Our Very Own Peanut Gallery

Columns Ono, You Know

May 22, 2016

Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO

The editor, aka the Nutty Professor, scoops up Royal Garden's Walnut & Peanut Soup with Mochi Balls.

The editor, aka the Nutty Professor, scoops up Royal Garden’s Walnut & Peanut Soup with Mochi Balls.

Happy Sunday, Ono readers! I give you permission to call me the Nutty Professor this week, but it’s not because I’ll be doing wacky experiments like Eddie Murphy did in the movie. Instead, I’m going nuts with good eats — peanuts, to be exact.

The protein-rich ingredient is worthy of applause, seeing as it works wonderfully in both sweet and savory applications. And who doesn’t love smothers of creamy peanut butter melting on freshly toasted bread, and chunky globs of Thai peanut sauce covering satay skewers and summer rolls?

Rather than featuring some of the more common ways to enjoy peanuts, Ono, You Know has lined up some regional specialties that hail from different cultures and give foodies an entirely new way to appreciate this rich, oily nut.


If you’re not familiar with the Chinese-style peanut soup dessert, you’re in for a treat. Calvin Wong, who owns Royal Garden Chinese Restaurant with his brother and executive chef Johnny, recently introduced me to the restaurant’s unique version of the dish: Walnut & Peanut Soup with Mochi Balls.

“Other restaurants just do peanut or walnut soup, but here, we mixed the two and found it to be a perfect match,” says Wong.

Walnut & Peanut Soup with Mochi Balls ($15 half portion, $30 large bowl)

Walnut & Peanut Soup with Mochi Balls ($15 half portion, $30 large bowl)

The soup base he’s referring to is made from scratch using finely ground peanuts and walnuts, resulting in a smooth, creamy and luxurious liquid served nice and warm. It’s almost like sipping on warm peanut butter — in the best way possible — with added buttery richness from the walnuts.

The dessert gets even better when you scoop up voluptuous and incredibly chewy mochi balls hidden within the bowl, which also are made in house and filled with sesame paste, another complement to the nutty flavors.

Best of all, Walnut & Peanut Soup with Mochi Balls is not overly sweet, so you can enjoy a sizable portion with no sugar crash in sight. It is a specialty item, so Wong suggests calling a day in advance to preorder the dessert, which is priced at $30 for a large bowl good for 10 guests, or $15 for a half portion good for five.

Royal Garden long has been heralded as an upscale haven of Cantonese Hong Kong-style fare. Some of its one-of-a-kind menu items that you may want to enjoy leading up to trying this dessert are Live Maine Lobster prepared Royal Garden-style with butter, shallots, minced garlic and a very rich chicken broth, as well as whole Live Dungeness Crab served with curry sauce and long rice in a casserole dish.

Royal Garden Chinese Restaurant

Ala Moana Hotel, third floor
410 Atkinson Drive, Honolulu


While many of us are used to eating peanut-flavored goodies paired with sweet accouterments like chocolate or jelly, the nut is sometimes put to best use when added to savory dishes, as it leaves an undeniable heartiness in its wake.

Such is the case with Max’s of Manila’s Kare Kare, a beef peanut stew served at the go-to spot for fabulous Filipino fare. This hefty selection offers beef and oxtail simmered with pak choi, long beans and eggplant in a thick peanut sauce. The sauce itself blends strong beef and peanut flavors, and it gets its deep-orange color from slightly sweet and nutty ground annatto seeds, which help to accentuate the peanut flavor.

Kare Kare ($13.95 regular, $20.75 large) PHOTO COURTESY OF MAX'S OF MANILA

Kare Kare ($13.95 regular, $20.75 large) PHOTO COURTESY OF MAX’S OF MANILA

“It’s a classic Filipino dish,” says general manager Maly San Luis. “It is normally served during special occasions because it is laborious to make.”

We all can be grateful that Max’s of Manila takes the time to make this robust and immensely satisfying delicacy available to us all the time. Kare Kare is priced at $13.95 for the regular size (good for two to three people) or $20.75 for the large (serves four to five).

Additionally, the longstanding establishment is now accepting reservations for graduation parties. And starting Memorial Day, Max’s will offer Summer Picnic Packs To Go ($28.99 each), complete with six pieces of the eatery’s famous crispy Fried Chicken (legs and thigh), Lumpiang Shanghai (egg rolls) and a choice of Pancit: Canton egg noodle, Bihun (thin rice noodle) or Sotanghon (long rice). Every Summer Picnic Pack To Go also includes a free Max’s brand eco-friendly reusable bag.

Max’s of Manila

Costco Iwilei Complex
801 Dillingham Blvd., Honolulu

Waipahu Shopping Plaza
94-300 Farrington Hwy., Waipahu

Ilima Awards
Hawaii's Best