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Posted on March 21, 2001

Dry mein, hot dogs and manju

By Joan Namkoong
Advertiser Food Editor

WAILUKU, Maui Dry mein is a Maui thing.

For years, a friend of mine who grew up on Maui told me about the noodles she always brings back when she visits home, a thick saimin noodle that she relishes by the pound. I never paid much attention until I tasted dry mein on Maui.

Dry mein is a dish made from seasoned saimin-like noodles, mixed with bits of pork, bean sprouts and green onions. A cup of clear broth topped with green onions is sometimes served alongside, to sip by the spoonful, to use as a dip or to pour over the bowl of noodles.

Dry mein is unique to the Valley Isle, but Maui people don't seem to know that; they're always surprised to hear that everyone in Hawai'i doesn't know about dry mein.

Dry mein is not to be confused with fried saimin: The noodles for dry mein are boiled, drained and quickly tossed with a little oil and soy sauce, never fried. The dish is served warm but not hot, with hot broth on the side.

The key to the dish is the noodles themselves: undried saimin made by the Iwamoto Natto Factory in Pa'ia, available in Maui grocery stores. The noodles are slightly thicker than a regular saimin noodle, a little chewy and firm after blanching in boiling water, flavorful on their own and even better when they absorb the shoyu seasoning. Regular saimin noodles are not the same, as any Maui person can tell you.

Why there's broth on the side is a mystery. "Some folks pour it over to make it like saimin, others dip the noodles in the broth like soba," said Lynne Toma of Sam Sato's restaurant in Wailuku, Maui, considered the home of dry mein.

Sato said that the noodles have been made at her family restaurant since the 1960s, when they had a Chinese cook. "He may have made it elsewhere for others, but he started it for us."

At Sam Sato's, a small bowlful of noodles, enough for at least two people, is $3.50, laced with bits of char siu, bean sprouts and green onion. A small bowl of well-seasoned beef/pork broth accompanies the noodles; you can order additional soup, too.

Kitada Restaurant in Makawao serves up a heaping small bowl for $3.75. Slices of roast pork are used in this very tasty and more moist version of dry mein. An excellent cup of saimin dashi came alongside.

Variations on the theme of dry mein are everywhere on Maui.

Mention hot dogs on Maui, and you get a sad, forlorn reaction: Maui hot dogs are no more.

The true Maui hot dog was made by the now-gone Maui Meat Co., bright red in color with a thin casing, according to those who remember. "When you bit into one, it would crunch," recalls Andrea Covic of Olowalu Store in West Maui. "Inside it would be soft and juicy."

"It was crunchy and really tasty," said Kathy Uno of Ma'alaea Store.

Other companies have tried to duplicate the dog, and Maui people still eat a lot of hot dogs, judging by the number of stores who consider them a specialty, but none are like Maui dogs, they say.

Maui manju

Maui is known for its manju: baked flaky pastries filled with sweetened pastes from bean to sweet potato.

Shishido Manju Shop
|758 E. Lower Main
(808) 244-5222

Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m.-3 p.m.

Shishido Manju Shop features just a few manju varieties: lemon, peanut butter and traditional black bean. What's good about Garnett and Alice Shishido's manju is the heftier filling of just sweet black beans and thin crust.

The Shishido store was started in Pu'un«n« more than 50 years ago and moved to its present location in 1962. They also make mochi with sweetened red beans and peanut butter, both wonderful eaten fresh.

Homemade Bakery
1005 East Lower Main
(808) 244-7015

Daily, 5:30 a.m.-10 p.m.

The Kozuki family has been making manju for 40-plus years. Family matriarch Monica Kozuki, now 84, is at the bakery daily, with son Jeremy and his wife Jeanette. In addition to seven varieties of flaky pastry manju, the bakery turns out mochi, dinner rolls, pastries, breads and wedding cakes.

Homemade is probably the most widely distributed of the manju, with bakeries at Ah Fook's and Foodland in Kahului.

Their manju is even distributed in stores in Honolulu.

Buy your manju before you get to the Kahului Airport where it sells for $3.95 (versus $2.60 at Ah Fook's for a package of six)..

Sam Sato's
1750 Wili Pa Loop, Wailuku
(808) 244-7124

Manju pickup 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

Traditional lima bean manju (50 cents each) is popular here small round orbs of delicious pastry and just enough sweet paste filling. They also make an azuki-filled manju and fruit-filled turnovers.

S&J Bakery
27 Ainaola

Sandra and Jeff Koga started this wholesale bakery in the 1980s. Manju apple, coconut and azuki and more than a dozen different pies can be found at places like Ah Fook's and Ooka's and in Maui restaurants. They also make the usual assortment of baked goods. She's a hotel pastry chef.

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