I'll be honest, whenever I visit my Dad in Hilo, Hawaii, the last thing on my mind is noodles. Hawaii for me means picking a couple fruit off the tree, mixing up some fresh poke, and kicking back with Koa, the roadside-bought pit bull that runs things at our house there. Local Hawaiian comfort food, like loco-moco, kalua pork, and saimin need to wait a few days. It sounds strange coming from someone who drinks rendered pork broth on a regular basis, but I take a bit of time to adjust back to American style eating.
Ken's is a regular place for said American food. The menu is full of good eats, ono grinds in local speak, and no trip to Hilo would be complete without a breakfast here.
But this isn't Breakfast Adventures, it's Ramen Adventures. And in Hawaii, it's all about saimin.
The won ton topped saimin from Ken's.
Don't be fooled, just as Chinese lamein isn't ramen, neither is saimin. The general idea is soft noodles in a simple broth. Take this, and go crazy with the toppings. Fried egg, skewers of meats, even slabs of spam are all acceptable.
The soup, a subtle shrimp broth, reminds me of late-night bowls in Hong Kong. Other than that, I wasn't into this saimin at all. The noodles are, as wikipedia says they should be, all kinds of soft. Borderline soggy. Unacceptable by ramen standards; but we're not in ramen-land anymore, are we.
The won tons are filled with teriyaki chicken. Ah, teriyaki, because savory Asian cuisine isn't sweet enough for the American palate. The charsu pork topping was definately of Chinese descent. There were bits of fried egg, a fish cake, and a skewer of more teriyaki. At least there wasn't any spam.
Order the "sumo size" and they will signal your double-size meal's arrival with a clash of a gong. Good luck with that.
My advice? The keiki min (child-size version of the saimin) split among your party is a good place to start your saimin adventure.
Despite my off-putting first-time experience with saimin, I still love this diner. I genuinely miss American diner breakfast; omelets, hash browns, and bacon drenched in hot sauce. But this isn't Breakfast Adventures, so I'll move it on.