My Father In-Law thought it would be a great idea to have the Missus' visiting cousins a taste of an "American Thanksgiving" so he ordered the basic heat and eat Thanksgiving meal from Zippy's. My job was to provide "back-up" if you know what I mean. No offense against Zippy's or any other of the heat and catered Thanksgiving meals, but they really aren't known for great flavor and quality if you know what I mean. We weren't arriving until the wednesday afternoon before T-Day so making anything was pretty much out of the question. So I dug into my "black book" looking for something that might suffice. Several folks had recommended Nam Fong in Chinatown to me, so I called from San Diego and reserved a duck and some pork for Thanksgiving Day. Nam Fong opens pretty early which worked out well as I made a nice 530 am drive from Ewa Beach to the Chinese Cultural Plaza at the edge of Chinatown in downtown. Arriving at about 6am on Thanksgiving morning I was surprised at how busy things were. There was a large group doing Tai Chi on the plaza alongside the River Street Canal. Now those that know where Nam Fong is located may ask what the heck am I doing at the CCP? Well, I drove up extra early to hit up this place:
Man, it has been at least a dozen years since I'd been to Royal Kitchen. I remember first having a baked manapua from Royal Kitchen waaay back in the early 1980's! What is manapua? It's Hawaii's riff on the Char Siu Bao which I mentioned in my post about Char Hung Sut. Why is it called manapua? Depending on what source you get your info from it could come from Hawaiian phrase "mauna pua'a", which means "mountain of pork"......now what non-vegetarian could resist a mountain of pork, eh? Or perhaps it's from the phrase "mea ono pua'a" which means something along the lines of "delicious pork thing", "mea ono" could also be translated to mean "cake" and "pork cake" would be a apt description, right? Whatever the origin, it's all good. Royal Kitchen changes things around when they started making baked manapua, they then put it sidewards by replacing the pork mixture with a whole lup cheong (Chinese sausage - my favorite) and Chicken Curry. Stuff like Portuguese sausage and kalua pork came later.
The shop is tiny and sells noodles and Chinese Barbecue as well.
But of course, I was all about the manapua, still priced pretty well at $1.15 each. Three trips ago (circa 1999), I bought a couple of these to eat on the trip home from Honolulu. Unfortunately, we forgot the package in the rental car....man was I bummed. So to set things right, I bought a box of eight. I even called from San Diego to make sure they'd be open on Thanksgiving.
This time eating was top priority so no views of the fillings. I seem to recall the exterior to be a bit more baked. I've never considered the char siu version to be stellar and it's still not my favorite. This time around the kalua pork overtook the lup cheong and Portuguese Sausage. Who knows what will win out next time? I'm looking forward to that......
100 N Beretania St, Ste 175
Honolulu, HI 96817
Mon-Fri 5:30 am - 4:30 pm
Sat 6:30 am - 4:30 pm
Sun 6:30 am - 2:30 pm
I packed my box in the car, walked along the canal, crossed the street, then down Maunakea Street, the heart of Chinatown. The area has been cleaned up over the years, but there are still homeless folks sleeping in the doorways and it's easy to imagine how the area must have been when the area was the entertainment district or during the post World War II era (remember all those stories about Club Hubba Hubba?) or even as I grew up in Honolulu.
Though there are a couple of places doing Chinese BBQ along this stretch of road, the ducks in the window sure looked good.
The roast pork hanging inside the shop didn't look too shabby either! There was a makshift set-up with what looked like a dozen Chinese style roasted turkeys that looked really delicious. The woman working the counter was really friendly and my order was ready when I arrived.
Anyway here's the rundown, first off the Roast Pork wasn't bad, it was moist with good flavor, but too chewy and the skin hard.
I ended up chopping up most of it and doing a saute with vinegar, chilies, soy sauce, onions, and scallions a la sisig which turned out rather good.
The Char Siu was pretty good, most places here in San Diego make it really salty and overly sweet, pouring sauce over it to keep it moist. This was mildly sweet, but not salty and I could make out the flavor of the pork for once.
A whole roast duck here costs a very reasonable $16,and while the skin is not quite up there in terms of texture, this duck was very good, much better than anything we have in San Diego. You can just tell by the look of the meat in this photo......
The meat was very tender and moist, the flavor of the duck came through. Initially, even though I could make out a mild five spice-bean paste flavor, I thought the duck too mild. Until I poured some of the jus on the duck, which immediately brought all the flavors out. It was delici-yoso!!! Thanks to everyone who recommended this place to me!
Nam Fong Restaurant
1029 Maunakea St
Honolulu, HI 96817
Mon-Sat 7 am - 4:30 pm
Sun 7 am - 1 pm
One thing I realized as I drove back to Ewa Beach.....I really enjoyed these morning drives....on days when there was no morning traffic.
"Round and round up and down
Through the streets of your town
Everyday I make my way
Through the streets of your town"
Streets of Your Town - Go-Betweens