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Foodie Fare

A slurp of saimin history

By Lindsey Appleton Photos By Lawrence Tabudlo
June 15, 2014

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Shiro’s Saimin Haven in Waimalu Shopping Center has served tasty bowls of local history since 1969. With locations in Waipahu and Ewa, Shiro’s expansive menu builds upon “Mistah Saimin” Franz Shiro Matsuo’s dream.

“Matsuo spent years working in restaurants, but wanted his own,” says Bryce Fujimoto, Matsuo’s grandson and restaurant manager. “He started with the idea of saimin and revolutionized it. Before, it was noodles, dashi (broth) and fish cake. He made it a meal by adding garnishes. People embraced it because it was unique to Hawaii.”

Prepared daily with fresh-made noodles from Shiro’s noodle factory, Shiro’s boasts 65 saimin options such as the popular Dodonpa, “The Ultimate King of Saimins,” famous for its 10 garnishes.

“Matsuo had wacky names for his creations, like the Shuv-um-up Hotdog, Beeg Shiro and Hula Burga,” says Fujimoto. “He said the Hula Burga tastes so good it makes you want to dance the hula.”

For hot Hawaiian days, try Shiro’s Cool Min with lettuce, nori, fishcake, tofu, green onions and Shiro’s special sauce ($8.25). The refreshingly sweet sauce pairs nicely with light tofu and fishcake. Shiro’s also revamped its teriyaki, marinating it for 24 to 48 hours. Try it in Country Fried Noodles with teriyaki chicken ($9.20) or Mahi Combo with breaded mahi mahi and teriyaki beef ($10.25). The teri beef is sliced thin, melting in your mouth. A beloved local dish is Lau Lau served with chunky Local Boy Beef Stew ($9.95).

“The Lau Lau is steamed at least four hours … from wrapping to serving, it’s a two-day process,” Fujimoto explains. “It’s like unwrapping a little present.”

For a sweet ending, try Mango Cream Sherbet topped with shoyu ($2). The salty shoyu slightly dampens the fruity sherbet, creating a dessert that is savory and sweet.

While you’re devouring Shiro’s traditional comfort food, enjoy Matsuo’s “Dear Hearts” poetry hung inside the restaurant. He wrote a poem every day for more than 30 years, insisting everybody is loved and deserves happiness.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re the richest person or the poorest person. Everybody needs somewhere to eat and somewhere to relax — a haven,” Fujimoto says.

On the Side

A family tradition, Matsuo’s daughter and Bryce Fujimoto’s mother, Linda, took over the business in 1990. Along with Bryce, Linda’s husband Aaron and brother, Alan, run the business. Now a three-generation family establishment, Shiro’s Saimin Haven is iconic for local comfort food.

“A lot of people think that Shiro passed so things are changing, but Linda picked up where he left off,” says manager Bryce Fujimoto. “Matsuo had a very flowery personality. He was a vivacious guy and that was contagious in his cooking and in his crew.

“The warmth of our servers really sets us apart,” continues Fujimoto. “A lot of our staff have been working here for 30-plus years and know the customers by name. Our customers who have been coming in for years now bring in their keiki. As soon as the kids can eat, they’re learning to slurp up our saimin. Shiro’s is a family tradition for both our workers and customers.”

Foodie Fare columnist Christina O’Connor is currently on vacation

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.
ShirosSaimin.com