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Oahu 2015 – Day 2 Part 1: Koko Head Cafe, Snacking around Honolulu

The next day we were up early…around 4 am early due to jetlag. We just spent the early hours getting settled, made a pot of kona coffee which we had picked up from Don Quijote supermarket, and watched the rest of Hawaii come awake from the view on our balcony. When it looked like the sun was about to rise (around 6:20am), we got ready to go get some breakfast!

Ocean view from the condo

We drove over to Kaimuki (about 15 minutes away) so we could try Koko Head cafe. Koko Head cafe is run by former Top Chef contestant, Lee Anne Wong. I’m a big fan and I’ve seen her on the Food Network, so I was happy she had opened up a place in Hawaii. Koko Head is is primarily a breakfast/brunch spot; she later opened Hale Ohuna (a noodle bar open for dinner) just a few months ago and we were excited to try that as well during our trip!

The weather was warm but a small drizzle was coming down and the skies were cloudy. I hoped the sun came out soon! We got to Koko Head Cafe and found parking in the lot around the corner. The cafe is actually smaller than I expected it to be, so I can now understand the waits during prime brunch hours. It’s cute though, with a vintage surfing vibe meets downtown cool.

Koko Head Cafe tucked in a corner in Kaimuki

Koko Head Cafe, island-style brunch house

Interior of Koko Head Cafe

We both started with coffees, and I got the Breakfast Bibimabab which is a take on the ubiquitous Korean dish, and Steve got the Ohayo Eggs skillet, which is a version of baked eggs with a Dashi Parmesan Cream sauce, topped with Bonito flakes and Nori.

My Bibimbap was served on a skillet too so the rice on the bottom got crispy which really added to the texture of the dish. The rice was topped with various vegetables, bacon, homemade kimchi, and a sunny side up egg. I mixed it all together with their gojuchang (spicy Korean chili paste) and it was all very good.

Breakfast Bibimbap – with bacon!

The Ohayo Eggs were delicious too, It’s like baked eggs in a savory cream sauce and served with toasted baguette. Ohayo means “good morning” in Japanese.  This was a very great start to our day!

Good Morning Eggs!

After breakfast we saw it had started to rain but by the time we drove back to the condo, it was sunny again! In the meantime we passed at least 3 different rainbows on the drive back to Waikiki.

Rainbows everywhere!

Off to the beach we go! We headed to the protected part of Waikiki Beach, think it is called Kuhio beach park. Even though the skies were blue and the sun was out, the water was a little cold and it was a little windy overall but it was nice to be at the beach again and to feel my toes in the sand! The surfers and boogie boarders were having a great time though. There was a huge swell when we were there so they were taking advantage of the water conditions! In the distance we even saw a rainbow, I guess from all the rain earlier in the day. But I think the rain discouraged some people from coming to the beach early because it wasn’t that crowded at all.

Walking along Kuhio Beach Park. Do you see the rainbow in the distance?

It’s great to be at the beach again!

Closer to lunch time we left the beach and decided to drive around Honolulu and get different “snacks” to eat. Get ready for a lot of eating!

First stop was an acai bowl! We went to Diamond Head Cove Health Bar where we shared a “Da Cove” bowl. It’s an acai bowl topped with fruit and a scoop of Pa’I’ai – which is just mashed taro before it gets pounded into poi. It didn’t have much flavor which is characteristic of most taro, but it added a nice creamy texture and another component to the delicious acai bowl. Taro also is high in fiber and other nutrients so win-win!

Inside Diamond Head Cove Health Bar

Acai bowl topped with pa’i’ai – mashed taro which lent body and creaminess to the acai bowl. I loved it!

After the acai bowl we drove over to Chinatown. We wanted to go to Maguro Brothers, which is a seafood market and purveyor located in one of the indoor marketplaces in Chinatown. It was a bit hard to find, but we eventually ended up there. They sell fresh fish as well as poke and sushi bowls. I opted for a fresh maguro, chutoro, ikura, and uni bowl, and DH got a king salmon bowl. My bowl was pretty expensive but that’s because I opted for all the priciest things (about 16 dollars). Both were delicious! The fish was so fresh and clean tasting, and lightly seasoned over rice. It’s mostly a take-out place but they have a few table and chairs and they were nice enough to bring us water too. You’ll have to get over eating inside a marketplace though where they sell fresh cut meats, fish and veggies in the stalls next to you.

Maguro Brothers sells fresh fish as well as lunch items

It’s located inside a marketplace in Chinatown.

Fresh fish for sale at Maguro Brothers

All my favorites in one bowl! Maguro, chutoro, ikura and uni!

Seafood craving satisfied, we were in search of dessert! I had always wanted to go to the new Aloha Tofu Town in the Dole Cannery mall. Aloha Tofu is one of the few remaining Hawaiian manufacturers of tofu and soybean products. They opened this little storefront/takeout window to serve plate lunches to-go as well as many of their tofu products.

Take out window in Aloha Tofu Town in the Dole Cannery Mall

 

One of the old tofu production machines is used as a display table. Recycling is cool!

I was really interested in trying their tofu mousse and okara creampuffs. Note that they close at 3pm and we got there right at 2. Some of the items were almost sold out! I managed to grab a container of tofu mousse and a package of the okara cream puffs. (The cream puffs are only made on Mondays and Thursdays I believe.) What’s special about these puffs is that the choux pastry is made with a by-product from the tofu making, called okara. It’s really just like a soybean meal.

Okara Cream puff! Only available on certain days of the week.

Green tea tofu mousse dessert, a specialty item!

There are a few seats inside the store so we sat down and enjoyed our sweets. The cream puffs were small but there were 4 to a package. They taste great and you cannot tell it apart from a regular cream puff, no tofu taste at all. The tofu mousse comes in different flavors and we opted for green tea. It definitely has a tofu flavor but was creamy, light and airy. I thought it was delicious. If you like soy milk or silken tofu you will like this dessert.

The green tea mousse what light and airy and tasted like soy milk. It was yummy! The packaging is cool. The spoon comes with the container so you can enjoy this treat on the go.

Okara cream puffs…tasted like regular cream puffs but it gives Beard Papa a run for their money!

In addition to desserts you can also get hot food: tofu loco moco, tofu steaks, katsu, etc. I can’t remember if everything was vegetarian but I know they all contained a bit of tofu in it. The specials change daily so you can always call them to find out what they are serving. Since it was late in the lunch hour, they were giving away free servings of oboro tofu. It is freshly made soft tofu, served hot, that you help yourself from a crockpot. It is served savory, with condiments like green onion and a special soy sauce that comes from Japan. The soy sauce was very good and definitely made the tofu. I always try to seek out food items made locally and I was excited to try all the offerings at Aloha Tofu Town. Next time we may pick up some plate lunch!

Since they closed soon, they were offering free tastes of oboro tofu. Scoop it out yourself and add condiments! It is regularly 2 bucks a cup.

After Aloha Tofu Town we headed to another local company nearby – the Hawaiian Chip Company – to grab a couple of bags of freshly fried taro chips. Their storefront has been renovated since we were last there (2013) so instead of operating out of the front of the factory they have a dedicated space that is air-conditioned.

Inside the new air-conditioned Hawaiin Chip Company store. You can buy ready-made chips but definitely don’t leave without getting a bag made-to-order!

Inside you can find bags of their various chips (taro, purple sweet potato, and regular sweet potato) as well as hot sauces and spices, but we were there to get the made-to-order chips! I think it was 8 dollars a bag and you can choose which kind of tuber you want or a mix of anything. We both really like taro so we got 2 bags. It took about 15 minutes to fry them up. After you get the bag piping hot, you can season them with various spices they have set up at a counter. Salt, garlic powder, nori, spicy seasoning…lots of stuff available, even cinnamon and sugar if you have a sweet craving! This is a great snack to have and we noshed on it throughout our trip.

 

Seasoning bar for the fresh fried chips! Season them while they are still hot so the flavors can stick on the chips!

Ready to season!

I like a blend of garlic powder, salt, spicy toragashi, and nori.

Coming up, a most anticipated dinner at The Pig and The Lady! Read more about our November 2015 Oahu trip.



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