Putting a Local Twist on Pork Adobo
As a food writer, I chat with restaurant owners, chefs and fellow foodies quite a bit. I often hear them describing those special comfort foods we all love to wolf down here in the Aloha State as “local-style” dishes. Earlier this week, I got to thinking — what does that really mean, anyway? “Local-style” is kind of a vague term that covers such a vast array of island favorites, I thought to myself. Can I get to the root of it?
Then it hit me: There’s no way it could possibly be narrowed down! The beauty of local-style fare, to me, at least, is that it draws influence from Hawaii’s signature melting pot of cultures. With so many culinary traditions combining to create the flavors we associate with being, well, local, the possibilities are endless.
For the purposes of Ono, You Know, I won’t be sampling every mix of Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Chinese and Portuguese flavors out there — unfortunately — but that’s OK, because I will zero in on one divine meat that hails from The Philippines and tastes amazing when mixed with any island ingredient. That, my friends, is pork adobo, and you’re going to love its bold blend of shoyu and vinegar in these local-style creations.
Shiro’s Saimin Haven
Shiro’s Saimin Haven is named aptly, as the Waimalu Shopping Center eatery is absolutely a sanctuary of sorts. For generations on end, it’s been home to a coveted collection of Hawaii’s most comforting foods — not the least of which is slurp-worthy saimin, of course.
Pork adobo may be found all over Shiro’s offerings, from its Filipino Saimin with Pork Adobo, Wun Tun, Vegetables and Garnishes ($9.95) to its Country Fried Noodles with Pork Adobo ($9.70). In the saimin dish, a pure and perfectly seasoned house-made broth brings balance to vibrant, slow-cooked pieces of pork adobo served on the side. “It’s a cleaner broth than ramen, so that’s why it pairs up really nicely with richer items like fried items or adobo,” says restaurant and catering manager Bryce Fujimoto.
For a different set of flavors, the fried noodle dish presents the Filipino meat with a satiating blend of char siu, luncheon meat, egg roll and green onion, all served on firm noodles made specifically for Shiro’s by Five Star Noodles.
When appreciating the intricate play on sweet, sour and savory flavors that sing in the eatery’s pork-butt adobo, credit must be given to late founder Franz Shiro Matsuo, who had a knack for cooking up the best in local-style dishes. As Fujimoto, his grandson, describes, “That’s a recipe that has been kept the same over the years, so it’s one of Shiro’s original recipes. We don’t mess with anything that works — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?”
Diners also may try this tasty meat in the eatery’s most popular breakfast item, Fried Rice Omelet with Pork Adobo ($9.25), or take advantage of the recently introduced “traffic jam special,” showcasing an adobo omelet sandwich for the incredible price of $1.95.
Shiro’s Saimin Haven
Waimalu Shopping Center
98-020 Kamehameha Hwy., Aiea
488-8824 for restaurant and catering; 488-4834 for takeout
Serving as Hawaii’s answer to modern and ultra-hip brunch spots, YogurStory infuses a host of island flavors into its breakfast and lunch classics. In addition to whipping up completely original dessert waffles and ube pancakes, the restaurant transforms a number of local favorites into contemporary bites.
One such dish is Fat Pig Fried Rice ($10). Before we talk about the adobo goodness that resides within this selection, it’s hard not to take a moment to appreciate the sheer brilliance of its name. After all, who in their heart of all hearts wouldn’t want to pig out on comforting staples like fried rice? Let’s put all manners aside as we embrace our inner oinkers and get ready to chow down on this pork-filled fantasy.
“It’s supposed to be pig on pig on pig on pig,” describes server Nick Ortiz, and what could be better? If you’re a pork enthusiast like me, you’ll love this meaty marriage of bacon, ham and pork adobo packed into every bite with oyster sauce, scallions and egg. As if that weren’t enough, Fat Pig Fried Rice also receives a golden crowning of fried pig skin, or chicharrones.
Amid the whirlwind of flavors, I can still pick out the pork adobo’s traditional flavors in this masterpiece. According to Ortiz, the Filipino-style meat is prepared separately in-house before it is combined with the dish’s other decadent ingredients.
I hope that, by now, you’re ready to eat pork adobo like a pig!
815 Keeaumoku St., Ste. 105, Honolulu