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A big helping of Oahu's foods

Farmers and fish markets, Japanese tea ceremony, aromatic shrimp -- the flavors are diverse.

April 26, 2009|Beverly Beyette

OAHU, HAWAII — You've visited the USS Arizona Memorial, done the Polynesian Cultural Center, explored the Bishop Museum, slurped shave ice at Matsumoto's and plunged into the beach scene at Waikiki. If you're thinking that's all there is on Oahu, think again. You can drink deeply of Oahu by walking some of its more unusual culinary avenues.

Saturday morning farmers market, Kapiolani Community College. Chicken curry for breakfast? Why not? The aromas of sizzling garlic shrimp, Thai beef, kalua pork and Kona coffee also entice. Hawaiian sea salt, ginger syrup and local honey make nice take-home gifts. The scene: kids in strollers nibbling ears of roasted corn as their parents scoop up armfuls of orchids and check out booths selling beignets, risotto, chili. (This is multi-ethnic Hawaii.) It starts at 7:30 and is pretty much over by 11. Free parking. 4303 Diamond Head Road, Honolulu; (808) 848-2074,

Fish auction at Pier 38, Honolulu. Set your alarm and head for the harbor to watch as pallets of iced big-eye tuna, marlin and mahi-mahi are rolled in from the boats. Under bright lights, bidders -- wholesalers and retailers -- test each fish for freshness and texture. "These guys are very competitive," says auctioneer Brooks Takenaka. "They can tell you where a fish was caught, how deep." Next minute he's in action: "Anybody give $9 [a pound] for a 46-pound tuna?" Each year, 25 million pounds are sold. 5:30 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays (3 a.m. last two weeks in January). Free. United Fishing Agency, (808) 536-2148.

Taking tea the Japanese way. Chado, the centuries-old tea ceremony as a spiritual and aesthetic rite, is demonstrated by the Urasenke Foundation of Hawaii at 10 and 11 a.m. Wednesdays and Fridays. After a short film, visitors adjourn to a shoji-screened room where they sit on floor mats, watching a kimono-clad woman show how each gesture, each utensil, creates harmony, respect, purity and tranquillity. Guests learn how to hold their tea bowls (no sipping from the decorated side, please) and to bow gracefully (by lowering one's elbows). $3 donation. 245 Saratoga Road, Waikiki; (808) 923-3059.

Shrimp trucks on the North Shore. The crustaceans, harvested daily from nearby shrimp farms, are served with rice or corn from lunch wagons, shacks and stands alongside Kamehameha Highway in or near Kahuku, which is also the corn belt of Oahu. For about $12 a plate, choose from fried, barbecued, garlic butter, coconut, hot and spicy and more. Then join others at a shaded picnic table. Each vendor claims, of course, to be the best or the original. Giovanni's may be the most colorful, with its graffiti-covered truck. I was amused to see a white stretch limo pull up at Romy's.


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