The favorite local fast food of the Hawaiian islands (also considered the national dish of Hawaii) is Saimin, an inexpensive noodle and broth soup. It is considered the supreme comfort food of the Islands, eaten at any time of day. You can find this soup at snack bars, coffee shops, and even on the McDonald’s menu (in Hawaii only). Saimin is basically the same thing as ramen, a Japanese noodle soup.
In Hawaii, you will get the real thing, fresh, thin white noodles in a clear broth with green onions, kamaboko (fish cakes), and sometimes ham or char siu (pork). Some people add chicken, eggs, shrimp, and whatever else is desired. The Saimin is eaten very hot with chopsticks or spoons, and the broth is then drunk from the bowl. Do not be afraid to slupe, as there is simply no quiet way to eat Saimin. A few ambitious home cooks will make this noodle soup from scratch, but most people just rip open the ready-mix instant packages that can be found in all stores and is manufactured in Honolulu.
History: Japanese immigrants consider Saimin to be Chinese, and the Chinese consider it to be Japanese. Because Hawaii is made up of an incredible mix of cultures – Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Thai, and many others – it could have originated from anywhere, then combined into this very tasty and popular soup. Each new wave of immigrant workers adapted their native cuisine to fit the Islands’ available ingredients.
Hawaiian Saimin History and Recipe
4 quarts water
1 tablespoon salt
1 (8-ounce) package dried Japanese soba noodles*
4 cups chicken broth or stock**
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Toppings (see suggestions below)
* Soba noodles can be found in the Asian food section of most grocery stores, at Japanese food specialty stores, and online. To purchase online, click on the green link.
** Learn how easy it is to make your own homemade Chicken Stock - Basic Chicken Stock.
In a large pot over medium-high heat, add 4 quarts of water and salt; bring to a boil. Add soba noodles and boil 4 to 6 minutes until al dente. Remove from heat, drain, rinse under warm running water, and then set aside until ready to use.
In a large pot over medium-high heat, add chicken broth and ginger; bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Add soy sauce and your favorite toppings; simmer for 5 minutes longer or until toppings are cooked. Remove from heat.
Place cooked soba noodles in a large soup serving bowl; spoon broth mixture (with toppings) over the top and serve.
Makes 3 to 4 servings.
Topping Suggestions (Pick and choose your favorite):
Baked ham slices
Roast Pork slices
Shredded green cabbage,
Chopped bok choy
Scrambled or fried egg
sliced green onions or scallions
Cooked small shrimp, peeled and deveined