Sugar-free Again

Cover Story Features

February 23, 2014

Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Anthony Consillio

Comfort food for the soul is what Kenny’s Restaurant does best. On any given day, this Kalihi establishment is flooded with local patrons who all crave the kamaaina classics and American staples that warm the heart and put the mind at ease.

Located at Kamehameha Shopping Center, Kenny’s entered Oahu’s dining scene in 1966, thanks to its founders John Fujieki, Kenny Kaneshiro and Herbert Souza. Currently, Fujieki’s son, John Fujieki Jr., has claimed the role of president and owner of the establishment. And while Fujieki continues to cultivate the original restaurant philosophy, in which customers are treated like family, he makes it a point to constantly improve the menu by only serving up the best to the island community.

And today marks a sweet beginning at Kenny’s Restaurant. Whether you’re attempting to better your diet, watching your weight or suffer from diabetes, you’re in luck, as the eatery now offers an array of sugar-free options.

Fujieki Jr. presented this “sans sugar” concept as a way to respond to the needs of diabetics like himself.

“I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about 23 years ago, and I quickly noticed that people who suffer from this disease are very restricted when it comes to dining out.

“We originally began to offer some sugarless dishes back then, but nowadays, with better-quality ingredients, flavors and sugar substitutes, we’ve decided to reinitiate our sugar-free menu items. Our main goal is to increase awareness of diabetes in Hawaii,” Fujieki Jr. explains.

Kenny’s lead cook Peter Miranda could-n’t be happier to join in the cause of taking control of diabetes one meal at a time.

“I’m really excited to provide healthier choices for our customers,” says Miranda, who received his culinary training at Kapiolani Community College with a specialization in continental cuisine and Asian fusion. “A lot of people in my family have diabetes, so it’s nice to know that I can make a difference in their lives and in the lives of others.”

According to Miranda, all diners have to do is simply ask their server for a listing of the establishment’s sugar-free selections. Miranda’s favorite is Kamaaina Chopped Steak ($17.49), which features thinly cut, wok-seared beef with tomatoes, onions, carrots, bell peppers and celery seasoned with a special sugar-free sauce, served with brown rice.

“It’s difficult to tell that there’s no sugar added to the teriyaki sauce,” Miranda says, noting that the overall flavor of the dish is not affected.

Other favorites that can be prepared without sugar include Kenny’s Taco Salad ($12.95), a bed of iceberg lettuce topped with seasoned ground beef, refried beans, diced tomatoes, green onions and Cheddar cheese drizzled with creamy ranch dressing and kicked up with savory salsa, sour cream and jalapenos; Ahi Belly with Tofu in a nitsuke-style sauce (market price); and Stuffed Cabbage ($13.65), showcasing ground beef wrapped in tender cabbage leaves, baked in a light pepper-onion tomato sauce and served with hot vegetables.

Fujieki also confirms that the restaurant’s best-selling Kenny’s Famous Chinese Chicken Salad ($11.45) does not discriminate against those who choose not to consume sugar. This must-have dish presents juicy morsels of shoyu chicken, char siu, wonton chips, Chinese parsley and peanuts atop crisp lettuce doused with a sugarless dressing.

“We’re very pleased to promote these dishes,” Fujieki says. “Kenny’s Restaurant will do what it can to help fight this epidemic. We’re a participant in this year’s Taking Control of Your Diabetes (TCOYD) Conference and Health Fair April 12 at Hawaii Convention Center. And American Diabetes Association is hosting a walk to stop diabetes March 15 at Queen Kapiolani Park.”

Research shows that diabetes affects 26 million individuals across the nation and more than 110,000 in Hawaii: the attributing factor being poor diet, lack of exercise and genetic predisposition, putting ethnic minorities at higher risk.

TCOYD has been educating and motivating diabetes communities in cities around the country since 1995, as diabetes experts come together under one roof to ignite motivation, offer hope and help change lives.

“It’s a great feeling to be able to reach out to the community in such a way,” Fujieki says with a smile. “We encourage locals and visitors to take the initiative to control and combat this disease. If Kenny’s sugar-free options can make a difference in the life of diabetics, then we’re taking a step in the right direction.”

Taking a bite out of diabetes

Dining Out caught up with Dr. Laurie Tom, an endocrinologist at Queen’s Medical Center, who specializes in diabetes. As past president of American Diabetes Association, Hawaii, Tom revealed some interesting facts about this widespread disease and ways to control it from spreading further into the population.

“Diabetes is a major problem in Hawaii, greatly affecting a lot of our ethnic groups, including Native Hawaiians, Asians and Pacific Islanders,” she says. Tom adds that we need to take initiative to combat the causes, including promoting healthier food choices and an increase in exercise.

Diabetes screenings are recommended after the age of 40.

Kenny’s Restaurant

Kamehameha Shopping Center
1620 N. School St.
Sunday-Thursday, 6:30 a.m.-9.30 p.m.
Friday, 6:30 a.m.-11 p.m.
Saturday, 6 a.m.-11 p.m.

Honolulu, HI 96817

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best