Go Bold with Fried Rice Flair

Columns Ono, You Know

July 21, 2013

Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Lawrence Tabudlo

While a renovated kitchen equipped with top of the line appliances, including a double-door stainless steel refrigerator, a shiny stove of your dreams and a brand new microwave may be a fantasy for many, I have to say, all I need is a good old-fashioned wok to make me happy in the kitchen. Because we all know that’s where only the best fried rice concoctions are conceived.

I’ve been on a fried rice kick lately, and I’ve been having the time of my life throwing dayold, leftover rice into a wok and personalizing it with my favorite fried rice add-ins, including Spam, Portuguese sausage, eggs, peas, carrots, onions and a secret blend of sauces, to name a few. Then, the real magic happens when the stir-frying begins. Fried rice is a one-pot meal that’s easy to make. And the beautiful thing about this comfort food is that its flavor is almost never the same. Depending on the chef, every fried rice creation has its own personal flair.

So, in an effort to broaden my horizons, I ventured to the following Ono, You Know establishments in hope of finding some spectacular fried rice.

Lucky for me, I was met with a variety of entrees that made me say “Wow!” These restaurants don’t skimp on portion sizes either! It’s a party for your palate with bold flavors and textures. Eat on!

Max’s of Manila

Extreme contentment is derived from the home-cooked comfort food at Max’s of Manila. I love coming to this Dillingham Boulevard restaurant, as well as the Waipahu establishment, where the friendly staff always treats its customers like family. And when dining at Max’s, be sure to come with an appetite equipped to handle the eatery’s epic portions — family-style dining is what it’s all about.

While it’s typical to feast like there’s no tomorrow here, sometimes less is more. On my most recent visit to Max’s, I chose to keep my cravings for kare-kare, pork adobo and sini-gang under control, and instead opted for Crabmeat Fried Rice ($8.95), a heaping portion of jasmine rice generously served with scrambled eggs, carrots, green peas and genuine crab meat.

“A lot of people like to order our fried rice by itself because it’s like a complete meal,” says Elizabeth Joven, operations manager of the Dillingham location. “You really don’t need anything else; there’s enough substance in this one dish.”

However, to add more pizazz to this already delicious staple, I like to pair Crabmeat Fried Rice with Max’s Filipino Bistek — thinly cut, tender beef doused with the most savory of gravies and topped with sliced round onions. Masarap (delicious)! For added flavor, I also pour a bit of the gravy over the fried rice. You know you’ll love it!

My photographer and I shared this meal, and with only two dishes we were stuffed to the max (pun intended … Yes, I just had to go there)!

“The fried rice can easily serve two to three people,” Joven says with a smile.

What a great deal! It’s always a festive foodie adventure at Max’s of Manila!

Max’s of Manila
801 Dillingham Blvd.

Asahi Grill

It’s 9 a.m. and Asahi Grill on Ward Avenue is whipping up breakfast galore like it’s nobody’s business. The restaurant is renowned for its ono local grinds and American classics, and with a global audience as its fan base, Asahi Grill is set to impress.

How can you not fall absolutely in love with the restaurant’s Lup Cheong Fried Rice and Kim Chee Fried Rice? Priced at $7.50 for a regular portion and $5.95 for a small, these two delectable entrees offer an explosion of flavors with every bite.

Lup Cheong Fried Rice features a grandiose blend of Chinese sausage, Portuguese sausage, green onions and a splash of shoyu with heaping scoops of rice. Two eggs (any style) are placed atop the entree as the finishing touch. I prefer my eggs over easy, as the yolk just soaks into the rice. Then, for a little kick to your step, Kim Chee Fried Rice is the No. 1 choice! Homemade kimchee, along with chopped Portuguese sausage, green onions, a drizzle of shoyu and more, plays up the fried rice nicely.

“Kim Chee Fried Rice has always been a customer favorite,” says restaurant manager Victoria Sayno.

“We make our own kim chee twice a month and add garlic, kim chee sauce, hot pepper and salt to the cabbage. Our fried rice recipes date back to our Kapiolani Coffee Shop days,” she adds.

Better yet, both of these broke the mouth entrees are available all day every day.

Asahi Grill
515 Ward Ave.

Little Village Noodle House

Relish in the flavors of China at Little Village Noodle House on Smith Street, where the award-winning array of cuisine is well suited to the local palate.

Food enthusiasts from across the island flock to this rustic restaurant, that’s been in business for more than a decade, for Northern-style Chinese cuisine. And there’s been word that Little Village’s fried rice is a must-try.

“Chef Chan’s Special Fried Rice is our most popular fried rice,” says restaurant partner David Chang. “There’s so much to it and our fried rice isn’t greasy.”

And, boy, is he right! This most flavorful entree is priced at $9.50 and includes diced char siu, diced roast duck, shrimp and scrambled eggs stir-fried together with two kinds of rice, which Chang will keep under wraps. Sugar, salt and shoyu also are included for additional flavor. However, Chang makes it clear that the cuisine here is MSG-free.

Then, The Mother of All Fried Rice ($9.50) is just that. This dish lives up to its name, and diners are presented with salted fish with minced chicken, and a blend of ginger and garlic spices

According to Chang, the secret to the best fried rice lies in the cooking technique.

“You have to cook the salted fish the right way,” he explains. “If not, it ends up being extremely fishy. When it comes to fried rice, it’s important to balance out the spices and ingredients.”

So, the next time you find yourself at Little Village Noodle House, take the time to sample the fried rice options. I guarantee you’ll be hooked on the flavors.

Little Village Noodle House
1113 Smith St., Chinatown
Monday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m.;
Friday-Sunday, 10:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.

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Hawaii's Best