviews aptly describe the experience of meeting Uncle Clay as "Aloha overload," "real aloha spirit," and "most Aloha-ish person I know." What does Uncle Clay do to garner such responses?

He treats every customer like family (ohana). He shakes your hand, asks you your name, where you're from, and acts genuinely interested the whole time. After he gets to know you, he introduces you to his other customers/guests, and vice versa. This is not the place to visit if you're in a hurry; plan on sticking around for a while and be prepared to shake a lot of hands.

Besides showing you that, damn, people can be really nice, Uncle Clay also shows you that dreams can come true! ...If your dream is to own your favorite childhood store. (I think that's a pretty cool dream.) It was Uncle Clay's dream to own Doe Fang ever since he started visiting it as a kid in the 1950s—he became the owner in 1996. It looks like the perfect fit; he obviously takes great pride in his business and has cultivated a lasting relationship with the community.

lychee icee
With a lychee on top.

Oh yeah, we got an Icee—a Lychee-licious ($3.80 for a small) to be exact, made of your choice of Icee (we went with strawberry-flavored) mixed with lychee juice, a few squirts of "secret" creamy sauce, and a couple of lychees. The (not so) small cup was more than enough for Kathy and me, but I saw some other customers order frighteningly large, towering cups.

Icee, in my belleh

The lychee flavor wasn't particularly strong. I think it just melded with the strawberry-esque flavor for an overall sweet, fruity, fizzy mouthful of slush. Refreshing slush.

How to combat sugar overload.

And then we went across the street to Kathy's favorite McDonald's (yup, she's an expert on fast food in Honolulu) to combat the sugar overload with salt-specked fries. ...It was a palate cleanser.

And Then My Camera Died

Snack time innards
I ate another sweet thing. Oops.

After the fries, we went to Kathy's grandma's house to say hello, and in my case use the Internet (Kathy's house wasn't hooked up yet; I HAD TO GET MY FIX, OK). Her grandma had these candy coated, deep fried glutinous rice balls on hand, so I ate half of one. The thick golden candy shell was intense, adding crunchiness and stickiness to a layer of chewiness and stickiness harboring a center of mashed and sweetened mung beans.

Hello, sun.

During the car ride between Kathy's grandma's house and our dinner destination, I was having a grand ol' time taking photos from the car until my trusty-up-to-that-point Canon 20D went into "I am crazy and probably broken" mode. I didn't drop it or knock it; one moment it was fine, while a second later the screen went black and the shutter went on a nonstop rampage of continuously opening and closing, preventing me from being able to do anything else with the camera. After turning it on and off and removing and replacing the battery repeatedly, along with fruitlessly slapping it as though I were spanking an unruly child ("BAD CAMERA, BAD, MOMMY DOES NOT APPROVE"), I gave up and Kathy was nice enough to lend me her camera.

Online research told me that the problem wasn't all that uncommon and could be fixed by sending my camera to Canon Headquarters, along with few hundred dollars. Hmm...this solution would not suffice. So a few days later I went to a local camera store and made a mega-upgrade to a Canon 7D. Hooray, expensive camera purchase by way of desperation!!! I could write more about how this new camera makes me feel like an even more inept photographer than before, but I'll leave those thoughts for another day. Or the disgruntled recesses of my mind, more like.

Kats Sushi, or "All-You-Can-Eat Sushi, Probably Not the Best Idea"

Kat's Sushi Kat's Sushi All You Can Eat sushi time
Sushi! Restaurant!

If you've been reading my blog for a long time, you may have noticed the lack of sushi. I don't dislike sushi—I just don't like it enough to drop, say, $40 a meal on it. (Not to say that every sushi meal costs that much, but it can get pricey in New York City if you want good stuff that can fill you up. I generally just go for something that will make me equally as happy but cost less.) But in Hawaii, land of plentiful fish and sushi joints, I was totally into Kathy's idea of gorging on sushi.

We met up with Kathy's friend Noelle at Kats Sushi for their $20-ish (maybe $23, I don't remember) all-you-can-eat special. I've had too many sushi meals that left me thinking, "Dammit, I'm still hungry." But after eating at Kats Sushi my food coma-ed mind pathetically wheezed, "Ohhh my gaawd I never want to eat sushi again, or any other food, maybe, uhhh, uhhh food babies in my belly." We ordered far too much, not on purpose, and tried our hardest not to leave behind more than a few stray grains of rice that would disqualify us from the all-you-can-eat deal.

complimentary fish collar
Fish collar.

They started us with a complimentary fish collar. Yay fish! We were still in happy spirits. Because defeat was still a distant possibility.

a gazillion rolls
Hand rolls, part 1.

And then we tried two kinds of hand rolls. Spicy salmon and tuna, maybe. The rice was plain, not seasoned sushi rice, which would've tasted better.

more rolls
Hand rolls, part 2.

And then we tried three kinds of rolls: ikura (salmon eggs), spicy unagi (eel), and (maybe) spicy hamachi.

Another view of TOO MUCH SUSHI
Oh. Shit.

And then we ordered an assortment of nigiri—salmon, tuna, tamago, and red clam (hokigai?)—which is where we fucked up. We ordered three of each, forgetting that there are two per order. So we ended up with six of each. Which is 24 pieces. Which, on top of having eaten five hand rolls each, is a stomach-exploding amount.

Each of us slowly consumed our share. I reached the finish line first, allowing me to flop back and observe the dejected faces and moans of defeat coming from Kathy and Noelle, with mild relish. "Haha I am done first but I also feel like I'm gonna 'splode, so I still fail." Maybe it was just because we were so full, but we all felt like the rice in the nigiri (which was seasoned) was especially dense. Not that it's surprising that the restaurant would want you to eat lots of rice. The vinegary seasoning combined with the concentrated rice bites knocked us out just after a few pieces.

I'm sure the meal would've been fine if we hadn't overstuffed ourselves, although if their nigiri are always that rice-dense, I wouldn't want to go back for more. The fish tasted fine to us, but our minds were clouded by rice overload.

Homemade Ice Cream

Despite that, we went to ice cream shop Bubbies for dessert. I was too full to eat anything beyond a taste of one flavor. :( Apparently the second stomach usually reserved for dessert was squashed into uselessness by my regular sushi-filled stomach.

ice cream mochi
Display mochi ice cream.

Bubbies is known for mochi ice cream, which I've seen at Whole Foods in New York and New Jersey. What we don't get at Whole Foods are the inappropriately named ice cream treats, like...

functioning prostate

"Functioning Prostate"? You can also get "Maybe The Bag Broke" and "Come Here Little Girl." There's also "Knock Me Up on the Blower." I'm not sure what that means.


The ice cream flavors have normal names. I tried Oreo made of Oreo cookies smoothly blended into ice cream. I'm not a big fan of Oreos, but I do like it in ice cream form. Good stuff.

Rocky Road
Rocky Road.

Kathy got a tiny scoop (called a "fetal scoop") of Rocky Road. While she ate, I laid back in my chair while hugging my distended belly...and possibly letting out a low moan. Which is a disturbingly normal occurrence for me.

Maan look at those lights
Honolulu at night.

And to finish this post off with a more appealing image than me doing an imitation of a beached whale, here's Honolulu at night.

There are five more days of my vacation to get through! WAHOOO!!! We're not even close to being done.


3113 Mokihana Street, Honolulu HI 96816 (map)

Original location: 2135 Waiola Street at Paani Street, Honolulu, HI 96805 (map)

Cake Couture
820 West Hind Drive, Honolulu, HI 96821 (map)

Uncle Clay's (Doe Fang)
820 West Hind Drive, Honolulu, HI 96821

Kats Sushi
715 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96813 (map)

1010 University Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96826 (map)


Nicholas / June 6, 2010 4:42 AM

I'm sure Uncle Clay is the friendliest guy ever, but in that picture he looks like a mega creeper (just sayin') haha.

Love the lychee icee (and you're too right about Asian convenience stores... it's just not fair), but I think the add-ins make those just slightly more epic than a traditional slushee.

btdubs - time to update that camera info badge on the side! Thay 7d's some serious hardware...

ivan / June 6, 2010 6:53 AM

Sorry (can't help it) but "Doe Fang" sounds very "passive-aggressive" like Bambi with teeth. :)

Angeline / June 6, 2010 10:39 AM

I think that's the biggest order of McD's fries I've ever seen! Is that normal or are portions extra big in Hawaii?

Glutinous rice balls are awesome! I get them whenever I go to a Chinese Bakery or have Dim Sum.

Malfunctioning cameras seems to be a recurring trend with people lately. Hurray for new cameras!

Functioning prostate looks good! I can't believe I just said that, that's up there with "Can I smuggle a Crack Pie across the border?"

Eileen / June 6, 2010 2:07 PM

Wowww such a long post! And oh my lord that Waiola shaved ice looks so good!! It looks like it's so full of syrupy fruity goodness that won't run out like most shaved ice does... The cupcakes and mochi ice cream look amazing too!!

And I could really use some sushi buffet right now... *suffering from major sushi deprivation still stuck in school in Philly* =[

Danny / June 6, 2010 5:23 PM

wow, that night time shot is really great. too bad we can't get shave ice like that here in new york! sadness :(

roboppy / June 6, 2010 10:05 PM

Nicholas: I just realized that I have another photo of him! Better, I hope, I will stick that in.

The weather in NYC lately has been screaming for a lychee Icee. Someone needs to get on that here.

And I updated the camera info FER YOUUU!!!

Ivan: Now I'm thinking of a crazy, rabid, man-eating Bambi.

Belinda: Thanks! Next, I need to learn how to use my new camera better.

Angeline: I think we ordered a regular fries. Although now that you mention it, it's sort of huge.

GLUTINOUS RICE BALLS ARE SO GOOD, one of my fave desserts, But I think the candy shell is a bit excessive. I like the chewiness of the glutinous rice on its own!

Eileen: I wish I had eaten more shave ice during my trip. So much syrup. Mmm. Yes.

There's a lot of other great food in Philly, at least? :)

Danny: I figure a shave ice craze has to make its way to NYC the froyo craze? But I would much rather have shave ice. Mmmm.

stacy / June 6, 2010 10:47 PM

i used to work at the subway in aina haina, and we would draw straws as to whose turn it was to go to doe fang and get icee's... hhaha love uncle clay, but shooot. you had a good hawaii tour guide.

josie / June 6, 2010 10:58 PM

Love that picture of the mochi icecream. They're pastel! I've seen some at the oriental grocery here but have yet to try them.

kat / June 7, 2010 12:51 PM

oh my goodness, girl, how in the world do you eat so much SUGAR?! i wish i could!

love your pictures almost as much as your words.

Julie / June 7, 2010 12:57 PM

Uh, yeah--I grew up with Icees from the 7-Eleven up the street, but they were NOT that rad, not at all. Funny how an Icee can make me want to visit Hawaii that much more . . .

We get ice cream mochi at the Asian market here. They recently introduced some with non-frozen fillings. Peanut butter ftw!!!

Marvo / June 8, 2010 8:31 AM

I live within walking distance from Bubbies, but I avoid it as much as possible for fear of a distended belly.

Christina / June 8, 2010 11:15 AM

Awesome weather and great food, I need to move to Hawaii. I might go around saying "Book 'em, Dan-O!" a bit too much, though.

Shaved ice is incredible, but now I feel that my experiences haven't been what they could have been had the stands only known the real way to make shaved ice. Those cupcakes look so pretty!

Donny / June 8, 2010 12:37 PM

i should really stop reading food blogs during lunch time CUZ NOW I WANT ALL-I-CAN-EAT SUSHI gaaaaaaaaahhhh

Tanya / June 8, 2010 1:55 PM

OMG...Lychee Icee?? Awesome. "Inept photographer" arse. Your photos rock! BTW, I'm forwarding your Honolulu posts to our friends stationed in HI.

Nicholas / June 9, 2010 11:06 PM

Yes to less creepy Uncle Clay. Does anyone else think he looks kind of like that guy from "Big Trouble in Little China?" James Hong?

roboppy / June 10, 2010 12:06 AM

stacy: HAHA, I can see not wanting to be in charge of getting Icees. Aw.

And yup, Kathy is the best tour guide!

josie: GO TRY EM!

kat: Ima gonna get diabetes; do not envy me. [sob]

Actually, I don't think I eat CRAPLOADS of sugar on a regular basis, but in Hawaii I did go overboard this day. :)

Julie: I think the first time I went to a 7-11 was when I was in Taiwan. I just didn't grow up near any in NJ...and I've never had a Slurpee. People tell me I should try one. :O

Marvo: I definitely got that distended belly when I got the "EAT MY BALLS" bowl..with all the flavors in it...yeaaah.

Christina: I had to google that to see what it was from. ;_; No Hawaii Five-O in my life!

Donny: Nono you don't want all you can eat sushi YOU MIGHT EXPLODE!

Tanya: Thanks! I feel like my photos haven't improved much in the past few years, but that's how I feel about most of the things I do. ;_;

I hope your friends like these posts! I have to write more of them. Yeah.

auntjone / June 10, 2010 11:52 AM

Please continue to blog at your normal pace. I don't get to read you very often so I was thrilled to see that you were only on day 2 of your Hawaiian Food Adventure.

Aliiiiiiiiice / June 10, 2010 4:19 PM

Robbins bobbins, don't you pay AuntJone any mind, now. (Unless she's your real aunt. By blood.) We all know how each post takes you forever and a day to make cuz of all the writing and photo editing.


(( H U G ))

Roy's reaLLy been enjoying your Hawaii posts. Just thought you'd like to know.

roboppy / June 12, 2010 1:03 AM

auntjone: Hehe, glad to hear my slow pace is welcome. ;) I hope to get day 3 done this weekend! Woooot.

Alice: HAAY! Auntjone didn't meant anything bad with her comment; she is down with my crazy slowness. Pheeewww.

Glad to hear Roy is enjoying the posts too! Especially since I'm sure all you guys are super busy right now. You still make boppy time. I am honored!

sophie: As long as the drool doesn't destroy your keyboard, YAY!

tracylee / June 12, 2010 4:09 PM

I don't think I've ever commented here before, but I've been following for awhile and love the pics and reviews.

What got me to comment is that a few years ago when I had to choose a new personal domain for my e-mail and website, I chose! Love sushi, love cats (and sushicats was taken). Seems like quite a coincidence to see Kats Sushi on here!

roboppy / June 17, 2010 7:06 PM

tracy: Thanks for reading and finally commenting! ;) Too bad Kats Sushi didn't come with cats!...well I guess that's a health code violation. BUT MAN, CATS! Are awesome.

Tamarindball / June 25, 2010 12:47 PM

"Knock Me up on the Blower" is English slang for calling on the telephone, maybe?


neale / March 22, 2011 8:16 AM

doe fang closed down a month or so ago.. i'm not sure what uncle clay is doing now :( i went to aina haina elementary right across the street from the shop and had icees almost everyday after school. good times

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