The Perfect Time for Papaya

Columns Ono, You Know

September 23, 2012

Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Leah Friel

Happy Sunday, Ono readers! I just returned from a fun-filled vacation in Southern California and Las Vegas. Every single moment was a blast, from Disneyland and Disney California Adventure to Universal Studios Hollywood, Los Angeles and cashing out in Sin City — I made the most of my time there. And, boy oh boy, did I eat! Duh! Let’s see, there was gigantic turkey legs from Disneyland, Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘n Waffles, numerous stops to In-N-Out, Cajun Corner, Korean barbecue and home-cooked Filipino food prepared by my dear friends. I’m pretty sure my stomach expanded tremendously!

And while I’m already having West Coast withdrawals, it’s time to snap back to reality and get back to the daily grind. This past week, I’ve been catching up on sleep and work, and trying to get myself on a healthy diet once again. Of course, that’s where papaya comes in! As my favorite fruit, papaya makes healthy eating seem not so much of a chore, but rather something I can look forward to. Papaya is rich in vitamins and beneficial to your skin and hair, just what I need after spending hours in the hot sun and functioning on very little sleep.

Ripe papaya is usually eaten raw, while the unripe green fruit is typically cooked and incorporated into various dishes. Either way it’s delicious! So, without further ado, come along with me and together we’ll explore this magical fruit at the following Ono, You Know establishments.


Blazin’ with fabulous fare and hot on my list of go-to restaurants is RumFire. Located at Sheraton Waikiki, RumFire is a paradise on earth as it breathes life on Hawaii’s dining scene with its stunning views of the Helumoa playground amid the iconic Diamond Head crater. Whether you’re taking in the RumFire experience day or night, know that social comfort food is what it’s all about. According to executive chef Brett Villarmia, the menu showcases worldly cuisine with an island touch, emphasizing unique local ingredients.

“Our Vietnamese Chicken Sandwich ‘BANH mi’ ($14) is a variation of the traditional Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwich. I combined green papaya salad with the Bahn Mi chicken sandwich, so you get the best of both worlds,” he says.

This delightful sandwich consists of wok-tossed tamarind chicken, green papaya slaw, roasted peanuts and Sriracha aioli nestled between two pieces of fresh French bread. What exactly does papaya bring to the dish? Well, chef Villarmia has all the answers.

“The green papaya is raw, so it brings a freshness to the sandwich. We toss the green papaya salad with a Vietnamese vinaigrette and that also adds some brightness to the dish.”

Chinese long beans from the North Shore, green papaya, shredded carrots, cilantro, Ho Farm tomatoes, Thai basil and peanuts combine to make a colorful salad all its own, but when incorporated into RumFire’s Vietnamese Chicken Sandwich, it’s unforgettable. This best-seller has a punch of spice, making it a hot commodity that’s hard to resist.

Sheraton Waikiki
2255 Kalakaua Ave.

Pho My Lien Vietnamese Restaurant

Picking my papaya favorites continued on at Pho My Lien Vietnamese Restaurant in Westridge Shopping Center. It’s a known fact that the restaurant’s owners, Tommy Dang and his wife, Lien Bui, are pros when it comes to cooking up the best in authentic Vietnamese cuisine, and the consistently crowded dining room is proof that Pho My Lien has fans who come in droves from all over the island to enjoy Crispy Spring Rolls, slurp-worthy signature pho and so much more.

Everything on the menu is absolutely ono to the max and hasn’t changed much since the eatery opened its doors in November 2010. Yet there’s one specific dish that is definitely worth mentioning for any papaya enthusiast: Green Papaya Salad. Priced at $7.50, Pho My Lien’s Green Papaya Salad is comprised of shredded green papaya, shrimp, mint leaves, peanuts and drizzled with a house special salad dressing that’s big on taste. Here’s something that’s as equally healthy as it is delicious, and it really doesn’t get much better than that.

Wait, think again. Pho My Lien ups the ante once more with its Papaya Shake ($4.50), a refreshingly sweet blend of condensed milk, regular milk, crushed ice, a dash of sugar and, of course, none other than fresh papaya. It’s the perfect addition to any meal.

Pho My Lien fills my stomach!

Pho My Lien
Westridge Shopping Center
98-150 Kaonohi St., Suite B213-B

Top of Waikiki

Feel on top of the world at Top of Waikiki, where premier Pacific fusion cuisine and a breathtaking 360-degree view of beautiful Waikiki steal the show. With more than 15 years in the restaurant business, executive chef John Neff has mastered the technique of infusing eclectic island flavors into his edible masterpieces, making Top of Waikiki a most sought-after restaurant by both locals and tourists alike. Located on the 18th floor of Waikiki Business Plaza, Top of Waikiki revolves one floor rotation every hour at the speed of about one mile per hour.

Open daily from 5 to 9:30 p.m., the dinner crowd is more than ready to feast on superb fare, which spans a multitude of cultures and ethnic groups.

Hints of papaya permeate two of chef Neff’s most requested dishes — Spicy Ahi Poke Stack ($12) and Grilled N.Y. Strip Steak ($17). Spicy Ahi Poke Stack is an ideal way to start your dining experience, and features the freshest of ahi with sambal and shoyu, crispy won ton skins, avocado creme and papaya slaw drizzled with a kiwi lime vinaigrette and garnished with micro greens.

Next comes a whirlwind of an entree in the Grilled N.Y. Strip Steak, as it captivates diners with tender morsels of the highest quality steak paired with savory papaya and Maui onion poke, and lomi lomi grape tomatoes. I know your mouth is watering already!

So, make it an evening to remember at Top of Waikiki and toast to a fantastic meal with one of the restaurant’s many wine selections.

Top of Waikiki
Waikiki Business Plaza
2270 Kalakaua Ave.

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best