When Nachos Feel Like New
We all fall victim to monotony at times, resorting to those same old habits as we make our way through the weekly grind. Unfortunately our dining routines often end up in this category as well, which is why I am constantly on the search for exciting ways to switch up the classic flavors we always turn to.
This week, I found that refreshing bite in nachos — not just any nachos, mind you, but ones that take some of our favorite foods here in the Islands and integrate them into the traditional Mexican appetizer.
When you think about it, nachos is an absolutely perfect candidate for fusion cuisine. What is believed to have originated some 70 years ago in a small town in Mexico near the Texas border as a simple snack consisting of tortilla chips, cheese and jalapenos has since grown into an internationally adored treat prepared with a truly endless combination of toppings.
Plus, there’s the added pleasure that comes from munching on nachos — they’re simply way more fun to eat than most foods because you have to strategically decide which chip to go in for in order to scoop up as much melted cheese as possible.
REELING IN A FRESH CATCH
When you walk into Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill, you’re instantly greeted with a warm island-style welcoming, as Hawaiian music plays through the speakers and photos of The Aloha State’s fishing culture fill the eatery’s walls. It makes sense, then, that Fresh Ahi Nachos ($13, happy hour) would be filled with local flair.
Available during happy hour Monday from 3 to 9 p.m. and Tuesday through Sunday from 3 to 6, this sharable pupu offers a new way to enjoy Hawaii’s favorite fish: ahi poke. But rather than being served raw, in this presentation the tuna is sautéed with garlic and served over large, crispy white corn tortilla chips. Olives and green onion add even more flavor, while guacamole and lomi-style tomato salsa bring freshness.
“We always have an abundance of fresh fish and we try to utilize it in many ways,” says executive chef Geoff Arakawa, who finishes the dish with one of his old-school recipes for chili cheese sauce.
Uncle’s is known for its fresher than fresh catches, as it’s located at Pier 38 with easy access to the daily fish auction. Everything from ahi and mahi mahi to monchong and ono are brought in locally, and the restaurant’s ownership even retains a few of its own fishing boats.
It’s not too late to enjoy Valentine’s Day at Uncle’s, where Arakawa will cook up a multi-course meal featuring onaga stuffed with king crab and much more.
Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill
Fishing Village at Pier 38
1135 N. Nimitz Hwy., Honolulu
TRY CHILI NACHOS THIS WAY
Without a doubt one of the most iconic local foods is Zippy’s Famous Chili, which is scarfed down on the regular over rice, with a red frank or in combination with other island favorites served up at the popular dining chain.
“It’s been a favorite at Zippy’s since the beginning, and the original recipe has remained the same since day one,” explains marketing manager Jeanine Mamiya-Kalahiki. She notes that the company sells more than 100 tons of Original Recipe Chili every month through its eateries, fundraising activities and in retail markets.
What some customers may not know, however, is that at Zippy’s dine-in restaurants, you also can enjoy this classic chili served over freshly fried corn tortilla chips. Zippy’s Chili Nachos ($8.15) is spiced up with cheddar cheese, chili peppers, tomatoes, chopped onions and green onions. The tortillas are a great base for the thick, meaty chili, allowing it to take center stage in this dish.
Mamiya-Kalahiki adds, “To cater to our customers’ palates, we also offer a no-bean and vegetarian chili,” both of which may be enjoyed in Zippy’s Chili Nachos.
As for the chili recipe itself, that remains a closely guarded secret — and one that Ono, You Know was not able to get to the bottom of on a recent visit to Zippy’s. But that’s OK, because it’s always a treat to visit a nearby location for a fix of this scrumptious creation.
Various locations across Oahu, and one in both Kahalui and Hilo
973-0880 (Administration Office)
Most locations open 24 hours
Prices may vary at locations