This past Sunday was an incredible journey that Mary and I never knew existed until we discovered a great company, Tinggly! What they are doing is great: You buy a gift, give it to someone around the world, and they are able to enjoy a new adventure within two years time and vice versa. What better gift to give than an adventure? Another great thing for those who receives a Tinggly gift box, they can choose any experience from 400+ in the whole world! Tinggly also enables people to enjoy activities right in their own home town that you would not expect to be doing! So first and foremost, we would like to acknowledge and thank Tinggly. What you are doing is amazing! We can’t wait to experience more unique and unknown adventures. This is not a paid advertisement for Tinggly, we just really support what they are doing…changing people’s lives, one adventure at a time!
Our first Tinggly venture that we have chosen from many others, Hawaii Food Tours. About a 40 minute drive from our home we arrived at a meeting location in which the Food Tour picked us up. From what it seems, the truck stops at whatever hotel you are staying at (if you are staying in a Hotel – Waikiki area). We were greeted with friendly faces and cheerful personalities. Our guides had vast knowledge of the eateries we stopped at. The entire day was a buffet of new and can maybe even be called exotic to foreigners. If you are born and raised in Hawaii like I was then many of these dishes, if not all, are known to you as we grew up with these foods. However, it was still a great experience in the fact that I have not physically visited many of the locations on the tour.
Our ride was a mercedes van, very comfortable!
1) Royal Kitchen
Baked Manapua (Hawaiian-Chinese fusion based on the Chinese Bao Buns) – Traditionally these Little buns are done steamed with Chinese sweet roast pork (called char siu). Here at Royal Kitchen they do a baked version of the original, along with several other fillings (smoked kalua pork, chicken, curry chicken, Portuguese sausage, Chinese lup cheong sausage, Okinawan purple sweet potato, coconut, and Chinese black sugar).
The 19th century marked a historical period in Hawaii as thousands of immigrants from different countries came to the islands seeking work. Over 50,000 Chinese immigrants brought their customs, cultural activities and especially their ethnic foods.
Food vending in the street was a common trade in the marketplace towns of China. In Hawaii, food peddlers sold a variety of delectable items especially their famous char siu bao. The peddlers would stack their foodstuffs in large cans and sling the cans by cords at each end of a pole. Hoisting the poles on their shoulders, they roamed the neighborhoods with their savory-filled buns. Char siu bao immediately became a favorite among the locals, and was given the name manapua, or mea ono pua’a (“mea ono” for cake or pastry, and “pua’a for pork).
The food peddlers today, also known as the Manapua Man, don’t roam the streets on foot anymore. He can be found in a big truck parked at beaches, small neighborhoods, near the business districts and other places around the island. For many, eating a manapua can be nostalgic, bringing childhood memories of making a trip to the manapua man’s truck.
2) Liliha Bakery
Liliha Bakery for Coco Puffs
515 North Kuakini Street
Honolulu, HI 96817
Coco Puff Pastry – A cream puff shell filled with a rich, buttery, creamy and sexy chocolate filling, topped with a Chantilly frosting (made of butter, egg yolks, sugar, evaporated milk, & salt – recipe below). Liliha Bakery sells over 5000 of these little coco puff pastries everyday. *Definition of the word “Liliha”: To be nauseated by rich and fatty foods.
3) Ying Leong Look Funn Factory
Honolulu, HI 96817
For more than 50 years now, Fu Ying Chee, originally from Hong Kong, has operated this rice noodle factory that turns out thousands of pounds of rice noodle sheets each day. You can watch the workers oiling pans that are filled with the rice noodle batter, which is then steamed to perfection, hand folded and stacked. Plain noodle sheets are sent off to restaurants that make fresh chow fun (noodle) dishes.
Outside the shop, we tasted the fresh chow funn noodles, along with a stir-fry noodle dish, and the wonderful Korean BBQ Chicken (from Jackie’s Corner inside the Maunakea Marketplace).
Exotic Fruit Tasting: We tasted longan (the small round fruit that tastes like melon – the Chinese call this dragon eye fruit) along side with the rambutan (“Big Red Hairy Balls”) fruit. This was probably one of the few things I remember seeing growing up but never really remember how to open them or the physical appearance but the taste was all too familiar – tasted like lychee.
We had a short break and used the opportunity to explore Chinatown Marketplace!
During our break we found a pleasant hole-in-the-wall Boba Drink and food spot with about only three tables. These little black balls are chewy mochi. Mine: Coconut and Mary’s: Honeydew
After a quick fifteen minute break, we came back to taste more food!
The ma tai su (“Chinese pot pie”) were sourced from the Sing Cheong Yuen Bakery (on Maunakea St), Half Moon Dumplings.
Spam Musubi is a locals favorite! It’s made of spam, rice, and nori (dried seaweed) in the tradition of Japanese omusubi. Ahi Poke is one of our favorites, it’s raw marinated ahi tuna.
Next, we had the Caramel Banana Lumpia along side with the “Maui Gold” pineapple, two ways – plain, and also dusted with Li Hing powder (preserved plum powder).
This wonderful concoction was a sweet smoothie sprinkled with Li Hing powder and for a little bang, our tour guide added a special blend of Li Hing alcohol. It tasted fantastic!
4) Char Siu House
1134 Maunakea St.
Honolulu, HI 96817
Our last stop in Chinatown was at the Char Siu House where you enjoyed the delicious Char Siu: Red Roast Pork, and the “5 Layers of Heaven” (Pork Belly or Bacon Cut)
933 Kapahulu Ave.
Honolulu, Hawaii 96816
Malasadas for dessert – No better way to end the day! Served warm directly from the back kitchen, these golden puffs of moist and rich fried dough are rolled into granulated sugar. Unlike some versions of fried dough that often weigh as much as a billiard ball, malasadas are light and airy, *if* they’re not filled with one of their luscious home-made custards! We ate the coconut and banana filled malasadas. SO ONO (yummy)!
For any tourist wanting to taste some unique dishes of Hawaii, this food tour is a great way to do so. It hit my favorites: Manapua, Malasada, Ahi Poke, and Spam Musubi. It also stopped by places I would have never given a second look but turned out very delicious. Mary and I were very full after the days excursion and will be visiting these locations on our own since we know where they are! Apart from feeding our bellies, Robin, our bus driver, filled our minds with historical information throughout the tour.
Tip: Wear comfortable shoes and clothes as you will be walking around a lot – they supply chairs so you can get comfortable while chowing down which I thought was a considerate feature.
Shout out to Robin, Kahea, and Sahara (our tour guides)! You guys were great!
“Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.”
– Auguste Rodin