Story by Brett Kell
Photography by Joe Laedtke
The dishes served at Ono Kine Grindz reflect the diverse ethnic influences of the Hawaiian islands, which experienced multiple waves of settlement by navigators, explorers, laborers and others from Polynesia, Japan, China and Europe. These cultures brought with them various plants, animals and culinary traditions that were adopted over time or melded in new ways with native Hawaiian foods and preparations.
Char siu chicken: Using a preparation common in China, poultry is marinated in molasses, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic and onion powder, and five spice (clove, cinnamon, star anise, fennel and coriander), then grilled.
Huli huli chicken: Poultry basted generously during cooking with a sticky-sweet sauce.
Kalbi: Korean-style beef short ribs drizzled in sesame, ginger and garlic.
Kalua pork: The Ono Kine Grindz version of this classic luau staple, typically cooked in an underground oven called an imu, is pork shoulder butt rubbed with sea salt and a touch of liquid smoke, slow-cooked for 16 hours.
Kimchee: A traditional spicy and sour Korean side dish made of fermented vegetables, usually napa cabbage, and a variety of seasonings.
Kona coffee: One of the most expensive coffees in the world, Kona is grown on the slopes of volcanoes Mauna Loa and Hualalai. Cuttings from Brazilian coffee plants were introduced to Hawaii in 1828; by 1900, crops were farmed mostly by Japanese immigrants. Today there are around 800 Kona coffee farms on the Big Island, with an average size of less than five acres.
Laulau: This Polynesian-influenced dish contains steamed pork and butterfish in a young taro lu’au and ti leaf wrap.
Linguiça/Portuguese sausage: A number of varieties of this sausage, made with a range of spices (most notably paprika), are found in Hawaii, with natives partial to the version most common to their island. It is commonly served with eggs and rice as a breakfast dish.
Malasada: Small, Portuguese-inspired donut made of yeast dough deep-fried coated in sugar.
Manapua: White bun similar to a Chinese bao, filled with char siu chicken.
Poke: Influenced by Japanese sashimi preparations and made in numerous variations, the poke (po-kay) served at Ono Kine Grindz is cubed raw yellowfin tuna tossed with soy sauce, sesame oil, hot sauce, crushed macadamia nut, and sliced green and white onion.
Saimin: Noodle soup inspired by Japanese ramen and Chinese mein; contains fresh soft wheat noodles served in hot dashi broth and garnished with char siu chicken, kamaboko (fish cake), shrimp shumai (dumplings), sliced egg omelet, kimchee, green onion, and lotus root or daikon.
Spam musubi: Sliced grilled Spam atop a block of rice, wrapped together with nori (dried seaweed). Siblings of Japanese onogiri (portable rice balls), musubi are a popular and inexpensive Hawaiian snack/lunch food found near cash registers in convenience stores.
Brett Kell is a freelance writer and communications professional. He has contributed to various publications, websites, and media, and has won awards for feature writing. His poetry has appeared in Emergency Almanac, Paj Ntaub Voice, KNOCK, Clare, Bakka and others, and he’s spent years on a chapbook called “Nonce Words” that might eventually see the light of day. In his spare time, he nurtures a fondness for Milwaukee restaurants, bars and artisans. He also collects watches, drinks scotch, enjoys music, and roots for the Packers. Brett and his wife, Lauren, live in Caledonia with their two children.
Joe Laedtke has been a life-long food enthusiast, starting when he was still a kid growing up in Washington Heights, watching his grandma Shirley intently as she taught him her secret recipes for onion dip, turkey gravy, and rouladen, and even through college as he delivered pizzas throughout the greater Ripon area in a 1978 AMC Pacer. These days, he proudly represents the unique combination of freelance photographer and licensed funeral director, and has garnered national attention with his website, Eating Milwaukee, including a segment on CBS This Morning. He has absolutely no willpower whatsoever around essentially any Asian cuisine.