Saimin, poetry and memories

Columns Lite Bites

April 8, 2013

Story By: Yu Shing Ting | Photos by: Leah Friel

Shiro’s Saimin Haven honors its founder Franz Shiro “Mistah Saimin” Matsuo with a Founder’s Day special on Tuesday, April 9 – enjoy the Small Saimin with Garnishes for only 94 cents all day long.

The dish is normally priced at $3.85, but Shiro, who passed away last May would’ve turned 94 last month, so the promotional price serves as a special tribute to him.

In business since 1969, Shiro’s is known for its extensive selection of saimin combinations, as well as breakfast foods, plate lunches, sandwiches and “burga sandwiches.”

Some of Shiro’s original recipes that continue to be popular with customers include “Beeg” Shiro on Bun ($7.65), a triple-decker sandwich with teri beef, char siu, grilled onions, lettuce and tomato; and “Salute to Salud” Saimin ($8.05)
with a whopping 15 pieces of fishcake in three variations, wun tun, vegetables and garnishes, and created for world champion boxer Jesus Salud.

As for the saimin, there are 64 different options or you can create your own, all with noodles made fresh daily from its own Five Star Noodle Factory. Customers also can choose how they want their saimin – rare, medium or well-done, and the dashi which is clam-based can be substituted with Hot & Spicy or Miso Broth for an additional 95 cents.

“We started the Founder’s Day special last year on Shiro’s birthday with 93 cents Saimin,” says president Linda Matsuo, Shiro’s daugther, who has been running the family business since 1984. “It was really successful, and it was
his last birthday so it was really special. We didn’t know it was going to be his last birthday, but he was really happy because he came down here and all his friends came. So, we decided to do it again.”

Some new items have recently been added to the menu as well such as Crispy Pork Belly Saimin ($8.95) and Kalua Pork Saimin ($9.15). Since her father’s passing, however, Matsuo says the restaurant hasn’t changed much. They continue to serve Shiro’s original creations, while providing a welcoming, family-friendly environment and excellent customer service. The only thing missing is “Mistah Saimin” himself who would eat at the restaurant every day.

“We really miss him,” says Matsuo. “He’s someone that, when you walk into the room, you just cannot ignore. He always had so much energy.

“If I could just tell people to treasure their old folks. (Sometimes) they’re so annoying. I used to fight with him every day, but now he’s gone and I’m so sad. I think about all the times I could’ve been a little kinder to him. Be kind to them now. I just wanted him to leave me alone for a little while, but he went forever.”

Along with his food and flamboyant personality, Shiro also was known for his inspirational poems which he did for about 40 years. “He never missed a week,” remembers Matsuo. “About a month before he passed, Bryce (Shiro’s grandson who serves as restaurant manager) asked him, ‘Grandpa, do you mind if I take over writing the poems?’ And grandpa was so excited and said, ‘I would be honored if you took over. I would be so happy.’ For him that’s his legacy, his poetry.”

Those poems can be found online at Shiro’s Saimin Haven’s Facebook page, and here in Dining Out. Thanks to his family and dedicated employees, Shiro’s heart and legacy live on.

Shiro’s Saimin Haven

98-020 Kamehameha Hwy.
7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday,
7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

91-0919 Fort Weaver Road
7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday,
7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

94-256 Waipahu Depot Road
Sunday, 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Waimalu Plaza, Aiea, HI 96701

Ewa Beach, HI 96706

Waipahu, HI 96797

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