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. As I stole my brother’s fishcake, I remember wishing the bowl would never end. I wanted the slippery noodles to last a lifetime. I tipped the near empty bowl into my mouth, tasting the salinity and savoriness of the dashi broth, and licked my lips to get it all.
Originally posted by Mirepoix Journal.