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Cover Story

Shiro’s Remains ‘Numbah One’ in Saimin

By Kyle Galdeira Photos By Leah Friel
October 20, 2013

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For nearly 45 years, Shiro’s has stood as the first word in saimin.

Since serving up its first bowl of piping-hot saimin in 1969, Shiro’s Saimin Haven has become a mainstay for multiple generations of Hawaii families. Shiro’s features convenient locations in Aiea at Waimalu Shopping Center as well as in Waipahu and Ewa Beach, and serves up all sorts of local comfort food from iconic saimin to fried noodles, breakfast items, plate lunches, bentos, sandwiches and of course, “burgas.”

The restaurant was founded by Franz Shiro Matsuo, who eventually acquired the appropriate title of “Mistah Saimin.” While Shiro passed away last year, his legacy lives on through the hard work and dedication of his daughter, restaurant president Linda Matsuo, who has run the business for nearly three decades, and Mistah Saimin’s grandson Bryce Fujimoto, who serves as restaurant and catering manager.

Fujimoto explains that saimin is unique to Hawaii, and is different from traditional Japanese ramen noodles, which are traditionally preserved at some point before being added to broth. Shiro’s takes freshness to the next level as it uses noodles made daily at its own Five Star Noodle Factory — never will one find prepackaged or preserved noodles.

“Shiro came up with this concept because, before, saimin was just noodles and dashi — it wasn’t really a meal,” Fujimoto explains. “So, he added vegetables, won ton, garnishes and now we have 65 saimins, and the list keeps growing and growing. We also have a fantastic crew, some of whom have been here for more than 30 years. It’s like a big family, and that’s something Shiro wanted in his restaurants: good service and friendly people to make everyone feel comfortable.”

Shiro’s offers an astounding 65 saimin choices, which run the gamut from traditional to off-the-wall flavor combinations. One of the popular selections is Oxtail Saimin ($12.55), a hearty bowl of slurp-worthy noodles and tasty broth chock-full of gau gee, vegetables and tasty garnish. Customers may order their saimin noodles rare, medium or well done, and may substitute the regular dashi (broth) with hot & spicy or miso broth for just 95 cents more.

After repeated requests from loyal diners, some of whom frequent the restaurant seven days a week, Shiro’s now offers selected bento items previously available only at the take-out counter in the dine-in area. Bento A ($9.50) features an eclectic mix of maki sushi, cone sushi, rice, sliced egg roll, chicken katsu, teriyaki beef, fried noodles and SPAM. Customers also rave about Lau Lau with Beef Stew ($9.55), a quintessential combo of two local favorites all on one plate.

“We make our lau lau from scratch, and use wet-land taro from Wong’s Farms to give the luau leaves a lot of tenderness and flavor, and we use pork butt, belly and a piece of butterfish to give it some extra flavor. It makes a big difference,” Fujimoto says. “The beef stew is one of our most popular items and incorporates tender roasted meat.”

Freshly made burgers and sandwiches also delight at Shiro’s, including the sky-high triple-decker Double Hula Cheese “Burga” ($7.35) that is accompanied by a hearty portion of crinkle French fries, tossed greens or potato-macaroni salad.

As a special inside scoop for Dining Out readers, Shiro’s now offers Bacon Belgian Waffle ($9.25), a large, fluffy waffle topped with a mountain of whipped cream and freshly cooked pieces of bacon.

“I was just watching Bacon Paradise one day, and I saw that we had the same waffle iron, so I made it for myself and after customers saw it and asked about it, we decided to put it on the menu. You can’t have enough bacon,” says Fujimoto of the salty-sweet treat.

Shiro’s also offers a diverse catering menu, which is perfectly suited for any gathering including family get-togethers, business functions or tailgate parties. Fujimoto recommends the brand-new Lechon Kawali ($35 for a small order capable of serving 15 people, and $50 for a medium order capable of serving up to 25 people). The popular pork dish features deep-fried pork belly that resembles thick-cut bacon, but is juicier and incorporates tomatoes, onions and a ponzu sauce that ties all the flavors together. Those interested in catering options are encouraged to call Fujimoto at 488-8824 for more information and detailed pricing.

Upon embarking on one’s next dining adventure, set a course for Shiro’s and enjoy the ride!

Shiro’s Saimin Haven

Waimalu Shopping Center
98-020 Kamehameha Hwy., Aiea (also located in Waipahu and Ewa Beach)
488-8824 for restaurant and catering
488-8834 for takeout
Sunday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
Friday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-11:30 p.m.
www.ShirosSaimin.com