Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sawatdee Kah Oliang!

I love Thai food. I love coffee.  But strangely enough, I’d never had Thai coffee before last Saturday at the Thai Songkran Festival at Kapiolani Park. Being won over by the charms of Thai iced tea years ago, I never had any desire to stray. It was finally time to give its coffee counterpart a chance, so we scanned the festival's food tents until we found one that was selling iced coffee.

After a few stirs of the straw, I took a sip. Hmm, not what I expected. It was sweet and…different. A couple more sips. Is this really coffee? It had a similar aftertaste to Thai iced tea. Could she have given me the wrong drink? Or somehow mixed a coffee-tea hybrid? Another sip. Nope, it’s coffee. Interesting.  

Curious, I decided to look things up when I got home. Thai iced coffee, or oliang, is often made from a powdered mix that contains coffee and a few other ingredients. The Pantainorasingh brand, for example, is made with 50% coffee, 25% corn, 20% soybean and 5% sesame seed. Ahh, that explains things a bit.

Of course, there was more at the festival than just iced coffee. Next was the daunting task of choosing between all of the tempting food options prepared by members of the Wat Buddhajakramongkolvararam, the Thai Buddhist temple in Pearl City. 

Brooke and I decided to split the Pad Thai and the Som Tam (green papaya salad). It was interesting to watch the colorful ingredients come together to make our meal. Skilled cooks, fresh ingredients and the right amount of chilies made for a nice lunch in the park.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Lazy Day Milk Tea

It’s nice to have a completely open Saturday every once in a while. Nowhere to go, no set time to be there. The only thing on my agenda yesterday was to get a cup of milk tea. Hong Kong-style milk tea, to be exact. Kukui Cafe was the place to go.

Lists of dishes and drinks were spread across several menu boards, some hand-stenciled, others written in marker in Chinese and English. I ordered my milk tea and a bowl of ham and egg soup with macaroni.

Macaroni? I know, I never thought I’d see it on an Asian menu until I spotted macaroni dishes at the Shooting Star Cafe in Oakland, another Hong Kong-style cafe. Somehow it just works. And yes, ham and egg soup is considered a breakfast food. Breakfast can be had at any time on Saturday, in my opinion.

It was a simple yet satisfying meal. The milk tea was bold; as sweet as it was strong. It was the first time I remember having the chilled version, but I liked it. I needed to take the rest of my soup with me, being so densely packed with macaroni and having a second serving of sliced ham hidden under the egg.

Okay, the Kukui Cafe isn’t in the best of areas, but there are a couple of impressive structures nearby. On the other side of Nuuanu Stream is the Izumo Taisha, a Shinto shrine.

And across Kukui Street is the Lum Sai Ho Tong Building, housing a temple to Lum family deity Tin Hau. 

What a nice milk tea afternoon. Now I just need to check out those Hong Kong-style dessert spots that everyone is talking about…. 

Kukui Cafe 
Chinatown Cultural Plaza, 100 North Beretania Street, Honolulu, HI 96817
(Around the back, at the corner of Nuuanu Stream and Kukui Street)
(808) 537-4528