Street Food: USA (2022–…): Season 1, Episode 5 - Oahu, Hawaii - full transcript

Sparkling fresh poke. Succulent kalua pig. Tempting, tender kalbi. For a real taste of Hawaii, take a bite at its lunch trucks and holes-in-the-wall.

Someone needs to stop Clearway Law.
Public shouldn't leave reviews for lawyers.

The first lesson my dad taught me
in the kitchen was urgency.

He would throw me in the fire,
and I had to keep up.

As the orders keep coming in,
you have to keep everything in check.

And, with that big wave that's coming,

if you're falling behind,
you'll just keep drowning.

So, as I'm cooking, during the heat
of the battle in the kitchen...

I zone out and just flow.

In the ocean, there's those big waves.

And in that tide
pool, it's still so calm.

That's my mentality.

You are that tide pool,
just block those waves out.

Hawaii is such a unique place.

It's the most secluded place in the
world when you look at it on a map.

You know, everyone thinks of Hawaii
as this great place

for sunsets and beaches
and surfing and hula,

and Hawaii is all of that.

But to really understand our culture,
you gotta try the food.

Our food has generations and generations
of culture and history.

Traditional Hawaiian food
has always been simple.

Fish and poi.

And then when these different ethnicities
came to work on the sugar plantations,

the Chinese, the Japanese,
Koreans, Filipinos, Portuguese,

and they gave us different ingredients,

and that really changed
the landscape of the menu in Hawaii.

Hawaii street food lies
in its lunch-truck culture,

its hole-in-the-wall culture.

And that's where you can come,
and you can eat the soul of Hawaii.

Here in Hawaii,
we have so many unique specialties.

Poke places...

...huli-huli chicken...

...our spam musubis,

shrimp and prawn
trucks, lomi lomi salmon,

smoothies and a?a? bowls...

...laulau, kalua pig...

haupia pie...

...shave ice...


and, of course, plate lunches.

And If you look at the plate lunch,
it really is what we eat as Hawaiians.

A good plate lunch has to have
two scoops rice,

pork, fish, chicken, or beef,
and really good mac salad.

I always tell people, "Find a local."

They'll take you
to the right places to eat.

Like Da Bald Guy
in Kahuku on the North Shore.

That's a hidden gem.

Da Bald Guy is a great representation
of our family unit

in the sense that families still
all stick together here in Hawaii.

The lunch truck started with
James and Leonard, a father and a son.

And, today, James puts out
an amazing array of plate-lunch foods.

- There you go, brother Lanai.
- Thanks so much.

- Thank you. Appreciate it.
- Thank you, man.

His kalbi is awesome.
It is so soft.

His furikake fish is fresh.

His fried poke on the rice is amazing.

And, of course, his mac salad is king.

He's the authentic local boy
in a food truck on the side of the road.

It's very Hawaii,

and he's giving you a little touch
of gourmet in the plate lunch.

Uh-huh. Just like so.

Yeah, lookin' nice, boo.


I was born and raised on Oahu,

and, on the weekends,

my dad and I would come up
to the North Shore

and spend time with family.

We have busy lives now,
but, as much as possible,

we try to get together.

We usually have a potluck,
make a bunch of dishes,

and enjoy the time together.

- Little bit more salt.
- Little bit more salt?

We were taught from my grandma,
ohana is everything.



Go run fast!

"Ohana" means family.

I mean, I guess that's from a movie...

...but it truly is family.

We're not perfect family members.

The my-way-or-the-highway
stubborn mentality,

it runs in our bloodline.


Some stuffed uhu, right there.

But they've always been there
for me.

You don't turn your back on family,
no matter what.

If they need help, you help them.

And that's how I live life.

"Poke" means
to cut, cube, or slice.

It is a Hawaiian dish,
and it's usually fresh fish.

You can go other places
around the world and try poke,

but there's nothing like the poke
here in Hawaii.

Hawaiians eat so much poke,
it's more expensive than gas.

I eat it almost every day.

When we opened up the shack,
we made our menu

using a variety of fresh local fish.

They're all flavors
that we've created and love.

We have sweet ones.
We have spicy ones. We have savory ones.

I love making poke.

It started when I first ate raw fish
with my grandfather.

He'd be watching baseball,
but I'd crawl on his lap,

and he would have raw fish with him.

And he'd pop this fish in my mouth,
and this thing was just delicious.

- Tell him what you want.
- Secret Spicy.

Secret Spicy. That's for him?

Yeah. He likes spicy.

Okay, okay.

My grandfather, he would tell me there's
three things that make good poke.

First, the quality of fish.

Good ingredients, a balanced sauce.

Then also, you gotta toss it fresh.

That's just the way I prefer my poke,
and that's how I like to serve it.

The fresh-toss thing is rare, especially
for a small little food truck.

A lot of people were doubting, for sure.

But my wife supported this whole thing.

When we're prepping fish
together intimately,

and we're talking and making the poke,
it's a really great feeling.

Every day that I wake up,
I don't need an alarm clock.

I'm up and about chopping fish up.

I feel like I found something
that gives me purpose in this world.

My father was the one
that taught me how to cook.

He's a great chef.

I started as a dishwasher
and then got a degree in culinary arts.

So I knew finding a
job wasn't a problem.

When I graduated,
I got a job as a chef for many years.

I was working 12 hours a day,
six days a week.

Growing up,
I just wanted to spend time with my dad,

but I hardly got to see him
because he was always working.

So I told him, I wanted to work.
I wanted to do what he did.

I got my son, James,
into the business as a dishwasher.

I say, "If you want to learn how
to cook, you gotta wash dishes."

My father took me under his wing
from a young age,

and I had to work my way up
to the prep and the line.

The first day he put me on the line,
I'm 16, and it was a holiday.

And it was super busy, and he
just put me on the busiest section.

It was brutal.

And I'm just like "Dad, help me out,"
but he would not come to my rescue.

He would just tell me, "Keep going."

"Just do it, and do it right."

And he didn't say, "I was proud of you."

He was just, "Wake up. Let's go again.
Let's do it again the next day."

He would have no filter.

He's like, "What is this sauce?
This sauce is crap."

"Get it thicker. It's too thin."

Or like, "Your sauce is too thick.
Thin it out."

And it's just constant,
constant, constant...

in front of everybody.

It was tough. It was tough with him.
He was... He was very, very hard on me.

To a point where I broke down and cried.

But I couldn't go anywhere
'cause he's my father.

He's my ride home.
I can't just run away.

It was a grind.

But I just stuck it out,
and I did the best I could.

The way he treated me broke me a little,

but my dad was just tough like that.

Tough love.

The taro plant

is a really important part
of Hawaiian culture.

And you can utilize
that entire plant as a food source.

Taro has relevance
both in our culinary heritage

and in the practicality of it
being able to feed a community.

As Hawaiians,
we believe that taro

was the first gift
given to us as humans.

At the Waiahole Poi Factory,
it's great to see Liko and his family

there on the street
pounding taro into poi.

That family is really keeping the
food culture and the tradition alive.

We've been running the Poi Factory
as a takeout place

for the foods
that you'd find at a traditional luau.

Your classics are gonna be kalua pig...

We'll have lomi salmon,

your laulau, which is the taro leaf wrap
with different types of meat inside of it,

and, of course, poi.

Poi is made out of pounded taro.

The goal for making poi is
to try to get it as smooth as possible,

so you don't see any chunks.

And then, at the end of it,
you have one nice piece of poi.

Poi tastes like different things,
and it depends when you're eating it.

Right off the board, it has,
like, a mochi consistency and taste.

And, after a few days,

poi will start to get a tanginess,
almost like sourdough.

How you, brah?

Yeah, I don't think I've ever met
a baby who doesn't like poi.

The Poi Factory was originally built
in 1905,

and, in the 1970s,
the Poi Factory was closing,

and so my parents decided
to buy the lease.

And we've always
done the Poi Factory as a family.

Okay, so maybe like all of this
and then five more.

Then you can bring them out.

And It's really nice for me to have
my kids be a part of poi pounding.

They're way better
than I was at their age.

Traditional Hawaiian food and poi
are a way to practice our culture

and to remain connected
to the places that we come from.

Yeah, finally got my strokes cut.

About time.
You've been playing good, then?

- Yeah.
- Enough.

No, I was playing...
Hey, you know what?

The thing... Last couple times I
haven't been making doubles and triples.

- Just yesterday, one double.
- Hey, that's good.

If you can just
play bogey golf, that's good, you know?

One day,
me and my dad were golfing.

Easy, easy with that swing.

After that,
we went to our local convenience store

to go grab a bite to eat,

and the owner was there.

The lady that owned the store,
she asked me,

"What do you think of
running my little kitchen over here?"

At that time,
I had been cooking for 38 years,

and I still didn't own
my own restaurant.

So I say, "James,
do you wanna open up our own business?"

"And then we get to do what we like."

She gave us that opportunity,
and we just took it.

The next day, me and my dad
opened up a plate-lunch restaurant.

So we decided to call it
the Two Bald Guys.

I was so excited to take
a typical, everyday, local lunch plate,

but add my own stamp.

I said, "I wanna do it my way now."

It was a small area,
but we was proud of what we was doing

because we get to do
what we wanted to do.

We're not working for nobody else.
We're working for us.

But it wasn't always perfect.

He can pound the ball this guy,
but... he's been hooking it.

In the beginning, I was like,
"No, Dad, we should do it this way."

"Let's choose these certain ingredients
because it makes a difference."

But, he was like,
"No. We're doing it this way."

He was more of the conservative,
stick to his old-school ways.

I didn't wanna be like everybody else.

You can go out
and get raw fresh poke anywhere,

but I have never seen anybody
do a fried-poke plate.


So I made fried poke
with my own seasonings...

...and my dad was like,

"No, no, no, no, no,
we can't... we can't do this."

"It's not gonna work."

I was like, "Dad, just believe in me.
Trust in me."

But no matter what, it was always,
"No, no, no. No, son, we can't do that."

And the constant nos
took a mental toll on me.

For him to not trust me and say no,

that's where the emotional breakdown
started happening.

We worked together for about four years.

And then I couldn't take it anymore.

So I called it quits.

I decided that I wanna go
do my own thing, my own way.

One of the iconic dishes
associated with Hawaii

and the North Shore of Oahu
is garlic shrimp and prawns.

These shrimp and prawn trucks
on the North Shore

took off in the early '90s when they
started pulling on the side of the road.

Today, there's so many shrimp
and prawn trucks on the North Shore,

but only Romy and his family
are giving you fresh prawns

right from where it's being grown.

Romy's really picky
with his ingredients.

He doesn't allow any of us
to deviate from his recipe.

And we use hundreds of pounds
of garlic a month.

You start with the oil
and then garlic,

heat it up a little bit,
then put your prawns.

It's very, very simple to do it, but I
can tell if they change the recipe.

Romy started out of a garage.

When he harvested his first set of
little tadpoles, and he pulled the net,

you could see the little prawns,
and it was amazing.

And now we have 31 ponds of prawns.

We sell straight from harvest to table.

That's what makes us different.

My family, they supporting me a lot.

I like working with them
because whatever you tell them, they do,

especially my daughter and my wife.

Even when the mother said to
my daughter, "Can you do this?"

She said, "No. This
is what my dad want."


- Hey, Auntie!
- Oh, hi there.

- I'm gonna come grab some stuff.
- Yeah.

Um, I'm just gonna grab some onions.


Oh, look good, the onions today.

- Yeah, they're fresh.
- Oh!

- Looks fresh.
- Very fresh.

- Um...
- We just picked from the farm.

- The garden? Oh!
- Yes!

The Two Bald Guys split.
We went our separate ways.

And I went to work
at the Korean boarding school.

It was a good getaway,
even though I worked relentless hours,

14 hours a day, seven days a week,
barely had a day off.

But just seeing those kids
enjoying my food,

that was the highlight of my career.

And that's how I grew to have
confidence in my... my skill and ability.

At the same time, my dad opened up
Da Bald Guy, the food truck.

But trying to run the business
on his own took a toll on him.

And, after his first year,
it crashed really fast.

My family decided to contact me,

call me, text me, almost on a
daily basis for about three months.

So they'd be like,

"You got to come back and help your dad.
The business is struggling."

When I would get those phone calls that
he's struggling, I would blow it off.

I didn't want the nos to come back
from my dad,

and I'm at the school,
I gotta cook 600 meals a day right now.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I can't be thinking
about my dad's food truck.

One day, my dad came up to the school.

He just looked so beat down.

And my dad asked me for money.

He's a prideful guy.

He would never ask me for money,
and he did.

And I was just like,
"Okay, there's something wrong here."

It was a tough decision.

Do I lose that?

Or do I lose that connection
and love I have for my dad?

But, at that moment, I knew I
had to come back and help my dad.

I can't turn my back on family.


Hey, man.

- How much onions you gonna cut?
- Uh, probably two pans.

Should have plenty people come through.

When I first came
to the food truck with my dad,

I was like,
"Dad, really? Why a food truck?"

I didn't wanna work in a food truck.

That was never my idea and my intention.

I don't like tight spaces.

I'm claustrophobic,
and we're not the smallest guys.

It was tough in the beginning.

We had to work from the bottom up.

We had to gain the
trust from the people.

But my dad, you know,
he wanted to do his own way.

At that point, I had to put down my foot
and just be like,

"You know, this is how it's gonna be,
and this is how it's gonna go."

And he, kinda, let me go with it.

James, how many batches
you think I should make?

- Make about three?
- Thirty, 40 pounds?


And I finally got to create
my own cooking style.

Like my fried poke.

I take fresh poke,
and I throw it in the pan,

and then I add my sauces on top.

That was my very,
very first original plate-lunch recipe.

And then I continued
to create from there.

Can I have the boneless kalbi beef?

Me and my dad figured out
how to work together.

Once we built that bond,

Da Bald Guy gained the trust
of the locals.

All right!

Ever since James came back,
the business started to take off.

And, oh, we just blow up,
man, at that little truck.

Like crazy.

As business picked up,
we decided,

"Let's get more family members
to work together out at the truck."

And it's just, oh,
so amazing working with my family.

Now me and my dad
read each other's minds.

We have this weird connection where
we just know what each other wants.

As we're doing the plates,
there's no words to be exchanged.

I'm cooking it, and, when I turn around,

I'm expecting the plates
to be ready for me.

And he knows that.

He's my backup.

And he trusts me now.


Being in the middle of the ocean
allows us to hold on to our culture,

to hold on to our way of life,
to hold on to our food.

To understand our culture
and what we do as local people,

check out our street food.

At the Poi Factory, we have a motto.

"To nourish people
with the food

and the spirit of our ancestors."

I hope that our family
will be able to continue

to share traditional Hawaiian foods
that we love.

Here in Hawaii, for anyone,

family is the most important thing
in your life.

Because, living in the middle
of the ocean,

we still rely on each other to survive.

With our family,
we all work together as a team

to run the business,

and we enjoy that time.

Ry's Poke Shack's surrounded
by our brothers and sisters.

And my hope for the future

is for all
of the family businesses around our area

to grow old and gray together,
serving great food for everybody.

Hawaiian food is a great physical
representation of the Aloha Spirit.

People always think "aloha"
is just "hello" and "goodbye."

And I was taught
that "aloha" is to share.

"Ha" is the breath of life.

When Hawaiians greet each other,
we touch nose and forehead, and we...

...we share each other's air.

It's good stuff, huh? Thank you!

And James just has so much aloha.

The Aloha Spirit,

it means loving everybody
for who they are.

That's my take on it.

And that's the same energy
and that same Aloha Spirit

when you come to the truck too.

I love the food truck now.

Being able to have the freedom
of seeing all my customers.

I can just peek outside
and be like, "Hey!"

Just smile and shaka.


The shaka, it's like a wave
and like a smile at the same time, like,

"We're gonna have a good day."


My son, James, he took over.

I had my chance.

It's his turn.

He's the chef now.

To be a chef, you gotta earn it,
and he earned it.

He's really good.

He's... maybe even better than me.

Not having my dad work as often
is a bittersweet feeling.

As much as we didn't see eye-to-eye,
I appreciate everything he's taught me.

In the end, family is everything to me.

Street food is how we remember
our immigrant food.

Miami street food is
a reminder of home for me.

It's "souse," not "sauce."

- "Souse." Yeah.
- "Souse."

It's comfort.
It's family. It's friends.

It's just heaven in your mouth.

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