The Avocado Smoothie

There are many (edible) things that make me smile, but few that make me smile so much that you can actually see my teeth. I’m a tight lipped smiler, out of habit, but once in a big while, something will be so delicious that for a brief moment, I forget to keep my lips together. Things that fall into this category: Kaka’ako’s Kitchen’s bread pudding, hamachi, foie gras, Vietnamese eggplant, jai and…

…The Avocado Smoothie. My affection for this drink has been documented before. Many times over, in fact. It’s the one drink I search out everywhere I go. While in school at Claremont, I’d truck back five or six orders at a time from Mr. Baguette in San Gabriel Valley every time I was lucky enough to bum a ride off someone. I’d drink two and stash the remainder in the freezer, slowly rationing them so that I would never run out before my next visit. During summers in Vietnam, I’d start the day with a smoothie, and end with another in the evening, the creamy chill slipping down my throat, cooling from the inside out. But in New York, (and if there were ever any reason to despise New York, this would be it), NO ONE MAKES AN EXCELLENT AVOCADO SMOOTHIE. You can find many bad ones, and a few good ones, but that’s about it. How is it possible that a city which offers so much, absolutely FAIL at the avocado smoothie. It’s pathetic.

Here in Hawai’i, we’re lucky to live on an island that not only offers an abundance of awesome local avocados, but also, numerous restaurants with crazy good avocado smoothies. I’ve sampled a fair share, though not all. I’m quite content with what I have found, and I have one favourite.

In the Maunakea Marketplace there’s a boba stand call Thang’s. Anyone who claims to love avocado smoothies must go there now. Right this moment. The menu is an awesome sight: pennyworth juice, durian shakes, jackfruit smoothies… goodness, so much deliciousness. The durian is particularly tasty, but the Avocado Smoothie is the only one you want, no, need. How does one begin to do a proper avocado milkshake justice? It’s a bit like this, but better: chunks of fresh avocados, a generous pour of condensed milk, then a bit of whole milk, and then ice. It couldn’t be simpler. And yet, the TASTE. OH MY GOD. Ridiculous! At Thang’s, they fill the bottom of the cup with some boba (overcooked according to many, but that’s exactly how I like boba), and then slosh in a tower of the creamy pale green shake. It’s perfectly thick, enough so that the straw stands straight, but not so much that it must be spooned. And the taste? Oh maannn, okay so. You know how good a really fresh, finely ripened avocado tastes right? Pair that with a lace of chilled sweetened condensed milk and crushed ice. Oh yes. Oh god. Liquefied avocado gone creamier, slightly sweeter and all the more bold.

Just another food item that makes Hawai’i special :)

Thang Coffee & Bubble Tea

1120 Maunakea Street

Maunakea Marketplace

Honolulu, Hawaii 96817

Korean Plate Lunch & Shave Ice at Ward

Today I woke up and it just felt like one of those days. You know, one of those days? The kind of days where you just need, need MUST HAVE plate lunch? Yah, it was one of those days. Oh man, whenever one of THOSE DAYS hit me in NYC there was nothing I could do because the only kind of plate lunch that would satisfy was a 12 hour flight away.

But today was different. I could actually do something about it! So I hopped out of bed and straight to the Don Quixote location of Yummy’s. Everyone has their favourite place for Korean plate lunches, be it Gina’s, Palama Market or Yummy’s. Yummy’s is the most corporate of the three. But it’s also pretty tasty, and you can’t argue with that. When I crave fish jun or meat jun I go to Palama Market, but when I just want meat meat Yummy’s is the best choice.

The hard part was deciding just which meat I wanted: kalbi, bbq chicken or teriyaki beef? Too hard to pick. So I got them all in the form of a combination plate. It’s gorgeous huh? You can’t see the bbq chicken in this photo, so let’s look at this one below…

Oh goodness, you see that, soooo beautiful. The bbq chicken here is awesome, tender charred meat, always on the salty side (but that’s how I like it). Piles of sweet teriyaki beef layer on top and kalbi to finish it off. Now that’s a proper lunch. The plate comes with two scoops of rice (like every good meal should) – I like to pile the meat on top of the rice so that each and every white grain soaks up all the juices/fat/major tastiness.

You get a choice of four sides which you point and pick right after you place your order. My usual four sides = kimchee, long rice, shoyu potatoes, and mayo potatoes. But apparently I’ve gotten so fat since my last visit home that no one in my family can recognize me! Good golly! According to my relatives I must go on a diet. Bah! I compromised though, replacing my beloved shoyu potatoes and mayo potatoes with the rolled omelet and seaweed. Not quite the same, but I was still a happy camper.

Dad and I went to Marukai in the afternoon to buy poke and sashimi for dinner. While shopping around I had sudden itch for shave ice. After all it was such a lovely day, so why not? Last summer, my friend Radford showed me this place hidden in the Ward Farmer’s Market just steps from Marukai. Unfortunately it was closed at the time, and I never had a chance to return before moving to NYC. I made a mental note to return, and today was the perfect opportunity.

The “storefront” (more of a booth) was empty when we arrived. Lights off. No humans to be seen, just a lone shave ice machine and a mini fridge. A sign said, “Please Ring Bell for Service.” I rang once. And twice. And then once more. And waited a bit longer. A friendly voice cheered from behind the curtains, “I coommmmiiingg!” And out came a lady, every bit as friendly as the voice would have led one to believe. She took out a block of ice and turned on the machine. She made dad’s order first, a li hing mui and pineapple combination.

I had li hing mui and lilikoi, the most fantastic combination ever (unless you’re allowed three flavours, in which case the third should always be lychee). It’s so hard to describe how refreshingly delicious shave ice on a warm day (and when it is ever not warm here? ;) tastes, the best way to find out is to come taste it yourself. Finely shaved ice doused in li hing mui syrup, see, click for this photo here, those dark red speckles are li hing mui powder…sooooo ono! The fruity lilikoi, a sweet summery yellow, is the perfect offset to li hing mui’s tart pucker.

I ate the shave ice at that once long bench outside Marukai with dad and it felt like I was on vacation. Which I guess I am. Funny to think of it that way.

Yummy’s Korean BBQ

801 Kaheka St.

Honolulu, Hawaii 96814

Stanley’s Chicken Market

(yes, you can get chicken and shave ice in one place!)

Ward Farmer’s Market

(808) 593-9989

Gecko on the Curtains, Li Hing, Fried Rice, Shoyu Poke @ Costco, and Xi Mui Soda

Gecko on the window curtains

It feels good to be back home, but a bit foreign and weird at the same time. I’ve lived in Manhattan for less than a year but it frightens me how quickly the city changes a person. Both a little for the good and a little for the worse. I always categorized my time during college as time away from home. Three months in school followed by a month winter vacation home in Hawai’i, then five months school, and a three month summer back home. Hawai’i was home base. No matter where I went, I needed to go home to recharge. And every time I went home it felt so incredibly good. A type of good that encompassed both the want and need to return home. It was an emotion which coupled excitement with satisfaction of filling an inherent need. Each visit was wonderful, and then never failed to hurt when vacation was over and I had to return to school. The plane rides to Hawai’i were exciting, and those back to college were depressing.

It was a little different this time around. On Thursday’s flight to Hawai’i, while happily anticipating the trip home, I found myself eagerly looking forward to coming back to NYC. It threw me off terribly and I did not know what to make of it.

Duane the Pig, our new family member

It still feels good now. Just a different kind of good. Perhaps I’ve been away for too long. I caught myself in a slip the other day. My roommate Shann and I were talking about our flight schedules.

“What day you come home?” she asked.

“June 2”

“What? Wait. Oh no, I mean hooome.”

“That is when I…oh! Ack. Home. Like Hawai’i home.”



That was the first time I’ve called a place that was not Hawai’i, home. A sharp pang hit my stomach the second I realized what I said. It felt like I betrayed someone or something.

Shoyu Poke @ Costco, Saturday Morning

The other day I was talking with someone about the notion of home. That someone was born and raised on the other side of the country but has lived in the city for nearly a decade. He calls NYC home. I think that’s fair. It made me wonder if I could do the same, I mean, same in the way that I could say that with confidence and not feel that sharp pang and simultaneous brain fuck that goes, how dare you so quickly change teams! Time will tell, I suppose.

But lets get on with the day, shall we?

I’m still somewhat under the weather with the strange cough/cold that’s been going around, (thank god for good health insurance :), so I’ve been hibernating the last few days, getting better, and only venturing for family dinners. I made li hing mui apples for breakfast the other day. Though I suppose ‘made’ is the wrong word, seeing as it takes only apples + li hing mui, and about 60 seconds worth of effort. Refreshingly delicious nonetheless, the tart pucker of li hing offsetting the crisp apples. These get gobbled down quick, no matter the time of day, and the only evidence ever left are red fingerprint stains. People on the mainland are really missing out some goodness, huh? I wish someone would open up a massive local food store in NYC and introduce local food to the rest of the world. I’d be there everyday.

Have you had Xi Mui Soda before? It helps a great deal with scratchy throat, though I drink it all the time, scratchy throat or not. My dad keeps this giant, seemingly endless, jar of preserved xi mui in the kitchen cabinet. Pop open a can of 7-Up, drop the xi mui in, pick apart the plum with chopsticks, and drink up. Sometimes I add li hing mui powder when I’m in the mood. But when I’m not feeling well, then I simply replace the 7-Up with club soda and squeezed limes.

For lunch, Dad brought back fried rice from the Mini Garden down on Beretania Street. Finally! Real fried rice!! I sat in the family room, ate the fried rice crossed legged, shorts & t-shirt, while reading the Friday Honolulu Advertiser. It felt so very real. On that note, I’m also trying to get accustomed to having so much space. It just occurred to me when I went to sleep that first night back that my bedroom was bigger than my entire apartment in NYC. Now how ridiculous is that?

Mini Garden

2065 S. Beretania Street

Honolulu, Hawaii 96826

(808) 946-3828

To Get to Hawai’i:

Two hours from LGA to Atlanta.

Followed by a four-hour layover in Atlanta, the majority of the time spent wandering around the food courts in various terminals, where I…

…ate the worst Chinese food of my life at Mandarin Wok in Concourse B…

…and a tasty serving of Ben & Jerry’s Half-Baked in a sugar cone.

A nine-hour flight from Atlanta to Honolulu involving three movies and a stomachache coupled with minor dizziness, and a cough/cold/sore throat I’ve had the last few days.

But all that matters is…I’m back in Honolulu!

…and my mom made soup (with my grandma’s wontons) while I rested my okole on the couch watching the local Channel 3 news. It’s good to be back in Hawai’i :)