This may be old news to some, but Hawaii folks love to eat. From watching three seasons of “Hawaii Five-0,” viewers have learned McG and his team enjoy many different types of “grinds” (foods) available in the islands.
With Kamekona shelling out shrimp plates and various SPAM-inspired confections, Danno’s seeming love for Side Street Inn, and Chin Ho dealing out Coco Puffs, the grine choices for the team are many and diverse.
(For those not familiar with Hawaiian Creole English, or Pidgin, “grine” is another way to describe eating plenny (plenty) ono (delicious) food.)
I thought it would be interesting to go through some of the restaurant mentions and food options presented by the show and explain where our diverse palate derives from. Follow along as I give you a few tips on how to grine like a true “Five-0” fan.
EMBRACE THE SPAM
I know, many of you don’t get why we eat SPAM. I have found myself on many occasions defending Hawaii’s long love affair with the canned meat delicacy. So let me explain where it comes from — history, tradition, and cost.
Most Hawaii folks grew up eating SPAM. It has been a common item on our grocery list since it was introduced during World War II, and locals started to incorporate it into common meals. The cost of SPAM is reasonable, and because many families live in multi-generational households, money can be tight.
Look at it this way, if grandma grew up eating SPAM during the war, she feeds the grandkids SPAM, and when they grow up, their kids eat SPAM musubi (a block of rice with a piece of fried spam, wrapped in dried seaweed) and order SPAM, eggs, and rice at McDonald’s.
Probably the most popular SPAM dish — which we have only seen on “Hawaii Five-0” in the form of a car air freshener from Kamekona — is the SPAM musubi. It is a quick meal in a small package. You can buy them just about anywhere, even 7-Eleven. It’s a popular beach and picnic food because of its portability and convenience. Danno and McG could stash a few next to grenades in the glove box of McG’s car.
The bottom line is we have a special place on our table for SPAM. We also eat raw fish, octopus, just about anything pickled or plummed, pig and chicken feet, fermented soybeans, fresh and dried seaweed — the list of exotic dishes goes on and on. We like food in many different varieties and we’re not ashamed to taste test.
SPAM is just another type of food we have assimilated into our local cuisine. So when Kamekona adds SPAM to a burrito like he did in “ʻŌlelo Hoʻopaʻi Make,” he’s pretty much on track for local tastebuds.
Which means, gentle “Five-0” fans, if you want to grine with the team, you gotta eat SPAM.
PILE ON THE PLATE LUNCHES
A plate lunch consists of the standard two scoops of rice, a scoop of macaroni salad and a healthy portion of something hearty like shoyu (soy sauce) chicken, hamburger patties covered in brown gravy, beef stew, chili and teriyaki meat; or with something fried, like chicken or pork katsu, fried fish or fried chicken.
Rainbow Drive-In is one of the most famous spots for a plate lunch in Honolulu. Kensi (Daniela Ruah) from “NCIS: LA” enjoyed their loco moco plate in “Ka Hakakā Maikaʻi,” and McG took Cath out on a date to Rainbow’s in “Kahu.”
The plate lunch was the start for drive-ins and manapua trucks (what we called food trucks growing up) across the islands. Manapua trucks would drive to popular surf spots, constructions sites, parks and heavily populated business areas to feed the crowds. You could get a manapua (a steamed Chinese bun filled with char siu pork), but they also offered other items, like plate lunches.
And on “Hawaii Five-0,” everyone grinds a plate lunch to celebrate after solving a difficult case.
HAWAI’I COPS DON’T EAT DONUTS
Okay, they do — but there are so many other sweet treats to choose from for our men in blue.
In season one, Danno was caught by McG in “ʻOhana” with malasada sugar all over his tie.
A malasada is Portuguese confection that came with our ancestors from Madeira, Portugal to celebrate their version of Fat Tuesday. Leonard’s makes the traditional version of fried yeast dough covered in sugar, but they also make malasadas covered in cinnamon, stuffed with haupia, chocolate and custard.
Another local favorite is the poi malasada, made out of taro dough, fried, and sugar glazed by Kamehameha Bakery. I think the team needs to meet that version of the malasada very soon.
The Coco Puff was introduced to Danno by Chin Ho, and if Danno thought he liked malasadas, he was done when he met Liliha Bakery’s chilled pile of sweetness. A Coco Puff is a chocolate-filled pastry covered in chantilly frosting. They are nothing short of illegal, as Danno so perfectly classified them in “E Mālama.”
So do like the Five-0 team does — have a malasada or Coco Puff to start your investigative day. You won’t be sorry.
KNOW WHERE TO GO
Danno sure seems to like Side Street Inn. He promised McG a “big plate of wings from Side Street” when he got back from Korea in “ʻŌlelo Paʻa.” He also mentioned that he would treat McG to lunch at Side Street after he was kicked in the figurative gut by his ex-wife in “Heihei.”
There are two Side Street Inn locations; visit the original on Hopaka St. near Ala Moana Center, or the newer restaurant on Kapahulu Avenue. Wings come a few different ways at Side Street — Buffalo style, spicy Wing Zing’s, or Chef’s Lani Wings, which are marinated in a secret sauce. Danno could also entice McG with plates of kim chee fried rice or the award-winning Side Style fried rice, or the always-popular pan-fried island pork chops and Lilikoʻi BBQ baby back ribs.
Whatever the team decides to order from the menu, it’s all good at Side Street.
Zippy’s has not been explicitly mentioned on the show, but their Zip Pac was offered by McGarrett in “Pūʻolo” to help Danno take his mind off the fact he just helped his ex-wife deliver another man’s baby.
A Zip Pac is basically a bento lunch, a box meal of rice covered in furikake (a Japanese condiment of dried fish or shrimp, nori, sesame seeds, and salt), a slice of teri beef, a piece of fried chicken, battered fish, and yes, a slice of SPAM. Like the plate lunch and SPAM musubi, it is a popular portable meal that locals often take to the beach, to sporting events, and family picnics.
I’d like to think McG had an ulterior motive, because I think of a Zip Pac along the lines of local comfort food, so offering to buy Danno one after his special delivery was pretty on point. Zippy’s offers the same types of plate lunches as most other drive-ins, but they also have dining rooms at some locations and you can get buckets of fried chicken and chili for those nights when you’re on a stakeout or working late on a case.
There are a few other places mentioned by the Five-0 team. Max mentioned Wailana Coffee House for all-you-can-eat pancakes, and Cath wanted to hang out with McG at Haleiwa Joe’s. (Both were mentioned in “I Helu Pū.”)
We can’t forget that the team very much enjoys hanging out at (the fictional) Kamekona Shrimp Truck, but you can get a really ono shrimp plate in real life at Macky’s Sweet Shrimp Truck — or a number of others — along Kamehameha Highway from Laie all the way to Haleʻiwa. The team also enjoys dining at Tropics Bar and Grill at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
So, “Five-0” foodies, take a ride with the team and try all of the exotic choices and options Oahu has for them to sample. In Hawaii, just like everywhere else, food is a way for families to gather and spend time with each other. It’s not always about what you eat, but who you eat it with — and for McG and his team, that’s what truly matters.
Redux Side Note:
I know I missed writing about our love of poke (pronounced poh-keh), a dish of raw ahi, cubed, and marinated in shoyu, green onions, and seaweed for starters. Poke deserves a blog post all on its own. Danno is introduced to one of our favorite dishes in this week’s repeat of “Lana I Ka Moana.”
And I wish the team would one day dine at the fans’ favorite place to gather and watch “Hawaii Five-0,” Big City Diner. BCD servers up a mean loco moco and kim chee fried rice, as well as sandwiches, burgers, and salads. Make sure you add it to your investigation list.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.