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rlivings

great okazuya shops

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I used to go to naka's okazuya on king street when it was open and have most recently been going to kabuki's in the waimalu strip mall. Good food but nothing extraordinary to me. Has anyone tried anything especially good at some local okazuya places?

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Great question, rlivings!

Even though the word is Japanese, local-style Okazuya are really a unique Hawai`i tradition.

Don't have time to give a detailed answer now, but two very celebrated ones (and deservedly so) are Fukuya (2710 S. King St. 946-2073, mauka side, half block DH of University Ave.) and Gulick Delicatessen (1512 Gulick Ave. 847-1461, ewa side, about one block makai of School St.).

Also, you might want to check out the The Okazu Guide : Oh, 'Cause You Hungry! by Donovan Dela Cruz and Jodi Endo Chai (no relation, I think).


Sun-Ki Chai
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~sunki/

Former Hawaii Forum Host

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Can you guys elaborate what Okazuya are?

I was wondering too. Found the following:

The okazuya (the name marries the Japanese term for side dish, okazu, with the suffix ya, meaning shop) is probably one of the first businesses to open on any given day in Hawai'i and the first to shut its doors in the afternoon. Patrons endure long lines to make their way to the counter, where they can devour any number of specialties with their eyes before their chopsticks even touch their lips. Among the items one might find at a typical okazuya are Spam musubi (rice balls filled with-yes, that's right-the famous tinned meat), teriyaki-glazed chicken, hot dogs flavored with soy sauce, and a local dish known as kinpira gobo (sautéed burdock root), all essentials of the Hawaiian bento, or box lunch.

But every okazuya is different, and each of these usually family-run establishments has its own specialties that the others don't carry: garlic chicken at one place, prime rib katsu at another. The informal atmosphere and the home-cooked quality of the food combine to make the experience of eating at different okazuya not unlike eating at a succession of favorite aunts' houses: You love them all, but you may like one's version of a dish just slightly more than another's-and when you're deep in the throes of a comfort-food craving, nothing else will do.

While no one is certain how okazuya sprang into being, they probably began as a kind of "lunch cart" for the Japanese contract laborers who worked in Hawai'i's sugarcane fields in the 19th century. Over the decades, they moved into the towns and cities. Today, on the island of O'ahu, the tradition thrives: Okazuya are everywhere, nestled between office buildings in downtown Honolulu, tucked into suburban shopping centers, and dotting the main streets of small towns miles away from the big city. Everyone has a favorite spot, and if you ask a half-dozen locals for their recommendations, you'll probably be eating six times that day. Which, when you think about it, isn't the worst thing that could happen to a person

From: http://www.hemispheresmagazine.com/roving/...us_okazuya.html


"I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be"

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Jason, Sweet Willie, sorry for not giving more context!

The article that you provided from the UAL flight mag gives a very good intro - indeed, it's by Donovan Dela Cruz, one of the authors of the book that I cited earlier.

As mentioned Okazuya in Japanese refers to a shop where side-dishes for box lunches (bento) are sold. However, in Japan itself, you would be hard put to find any stores that label themselves "okazuya", at least outside of the most rustic rural neighborhoods. In the towns and cities, they are overshadowed by fast-food bento emporiums, upscale department store basement food courts, and convenience stores. Moreover, even where they exist, their menu is quite a bit different from the okazuya you find in Hawai`i.

In Hawai`i, okazuya have become something close to the local version of the New York deli or appetizing store. A number of pre-prepared foods are put on display behind a counter, and you pick and choose the ones you'd like to consume. Indeed, many of the local okazuya refer to themselves as "delicatessens".

Most of the foods sold in local okazuya have Japanese-Hawaiian origins in one way or another, such as the usual teriyaki, musubi (rice balls), katsu (breaded fried meats, poultry, fish), nishime (braised vegetables), kimpira (stir-fried shredded vegetables), but a lot of other elements enter the mix. Filipino adobo (pork or chicken cooked in sour, garlicky sauce), Chinese roast pork, and Hawaiian-Hawaiian dishes such as poke (raw fish salad) and laulau (taro leaf-wrapped pork and saltfish) may make their appearance at various places. The general tendency is to pick a little bit of each, then pile it all on a paper plate or clamshell box. The Japanese-style bento box, even the disposable plastic kind, is rarely used. I'll try to file a pictoral report from one of them sometime. . .


Sun-Ki Chai
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~sunki/

Former Hawaii Forum Host

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thanks for clarification skchai, looks like I've got another spot to try when we are in Honolulu area soon.

email me if anyone would like to go to lunch with my wife and I, we'll be in Honolulu for two days on Dec 25 & 26 (I realize some places may not be open then).


"I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be"

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I actually have the okazu guide but the info per location is not very detailed.

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I guess so - I read that they spent two years researching the book, but somehow they decided not to include actual reviews. They do have lists of specialties, description of seating arrangements, etc. And it's the only published guide to okazuya out there. . .

Sweet Willie, would love to make it for lunch on one of those days, but it looks like I'll have family obligations . . . will let you know if things change.


Sun-Ki Chai
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~sunki/

Former Hawaii Forum Host

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I actually have the okazu guide but the info per location is not very detailed.

rlivings, what kind of information were you looking for? I am most familiar with Mitsuba deli and Mitsuken, both located on North School St. Both are very good, I will list some of their highlights (and low lights).

Mitsuba:

- has a parking lot

- has ready made bento for a quick grab and go

- three different types of chicken (garlic, shoyu, fried)

- serves breakfast: fried rice, eggs, choice of breakfast meat

- makes a sweet potato crumble, a manju crust shaped like a small turnover filled with purple okinawan sweet potato

- also sells rice krispy type cookies

- other items commonly found here: spaghetti, hot dog, lup cheong, fried fish, fish cake, corned beef hash, maki sushi (v. good), cone sushi (v. good), various musubi (plain, w/ ume, spam, garlic chicken, hot dog).

Menu here.

Mitsuken:

- no parking

- very small, you go in order and wait outside

- known for their garlic chicken (pieces of boneless chicken thighs floured and fried then drenched in a shoyu, sugar, garlic mixture)

- cheap breakfast plate, it used to be $1.99 for fried rice, eggs and bacon.

- there's usually a long line

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This is a link to an article that discusses okazuya in Hawaii:

http://www.hawaii.rr.com/leisure/reviews/a...ooanokazuya.htm

The article opens up like this:

"One of the distinctive food services in Hawaii is the okazuya. Originating in Japan, okazuya are shops that sell prepared dishes to accompany the rice in a meal. The development and character of these shops in our islands mirrors our economic history.

In the late nineteenth century, Hawaii's primary industries were the cultivation and processing of sugar and pineapple. These large agricultural operations required the importation of many laborers to work in the fields.

Between 1868 and 1894, over 40,000 Japanese were brought to work in Hawaiian plantations, the vast majority of them single men. Their sustenance was rice, with vegetable and protein dishes, "okazu", serving as condiments for the staple food.1

Most laborers, however, did not have families to provide such meals. Rudimentary okazuya, "side-dish shops", were set up to provide quick and inexpensive food. With a range of appetites and income among the workers, food items were sold by the piece.2

As the Japanese moved from rural plantations to urban areas, the okazuya followed to serve a different need. A rising standard of living required both men and women to work, leaving little time to prepare morning and midday meals. Walking to the bus stop or working place, one could easily obtain food at a neighborhood okazuya.

Today, finding an okazuya and a parking space to go inside is usually difficult; they are no longer the most inexpensive and convenient means of obtaining carryout food. Their primary function is to provide individually customized meals of specialty items. These dishes are derived from various ethnic cuisines, with home-cooked tastes. As food is still sold by the piece, discriminating diners can literally "have it your way".3"

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