Saimin Noodles Soup, Hawaii's version of ramen, always hits the spot! Add any toppings you like to make it your own.
Saimin Noodles Soup is one of the many treasured dishes of Hawaii. It's offered all throughout the Hawaiian islands. You can even find it at 7-11 or on the McDonald's menu. Yes, seriously! Only in Hawaii, of course. If you're lucky enough to spend some time on the island of Kauai, Hamura Saimin specializes in it.
On blistering hot and humid summer days, you will not see a shortage of locals devouring bowls of hot noodle soup. Saimin isn't only a lunch or dinner meal. It's great any time of day. Breakfast? Midnight snack? Hangover cure? Yes, yes and yes!
What are Saimin Noodles?
Saimin noodles are uniquely Hawaiian. It's a thin wheat noodle, quite similar to Japanese ramen even down to the curls. The most distinctive difference between the two is that the texture of saimin noodles have less bounce and is less chewy. They can be found fresh, frozen or dried. While some contain eggs, some do not.
It's believed that the origins of saimin date back to the early 1900s. Immigrant plantation workers from many different Asian backgrounds shared their ingredients and culture among each other. The Japanese and Chinese influence is apparent in modern day Saimin Noodles Soup.
Substitutes for Saimin Noodles
Saimin noodles can be difficult to find, especially when you're not visiting or living in Hawaii. Luckily, there are some close options that are more accessible.
Japanese ramen noodles are a very good substitute. I've used ramen noodles in my Saimin more often than not. Ramen has a toothsome quality to the noodles which I enjoy even in Saimin. But if you prefer it to be more authentic, boil the noodles a bit longer so that they're just past al dente.
Chinese egg noodles are another good option. They are much thinner and have a pronounced eggy flavor but they're a good match for Saimin soup. Just like ramen, egg noodles are more toothsome but can be cooked longer for a softer noodle.
Instant ramen noodles make another good substitute, especially if you're in a pinch. Plus, it's readily available. I mean, who doesn't always have instant noodles in their pantry? Instant noodles continue to soften sitting in soup so there's no need to overcook these noodles.
Popular Toppings for Saimin
It's super easy to customize Saimin Noodles Soup and make it your own. Below is a list of some popular toppings for Saimin. But don’t limit yourself to the common ones. Shrimp or vegetable tempura, chicken teriyaki, and dumplings or wontons go well too.
- fish cake (narutomaki or kamaboko)
- char siu
- cabbage or napa cabbage
- bean sprouts
How to Make the Soup for Saimin Noodles
Saimin soup base is typically made from chicken or pork broth simmered with a combination of dashi (flavored with dried bonito flakes) or dried shrimp. The simple broth makes Saimin so very versatile that it can accompany a wide range of toppings.
Begin by soaking 2 dried shiitake mushrooms in one cup of water. After about an hour, the mushrooms should be fully reconstituted. Trim off the thick part of the stem and slice the mushrooms. Transfer the mushrooms along with the mushroom soaking liquid to a medium sized pot or saucepan. Add in dashi stock, chicken broth, light soy sauce and sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. It's that easy!
- 1 lb saimin or ramen noodles
- 8 oz steamed fish cake (narutomaki or kamaboko), sliced
- 2 stalks scallions, chopped
- In a saucepan, combine all the BROTH ingredients (including the mushroom soaking liquid) and bring to a boil. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
- In a separate pot, boil the noodles according to the package instructions.
- To serve, add a portion of noodles to a medium-sized bowl. Top with fish cake slices and chopped scallions. The fish cake is ready to eat and will warm up in the soup.
- Ladle broth over the noodles and serve immediately.