Angling for lunch? Try a bento

Columns What's for Lunch?

June 1, 2014

Story By: Rachel Breit | Photos by: Rachel Breit

Traditional tasty eats, convenience and quality at easy-to-swallow prices are on hand at Mamaya’s, best known for fresh, grab-and-go Japanese-style bento boxes. Step inside the eatery and you’ll be greeted by friendly employees and an array of bentos. Store manager Dan Kobayashi describes a few that beckon over the hungry.

For those unfamiliar with mochiko chicken, the first bite may have you wondering whether the cook made a mistake. But unlike its cousin karaage chicken, the sweet rice flour batter isn’t supposed to be crispy or crunchy. “It’s like a sponge,” says Kobayashi. One mouthful of tender thigh meat, marinated overnight in soy-based sauce, dredged in mochi flour and deep fried, and you’ll be hooked. Those well-versed in the delights of mochiko chicken will appreciate Mamaya’s straight-forward approach and easy-to-eat pieces in itsMochiko Chicken Bento ($5.95).

Salmon Dynamite Bento ($6.95) proves with seafood you can never have too much. Dashi-marinated broiled salmon topped with a creamy blend of mayo, crab, shrimp, orange masago (capelin roe) and a garnish of hot sauce is one powerful combination. Each bite explodes with a spicy awakening, segues to creamy indulgence and lands on a firm flake.

Bentos are packed with either white or multigrain rice (although Salmon Dynamite comes with furikake rice), tsukemono pickles, kimpira gobo (simmered burdock root), Spam and vegetable yakisoba, blanched broccoli and atsuyaki tamago (sweet omelet). Bentos are constantly replenished during lunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but still are made to order from opening till closing.

When it comes to a square meal, bentos are primo. But in the case of Chicken Katsu Don ($5.50), donburi rice bowls round the bend as a close second. According to Kobayashi, it’s a dish best left to the professionals. “It’s pretty easy to mess up,” he admits.

Who knew making the seemingly simple katsu don was such a balancing act? The sauce is salty though sweet. The rice is touched by sauce, but not soggy. And the egg broken, yet not scrambled. Cooks drag a chopstick through the two eggs exactly 16 times to achieve the right consistency,” says Kobayashi.

Kobayashi ensures that each dish is tested again and again for deliciousness and consistency. When developing new dishes, something as simple as the difference one teaspoon of shoyu makes is taken into account. “We are constantly checking,” he says.

And the prices are un-beatable. Currently, a free cup of miso soup comes with any bento or donburi purchase. Daily promotions are offered to Mamaya’s Facebook friends and stamp cards that result in discounts that take the already-low prices even lower.


Pearl Kai Shopping Center
98-199 Kamehameha Hwy., Aiea
Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Aiea, HI 96701

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