In April, I was meeting a friend on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu to drive up to the North Shore. When his flight got pushed back a day, I had 18 hours and an idle Tuesday to kill in Honolulu.
I knew next to nothing about Hawaiian food and honestly like everyone else came for the beach. Grab a fruity cocktail, park my ass in the sand, chill. Leaving Manhattan to walk around the largest city in Hawaii sounded much less desirable.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. I wandered through the most electric Chinatown district I’ve ever seen, I ate the freshest bowl of Tuna Poke I’ll ever have from a grocery store and tore into Portuguese donuts that could be in the running for a “last meal”. But it was this dish and this restaurant that woke me up to the beauty of Hawaiian food.
Helena’s is in a working class neighborhood on the outskirts of town and has been shelling out old island staples since 1946. When you walk in the door, you immediately recognize the salted short ribs drying over the cook top. The dish is called Pipikaula and is like a cross between jerky and pastrami. It’s served with crisp, sweet onions and volcanic red salt.
It is a meal so good, you will no longer come to Hawaii for the beach, you will come for the food.
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