Local food deep-fried and supersized: It’s good to be bad

Da Kitchen's pot roast pork moco; just back up the truck for this mondo portion.Da Kitchen is a Maui favorite I visited recently — remember me slavering about the deep-fried SPAM musubi? — and they've come to O'ahu now, across old Stadium Park at 925 Isenberg (next to Maple Garden).

OOOOPS! I thought I posted this Thursday night. So here it is!… PLEASE NOTE: I posted twice today — see the one before this if you like caramel and butterscotch!

Having savored a melting misoyaki butterfish on the Valley Isle, I wanted to check out the Honolulu outlet of Da Kitchen, to see how they compared, so I stopped by for lunch today.

Well, Sam Choy, move over. You no longer hold the record for the largest volume of leftovers I’ve ever crammed into a takeout container.

On Maui, I had noted the almost unfathomable portions on the Hawaiian plates being enjoyed by some construction workers at a nearby table (not the usual speck of lu’au leaf, tablespoon of kalua pork, tiny cup of poi but the — sorry, Sam — bambucha servings you’d expect at a family lu’au). But when I ordered the daily special roast pork moco today, I truly didn’t expect a bowl suitable for mixing an entire batch of cookies or salad for an entire family. (Although the hefty price, $15.50, should have tipped me off.)

I had already eaten half a panko-crusted musubi ($10, generous enough for two). When the waitress set the supersized moco down, I actually “came shame” and turned red. I imagined I could read the thoughts of the three bank clerk-looking guys in reverse-print aloha shirts next to me (I mentally dubbed them Wendell, Milton and Hama): “Wot? Hungry???” (Why do I care so much what strangers think instead of, say, what the guy who stapled my stomach might think? Perhaps because I know what my doctor would say: “NOOOOOOooooooooooo!”) In the end, I brought home a full takeout container, enough (with a baked sweet potato and a salad) for dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow for my husband and for small-eater me.

If you can believe it, these are my leftovers; one dish, four meals!

I’ve talked, and written, a lot about the way Islanders confuse quantity with quality: Big serving, good; small serving, bad. By that measure, Da Kitchen is off-the-charts good.

But that’s not my measure. My measure is whether I want to visit the restaurant again, whether a dish is a good example of its kind, whether I take my leftovers home or forget them on the table. By those measures, Da Kitchen easily attains the level of some of my other local food favorites (Dean’s Drive Inn, Kahai Street Kitchen, Side Street Inn) even if it’s less “chefly,” more “da kine.”

Let’s back up for a second to the Tempura Musubi: Though it was featured on TV as something weird and wonderful, it doesn’t take much imagination to come up with the idea of deep-frying such a common Island favorite, given that we live in a world where people are deep-frying Twinkies and poi-mochi balls.

They'll deep-fry anything these days, yeah? Even musubi (I can't think WHAT Manabu would say!).

The question is: Does it work? The answer is not so easy. It works when the dish is served immediately out of the fryer (it was, both times I tried it) and the oil in which it is fried is absolutely fresh (I thought the second sample seemed a bit old-oil-flavored). Setting aside the obvious — that EVERYTHING tastes grand when it’s hot and crispy — I’m not sure this is a combo that really makes any sense because what you CAN’T taste is the musubi — the tender rice, the salty SPAM. The most you get is a quick hit of nori. Would I order it again? Probably, yes, as a munchie, in a group with everyone sharing bites. But on its own, I’ve been there, eaten that, and I’m moving on.

The roast pork moco, on the other hand . . . was heaven — moist but not greasy fried rice choked with chopped goodies, including veggies and char siu, slices of moist roasted pork, a couple of over-easy eggs and some lightly caramelized onions. There was nothing to say but thank you, Lord.

I LOVE roast pork. In ancient times, when The Advertiser of sainted memory had a popular cafeteria open to the public, people would come from all over downtown when the daily special was roast pork with brown gravy or roast turkey with white gravy. I don’t recall the chef-owner’s name but his cooking was solely responsible for my supersized middle and hips in those days. His roast pork was so tender that a toothless elder could enjoy it. And the gravy was real, not chemical.

It’s an interesting dish as it’s made in the Islands: Chinese, but not really Chinese. Real Chinese pot roast pork is made with pork belly, but this didn’t look like pork belly. Chinese roast pork such as you find in Chinatown, in the glass case with the char siu, isn’t the same thing, either. I’ve been paging through all my community cookbooks trying to better understand this East-West dish. What cut of meat is used? Which seasonings (looks like bean sauce, black shoyu, five-spice or star anise)? Roasted? Steamed? Looks like roasted by a moist heat method; covered, in the marinating liquid.

Anybody got a great pot roast pork recipe (kau yuk but with a pork butt roast or something like that)?????






  1. snow

    February 3, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    we just went there last friday! hubbie and i had enough leftovers for about 5 lunches! my husband had the roast pork loco moco on a previous visit and it was yummy… but, he had to get over the shock that comes with receiving a bowl of food large enough to feed the entire family! lol. we had a crazy amount of leftovers that time, too… you definitely get your moneys worth, even though it’s a tad pricey if you’re thinking in comparison other plate lunch or casual family-type eating establishments.

  2. Yollu

    March 19, 2012 at 11:09 am

    6 pork chops (about 5 oz each) 3 boxes of potatoes terre3 cteaotrs1 oignon2 champignons1 cream 1 / 2 boxes c. lait3 farinesel poivreFaire soup and brown chops pan that has been lightly oiled. As the chops are browning of sliced ??potatoes with carrots, onions and carrots. Place browned chops in a bowl of vegetables 9 13.Couche. Bowl, combine soup and separate meals evenly, then add the milk. Pour over the chops and vegetables, then cover and cook for 1 hour at 350th Then remove cover and continue cooking for another 15 min . – Autmn Chop Skillet: Cook 2 pork chop with the following: 1 red bell pepper cut into 1-inch pieces, 1 / 2 medium chopped onion and apple in small pieces. Cook the chops a little oil, brown on one side and turn, add onions, peppers and apples. Cook until the chops are finished and the ingredients are tender crisp. Serve with rice . – Chop Bake Sweet: The following is a recipe for pork chops you want to do. Salt and pepper steaks on both sides, place in baking dish. Top each chop with follows1 C. c. brun1 tablespoons sugar chopped onion 1 to 350 ketchup1 trancheTranche citronCuire approximately 30-45 minutes depending on how many chops, and how they are thick. This dish creates a nice bit of sweet sauce. You can simmer an extra serving or two of the filling ingredients in cooker with some water if you wish. I serve this dish and rice. Sound different, but very good! Autmn Chop Skillet: All you need is 2 cutlets, 1 red pepper, chopped apple, peeled and one1 coupe9e.Assaisonnez chops with salt and pepper, cook steaks at the same time, a little oil and brown the other side of the turn, add onion, bell pepper and apples. Cook until the chops are finished and the ingredients are tender crisp. Serve with rice.

Leave a Reply