Saturday, June 28, 2008

Little Village (minus the noodle) House

Another Hawaiian food blog! We ate in Hawaii's Chinatown a lot. This time Kreg and I are at Little Village Noodle House. We were attracted to Little Village because they had a pretty extensive vegetarian menu, plus they had green onion pancakes!

We decided on the green onion pancakes and tofu turnovers as our starters, followed by a noodle dish. Heck, the place has "noodle house" in it's name so you would think they'd be good. Since we couldn't decide on what noodle dish to order we asked for some suggestions. I really don't know what they said, but I heard tofu, vegetables and noodles ... sounds good to me!

The green onion pancakes were a little on the greasy side but for the most part, they were okay. They could not compare to the awesome scallion pancakes at Veggie Heaven in Teaneck, NJ. (We'll be heading there in September, and I can't wait!!! Best Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurant... EVER!)

Next up tofu turnovers... these were tasty. They were similar to a large veggie dumpling, except the crust was flakey instead of doughy. The filling was a combo of tofu, chives and mixed veggies, and they were served with a garlicky ginger soy dipping sauce.

Our noodle entree was a disappointment. Nothing special here, some carrots and broccoli mixed in with your typical canned chinese vegetables ... bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and straw mushrooms. The noodles were okay, but not worth the calories for me. I'll stick with the appetizers.

Little Village
1113 Smith Street, Honolulu

Monday, June 23, 2008


My new favorite dairy-free ice cream is Turtle Mountain's Purely Decadent made with coconut milk. It is so delish I actually decided to have a sundae for dinner last night.

The texture was creamier than soy or rice based frozen desserts. It tasted (well, what I remember tasting) like real ice cream. They make several flavors, I prefer the straight up Coconut Milk coconut. The chocolate coconut is good but it wasn't as creamy, plus it was missing the coconut flakes that I enjoyed in the original.

I'm thinking tonight might be a good night for sundae dinner, again!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

It's a Thai!

Kreg and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary this year with a trip to Hawaii. We decided to stick with one island this time and stayed on Oahu. Kailua, a small beach town, on the windward coast was the perfect choice for us. It's more laid back, yet close enough to the action of Waikiki & Honolulu.

We had stayed in Kailua before so we knew what to expect as far as vegan food was concerned. On our last trip, Kreg fell in love with the garlic cabbage at Champa Thai. So, we knew we'd be back for more!

This time we ordered the garlic cabbage with tofu and a papaya salad starter. The papaya salad was so garlicky I couldn't eat it. Raw garlic affects me, so I refrained from eating it. (Cause Kreg would have complained the whole time about my garlic breath!) You would think we'd have to be wary of the GARLIC cabbage but NO ... the garlic was cooked, so it's mellow and delicious!

The garlic cabbage and tofu did not disappoint. It was better than we remembered. The tofu was cut in large pieces that were coated with panko and then fried. Mix that in with thinly sliced cabbage, fried garlic and creamy coconut milk, and serve with sticky rice. Yum! So good, almost made me forget about that garlicky mess of a papaya salad.

On another night we were on the mood for Thai again, this time we decided to try a new place. We read a lot of reviews online and most recommended Saeng's Thai Cuisine. They had a large vegetarian selection on the menu, so we figured we'd give them a shot.

It seemed promising, the restaurant definitely had more ambience. The decor was what you'd expect in a Thai restaurant. Carved wood, sparkly fabrics with elephants embroidered, etc. We ordered a starter of vegetable satay, followed by pad thai with tofu and mixed veggies with tofu.

Everything was mediocre. The peanut sauce with the satay was really sweet. The mixed veggie & tofu dish was nothing special. Saucy, bland and uninspired (I hate when all you get are canned baby corn, water chestnuts and bamboo shoots). And the pad thai... forget it. Too saucy and too sweet. Tasted like they used ketchup in the sauce. I prefer my Thai food to be more savory with a layering of flavors, not sweet, saucy glop.

Guess you really can't judge a book by it's cover. While the decor was nice ... the food was blah.

Neither place is perfect. Champa Thai has their share of sweet sauces (where they should be balanced) too. Saeng's has the ambience, Champa has slightly better food.

Note: The picture is from our dinner at Saeng's.

Champa Thai
306 Kuulei Rd
Kailua, HI 96734
(808) 263-8281


Saeng's Thai Cuisine
315 Hahani St
Kailua, HI 96734
(808) 263-9727

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hot, Soft & Fluffy Buns!

I think I may have mentioned in my profile that I like soft, doughy, bready things. Yeah, I love 'em - if I could roll myself up in dough, I WOULD!

Well, steamed Chinese buns and shui mai totally fit the bill! It's always such a treat for me to go to a vegetarian dim sum restaurant because we don't have any in the Sarasota area. Heck, it's so hard to just find a veggie dumpling here!

We found Legends Vegetarian Restaurant a couple of years ago on our first trip to Hawaii. So, it was a no-brainer that we'd be going back! I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into a soft, fluffy bun. The dim sum menu changes daily, on the day that we visited we had a choice of: a veggie filled bun, that was stuffed with chopped mushrooms, taro and cabbage; a "faux pork" char sui bun (which is a wheat gluten "meat" seasoned with a Chinese barbeque sauce; shui mai stuffed with taro, mushroom and cabbage; and a bean curd wrap (a veggie stuffing wrapped with a soy skin).

I'm all about the bun, so we had three orders of steamed buns (two of the char sui, one veggie) and an order of shui mai. The char sui bun was our favorite, the sweet barbeque sauce and soft bun melted in your mouth. I liked the veggie bun a lot (Kreg, not so much ... he likes the sweet stuff!) The filling had a nice flavor, slightly salty with more of a mushroom flavor and a starchiness from the taro. This one could have used a little dipping sauce since the filling was dry, but all we had was some soy sauce.

The shui mai were awesome as well. The wrapper was nice and thin, and the filling was not sticky. Same thing here with the dipping sauce, it would have been nice to have a choice of something other than soy sauce.

I definitely could have eaten two more buns and maybe another order of shui mai, but I was saving some room for a bubble tea! And there are a ton of boba shops in Honolulu's Chinatown.

Legend's also has a large menu filled with "faux" meat and veggie dishes. I can't say how good the dishes are as I've never tried any. But if the dim sum is any indication of the quality then the other dishes have to be great! Next time I'm in Honolulu ... I'll be ready for my bun.

Legends Vegetarian Restaurant
100 N. Beretania St., #109, Honolulu, Hawaii
Phone (808) 532-1868
open for lunch only, closed on Wednesdays

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Finally, A Faux Pho!

I've been jonesin' for a vegan Pho for soooo long. Every time I go to my local Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Cali in Sarasota, I'm teased by the tofu and vegetable Pho ... it's on the vegetarian part of the menu, so you would think it's veggie ... um, think again. They use chicken stock. Boo! I've asked for a veggie stock, but they won't do it (they're weird that way).

Anyway, while in Oahu recently, Kreg and I found the Saigon Noodle House in Kailua and my dreams of a veggie Pho finally became a reality. And man, that soup was freakin' GOOD! It was so worth the wait.

My faux Pho arrived in a huge bowl. Loaded up with tofu (which was pressed, marinated, and yummy), fresh veggies and rice noodles. Served on the side were bean sprouts, basil (which looked and tasted like Thai basil) and lime. The broth was good, but a little bland ... a good base to start building flavors. I added some hoisin sauce, then the Sriracha hot sauce, the basil, bean sprouts, etc. Outstanding. I enjoyed the entire bowl, right down to the last slurp!

Besides having the veggie Pho, we also tried the papaya salad with tofu, veggie sandwich with tofu, and curry tofu with eggplant.

Everything was fresh and delicious. The papaya salad was so refreshing. The flavors exploded in your mouth - citrusy, salty, and with a little bit of sweetness. The different textures of crunchy peanuts, crisp green papaya and smooth marinated tofu worked so well together. The tofu was some of the best I've ever had. It was firm but not hard and it had a slight smokiness.

Next up was the curry tofu and eggplant, this was Kreg's choice. We weren't sure what to expect, since there are so many different types of curry. This one was a yellow curry and sort of reminded us of a cross between an Indian curry and a Singapore curry. The tofu was fried and had a really nice soft texture inside. Watch out though because this dish had some heat. The kind of heat that doesn't hit you at first but then sneaks up the back of your throat. I like hot foods, so it didn't bother me. Kreg on the other hand, found it a little too spicy. So, to cool his mouth down a bit, he decided to order the veggie tofu sandwich. This was a small baguette stuffed with veggies and marinated tofu. Simple, effective at putting out a mouth fire and yummy.

As far as ambiance goes, the place is pretty utilitarian. Nothing fancy here ... mismatched dishes, plain tables & chairs, fluorescent lighting, and one wall covered with illuminated photos of the food. It's a locals place -- casual, come as you are -- and we loved it. The staff were fantastic, they totally got the vegan thing which is a joy. We didn't have to worry about fish sauce, etc. And, you cannot beat the prices ... nothing was more than $7. In fact, we enjoyed this place so much, we were back the next day for lunch!!! (We had combo plates -- papaya salad with veggie spring rolls for Kreg and vermicelli salad with spring rolls (Vietnamese bun) for me. So much food, so good, and only $6.25 each.)

My only regret ... I wish we would have found Saigon Noodle House at the beginning of our trip rather than at the end!

Saigon Noodle House
Enchanted Lakes Shopping Center
1020 Keolu Dr
Kailua, HI 96734

Friday, June 6, 2008

Bring the Bug Spray

Maunawili Falls Trail

Stream crossings, lots of steps, and a deep-pool waterfall await on this three(ish)-mile trail on Oahu's windward coast. Bring the bug spray since this can be a wet one.

We started our day at Lanikai Juice in Kailua. An acai bowl with extra granola would be needed to get me through this hike. We're still not sure how long the hike is, could be three miles round trip, could be five. Who knows! Luckily, the trail is really close to Kailua, so it didn't take us very long to get there.

There is no designated parking for trail users. We parked in the Maunawili subdivision on Kelewina Street. Make sure you remove all valuables from your car as break-ins are a common occurrence on Oahu (don't believe me, just look at all of the broken glass on the ground.)

The hike starts with a paved access road that leads you to the trail head. Follow the signs and head out. From this point on you'll be walking on a dirt path that can be overgrown with tree roots in spots and covered with leaves in others (yeah, I'm a klutz... I tripped several times!). Be careful, the path can become very slick and muddy at the slightest rain.

You'll pass strawberry guava trees (Kreg wanted to eat the guavas but some pretty little birds beat him to it - this hike started his obsession with strawberry guava), banana trees, bamboo, loads of torch ginger, heliconia, lobster claw, and ti plants. I was drooling over the gingers and lobster claws, they were so cool ... just growing in the middle of nowhere!

Ready to get wet? Cause I did. Well, if you can boulder hop those feet may stay dry! The three stream crossings are not bad at all. The water is shallow (unless there's been a heavy rain) and there are many spots to hop across. Some of the rocks can be slippery (I realized this first hand and went tumbling into the stream). So, if you don't feel like jumping from rock to rock just wade across (this became my technique, since I was wet already). After one of the stream crossings is a really cool embedded rock pathway, it's a welcome relief to the roots-ridden dirt path.

Eventually, the trail starts to gain some altitude. You'll climb up some rustic steps, and some more rustic steps, and yes, even more rustic steps! At the top, you'll be awarded with great views of the Ko'olaus Mountains and realize how out of shape you are. We were huffing and puffing! Breathe in the views (ie, catch your breath) and get ready to hit the falls.

Keep following the markers and start descending the steps to the gulch. It's a lot of steps ... take some time at the falls to recharge, cause you'll be climbing back up all of those stairs you've just walked down!

The falls are beautiful, tucked away in a canopy of trees with dappled light shimmering on the pool. Now is the time to bust out the bug spray. The mosquitoes love the falls (and my blood!) too. We were lucky to have the falls to ourselves, well I guess we kinda shared them with the mosquitoes!

A lot of people jump off the cliffs into the deep pool, just check out some of the videos on youtube. We didn't. It's a long way down (and I don't really like heights), plus there are all of these warning signs about stream water having Leptospirosis. So use your own judgement.

Ok, remember all of those steps you climbed down to get to the falls ... well, it's time to visit them again. This time going up! Whew! Those steps are not normal steps, they're like twice the height of regular stairs. Killer.

You'll reach the top again, but from here on out, it's all downhill! It's a good idea to start this one early morning (like before 8 a.m.) for a couple of reasons. 1, it gets hot at the top and 2, it gets crowded. As we were hiking out, we passed several groups heading to the falls.

Overall, I really liked this hike. I tried to stay dry by being cautious ... forget that! It's way more fun bounding over the rocks, running through the stream and getting muddy. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Coconuts & Kahuku Corn

No scenic drive along Oahu's North Shore is complete without a stop at one of the shrimp trucks. They all claim to be the "original" much like the many "original" Ray's Pizza places in NYC. Well, being a vegan the fresh-farmed shrimp really weren't the attraction, we were on the lookout for the Kahuku corn. We kept on reading about how great this corn is, and that it's supposed to be the best friggin' corn ever. After the 10th sign for fresh Kahuku corn, we were sold! Only problem, most trucks and farm stands were selling it uncooked. Finally, we spot a place that has it available cooked ... enter Fumi's Shrimp truck.

We pull into the parking lot and the place was packed. People everywhere were chomping down on the fresh shrimp (apparently the best dish was the garlic shrimp cause Fumi tried to sell me on it). I said, "I'm not here for the shrimp, I'm here for the corn!" So, Fumi hands me the hot unbuttered corn and we eat.

I think Kreg's face says it all ... the corn is HORSE corn. It was so starchy and tough, I couldn't eat mine (plus, I was full from drinking that enormous coconut!).

Oh well, Fumi's was a bust. At least I got my fresh coconut!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Best Veggie Dog, ever!

Puka Dog in Hawaii makes the most awesome hot dogs, brah! We first found this place in Poipu, Kauai a couple of years ago. Being a vegetarian, I was so delighted to see that they made a veggie dog. And it was so amazing. The dog was grilled and then inserted into the "puka" or hole in the bun, then you've got your choice of exotic relishes. My fave is a veggie dog with the spicy garlic sauce, coconut & pineapple relishes, and lilikoi wasabi mustard! Finish it off with some Maui onion chips and fresh-squeezed lemonade ... ah, hot dog heaven!

Puka Dog
Waikiki Town Center, Oahu
Poipu Shopping Village, Kauai