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Moving to Oahu... Please Help Me Stock The Pantry

Fellow Hounds I look forward to discovering all the gastronomic pleasures that await in beautiful Hawaii... but first order of business... i will need to figure out where the stock the kitchen. What are the best places to buy:

> Locally Grown Produce (Any suggested cookbooks for unique Hawaiian items?)
> Asian Produce (Bok Choy, Brocoli etc.,)
> Meats (Everything from Steaks to Oxtails, Pig Ears, Game Birds etc.,)
> Fish & Shellfish
> Belgian Style Ales & Microbrews
> Fine Wines
> Spirits... Fine Single Source Tequila, Rum, Scotch and Liquers
> European Style Cheeses (Roquefort, Gouda etc.,)
> Mexican Ingredients (Other than Mercado de la Raza)
> Fine Deli Items (Jamon, Prosciutto etc.,)
> Spices & Dried Herbs
> Legumes, Grains & Flours

Ideally we are taking about non-glitzy places that have products superior to what you find at Whole Foods, without the marketing b.s., and at much lower prices!

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  1. For Asian produce and fish and shellfish - I was impressed with Don Quijote and Marukai.

    Be sure to check out the Japanese dept store Shirokiya!

    1. I lived on north shore of Oahu 18 years ago ~ last visit was 1993. Being used to the Bay Area and eveything readily available, I had a hard time adjusting to living there. I was lucky enough to have mango, papaya and avocado trees on the property, but pretty much the only place to shop was at the Foodland past Waimea Bay, across from Shark's Cove.

      Back to town ... there is the Saturday Farmer’s Market at KCC (Kapi’olani Community College), 4303 Diamond Head Road. Their hours are 7:30 – 11am. URLs with more information:


      For Asian produce, try the shops in Chinatown. It is relatively small by San Francisco and Oakland standards, but I will bet you'll find your oxtails and pig ears there.

      Kokua Market Natural Foods Co-Op, 2643 S. King Street carries grass-fed beef.

      Fish & Shellfish: Tamashiro Market, 802 N King St.

      For Belgian Style Ales & Microbrews / Fine Wines / Spirits... Fine Single Source Tequila, Rum, Scotch and Liquers, check Tamura's Fine Wine & Liquors, 1216 10TH Ave Honolulu, HI 96816

      Don Quijote, 801 Kaheka Street is an Asian/American supermarket one-stop shop. Reputed to have the best Mexican section of any other grocery stores there.

      Couldn't really help with:

      European Style Cheeses (Roquefort, Gouda etc.,)
      Fine Deli Items (Jamon, Prosciutto etc.,)
      Spices & Dried Herbs
      Legumes, Grains & Flours

      ... although you might check these markets. They may carry those items:

      Down To Earth Natural Foods (http://www.downtoearth.org/
      )2525 S. King Street (across from Starmarket near University)

      Umeke Market Natural Foods & Deli (http://umekemarket.com
      )4400 Kalanianaole Hwy, Kahala

      Foodland (chain), 1450 Ala Moana Blvd. They are everywhere, but this one is downtown.

      I made a good map that references the places above. Also included links for Marukai, but there seems to be more than one ~ Marukai on Ward, and Marukai Wholesale Mart on Kam Hwy.

      Link to the map:



      5 Replies
      1. re: AntarcticWidow

        Aloha indeed! Mahalo that was very generous of you... we will spend the first few months in Downtown... so most of those places will be extremely convenient!

        1. re: AntarcticWidow

          "Don Quijote, 801 Kaheka Street is an Asian/American supermarket one-stop shop. Reputed to have the best Mexican section of any other grocery stores there."

          I got out to Don Qi a couple of weeks ago and have some observations:

          There is indeed, oddly a Mexican section... its small no more than 10ft long of an aisle. It obviously has less items than Mercado de la Raza, but it did have somethings worth mentioning.

          > They have Nopales in a Jar by Dona Maria. I normally wouldn't get too excited about packaged version but if you know how to treat them... drain then marinade in either vinagrette or citrus... they will work fairly well in salads. Or if you want to cook with them... you drain very well then sautee or braise with strong flavors... eliminating the briny taste with okay texture.

          > They have also have Clemente Jacques brand Jalapenos.... as well as La Sierra brand refrieds which are quite superior to more widely available brands like La Costena, El Mexicano etc.,

          > They also carry Mexican Dry Pasta. Now I am not suggesting anybody get too excited about Mexican Pasta there isn't anything THAT unique about it other than its top notch, 100% Durum wheat and sells for much less than imported Italian or American brands. In addition, some of the shapes like Stars, ABCs, Melon Seeds etc., are good for the deliciously simple Pasta Soups that Mexican kids grow up with. I will make one of these for my daughter next week... and will post recipes on the my Cooking Mexican in Hawaii thread.

          Outside of the "Mexican Section" there are many nice ingredients at Don Qi that are used in Mexico's Regional Specialties:

          > Very High Quality Thin Steaks (some of it Wagyu)... are well adapted to make Tacos
          > Smoked Marlin for Cabo or Sinaloa style Marlin Tacos
          > Very fresh Oysters for Oysters on the Half Shell with Salsa Verde
          > A great abundance of interesting cuts of Flesh widely used in Mexico... Oxtails, Tongue, Goat, Pheasant etc., etc.,

          I will get more specific as I use ingredients purchased at Don Qi in my cooking.

          1. re: Eat_Nopal

            yes, DQ is an interesting place to shop. I lived about 2 blocks away forever ago (it was still holiday mart back then). I miss it from time to time, never sure what you might find. Like a lot of places, don't get too attached to any one product, it may or may not be there next time you go back, but it's usually worth the trip. A lot of the produce is better than you find in other markets, and almost as reasonable as Chinalown. Also the bakery (used to be) pretty good. And if you want a rice cooker, thats definitely the place to go.

            1. re: KaimukiMan

              I don't know what most Supermarket concepts are like in Japan... but Don Qi felt comfortingly similar to the typical Mexican Supermarkets (like Gigante etc.,) in that you have your Cell Phone service vendors, Pharmaceuticals etc., in the front, Furntiure, Equipment, Media sections... large Produce section, large Meat section with lots of variety... etc., the only thing missing... is that in Mexico with labor being so cheap... there are tons of employees all around the store providing information & tastes tests on products etc.,

            2. re: Eat_Nopal

              Update on Don Quijote...

              Do do carry a couple of pedestrian Mexican cheeses.... the Cacique brand versions of Manchego & Queso Fresco / Ranchero.

              They also have the Japanese version of English / Canadian style Back bacon & Hawaii made Chorizo that is nice & lean like it is typically made in Mexico.

          2. Wow, authentic Mexican/South American meets Hawaiian cuisine.

            Do not have recs. on markets, etc., but cannot wait for your reviews. You have contributed so wonderfully on many threads, and I look forward to your weighing in on them all.

            Wish I had some help for you, but look forward to your observations in the future.



            1. Wow, good luck, eat nopal!
              I look forward to hearing about your pacific island food adventures, and make sure that you keep the great mexican tips coming, too.

              1 Reply
              1. re: vvvindaloo

                Thanks BH & VV... I look forward to reporting on many stuff.

              2. Aloha Nopal

                You have been here a few times, so I know you are ready for some level of frustration. Some things you just won't be able to find, others only able to find sometime. And the "small" whole foods doesn't open till sometime this fall. the new safeway in Kapahulu has a fairly wide cheese selection - along with a wider selection of a lot of other goods. As you know our hispanic population is thin, so those foods are going to be the most problematic. As far as "deli foods", well.... let us know if you find any. In addition to Tamuras listed above, check out Fujiokas. A smaller selection, but sometimes one will have what the other does not. Hope things work out well for you.

                1 Reply
                1. re: KaimukiMan

                  Thanks... are there any Portugese shops that might specialize in aged sausages & hams etc.,?

                2. Tamura's for good & huge selection of wines (for Hawaii) at excellent prices, a poke bar & some gourmet items - cheeses, European butter, etc. Foodland in Kailua also has less upscale, but good wine choices & there's a little VERY upscale & very expensive market attached - I can't think of the name, but with some impressive wines, cheeses, proscuitto, etc - but their prices will be higher than Whole Foods - sorry. It all has to be imported...

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: torta basilica

                    Thanks... are the prices at the little place more expensive than WF for the same items... or is that they carry higher ticket items... not necessarily priced at a higher margin?

                    1. re: torta basilica

                      that market is called R.Field -- there's also one attached to the foodland on beretania....i might be makingit up but i think the cheese prices are better in kailua than the one in town. this place is def overpriced by mainland standards but its one of very few places that carry those european cheeses one craves....and i think they're slightly more expensive than WFs

                      1. re: fatstern

                        At fatstern said, unfortunately, both expensive and higher ticket items - esp. the wines I believe. But if you've gotta have good cheese... Just be careful - obviously transportation issues, so check it out thoroughly before paying those prices.

                        That brings up a question I've always wondered about - here on the mainland, if something is over ripe or stored improperly, you can usually get your money back or at least an exchange. On the islands, with obvious & well-known difficulties importing foodstuffs, are shopkeepers as generous, or do they use the transport excuse? (To be fair, in defense of them, THEY may not be able to get refunds from their suppliers for the same reason.)

                        1. re: torta basilica

                          I have never encountered a problem returning anything anywhere everyone was apologetic and offered a refund or exchange.

                          Another suggestion for cheeses and wines and other liquors with a great atmosphere and friendly knowledgeable staff is The WineStop on
                          King street. Wonderful place.

                          I agree with Yoshio below. I've been shopping at Y.Hata for years and you can really find some great bargains. They also sell restaurant kitchen equipment, I got a really large wire rack that I was unable to find in the
                          regular stores. I will add that the parking kind of is a problem there - or it can be not too many spots available.

                        2. re: fatstern

                          Well... the Foodland on Beretania was a very pleasant surprise. Prices seemed to be lower than Safeway... with much higher quality. Even though its small, I really liked the R. Field in there.... beautiful bags of Mesclun greens for <$3, quality packaged stuff from Europe without the bull kaka "artisinal label" markups you get at mainland Whole Foods (i.e., you can find quality Sherry Vinager imported from Spain, in a Spanish label for $5... instead of the same stuff, with marketing glitz & expensive bottles from some Mainland company at $13)... good cheeses & wines with understandably smaller selection and higher prices than the mainland.... but overall a decent value comparatively speaking.

                          1. re: fatstern

                            Alert... R Fields will be seling Willie Bird free range turkeys for Thanksgiving.

                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                              As they always have. Usually you have to pre-order.

                        3. If you are like me, you abhor paying retail. You should put Y. Hata on your shopping list. They import many of the cheeses, butters, chocolates, etc. that you see in the expensive shops here. You will also find a nice selection of high-quality soup bases (veal demi glace, etc.), fruit purees and pastry needs. I purchase dried pasta, Euro chocolates and conserves there in addition to the above. I found an interesting selection of Peruvian chili pastes there recently (I believe they had brought them in for Nobu) and Australian spices for just $1 each.

                          12 Replies
                          1. re: Yoshio

                            Great! Thanks.

                            Does anyone have any idea of what Mexican pantry items I should bring with me? Can I find a decent breadth of Chipotles, Jalapenos, Dried Chiles, Mole Paste, Dried Corn etc.,

                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                              Having just read the exchange between the afficionados regarding refried beans, i am truly worried for your well being here in Honolulu. I can only hope your imagination and skill will be able to overcome the lack of ingredients available here.

                              I think you will be lucky to find any breadth at all of any of the ingredients you mentioned above, but perhaps I just haven't ever been motivated enough. You can probably find some chipotles, jalapenos are likely most of the time, but Mole Paste? Dried Corn????? and don't even think about things like toasted avocado leaves. We do grow avocado here, but im sure they are not the right variety for toasting leaves. Bring a cutting.

                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                Thanks KM... I will be bringing a box to tie my over initially (Achiote Paste, Uncommon Dried Chiles, Avocado Leaves, Tequesquite Mineral Salt, Great Tequilas & Mescal etc.,)... if there is any thing you have been looking for yourself... I can bring something with me just let me know. Also, I think my chow-support group on the mainland might be willing to barter / exchange ingredients via USPS!

                                I am actually excited about Hawaii's ingredients... there is a great deal of commonality between Philippines, Polynesia & Western Mexico as a result of largely forgotten historical ties (Manila - Acapulco trade routes)... and an unfortunate Slave trade that brought people of Polynesian, Micronesian & Filipino backgrounds to Western Mexico (particularly Northern Guerrero, Colima, Coastal Michoacan & Nayarit).

                                In any case... being able to cook the specialties of Western Coastal / Tropical Mexico can be a challenge in California in terms of certain ingredients which I think might be more available in Hawaii. Perhaps I am naive about it... but I look forward to my experiments trying to eat Authentic Mexican on the islands... but I am also really looking forward to cooking some fusion dishes... picking up Hawaiian ideas.

                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                  Eat Nopal,

                                  There are two cuisines that I love: Mexican (most states) and Hawaiian. I will be very interested in hearing of YOUR exploits in the Islands.

                                  I have never had good Mexican (I'm more of a Tex-Mex fan) in Hawai`i, but then I am usually not seeking out the wonderful little holes-in-the-wall. Still, when you have time to explore, please update us on your finds. I'm more interested in restaurants, than in markets, as we normally dine out. Wife is on holiday, when in Hawai`i.

                                  Still, some good representation of Jalisco, or even Sonora, would be greatly appreciate.

                                  Also, we love Caribbean Spanish/Creole, and there are some major parallels to Hawaiian cuisine. Please report, as time permits.



                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    You got it... believe it or not there are supposed to be 40,000 to 50,000 Mexicans on the islands... there has even been talk about establishing a permanent Consulate there.... my goal is to find them & see where they chow.

                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                      My understanding is that the majority of the Mexican population in the state is on Maui.

                                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                                        I've heard the same thing... there is supposed to be a well stocked Mexican store on Maui. I don't suppose there are any Mexican raspado vendors on Oahu? RST's recent Chicago thread on Ice got my cravings going.

                                      2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                        Interesting tidbit. I knew of the Portugese influence in the Islands, especially the Big Island, but this is news to me. I had not noticed in my journeys.

                                        Looking forward to your reports.



                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                          Well... I think it is a very recent migration so I suspect there isn't much of an influence yet... however I imagine that they must be the bulk of Line Cooks & Sous Chefs in Maui Resort Restaurants.. but I am just basing that as extension of what I see in California & Chicago.

                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                            Will be interesting, as we're on Maui in Dec. Unfortunately, we're not going to do our normal "week on O`ahu," and will only be on one Island. If you get some info, please post it, so I can check it out, come Dec.



                                        2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                          I'm sure you'll find them. I think the mexican restaurant "El Palenque" is something of a gathering point. The Latino community seems small but there is a newsletter, the Hawaii Hispanic News that can clue you in (distributed at El Palenque and other sites, like Honolulu's only cuban restaurant, Soul de Cuba), and there have been events in the news lately calling attention to the presence of a Latino community (including a protest over racially insensitive remarks by a city councilman).

                              2. I think Mercado de la Raza on Beretania would serve many of your needs it's a great place.

                                10 Replies
                                1. re: manomin

                                  Thanks... I tried going on my last trip but they were closed at 6PM or so on a Tuesday evening... do you have any sense of their hours?

                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                    There was an article in yesterday's Star Bulletin about some Mexican restaurants in Oahu:


                                    Not exactly what you're looking for, but If you're in Oahu by Labor Day, you may want to check out the Okinawa Festival held that weekend in Kapiolani Park. They have a Heiwadori tent (named after large marketplace in Naha) that has a lot of stuff (mostly pantry goods -- soba, dried konbu, etc.) available that you don't see outside of Okinawa. Last year, in another tent, they also had a bit of fresh produce (incl. goya and Okinawa (purple) sweet potatoes) for sale.

                                    1. re: Debbie M

                                      My dear friend was the original owner of El Charro. The recipe they featured sounds like his which was #11 and everyone loved. I had
                                      him cater a party here and amongst all the other things that was a
                                      crowd favorite. I wish they'd visited El Mariachi over here it's a winning
                                      place full of seafood items. Only 25 seats so we carry out.

                                      1. re: manomin

                                        Okay, I hate most mexican restaurants, because growing up asian in Arizona, I've been extremely spoiled with excellent mexican food.

                                        However, that said, I have to agree with manomin's report of El Mariachi. It is definitely a winning place. And the staples are good, my bf eats them all the time. The fish tacos (and most of the seafood) are awesome. They have the best ceviche I've had since my trip to a Peruvian restaurant in Argentina. And the Chile Verde is outta this world. The green sauce has crack in it. It's so good. It's what I order almost every time. Definitely ask for the special habanero sauce on the side, if you like spicy food. They tame it down here because they keep getting complaints despite the fact that most of their food seems to be mild to me, but if you ask them to add it, it's hit or miss, depending how busy they are. Also, the Mariachi tacos are to-die for. Again, you have to appreciate spicy in order to enjoy that dish. If you are a die-hard Mexican food fan, ask for the menudo and a cold night. It's pleasant! It's not on the menu. The side green salad is delicious, because they add diced tomatoes marinated in lime juice and jalapenos. MMMMMMM...

                                        I currently live up the street and will be moving to Kailua soon, but I will miss how convenient this restaurant is to me now. Yes, it's busy, but it is definitely worth the wait. As many restaurants in Hawaii, it's BYOB. I may have to go have Mexican food tonight just so I can attach some pictures of chile verde!

                                      2. re: Debbie M

                                        Sounds great... I am really looking forward to Okinawan food & ingredients.

                                        1. re: Debbie M

                                          Nice article btw... nice to know there is a growing appreciation for Mex cuisine on the islands. The article just forgot to mention that Papaya, Pineapple & Guavas are also native to Mexico and came to Hawaii via the Manila - Acapulco trade routes ;) Like I said... I see many commonalities that I hope to take advantage of. (I caught a glimpse of the Shrimp farms near Near Shore on a trip... in Mazatlan they have an iconic dish called Aguachile which is raw white shrimp dunked in a "broth" of water, lime juice, salt & very spicy piquin chiles... I am hoping the Oahu shrimp are safe enough to eat raw?)

                                          I can already imagine a platter of Poke, Aguachile & Assorted Nigiri.

                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                            You guys are in for a special treat... Eat Nopal is a well loved chowhounder who "abandoned" Sonoma County CA for Hawaii. He is missed in CA.
                                            I'm going to have to visit this board just to sample his foray to Hawaii.

                                            1. re: drmimi

                                              Ah you are too kind... I will miss Sonoma... please keep alerting us to the great Ethiopian, Carribbean & Soul Food to be found!

                                              1. re: drmimi

                                                I have become acquainted with Eat Nopal's posts on many boards, and have greatly appreciated the background on, primarily, Mexican cuisine. While our tastes occasionally are at odds, I always have appreciated the wonder knowledge and the well-thoughtout suggestions.

                                                Personally, I look forward to a new and slightly different perspective, relative to cuisine in Hawai`i.

                                                I am certain that the SF and North board will miss the posts, but hope to see those pithy comments on all boards, where a well-founded perspective is needed.


                                        2. re: manomin

                                          Update on Mercado de la Raza... she carries Tortillas Raspadas (Shaved Tortillas).

                                          I am willing to bet most people in Mexico die without ever haven eaten Tortilla Chips. However, Tostadas are a big, big deal in some areas (for example, the Highlands of Jalisco, Guanajuato, Mexicali etc.,). To make good tostadas, people soak corn tortillas in salt water, cause a thin layer of "skin" to seperate on both sides of the tortilla. These "skins" are then peeled off by hand... and the shaved tortillas are laid out to sun / air dry... finally they are fried in quality rendered lard... topped by a wide variety of ingredients.

                                          With the shaved tortillas available at Mercado.... the hard work is done... all you have to do is fry, drain, top & eat.

                                        3. Hi EN,

                                          Sorry for the late response. Been busy, but running across your thread of last April prompts these few bits of information:
                                          India Market, 2570 S. Beretania, #105, tel. 946-2020 has a modest but useful selection of subcontinent spices, beans, etc. Y. Hatas stuff is overstock, etc. and very hit-and-miss. However, it was the only place on this island, besides Mercado...,where I found tomatillos (in a gallon can). You may want to join Costco. Though the cheese selection is small, the prices are regularly unbeatable and occasionally stupendous when things are marked down to half price to move them out e.g., Swiss Bellevue (like Apenzell with herbs outside) for $5.97/lb. It also has best prices for whipping cream and lox, usually $11.99/lb. Honolulu has a People's Open Market Program for small farmers to sell fresh, local produce. See www.co.honolulu.hi.us/parks/programs/... If you are in Waipahu, there is a marketplace with produce and a couple of fresh fish stalls. If you find a good - or even fair - Mexican rest. please PLEASE let us know. I have searched long and hard to no avail. You may have to open one yourself. Hope this helps a bit.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Joebob

                                            My experience is that gourmet and Mexican foods are available on a hit or miss basis in many locations. For example, canned chipotle in adobo sauce is not stocked on a regular basis at Safeway but does appear once in a while. Mercado de la Raza has an extensive line of Knorr and Goya products, hot sauces, dried chiles, but you can also find some of the more popular Goya products (dried beans, Saizon) and some of same hot sauces at Don Quijote at cheaper prices. Same thing with fine cheeses: there is a limited (but different) selection of European cheese at Costco, R Fields, Tamura's and Safeway. For fresh produce, I like Palama Market, which is not in Palama, but in Pawaa next to Don Quijote's parking garage. It is a Korean market, but the produce is good and there is a great variety of kim chee to try if you want to get out of the Mexican mode.

                                            You could easily do a sweep of Don Quijote, Palama Market, R.Fields at the Beretania Foodland, and Mercado de la Raza in one or two hours, as they are all only a couple miles apart.

                                          2. I used to live in Texas and grew up with my family using fiesta brand seasonings for some things to save time. They are good quality and are at a good price. Some of the stuff I prefer to do on my own. I haven't tried any of the Mexican places here because everyone that tries my enchiladas, rice, and frijoles borrachos keeps telling me to not even bother. Here is the link for the fiesta website. They have a lot of the stuff you are probably looking for. You can even order the larger packs that you would normally find at a mercado on the mainland. Hope this helps. I am open to any suggestions for the little hole in the wall places that are good on Oahu. Mahalo!


                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: bnrMan808

                                              Thats funny... I asked my wife to prepare me some Frijoles Borrachos for my birthday tomorrow... along with handmade tortillas, queso fresco, oil blistered serranos etc.,

                                            2. 'Much lower prices'?
                                              Prices are passed on to the consumer on Oahu....items not grown in the islands must be shipped or flown in....
                                              I've never considered anything on Oahu, or any other island for that matter, less expensive than anything found on the mainland.
                                              Living in Hawaii is not what one would consider....'inexpensive'.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: latindancer

                                                That is random... what are you responding to?

                                              2. Hey EN,
                                                I guess you've scoped out Whole Foods by now. As a local who lived "abroad" for 17 years and am now back on Oahu, I find it a godsend. I can finally get skirt steak, brisket, mache, and a bunch of other stuff that I had to find substitutes for because local supermarkets didn't carry them. I would rather support local businesses, but if they don't have what I want, it's hard.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: HIeats

                                                  Yup... I reported on it already.... its one of the weaker Whole Foods I have been to... but it does seem to fill a niche (I still haven't found French Lentils on the island.... WF is one of a few places that at least has Green & Red Lentils etc.,)