Archive for July, 2011

July 25, 2011

Pahoa digs series: Ning’s Thai Cuisine serves curry, memories

Aromatic spices of cooking curry tickles my nose; a pleasant Thai melody fills my ears with ambient noise. Taken on a journey across the years by the familiar atmosphere, I rest assured that Ning’s Thai Cuisine will give me a delicious dinner that will make my taste buds tingle.

My table orders a slew of different curries: green, red and pineapple. We also order both sticky rice and brown rice. A real likeable aspect of Ning’s is being able to try many different dishes; everyone receives separate plates.

The pillow of rice goes onto the plate, followed by a heaping of vegetable-filled curry. The sauce absorbs into the rice like a sponge, but the rice remains just right, with a certain amount of softness and chew. The smooth coconut milk in the sauce marriages perfectly with the blend of spices.

If there is one thing you learn from reading this article, it is to not pass up the curries if you visit Pahoa town. To do so would be a crime ending in non-delicious demise. The curries are the highlight of the menu.

Don’t forget to order a Thai Iced Tea, which is described by the menu as “a sweet and creamy orange tint drink.” The blaringly orange beverage is a thick, sweetened black tea topped with coconut milk or cream.

Star anise, crushed tamarind and cardamom are occasionally added to Thai iced tea, according to

Ning’s Thai Cuisine is a choice dining spot for locals, and tourists who drop by aren’t quick to forget their experience.

“I had it [Thai food] in Wisconsin, and I had it in Illinoi

s and in Kona, but one thing I can say certainly is that Ning’s surpassed all of them,” says Austin Cole, a visiting University of Minnesota Twin Cities student.

“If you’re taking someone on a date, [the prices] are all good,” adds Cole.

Asked about the atmosphere of the restaurant, he answers and laughs, “the atmosphere… I would say it was casual… But I think everything in Hawaii seems casual coming from a straight-laced Wisconsin kid.”

Not counting desserts or beverages, the menu consists of 45 different dishes: appetizers, soups, curries, entrées, seafood, rice and noodles. Ning’s has it all: sweet or savory, mild, medium or hot. And, believe it or not, nothing costs more than $13.95 on their printed menu. There are so many options, but they all share the same outcome: tasty food and pure satisfaction.

Come in before 4:30 p.m. to partake in the super lunch deal: one of three entrées and a choice of rice for $8.95 with tofu, chicken, beef, or pork; or $10.95 for shrimp, scallops, or squid. The deal entrées change daily. The dinner deals aren’t too bad either: $14.95 for an entrée with rice.

Pumpkin curry makes a cameo appearance from time to time on the specials menu, though not listed on the print menu. Curious foodies can try this delightfully creamy dish at the Maku’u Farmer’s Market, where Ning’s sells several varieties of curry on Sunday mornings.

A webpage is the closest Ning’s Thai Cuisine has to an official website, where they have a neat four and a half stars based off of 37 reviews. It’s definitely an ode to the exceptional food served at the restaurant.

As the day dims to night, the strand of festive, albeit unseasonal, Christmas bulbs flicker punctuated every few feet by a dead bulb, and I think to myself in a state of taste-induced bliss: Yep, it’s just as good as I remember it.

Ning’s Thai Cuisine is open Monday through Saturday 12pm to 9pm and Sundays 5pm to 9pm.

This is volume 2 in the Pahoa digs series. Interested in reading the previous installments? Pay a visit to or for the full series.

July 18, 2011

Pahoa digs series: Exploring the unexplored, or adventures in my hometown

School has ended and I find myself escaping the hubbub of Honolulu living and into the quiet throws of tiny Pahoa town. I happen to be one of the thousands of college students heading home for summer vacation, back to all of the old places I loved to hang out at during my high school days.

Most people have never even heard of Pahoa. Hawaii’s income relies heavily on the tourist industry, yet Hilo and Kona are so much more visited than other areas of the island.

Drive forty minutes out of the popular tourist destination Hilo and enter a whole new realm. Pahoa town, population size a meager 962 according to the 2000 government census, is a quirky little place filled with bizarre characters and home to beautiful, tropical hot spots.

As with all small towns, most places of interest are obvious to locals, but totally unheard of to others, like the good surf at Pohoiki or relaxing at the volcanically-heated Ahalanui hot pond.

Travelers going further past Pahoa may find themselves in tiny rural neighborhoods, like Kalapana, which has been attracting more visitors since the opening of the Lava Viewing Site in 2009.

While many families have lived in Pahoa for generations, handfuls of newcomers also come to Pahoa to live untouched by big corporations and business men in business suits stuffed in big high-rise buildings.

Then, with the old-timers and newbies, there lies an eccentric crowd in Pahoa: those who don earthy-colored bohemian wear, perhaps with a bit of Rastafarian red, green, and yellow here and there, and full heads of dreadlocks. Some smell like incense, particularly patchouli.

This crowd, lovingly referred to as “hippies” by the local high-schoolers, are also interested in getting back to a more natural way of life.
Interestingly enough, Wikipedia notes that “there is a significantly large vegetarian or vegan community” in the district of Puna. True, the validity of Wikipedia can be debated (as our professors always caution), but that had to have been written by somebody. And, indeed, it is not hard to find vegetarian options, and even vegetarians, in Pahoa.

Living at home again this summer makes me think: sure, I know Pahoa and what it has to offer, but visitors are sorely missing out on some great digs.

Pahoa has it’s own distinctive charm, marked by a relatively unstirred way of life. Whether you’re an adventurous island explorer or a vacationer trying to kick back, Pahoa has a little bit of something for everyone.

I’ve decided to delve deeper into my roots this summer and uncover what hidden treasures lie in the place I call my hometown. Check up on my blog weekly to stay updated on my future expeditions: wading in the hot pond, slurping down local curry, and trying not to fall and scrape myself on the rough a’a lava rock as I trek across my little hometown Pahoa.

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