when i was a child, my father was in the u.s. military. by the time i was eight years old, i had lived in two countries and four different states. i was no stranger to packing up everything i owned into a few boxes and shipping it halfway across the world. my mother always took photos of every major item we owned, just in case something happens. nothing ever did. my things arrived safely in each new world.
my first real memories begin when i am around four years old. before that, i catch glimpses. the birth of my brother. obstinately eating a lemon because i had declared that they were delicious and not sour at all - before ever having taken a bite. i remember eating the entire thing to prove my stubborn point, wincing with each bitter, sour taste.
but in hawaii, my life flares out in bright memories. it is nothing but color, the green aloe vera plant in front of our house in waipahu. the bright blue skies and the pink hibiscus that littered the black asphalt on my walk to kanoelani elementary school.
after we moved, one year later, to my father's hometown of des moines, iowa, the things i miss most are food. my tastes are irrevocably stamped by the breakfasts we had of fresh papaya. of getting matsumoto's shaved ice on the way back from the north shore on saturdays. of getting manapua, with that sweet steamed white bun stuffed to the brim with red barbecued pork. i learned to love seafood. i loved musubi from the corner store. but what i absolutely loved most, beyond all others and irredeemably, was a giant bowl of steaming fresh saimin.
saimin, of all of hawaii's incredible food culture, is the most representative of the islands' past and shares a great deal with japanese ramen. it is made up of fresh egg wheat noodles with alkalinity added, to help keep its' firmness in the soup. the noodles are added to a dashi broth, and then topped most commonly with kamaboko (fishcake), char siu (chinese barbecued pork), scallions, and a gently-boiled egg.
we ate saimin on saturdays, coming back from swimming on the north shore of oahu. we climbed through heavy leaves and over jagged, sharp rocks to reach a quiet, unknown stretch. the water was only three feet deep for a half-mile past the shore. i wore swim shoes to protect from sea urchins and electric eels. my parents kept jugs of clean water in the car, to wash our salty, sandy bodies with before we all piled in the car for the long drive home. along the drive back, we stopped for dinner. i remember the tiny restaurant, whitewashed and with all the doors and windows thrown wide. i remember wishing the bowl would never end. i wanted the noodles to last a lifetime.
4 cups dashi
1/4 cup ponzu
18 oz. saimin noodles (if you cannot find saimin noodles, soba will work)
1/2 cup scallions, chopped
1/4 lb. char siu, cut into thin strips
4 eggs, gently boiled
4 pork tenderloin
1/4 cup mirin
2 tbsp. Chinese five spice
1/4 cup soy sauce
place all ingredients in a tightly sealed ziplock bag. squish as much air as possible from the bag and then place in the refrigerator, on a baking pan or baking sheet, for 12-24 hours. turn the bag once or twice during the marinating process.
the next day, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. place the tenderloins on a rack above a roasting pan lined with tinfoil. roast for approximately 20 minutes. the internal temperature of the meat should reach 160 degrees. brush the outside of the pork with the reserved marinade and honey and place in broiler turned up to high. broil approximately 1-2 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of your pork.
cook the noodles in a large pot until tender. drain noodles and divide among four soup bowls. pour dashi broth into each bowl until noodles are covered. add scallions, snow peas, and char siu to each bowl, taking care to keep each item relatively separate (or follow your heart and mix them! hawaiian-style simply tends to keep each item distinct.) top with one gently boiled egg and furikake. serve. fight with your brother over who gets the last noodle.