Anything for a good view (from last year's Eddie)!
1/31/11 - I guess the famous charger's memorial event was a no-go this past month, but unlike a crystal ball, hind-sight is always 20/20 - we still had to chance 'em, right alongside the huge crowds who were perched on every imaginable vantage point available! Bouncing buoys and a promising weather forecast prompted Kumi and I to leave the house by 6am, hoping for a chance to experience a huge slice of surf history first-hand. By the time we got there, found parking, and made our way down to the beach, however, not only could we feel a skosh' less buzz and electricity in the air than at last year's Eddie, but also apparent was a noticeably smaller set of waves! At the big event roughly a year ago, breaks were so huge that from our beach-side vantage point, you couldn't even see the bombers rolling in from way outside, as the inside breaks were also so big, they were blocking the way! Don't get me wrong, though - it was still gai-gantic this past month - the entire coast was going off, and when Waimea is breaking outside and surfable, it's a special treat in itself, Eddie or not!
This past Christmas, Kumi presented me with a shock-proof, water-proof, 14-megapixel Olympus Stylus Tough camera, which I now carry along with me almost everywhere, whether that be at work or play! It's just what I wanted, and it gives me a lot more freedom to shoot when we're out hiking, fishing, surfing, or anywhere else. Of course, even a 14-pixel point-and-shoot won't be as sharp as my bulkier, much more delicate Canon XSI, but I'll be able to present shots I never would have attempted before, including this panoramic view of the almost-Eddie!
Eyes of the surf world all centered on Waimea Bay!
As you can see, there was a decent and hopeful crowd on-hand, but it was right-about 8:30am when the final word came through booming loudspeakers that the contest was off, prompting a slow, controlled exodus off the beach. Kumi and I stuck around for a while, though, still in awe of the powerful waves and giant-cajone surfers, all of whom looked like ants out there:
Not ants, but giant-cajone surfers!
Whitewash like a moving Freeway!
Last year, we paid $5 for parking just before the landmark Pupukea Foodland, while $10 slots were available near the church, only steps away from Waimea Bay itself. This year, believe it or not, we paid $20 for a Foodland-vicinity lot, while parking near the church went for an astounding $40!!! These guys sure know how to make a fast buck!
Of course, you could argue it'd be worth it if the Eddie was actually on. Only when Mother Nature blesses us with 20+ ft. sets (40 ft. normal standard) and rideable conditions do they declare it a go, and that's only been 8 times since its inaugural event back in 1984. Contest or not, though, the eyes of the entire surf world are all congregated on the North Shore of Oahu each and every Winter. It really is a treat watching these monster waves rolling in, with thundering shorebreak that could snap a grown man's spine like a toothpick only steps away:
Dirty lickin's, anyone?
Meanwhile, after the disappointing news, Kumi and I slowly ambled off the beach and went searching for some breakfast, as it was already 10am by the time we left Waimea Bay. Another shrimp truck, perhaps? Cholo's? Luibueno's? Naaah, not today. Today, it was all about curry! I had been wanting to try a relatively new spot nearby call Fiji Market and Curry Shop, located at the Kahuku Sugar Mill, for the past several months now. Meals at Fiji Market are not actually served until 11am except Sunday (closed), but the Polynesian grocery store was operational well before that time, and it was then that we met its super-cool owner, Nitin Singh, who was kind enough to take us on a mini-tour of his roughly year-old establishment. He says many of the items are extremely popular throughout much of Polynesia, but not found anywhere else in Hawaii, such as Twisty's chips and FMF-brand breakfast crackers:
Not gonna find these at your nearest Foodland or Safeway!
Why, Nitin even encourages you to make a batch of curry on your own, with spices imported straight from Fiji! Along with garlic, onion, salt, and whatever types of meat and vegetables you want, he says all you need is curry powder and turmeric, both of which we purchased for a later meal.
Past nations have waged war for this powdered gold!
My friend from Pakistan, who also cooks an awesome pot of curry, employs other spices as well, such as garam masala, coriander, and cardomom seed, even though curry powder is actually a mix of these very spices, and then some. She also uses both tomatoes and tomato paste, but because Nitin believes that doing so spoils the pure taste of curry, they provide a puree of tomato chutney on the side instead. I then asked about the differences between Indian and Fijian curries, and his response was that there is always a sweet element in Indian styles, but none whatsoever in traditional Fijian versions.
We'll see these particular curries soon enough, but for now, let's continue with another great, house-made product from Fiji Market, perfect for a hot North Shore day!
A steal at a measly 50 cents, these orange and coconut treats were delicious, both coming with a very natural taste that was sweet but not overly so. If you're in before 11am, when their curries aren't quite ready yet, make sure to try at least one of these little treats!
But if you're looking for something hot during early-bird hours, there are also hot, New Zealand-style meat pies from a producer overseas who has granted Nitin exclusive rights of distribution on the island. Meat pies are found all throughout New Zealand, Australia, and parts of Europe, where they are often sold in restaurants as well as the overseas equivalents of our own 7-Eleven convenience stores.
Fresh from the oven!
Inside, they look like ground hamburger meat in gravy, but for some reason, they also carried that distinct flavor of corned beef hash. Not sure what that's all about! A layer of cheddar was also used.
As for the outsides, they were nice 'n crusty, a good balance to the generous amounts of Sloppy Joe-like meat (in texture, not taste!) inside. You can probably tell that this is no light snack, but an ample, filling meal that'll more than hold you over:
Calling all carnivores!
The specialty of the house, curry, is ordered from a small window near the rear, where Nitin's wife rules over her kitchen:
Queen of the kitchen!
On the counter, a set of self-serve containers housing whole chilis and fresh-made chutneys, one a sour tamarind and the other a sweet mix of different fruits. I was a little disappointed that there was no raita, a kind of Indian yogurt sauce and another staple sauce/side, but then again, I'm not sure they even use it in Fiji!
Chutneys and peppers.
After placing your order, try sticking around the kitchen for a while, as everything is made fresh right then and there. There are no giant pots of curry sitting around all day, nor flatbreads of roti steaming away in a holding basket. Instead, you can smell the fresh garlic, onions, and spices cooking right before your very nose, and the smell waffling through the store is fantastic! You can stay inside and watch the whole process through the large, open window, or simply take a seat outside and wait for them to bring your plates out.
Dining area at Fiji Market.
And soon enough, our first plate arrived:
The double-colored mix above are the chutneys I added myself, while their tangy tomato chutney is included on every plate. The main dish is a curry of chicken, with giant, lean, yet tender pieces. Now, I'm normally not a white-meat chicken fan, but these large blocks were surprisingly moist and flavorful, easily tearing apart in clean, beautiful sections:
Clean, white, tender, and very lean meat.
The only caveat I have with these plates is... I wish there were more curry than meat! Once again, I'm not sure how they do it in Fiji, but I do know that in most indigenous cultures, meats are used rather sparingly, simply because of the value and special nature of proteins as opposed to cheaper and more readily-available items like veggies, starches, and sauces. I know it's a privilage, but personally, I'd rather have smaller chunks of meat that are literally swimming in bowl-fuls of soup-like curry! My friend from Fiji says you can actually request a wetter curry, as he calls it, so I'll be sure to let them know next time.
For starch, there is cassava, white rice, brown rice, or roti, as shown here:
Also made from scratch and to order, these flatbreads are the perfect companion to a wet curry, and come with a dense yet soft, moist, and tender body. Sometimes called chapati, among other things, my Pakistani friend made these from a pan with lots and lots of oil, which makes them oooh, so good but also oh, so rich! I forgot to check, but it looks like these were instead cooked over a wire grill.
Here's a torn-off piece of roti with some friends, playing the part of a mini burrito wrapper:
Who needs a fork?
That chunk of meat comes from lamb, the main ingredient of our next plate:
At first, I was a little bummed there was no Jasmine rice, only white or brown, but as you can probably see, this order of brown rice wasn't the typical variety you see everywhere. First of all, they were long-grains, and secondly, they were so lightly-colored, I almost thought we mistakenly received white rice! The fragrance, taste, and texture was closer to Jasmine than to either white or brown, and being the local boy that I am, and despite the fact that I love roti/chapati, I found this particular rice the best match for both our curry choices.
As for the generously-provided lamb, once again, I would have preferred more curry and less meat, but the cuts of meat were tender and tasty, coming with a very rustic, old-school touch, as there were portions of bone and fat that provide so much more taste and personality. Very nice.
Outside of lamb and chicken, they also feature shrimp, beef, and vegetarian versions, as well, all of which I'd love to try one day. It's not the biggest set of choices in the world, as we've just mentioned or covered the entire menu, but for a traditional taste of the South Pacific, Fiji Market and Curry Shop is the place to be! Thanks once again and best wishes to Nitin Singh, his family, and his much-needed establishment, as it definitely fulfills a niche out there on the North Shore.
In parting, I'll leave you with one final shot of nearby Malaekahana Beach Park, a site of many a fond memory and several weekend camping trips in the past:
Malaekahana Beach Park.
No can touch Hawaii!!!
Hope you're all having a good month! Pray for Eddie's will and giant surf next year!
Take care, and Aloha till next time!
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Great pics and article. Love the talk story style and can't wait to sample the grindz!
Thanks Maui Sky! Tell Nitin hello for me when you get there!
My family will be traveling to your beautiful island in May. This type of food located in an "off-the-beaten-path" location is EXACTLY what I'm looking for to experience the taste of Hawaii. Love the article; tantalizing photos -- makes my mouth water as I read it. Thank you.
Thanks DannaTx! Yes, do check it out, and make sure you try a cold, house-made popsicle on a hot Hawaiian day - coconut is my fave!