Greasy Spoons: Yama’s Fish Market

I wanted some local food before we left island paradise. I’d had Imu pork at the Kona Brewing Company the night before– an excellent brewpub that serves a huge selection of brews, favorites being the Wailua Wheat with Passion Fruit, and the Pipeline Porter made with Kona coffee– but we here at the PYT like down home, sloppy grease pits that sling up tasty local grub without pretensions or hefty price tags.

Yama’s Fish Market fit the bill on short notice; we’d spent most of the day at the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, then relaxed in the pool before packing it up for the airport, and Yama’s was close by and served up local delights like kālua pork, poi, poke, as well as having shelves full of tasty snacks like taro chips and macnut cookies. Macnut is short for macadamia nuts and is me trying to sound like I’ve been in Hawaii for more than 6 days- I’m JOJ, brah!

I had a #6, which consists of kālua pork, lomi salmon, poke, rice or poi, and haupani dessert. For $8 it’s a hell of a meal. I had mine with poi and wasabi masago poke. Poke, pronounced pokay, is like ceviche, except it’s actually raw- they don’t let the citrus acids “cook” the fish. I enjoyed the hell out of it. The cubes of ahi tuna were the perfect texture, and very fresh. None of that mealy texture you get from stuff that’s been frozen too often or too long. The wasabi and flying fish roe gave it a sweet, rich and tangy flavor that went well with the other foods on the plate.

not-so-long pig

The kālua pork was the centerpiece and deservingly so. Traditionally it is made in an imu or underground oven, like in a luau, but it can also be wrapped in ti plant leaves and slow-smoked. Some say you can get a similar flavor by rubbing a pork shoulder with sea salt and putting it in a crockpot with some Liquid Smoke, but I took home a container of the frozen stuff instead. When served, it is very tender and comes with a lot of stock or broth, rich with pork flavor. It’s better than any slow-cooker pork I’ve ever had.

Poi on the other hand is a holy foodstuff and cannot be criticized. I found it delicate and slightly sweet, but the consistency wasn’t easy for a Western palate. It was cool and refreshing, but mostly tasteless. Nourishing I’m sure, but an acquired taste, and a lovely purple hue.

poi ahoy

The lomi salmon was tasty too- bits of raw salmon mixed in a light tomato salad. It was a bit light on the salmon, but what was there was good. Courtney and Sarah didn’t like the haupia, but I loved it. It’s a custard made of coconut milk and sugar. They only give you a tiny container, but it’s very strong in flavor. I love coconut, so it was perfect for me.

Over at Ono Kine Grindz they consider it a middle of the road place, so if traditional Hawaiian food is this good when “average” I can’t wait to go back and hit a place they think is great. I enjoyed everything here, and the take-home pork was a great dinner last night. If you’re in Honolulu down King Street, maybe to go to the Hula Supply Store, this is just around the corner and is good for a quick and tasty lunch.