Hawaiian Noodle Bowl — Saimin

Dinner, Recipes
on March 4, 2007
Mark Boughton

The great island state of Hawaii is its own melting pot, with the foods of the native Hawaiians blending with those of immigrant workers. A favorite hodgepodge Hawaiian specialty is saimin, a delicious noodle soup. The name probably comes by combining two Chinese words, one meaning “thin,” the other, “noodle,” but it can contain elements from every cuisine that contributed to early plantation culture–Chinese, Filipino, Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, and Portuguese.

Saimin is said to have begun as a snack at ball games in Honolulu Stadium, where it became more popular than hot dogs and hamburgers. Today, it is eaten as a snack or sometimes for breakfast. Even McDonald’s serves saimin in Hawaii. Hawaiians would add a serving of rice to make it a real meal, but for mainlanders, saimin can make a satisfying lunch and is a way to use up leftovers without the rice.

Saimin is basically a soup made with chicken or fish broth and egg noodles. After the noodles are cooked until just soft and ladled into bowls with hot broth, other ingredients are added on top. In Hawaii, typical toppings include cooked egg, sliced green onions, strips of Spam (Spam is a favorite food in the islands), pieces of Portuguese sausage, slices of Asian fishcake, and/or strips of Chinese roast pork called char sui. You can add colorful vegetables such as carrots, a few spinach leaves or bok choy. The beautiful thing about saimin is the freedom it allows the cook to use whatever is on hand. Serve saimin in large, deep bowls and eat it with a soup spoon and chopsticks. Do slurp the noodles for proper effect.

By Greg and Dorothy Patent.

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