HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Saimin is a local favorite. In fact, it’s unique to Hawaii.
Considered the quintessential comfort food, saimin dates back to the plantation era, when Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Hawaiian workers brought their own ingredients and collaborated on a quick and easy meal.
While ramen noodles are made from wheat flour, saimin is made from wheat flour and eggs.
The word is derived from the Chinese words “sai”, or thin, and “min”, which means noodle.
There are plenty of saimin spots across the state, but Hawaii News Now has compiled a list of a few must-see spots that have remained community mainstays for decades.
Nestled in Kalihi, Saimin Palace has remained a favorite spot for decades. According to its website, a young Okinawan entrepreneur named Kame Ige opened the restaurant in 1946 and named it after the “Palace Theater” at the corner of Keeaumoku and Beretania streets. She then moved the restaurant to Kalihi, where it eventually ended up at its current location. It’s easy to miss, but those with a thirst for saimin will know where to find it.
1256 N King Street; Honolulu, Hawaii 96817
This family favorite has been attracting people from all over for over 50 years. Founder Franz Shiro Matsuo opened Shiro’s Saimin Haven in 1969, with the goal of serving hard-working comfort food. According to his website, he “wanted to have a place where people could enjoy good food while forgetting about the stresses of their lives.” In 1990, he passed the restaurant on to his daughter, who had worked for the company years before. They continued to keep the business in the family as some of his sons now also have a hand in the business. Its menu includes dozens of different saimin – all freshly made in its own factory – and homemade wun tun.
98-020 Kamehameha Road; Aiea, HI 96701
919 Fort Weaver Road; Ewa Beach, HI 96706
Unlike its saimin restaurant counterparts on Oahu, Shige’s is relatively new – it was established in 1990. But it’s still sure to satisfy any saimin lover’s cravings. It is a family business known for its unique noodles and burgers. They make their own noodles in-house, using a machine, so they are flatter and don’t look like a normal curly saimin noodle. It is located in Wahiawa, near the Kamehameha Highway and across from Zippy’s. And fun fact: when the restaurant first opened, it was only open in the evening. From now on, the restaurant is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
70 Kukui Street; Wahiawa, Hawaii 96786
When it comes to Kauai’s signature restaurants, Hamura Saimin Stand ranks at the top of the list. And for every visitor or resident, a quick stop is a must due to its proximity to Lihue Airport. Charles and Aiko Hamura opened the restaurant in 1952, but it was later handed over to granddaughter Lori Tanigawa. The menu is short and sweet. It’s mostly saimin – plain and simple – with a little something extra. Generations have passed through this little shop to make it a Kauai mainstay.
2956 Kress Street; Lihue, Hawaii 96766
Sam Sato’s has remained a Maui comfort food favorite for decades – since its inception in 1933. According to Hawaii Magazine, Sam Sato – a second-generation Japanese plantation worker – and his wife, Gladys, opened this small restaurant in Spreckelsville. It then finally made its way to its current location in Wailuku decades later. He is best known for his famous dry mein, the “dry” referring to his dish without soup.
1750 Wili Pa Loop; Wailuku, HI 96793
island of hawaii
- Saimin and Nori snacks
In 1983, BethAn Nishijima opened Nori’s Saimin and Snacks in Hilo. Nishijima told Hawaii Magazine a few years ago that saimin was one of his favorite foods and brought back childhood memories of eating saimin from paper cups. Although it started primarily as a saimin place, the restaurant has evolved to include a wide variety of other local foods.
688 Kinoole Street, Suite 124; Hilo, HI 96720
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