I learned something from my children yesterday after they asked me to take them to eat a bowl of saimin.
I walked them over to a ramen restaurant, and as we entered, Jaf exclaimed, “Mom, this is not SAIMIN!” as he stared at the walls plastered with beautiful photos of ramen.
“I don’t want to eat here.” I’m surprised by his reaction and tell him “this is SAIMIN!”
Leah chimed in, “No, it doesn’t have SPAM and FISHCAKE in the pictures!”
So we walked back home, jumped into the car and drove to Forty Niners, a small family owned diner that has been running since 1947, serving up some of the best saimin on Oahu!
“Yes, Mom here is where you get SAIMIN!” Obviously, their grandma and grandpa take them here often.
So, what is Saimin?
In “ramen,” the men part is “noodle” and the whole word is very possibly related to the Chinese “lo mein.” (Especially, when you consider that Chinese doesn’t distinguish between “r” and “l”). Ramen is a very generic term, and can refer to any noodles in broth. .
Saimin is Hawaii’s version of Asian noodles, mainly of Chinese origin. ‘Sai’ means thin, and so, saimin refers to the thin noodles used in the dish. The noodles are placed in a dashi broth, that’s similar to the broth base used in miso soup, except it doesn’t contain miso (fermented bean paste).
That’s the basis of the soup, to which you can add anything you like – we enjoy green onions, bok choy, spam, and even fishcakes!
Jaf likes to take all the fish cake and onions out of the bowl, and sets them aside to devour later. He then proceeds to eat the noodles, blowing and using his fork carefully as not to burn himself from the steaming hot broth.
LouLou on the other hand, takes all of the noodles out of the bowl, transfers it to an empty bowl avoiding the broth entirely, and eating it all up like a bowl full of spaghetti!
“Mom, this is our favorite,” Jaf says as he pats me on the head. Dinner is served! 🙂
Forty Niner‘s is great for Kids, No Credit Cards, Outdoor Seating Available
* Keep saimin bowl in the middle of the table before serving to let cool (5 minutes) before letting children eat them. Gently lift noodles with a fork to allow the noodles and broth to cool before serving.