Thursday, September 24, 2015

Waikiki Beach & The Rainbow Drive-In - Hawai'i Travelogue Video

Take a walk on the Waikiki beachside with the Traveling Cheap$kate. It's a full plate of video footage featuring: a scenic stroll along the beach; a visit to the world famous Rainbow Drive-In for a Loco Moco Plate Lunch; and a fast food stroll for Spam Musubi.

My wife and I stayed across the street from Waikiki Beach on the 11th floor of Park Shore Waikiki Hotel, which has a view of Diamond Head. Everything we craved was within walking distance.

Click on any photo to see larger.

On the beach squealing posses of local kids caught waves on their boogie boards, while others soaked up the sun strolling and lounging. The area is bustling but we always found a comfy sandy spot to people watch.

Of course there are all manner of dining choices. Well, you know I'm going to find budget eats. Right down the street, about 4 short blocks away. is where I went the most: the Rainbow Drive-In.

 It's a locals hangout for cheap plate lunches and more. Amy tried the Mixed Plate of BBQ Beef, Mahi Mahi fish fillet, a slab of Boneless Chicken, plus 2 scoops of Rice and 1 scoop of Macaroni Salad, all for the price of $8.25. What a deal!

Click on photo to read menu item descriptions.

I ordered the Loco Moco Plate. It's what to get if you have a big appetite, especially after a day in the ocean surfing, swimming or boggie boarding. The Loco Moco Plate is 2 Eggs (any way you like them,) 2 Hamburger Patties, 2 scoops Rice, 1 scoop Macaroni Salad and, to quote their slogan, "Gravy all over." And it cheap, at $7.50.

This entree is not for the faint of palate. It's a delicious hot mess when you get eggs over easy. Nothing's better than mixing the yolk with all the other ingredients. Somehow it works. I've been to Hawai'i a few times and have never ordered a Loco Moco - it just seemed too deceptively simple, and too much.

The gravy is made from chicken broth and quite flavorful. The Hamburger is just plainly fried on a flat top. Rice is for extra carbs and soaking up the egg yolk and gravy. I especially like the Macaroni Salad. It's extra creamy with mayo. This version doesn't have shredded carrot, like in some plate lunches I've tried in Hawai'i. For my cheap$kate recipes for Macaroni Salad and Sticky Rice, just click here.

 The Rainbow Drive-In also serves a smaller Loco Moco Bowl that's easier to handle.

This blog post is a food 2fer. Not only do I review a Loco Moco Plate, but you get a fast food side of Spam Musubi from the 7 Eleven, that I bought around the corner from the Rainbow Drive-In.

Locals have their version of grab and go grub, and it's not a hot dog in a bun -- what they like is a sauteed slab of Spam on sushi rice, wrapped with a black band of dried seaweed (known as Nori.) Go into any convenience store, or deli case in a grocery, and you'll find a warmed heat-lamp case of Spam Musubi.

Now I know it sounds gross, but until you've tried it don't turn your nose up, too high.

You might not even know what Spam is, as it's become persona non grata in the food world. All it is, is a processed meat loaf in a can. It may be mystery meat, but if you can handle a hot dog, then you can handle Spam. Actually, Spam is made primarily from ground pork shoulder and ham. The Huffington Post did a short article about Spam, here.

Spam became popularized by the military during WWII. So anywhere American soldiers were stationed, including Hawaii and Korea, Spam followed, and was absorbed into the locals diet.

Japanese make up a part of the local populace, so they added "Hawaiian Steak," or Spam, to their traditional Musubi recipes. Musubi is any protein or veggie with sticky rice that's wrapped in dried nori, or seaweed. It's a small single serving, slightly shorter than a Twinkie.

There are many flavors of Musubi. I've tried breakfast Musubi, a combination of bacon, omelet and Spam. You can in anything including: cucumber, avocado, fried chicken, steak, tuna and salmon. Spam's typically sauteed, and sometimes marinated with soy and teriyaki sauce for extra flavor.

Bacon, Egg & Spam Musubi

So kick back and check out my latest Hawai'i Travelogue. It's a fun trip that won't cost you a thing. And do check back for my own recipes of Loco Moco and, of course, Spam Musubi. You might not want to chow down with me, but you will be entertained.

(As an aside, we had some of Amy's friends and workmates over when I just finished the video below. I showed it to them and got reactions that ran from outrage to laughter - just the reaction I hoped for. Hey, I know what I highlight foodwise is not for everybody, that's why I try to, at the very least, keep it fun.)

Waikiki Beach & The Rainbow Drive-In - VIDEO

Play it here, video runs 6 minutes, 20 seconds.

My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.

99 thanks to:
Rainbow Drive-In
3308 Kanaina Avenue
Honolulu, Hawai'i 96815
808) 737-0177

A great Hawaiian radio station that I feasted on, selecting a few tropical tunes for my Travelogue videos, called "Territorial Airwaves - Your Source for the History of Hawaiian Music."
Online at:

Video song: "You're At A Lu'au Now" by Mel Peterson

Friday, September 18, 2015

7-Eleven Spam Musubi - Hawaiian Deal of the Day

"Spam, spam, spam, spam...."and repeat, so goes the Monty Python song. I was a big fan of Monty Python as a teen, not so of canned meat Spam. But I'm willing to change my mind. So read on to see what I rate a Spam Musubi from a 7-Eleven market on the island of Oahu, for my latest Cheap$kate Dining Review, Hawaiian-style.

Spam Musubi is a Hawaiian mashup of Japanese cuisine and American canned meat, shaped into fast food origami. There is nothing like it. Typical Japanese Musubi is any meat or veggie on a Twinkie-shaped mound of steamed sticky white rice, and wrapped in a black band of dried seaweed (called Nori.)

Click on any photo to see larger.

Hawaiians of Japanese descent quickly took to Spam. It was a WWII necessity when meat and other rations were scarce. But with the import of American GIs to Pearl Harbor, Spam was the most available meat product on the island. Back in the day it was a necessary novelty and was quickly adapted by the locals.

They say our military travels on its stomach, well just go around the world and you will find Spam integrated into many foreign cuisines, like British, German, Japanese, and Korean.

Spam is made with very few ingredients really, mainly ground pork shoulder, ham,  salt, water, potato starch (to keep the meat moist), sugar, and sodium nitrite (a  preservative). And now you can buy it in many flavors, and even Lite (which has chicken,) that's low fat and sodium. However, now they doctor it up with marinades and extra flavors, so the ingredient list can be quite long.

The name's origin remains a mystery, but it's thought to be an abbreviation of 'spiced ham,' or maybe an acronym for 'shoulders of pork and ham.'"

If you have been here before then you know I'm in the middle of a Hawaiian Travelogue series, that started last month. So I had to eventually get to a cheap fast food Deal of the Day.

Go to any grocery or liquor store with a deli station and you'll find a row of plastic-wrapped Spam Musubi under a heating lamp. And they are cheap, just the way I like it. They cost anywhere from just under $2 and more, mine was $1.55 at the 7-Eleven Store.

The locals go for Spam Musubi like Mainlanders getting a hot dog at the local gas station/market. It's a perfect few bites when you want a quick snack for the road. You can even find Spam integrated into McDonald's menu.

They sell many types of Spam Musubi, some flavored with teriyaki sauce. I got a regular one.

 What is unpredictable is how long they have been sitting under the heating lamp, which can affect the texture of cooked Spam and the moisture of sticky rice. So my rating may be off a couple of points either way -- so take it with a grain of salt.

 I unwrapped the Spam Musubi and could tell it had been under the heating lamp for quite a while. But Spam was made to stand up to any cooking abuse.

It was warm to the bite and the Spam was very salty (as it should be.) The meat texture was a little rubbery but still flavorful. It's like eating a thick piece of heated luncheon meat. Not something I would eat very often, but okay.

The rice held together fine. It's just plain steamed white rice, mainly for extra carbs. The band of dried seaweed had a slight ocean seafood flavor.

Overall it is a good mix of blandness and meaty flavor. I finished the Spam Musubi in just a few bites.

So on my Cheap$kate Dining Scale of 1 to 9, 9 being best, I give 7-Eleven's plain Spam Musubi a....6! This Deal of the Day may not be for everyone, but if you've been boogie boarding in the ocean all morning this will satisfy you until a real meal.

To see other Hawaii Travelogue blog posts with video, photos, text & GIFs, just click on any link below:
Visit to O'ahu, Hawai'i - intro 
Windward Shore & Keneke Grill

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Breakfast in Honolulu - Hawai'i Travelogue, 2 Videos

These short clips set the table for how I start the day while on vacation. I always do a "Breakfast in "fill in the location here" video. It's usually a single-take camera move, with a bunch of food items local to the area. And later, I sync up an audio collage underneath the video.The audio can be any informative and fun sound bites I've collected all during the trip.

You gotta have volcanic, mineral-rich, Hawai'i  Kona Coffee to start the day, along with the best local fresh fruit -- and a ripe papaya is featured here. Also, Hawaii's favorite grab-and-go, Spam Musubi, is shown in outrageous closeup. I became a fan of Spam Musubi on this trip. In my shot is a breakfast musubi stacked with bacon, egg, spam and sticky rice wrapped in dried seaweed! It shouldn't work, but it does...deliciously.

Make sure to come back to my blog when I review the premier eatery for Spam Musubi called the Musubi Cafe. How does a Bacon, Egg and Spam Musubi rate on The 99 Cent Chef's Cheap$kate Dining Scale of 1 to 9, 9 being best? And as a bonus the plain Egg Musubi is reviewed by my wife - will it be Wife Approved?

While shooting Breakfast in Waikiki, I literally noticed clouds in my coffee when I rehearsed the camera move. Wow, it's Carly Simon's song "You're So Vain" with the lyric "I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee, clouds in my coffee..." a literal interpretation visualized.

So after I shot the Breakfast in Waikiki camera move, I got out my Canon still camera and shot "Clouds in my Coffee" in time lapse. It took about about 10 minutes for the clouds to move through the reflective liquid surface of my coffee cup. In the final version I speeded up the footage from 10 minutes to 17 seconds.

Here's the short Clouds in My Coffee video:

There is plenty more in store for you, so checkout my latest tasty Hawai'i Travelogue video, and make sure to come back for seconds and thirds!

Breakfast in Honolulu - VIDEO

Play it here, video runs 1 minute, 11 seconds.

Breakfast in Honolulu YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.

Clouds in my Coffee YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.

To see other Hawaii Travelogue blog posts with video, photos, text & GIFs, just click on any link below:
Visit to O'ahu, Hawai'i - intro 
Windward Shore & Keneke Grill

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Mainland Lau Lau with Pork

I may get my mug on a Hawai'i wanted poster for this bastardized version of an island native recipe favorite. And if I end up in the slammer, I hope they serve Lau Lau for jailhouse meals!

I live in Los Angeles and could probably find Taro leaves somewhere. But, I want to make sure anyone on the Mainland can enjoy my cheap$kate version of Lau Lau - which is simply seasoned hunks of pork wrapped in Taro leaves and slow cooked to delicious tenderness.

You can read all about the origins of Lau Lau here. It's similar to Kalua Pig, which I wrote a recipe of a couple weeks ago, just click here to see it. Kalua Pig is wrapped in banana leaves, while Lau Lau is wrapped in Taro leaves and steamed/baked underground; think Southern BBQ-style, it's Low 'n Slow.

And to take the comparison further, instead of using hard-to-find Taro leaf, I substitute with Southern Greens! Yep, and collard greens even look like Taro leaf. Both have large ribs with a deep green hue. Even the taste is similar. When cooked you could put them side-by-side and not be able to tell the difference, unless you are a Hawaiian cook. Just compare my steamed Collard Green Lau Lau with real Taro Leaf Lau Lau.

Click on any photo to see larger.

The main difference between Taro Leaf and Collard greens is the texture. Collard greens are a little more firm after cooking. I'm sure you could tell the difference if you tasted each cooked leaf at the same sitting, but my version of Southern-style Mainland Lau Lau is a tasty alternative.

Greens are cheap, I get mine from my local Mexican grocery store for less than a dollar per bundle. Each bundle holds about 5-8 leaves. You could stretch out my recipe (that serves 4) and get away with one bundle, but 2 bundles would give you plenty of greens to go with the pork.

For this recipe I used collard and turnip greens. While collard looks similar to taro leaf, turnip greens get more tender like cooked taro leaf. It's okay to mix and match your favorite leafy greens.

You can use any greens you find on sale at your own grocery or farmers market, including: collard, turnip, mustard, Swiss chard, kale and even spinach.You just need enough to wrap pork into bundles for steaming.

Pork is the main protein. On the Island, they add a little firm fish with the pork. I'm keeping it simple and cheap, by leaving out the fish. For my recipe I used a little over 3 pounds of meaty country-style pork ribs for around 99 cents per pound. I got 4 big ribs.They are ready to go, just trim of any excess fat, but leave some on as it's extra flavor.

Country-style ribs hold much more meat than your typical BBQ rib. And each rib is large enough for a single serving. You could go even cheaper by buying a whole pork shoulder. Just remove the meat from the bone and skin. It's okay to leave the meat in large hunks, for wrapping in greens.

It takes 3 to 4 hours for Lau Lau to steam tender. But it is so simple to make, with few ingredients. Just season the pork with salt, rub on some liquid smoke (optional) and wrap it up with a couple layers of leaves. Finally loosely wrap it with a sheet of aluminum foil.

Lau Lau is a surprise package - lay it out and watch the smile appear on your dinner guests as they unpeel it. My cheap$kate Mainland Lau Lau si going right into my recipe favorites. And you don't need to spring for a plane ticket to Hawai'i to taste my local SoCal Lau Lau.

Ingredients (about 4-5 servings)
  • 3-4 pounds pork - I used 4 meaty country style pork ribs. Okay to use any pork pieces. Cheapest to use pork shoulder (trim off the meat from bone.)
  • 2 bundles of edible greens - Enough to wrap pork 2 to 3 times. For this recipe I used collard and mustard greens. Normally taro leaves are used. If you can find them, then use. Okay to use kale or any favorite edible greens like: collard, mustard, Swiss chard, turnip, kale and even spinach.
  • Salt to taste - Get out the Hawaiian salt, if you have any.
  • 2 tablespoons Liquid Smoke - optional. Will taste delish, it's all about the leafy wrapping.
  • Aluminum foil - about 4 sheets to wrap Lau Lau.
  • Water for steaming Lau Lau.

Prepare pork. If you are using country style ribs then all you need to do is trim of excess fat. Okay to leave some fat, as it's extra flavor. For pork stew meat that's already sliced, you'll just pile it on the leaves.

Country Style Pork Ribs

For cheap pork shoulder you need to trim off the meat. It has a thick layer of skin you can discard. It's okay if the meat pieces are left large. They will cook until fall-apart tender.

Rub Liquid Smoke onto pork. Allow meat to absorb Liquid Smoke and rub again to use it all up. This is optional. The greens will flavor the meat too. Season meat with salt to taste.

Wash and set out edible greens. Trim off any yellowing stems or tough ends.

Wrap meat 2 to 3 times. The leafy packages should be big enough for a single serving - about the size of a burrito, or an extra large tamale. Finally, wrap each bundle with foil to keep it from falling apart. Some greens may get too mushy, so foil is a simple way to keep it all together. You can loosely wrap pork and greens with foil. It's okay to let some steam into bundles.

Wrapping Collard Greens

Wrapping Turnip Greens

 What you want is enough greens to eat with the pork. So you can wrap the pork with as may leaves as you like. Add leaf pieces too, just pile it on.

You can even use spinach leaves. But make sure to wrap spinach packages in foil, as spinach will get too mushy and may fall off pork.

Add wrapped pork bundles to a steamer pot. Add enough water to just reach the foil-wrapped packages. Cover the pot. Bring water to a boil then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook pork until tender, about 3-4 hours. Check every hour to make sure water doesn't evaporate - add water as needed.

Lau Lau may cook quicker or take even longer; it all depends how thick the pork pieces are. You can cook Lau Lau as long as it takes (steam will keep it moist,) so just cook it until very tender. You can keep it warm, until ready to serve, in the steamer pot, too.

If you do not have a steamer pot, just get your largest pot and add a ceramic (or metal) bowl, upside down, on bottom of pot. Stack on the foil wrapped Lau Lau. Add enough water to just cover the ceramic bowl. You can use a small steamer rack on the bottom of the pot, too. Again check water level every hour. Add water as needed. Water can come in contact with foil wrapped Lau Lau.

When done, open one package to make sure meat is fall-apart tender. If not, rewrap and keep steaming in half hour to hour increments. It's hard to over-cook this recipe, so cooking it too long is okay.

Set out packages and allow to cool down for a few minutes so you can remove foil and serve. For a Lau Lau Plate, I like to have Macaroni Salad and Sticky Rice as side dishes. My recipes for those are a click away here. If you serve Lau Lau with above sides, then half a bundle per person may be enough -- so that makes even more servings of Lau Lau!

Also, reserve a cup or so of simmering water that's now flavored with pork and greens (called pot liquor.) You can drizzle some onto cooked meat to moisten it more.

Lau Lau leftovers freeze fine. Heat it up in the microwave. Remove foil and drizzle on some pot liquor before heating.

I used Liquid Smoke, but you can leave it out - the edible leaves will flavor the pork enough.

I steamed the Lau Lau, but if you have a pressure cooker, then use that. It will cook in about 45 minutes to an hour. For a crock pot it will take all day at low temperature.

You can't over-steam Lau Lau. It depends how large the pork pieces are to how long you cook the pork. My country style ribs took about 4 hours to tenderize. In Hawai'i I got some  Lau Lau from a food truck. I'm sure the Lau Lau was steaming all day and it tasted fine. Click here to see my Lau Lau truck video.

I used Southern-style turnip and collard greens, but you can use any favorite greens, like: collard, mustard, Swiss chard, turnip, kale, or even spinach. Wrap the pork with enough greens so you get a nice veggie serving. It's okay to mix and match greens.

I noticed collard greens look like taro leaves, but are more firm (when cooked) than taro leaves. Turnip greens are tender like taro leaves.

To see other Hawaii Travelogue blog posts with video, photos, text & GIFs, just click on any link below:
Visit to O'ahu, Hawai'i - intro 
Windward Shore & Keneke Grill
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