I have landed!

A stiff tailwind brought us into Honolulu an hour early (that’s a first!), but the absence of an open gate forced us to sit on the tarmac for 40 minutes. It was raining, too, but that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for what promises to be a swell three weeks.

United gave us no food on the plane, either (there was food for sale, but I wanted to work up an appetite), so I subsisted on pretzels and Diet Coke (plus one overpriced airport latte) from 4 a.m. yesterday until 4:30 p.m. Hawaiian time (8:30 Chicago time). It turned out to be another fasting day—until dinner.

It’s forbidden to bring fruit and produce into Hawaii (as well as any animals, which require a four-month quarantine, even if you’re moving a pet), and you must fill out a declaration before you land if you’re carrying contraband.

If you forget, you can dispose of illegal goods in this Amnesty Bin, located right before the exit into baggage claim:

The goal for dinner was originally Helena’s Hawaiian Food, famous for its indigenous cuisine (kalua pork, poi, butterfish collar, pipikaula short ribs, and so on, but it’s closed for the holidays until January 4. (Poi, pounded and fermented taro, is one of my favorite foods, but it’s impossible to get on the U.S. mainland.)

The next best restaurant choice, and a good one, was the almost-as-reputed Highway Inn in Honolulu, serving indigenous food. It’s accompanied, starting at 5 pm, by a music group featuring four guys playing slack-key guitar and singing Hawaiian songs. That was a great accompaniment to this plate:

kalua pork (pulled pork from a pig cooked underground), poi (the purple stuff), lomi-lomi salmon, steamed ‘uala (purple sweet potato), “chicken long rice” (not rice but chicken and broth served with “glass noodles” made from mung-bean paste), and haupia (the white block of dessert, a coconut-milk gelatin which was delicious.

It was great. The pig looked like Carolina-style shredded bbq, but was completely different in flavor. It had no sauce and needed none: just complete porky goodness infused with smoke. And I loved the purple poi. It’s starchy, goopy, and a bit sour because it’s fermented, and the perfect accompaniment to a bit of kalua pork.

Many people don’t like poi, saying it’s an “acquired taste”, but I loved it the first time I tried it, and am going to stuff as much down my craw during this trip as I can. It was worth starving myself all day to get this meal.

After a driving tour of crowded downtown Honolulu, replete with fancy stores like Tiffany’s, Fendi, Jimmy Choo and the like, we headed for real dessert: shave ice—the Hawaiian version of a snow cone. It’s made with very fine machine-shaved ice covered with fruit syrups, with additions like ice cream, condensed milk, and Japanese mochi (discs made with glutinous rice paste). It was a big favorite of Barack Obama when he lived here, and he still eats it when he comes back.

Judicious research by my host turned up the place to go: Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha, famous for using only natural fruit flavors in its syrups as well as premium ice cream.  (see the menu here, and do look at it). There was only one thing I wanted to get, something I’ve been craving for days (description from the menu):

The store (there’s now another branch in Honolulu):
Shaving the ice. The treats are made with great care: it took about 10 minutes to prepare my dish:
My reward:

Omygod was it good! The green tea syrup was heavy with matcha flavor, and there was a generous scoop of sweetened azuki beans on top. It all blended perfectly with the ice cream and chewy discs of mochi. I want to come here every day!

Here’s a video showing the store, the wares, and the much-beloved Uncle Clay.

And so to bed. Off to new sights and culinary adventures (and more poi) today.



  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 29, 2018 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Flying these days has really hit bottom. Nine hours on a plane with nothing to eat. I guess a flight crew, besides pilots, are only required for safety reasons and to break up fights. Oh well, at least you are well taken care of upon arrival.

  2. rickflick
    Posted December 29, 2018 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    You make me nostalgic for Hawaii. I visited 3 times and haven’t finished yet. Looks like you’re having a good time. The mainland is still here in case you ever want to return.

  3. Posted December 29, 2018 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    I’ve still never been to Hawaii. Something I really need to remedy.

    I’ve never had Poi but I love things with Taro in them (sweet pastries, dim sum) so I expect I will like Poi too.

    The shaved ice dish sounds similar to what I get at some Japanese restaurants, usually called Cream Anmitsu. It has a scoop of ice cream, a scoop of red bean paste, a few whole red beans, fruit cocktail, and cubes of a jello-like substance. A delicious mixture!

    • Posted December 29, 2018 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      If you love taro dishes, you’ll love this traditional Chinese ‘yam and pork’ dish! (Maybe you’ve had it already.) It’s out of this world! If you don’t like fatty pork belly, you can substitute or mix with pork tenderloin:

      • Posted December 29, 2018 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I’m pretty sure I would like that. I’ve had similar dishes.

  4. Posted December 29, 2018 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I suggest you try the Maui Coconut Hiwa porter. It will be in cans, but it is a fav of mine.

  5. Posted December 29, 2018 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I have been to Hawaii a lot. But not for the last 20 years or so and I am wondering how much it has changed. It is this time of year, I believe, that the surf springs into action on the North Shore of Oahu and I recall vividly watching Tom Carroll win pipeline back in 1991. (https://youtu.be/F1Uyndyvxo4.)
    I recall also what a contrast in climate and lifestyle can be witnessed without even leaving Oahu but simply by driving to the other side of the island.
    I will be there again in a few weeks. I’ll keep an eye out for you.
    In the mean time – enjoy.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted December 29, 2018 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      You refer to the windward side. Use to be via the Likelike or Pali but now also the M3. I lived there for 5 years in the 80s but surely it has changed a great deal since. Wish I had been able to keep the condo we had over there in Kaneohe. Oh well, that’s the way it goes, first your money then your clothes.

  6. Posted December 29, 2018 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Too bad you have to wait for Helena’s, but it’s worth the wait. Get to know Helena herself (who often sits at the window where you pay). She’s a nice lady.

    Meanwhile, if you have a car, I highly recommend Tita’s over on the other side in Kahuku for garlic shrimp, if you like that sort of thing. It’s right on the Kam Highway, an unpretentious counter service with picnic tables, but it’s the best shrimp place we’re found over there. Better even than Ken’s, in my view (though Ken’s has everybody beat for the Haupia Cream Pie).

    Tita himself is a former local high school football star, and well worth chatting with if he’s around.

    You probably already know the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden in Kaneohe. But it’s not to be missed, in my view, as it has remnants of the original Oahu forests–like they were.

  7. Heather Hastie
    Posted December 29, 2018 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    The pork sounds like hangi pork (or chicken, beef, mutton etc.), as we know it in NZ. A hangi is a ground oven and the food (meat and root veges) cooks in them all day. The meat comes out incredibly tender. You won’t believe how tender until you try it. Hangi experts in a community are well known as it has to be done just right to get the best results.

  8. Hunt
    Posted December 29, 2018 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    You can bring animals in without quarantine if you follow the protocol that tests for adequate levels of rabies antibody (the FAVN test). If you just show up with an animal unannounced, yes it will be quarantined.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted December 30, 2018 at 6:59 am | Permalink

      That is true now but it use to be mandatory. All animals did the quarantine. When we moved to Hawaii in 1983 our cat did four months.

  9. Hunt
    Posted December 29, 2018 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    It’s actually harder to bring birds in, like pet parrots, etc. They’re pretty paranoid about bird flu, etc. due to the already stressed native bird populations.

  10. BJ
    Posted December 29, 2018 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    Wait, so they gave you NO food on a flight that’s over nine hours?!? Insane. It just keeps getting worse and worse.

    • Steven Hill
      Posted December 29, 2018 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

      United is probably the only airline that has (had?) a website dedicated to complaints:


      The site is currently suspended because of a lawsuit by United against the site.

      • BJ
        Posted December 29, 2018 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

        “The site is currently suspended because of a lawsuit by United against the site.”

        Holy fuck. What’s next? Suing people for posting about how terrible their flight was on Facebook? Review websites?

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted December 30, 2018 at 12:32 am | Permalink

          “Yes,” and “Yes,” I suspect. If not “already” to both. After all, it is all defamation of a legal entity (though a corporation in this case, but if they’re “people” for legal effect, this follows).

          • rickflick
            Posted December 30, 2018 at 9:18 am | Permalink

            Perhaps tRump intervened personally on behalf of United. He’s a “company man”.

    • Posted December 29, 2018 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

      I think there was food, even a hot meal, but you would need to pay for it.

    • David Duncan
      Posted December 30, 2018 at 5:54 am | Permalink

      I’ve been hearing bad reports about United for 25 years, and that United flights between the US and Australia were much better because they have to compete with Qantas.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted December 30, 2018 at 7:06 am | Permalink

        Actually, United’s bad service goes back further. About 1970 I got bumped off two different flights in Chicago while traveling military standby. The general public did not like the military in those days and United was right in there with the best of them.

  11. Posted December 30, 2018 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    Haven’t been to Hawaii. I hope I can go there some day.


  12. nay
    Posted December 30, 2018 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    “After a driving tour of crowded downtown Honolulu, replete with fancy stores like Tiffany’s, Fendi, Jimmy Choo and the like ….” I think you mean Waikiki. Downtown Honolulu is the old business-banking-shipping district, including Chinatown, and doesn’t have any of the fancy designer stores. It even lost Macy’s and is now home to a Walmart, Walgreens and CVS. Glad you had a safe flight (sans palpation). The rain is supposed to clear up for New Year’s.

    • Posted December 30, 2018 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      Yes, you’re right: Waikiki. I will be visiting old Honolulu and Chinatown, and of course going to Bailey’s to look at old Hawaiian shirts.

  13. gary vonck
    Posted December 30, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    dec 31
    happy birthday Jerry also happy holiday in
    Hawaïi (and wishes for very good 2019).

    Gary (belgian atheist).

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