Where to find Maui's specialties
By Joan Namkoong
Advertiser Food Editor
Here are some foods unique to Maui, delicacies that have been made for decades in small shops and a few newer variations on an old theme.
Wakamatsu Fish Market
145 Market St., Wailuku
Monday-Saturday 8 a.m.-5 p.m., closed Sunday.
Kanji Wakamatsu still works at the fish market started by his father 70 years ago. Son Don is in the market, too, and this tiny, aging store still supplies fresh fish to hotels, restaurants and markets on Maui. They're wholesalers, but they also retail fresh fish and their own fish products.
Wakamatsu Fish Market is known for what folks call sakuraboshi: semi-dried seasoned 'ahi that's soft, tender, chewy and well-seasoned, the kind of 'ahi that begs a beer or crisp sauvignon blanc.
The not-so-secret ingredients? "Sugar, shoyu, salt and water - it's right here on the package," said Kanji Wakamatsu, showing me a package of the specialty still made according to his mother's recipe. Obviously he was not about to reveal the proportions or the exact method of making this specialty that's available only here at the store at $14.25 per pound.
Wakamatsu also makes a delicious pipikaula. Both are even better heated; no doubt they could be used in a number of ways.
Simply Sweets Bakery
1816 Mill St., #101, Wailuku
Monday-Friday 6 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday 6 a.m.-4 p.m., closed Sunday.
Maui-Sadas, warm puffy malassadas infused with vanilla custard, haupia, chocolate cream or cappuccino cream are the specialty here, baked up by Jeff Cabilles. Which is better, the malassada or the filling? It's hard to tell. Kalo malassadas are new: taro's characteristic light purple hue with your choice of filling done on the spot. Cabilles also bakes an assortment of pastries and rolls; new are taro bread, coconut crater cookies and pan de Rosa. Smoothies, coffee and coffee drinks are also served.
Aloha Links Portuguese sausage
Bobby Estrella makes Aloha Links Portuguese sausage based on a recipe from his grandparents. "We use Mainland pork butts; we cure the meat and smoke it with kiawe," said Estrella, who admits he doesn't hand-chop the pork as his grandparents did. But he does use a coarser grind than most sausage-makers here, giving this Portuguese sausage a chunky texture. He's also generous with the seasonings, especially garlic.
"It's less fatty, so it doesn't shrink much when you cook it," claims Estrella of his smoky-flavored sausage that comes in mild and hot versions. You may have to shop to find it because, he said, "I like to do it the old way, so I can't make very much."
Three 1-pound rings sell for $10 at the Queen Ka'ahumanu Center and Kahului Shopping Center farmers' markets. Estrella also takes phone orders at (808) 572-7458.
Strawberry and pineapple guri guri
Tasaka Guri Guri
Maui Mall, Kahului
Guri guri, the icy dairy-based frozen treat that has been made for decades on Maui is now being scooped up by third- and fourth-generation members of the Tasaka family. Henry Tasaka, grandson of the founder, is here as are his niece and a younger brother, carrying on the family tradition and name, still making just two flavors: pineapple and strawberry.
Over the years, there have been many imitations of this sherbet-like treat. "There are too many people trying to imitate us. Why don't they just give their product its own name?" complained Tasaka.
The family business started as a confectionery store making manju, mochi, senbei, yokan and other treats for Japanese plantation workers. Eventually, the family narrowed its product line to the icy sherbet that was unique to their store. "It was named for something good - "goodie, goodie" - but mispronounced guri guri," explained Tasaka. Some folks lament the lack of red bean sauce that was once available with the guri guri; the machine that was used to steam the beans broke down and hasn't been replaced.
Two scoops of guri guri are just $1. Quarts are $3.50. Lots of Island folks pick up a few quarts on their way to the airport to take home; they will last about 2à hours without an ice pack.
Fresh Portuguese bread
Wednesday and Fridays
Fresh white bread, baked in a traditional forno (Portuguese oven), is available a few times a month in Kahului. Members of the Maui Portuguese Cultural Club fire up the oven at Hale Mahaolu Akahi, a senior citizens' residential complex in Kahului, where the oven is a focal point for residents and visitors.
The oven is lit the night before; the bakers begin their mixing and kneading at 6 a.m. and, by 7:30 or 8 a.m., the puffy loaves of white bread are gently placed in the forno to bake. Get there by 9 a.m. for a fresh hot loaf. Proceeds go to scholarships and to perpetuate Portuguese cultural heritage.
For a schedule, call Audrey Rocha Reed at (808) 871-7052. Or call the Friday bakers at (808) 572-9878 for their twice-a-month schedule or the Monday bakers at (808) 572-7551 for their monthly schedule.
Azeka's Ribs and Snack Shop at Azeka Place I, Kihei, next to Ace Hardware
Azeka ribs became popular in the early 1970s as word of these tasty short ribs spread. From its Kihei outpost, folks still buy Tyler Azeka's great-grandmother's original recipe short ribs, refined by his late father, Bill Azeka. It's a sweet soy-based marinated rib that's ready to throw on the grill, well streaked with fat, no doubt contributing to the excellent flavor. You can get the ribs as a plate lunch or marinated ($6.15 per pound) to take home and cook. Azeka's will pack ribs for travel.
Azeka's began as a general store in 1950, grew into a supermarket that the family ran until they retired in 1994. Tyler Azeka oversees the present operation, as well as the shopping center in where it is at. The snack shop also serves plate lunches, burgers, sushi and other food to go; other marinated items include teri beef and chicken.
T. Komoda Store and Bakery
3674 Baldwin Ave., Makawao
Open daily except Wednesday and Sunday.
The 60-year-old Komoda Bakery in Makawao is famous for its cream puffs: airy, crisp pastry oozing with sweet cream. Takezo Komoda started the bakery, but it was his son Ikuo who went to baking school and still turns out the cream puffs today. Ikuo's daughter Betty Shibuya and her husband, Kelvin, run the store and bakery now (Kelvin has learned to bake on the job). Be aware: They're out of cream puffs by noon. Also available: butter rolls and lots of other baked goods.
Grandma's Maui Coffee
Grandma's Coffee Shop
Kokea along Kula Highway
Brother and sister Alfred and Paula Franco used to watch their grandmother pick, dry and roast coffee beans that she grew in Makawao. "The whole neighborhood could smell the coffee roasting," remembers Paula Franco from behind the counter of this one-room coffee shop.
Alfred decided to carry on his grandmother's tradition and grows organic coffee in Kula, processing and roasting the beans and making them available to folks who stop by the little shop in KÇokea on the road to 'Ulupalakua.
There are plenty of home-baked goodies, too: lemon bars, coconut pineapple squares, carrot cake, cinnamon coffee cake, muffins as well as sandwiches. The coffee roaster used since 1918 sits at the back of the store and is still used to roast Grandma's beans, sold on the premises as cups of coffee and whole beans.
High atop the steep hills of 'Ulupalakua Ranch, Roy Hamamura farms several acres of strawberries, now in their prime. Row upon row of green strawberry plants dotted with flowers and bulging with ripe red fruit is as spectacular a sight as the green slopes making their way to the ocean below. Hopefully, with scenery like this, the back-bending toil of picking strawberries is made just a little easier.
Eating the berries is, of course, the real reward: ripe, juicy, full-flavored and sweet-tart. Nothing can beat the freshness.
Hamamura's family used to grow strawberries in California; he's a retired engineer who returned to Maui in 1997 and decided to "give Maui folks something good to eat."
'Ulupalakua strawberries are found in Maui markets when they're in season (which should go through early July) and in a few Honolulu supermarkets when the air cargo guys can get it right and keep them refrigerated. Worth the extra price over California berries.
Iwamoto Natto Factory
143 C Hana Highway, Pa'ia
Daryl Yamashita is the third-generation owner of this natto and noodle factory that started in 1952. Mother Patsy Yamashita is there, too, helping to turn out 700 pounds of undried saimin a day. The noodles are essential to the unique dry mein dish popular on the island (see related story). You can call ahead for orders and pick them up at the factory or look for them in Ah Fook's, Ooka's and other markets.
Other foods to look for in Maui markets:
- No Ka Oi brand sausage
- Uncle Louie's sausages: Portuguese, Maui onion and mac nut sausage links
- Aloha Poi
- Uradomo pickles: spicy takuan, takuan, nappa zuke, pickled Hawaiian ginger and Sanbai Zuke
- Haiku Peanut Co. boiled peanuts
- Kitch' n Cook'd Maui potato chips
- La Familia, Maui Tropical Gourmet and Artie's Salsas
- Tofu from Teruya Tofu Factory, wrapped in pink butcher paper and plastic; aburage is made here, too.