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Our Top 5: Saimin

Not long ago, I hated saimin. These bowls changed my mind

Posted September 10, 2013 by Mari Taketa

I have a newfound respect for saimin, thanks to the one time I publicly hated on it. Disdained it, actually, resented it even. Compared to all the noodle bowls I love in this world — ramen, pho, naengmyeon, the roast duck noodles at Duck Lee and my greatest love of all, spaghetti — why does saimin have to be so bland? Is saimin anything more, I asked, than a powerful nostalgic deception perpetrated on collective taste buds by memories of small-kid-time saimin with the family and happy post-game bowls with friends?

Actually, that’s what saimin turns out to be. Not the deception part, but the rest: It’s the soul of being local. It’s simple and plain and imbued with comfort. And even if you prefer ramen, you probably still like saimin. I learned this lesson late, but at least I learned it. I eat saimin now. I eat fancy bowls that would qualify as haute cuisine, and bowls topped simply with green onion and fishcake. I eat bowls when I’m ravenous after swimming, when I need something soothing and starchy after a night of sake, or just when I want to reconnect with people and times past.

That’s the thing about coming from an anti-saimin stance. Knowing nothing, with no saimin history to measure against, I have no rules about noodles, broth or toppings. I just like what I like. Here are my favorite bowls.

No. 5: Palace Saimin (1 of 5)

No. 5: Palace Saimin

The gold standard for many saimin purists, Palace makes its broth the way it has for 67 years — with pork, pork bones and beef tendon, simmered every morning for hours. I didn't know that when I dug in for the first time last year. And ended up inhaling: firm, curly noodles alternating with slurps of light, meaty, mildly sweet broth and strips of roast pork. Palace taught me I could like saimin, which was a powerful discovery for my inner local.

Palace Saimin
1256 N. King St.

Our Top 5 archive
Our Top 5: Pancakes (by Melissa Chang)
Our Top 5: Roast pork (by Myong Choi)
Our Top 5: Burgers (by Ed Morita)
Our Top 5: Poke (by Grant Shindo)
Our Top 5: Cocktails (by Tracy Chan)
Our Top 5: Fried chicken (by Diane Seo)


You can read all of Mari’s blogs at Follow Mari on Twitter @NonStopMari or email at

About Mari Taketa

Mari Taketa is a dedicated eater who's as opinionated as she is hungry. She covered everything from neighborhood mom-and-pop places to ethnic eateries to fine dining restaurants on Honolulu's dining scene for Metromix Honolulu and The Honolulu Advertiser's TGIF. Before that, she ate her way through Vietnam, Scotland and Japan, where she lived, traveled or worked, after recovering from a journalism career that included stints as editor-in-chief of Hawaii Business magazine and reporter and editor at The Associated Press. Her goals are to always be hungry for more, and to always want to know what's around the next corner.

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