Saimin is one of many fine examples of the deep connection between traditional Hawaiian and Asian food cultures. Similar to ramen, but with more egg in the dough and chewier noodles, Saimin is among the most heartwarming dishes to be found during a visit to the islands.
Saimin first developed during the era of sugarcane plantations on the islands. Today, it’s something like a universal food. You’ll find saimin on menus at restaurants of all shapes, sizes, and prices, and, unlike some other traditional dishes, saimin really has no seasonality.
In addition to being popular everywhere, with everyone, year-round; saimin is also one of the islands’ most quintessential “all-day” meals; it can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and beyond. It’s also common for restaurants, stands, and the like to have their own original recipes, a feature distinct from other more classically “traditional” dishes. These secret recipes are often quite seriously guarded - meaning, when hungry, your choice of destination can be of fairly substantial importance.
Whichever island, we’re here to help.
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Though hard to find, Palace Saimin is, for many saimin enthusiasts, an establishment without comparison. Located at 1256 North King Street in Honolulu, the tiny restaurant hides across the street from the Kapalama Post Office, tucked inside a relatively unassuming assortment of residential architecture.
Look carefully and you’ll see the sign. Open from 10 AM to 8 PM, this little palace presents the opportunity to explore the dish at its best, from breakfast until after-dark snack. Parking, as you’ll immediately recognize upon arrival, is often hard to find - so be prepared to add a few extra minutes to your arrival time. But if there’s one thing visitors and locals alike can agree on, it’s that the search is well worth it.
The Big Island
On the Island of Hawaii, in the eastern city Hilo, lives Nori’s Saimin and Snacks. This is a very popular and very highly reviewed spot for classic saimin noodles and has been for roughly 30 years now. Don’t be surprised to hear visitors say this is where they found the best saimin they’ve ever had.
Nori’s is a staple in the Hawaii saimin scene. Few restaurants present a more complete experience of the dish, either as an introduction or a nostalgic rediscovery. Nori’s is located at 688 Kinoole Street and is open Tuesday through Thursday from 10:30 AM to 10 PM, Friday and Saturday from 10:30 AM to 11 PM.
If you want authentic Hawaiian saimin noodles on the island of Maui, the first place to look is arguably Tin Roof. This family-owned restaurant in Kahului is raved about in particular by saimin-seekers. The head chef/owner Sheldon Simeon was raised in Hilo and grew up shopping for food at local markets, where rain would frequently and distinctively patter against tin roofs.
Taking this disarmingly poetic inspiration to his adult life and career, Simeon and his wife Janice now own and operate this internationally recognized Maui food spot. Tin Roof is located at 360 Papa Place in Suite 116, and they are open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 AM to 8 PM.
Like many other places, Tin Roof is still currently only offering takeout - and they also don’t take reservations. Sheldon Simeon is a legend. Plan on potentially waiting, and plan on being very glad you did. Perhaps you can browse their very popular Instagram to work up your appetite in the meantime!
Unlike other islands, Kauai in its petite purity has really one definitive answer for the saimin-hungry wanderer. Luckily for those of you visiting the island, it’s also considered by many to be the ultimate saimin noodle place in all of Hawaii.
We’ve covered Hamura Saimin before - they also make killer desserts. But as the name clearly states, the definitive specialty here is the saimin.
Hamura is one of the oldest establishments still running in the state, period. The stand is nearly 70 years old, residing in the same signature little blue building in Lihue for generations. After all these years, the stand still reportedly dishes out somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 to 350 saimin bowls a week.
Hamura Saimin is at 2956 Kress Street. Holidays hours may differ, but generally the stand is open every day, from 10:30 AM to 9:30 PM.
Saimin is everywhere; whether you manage to make it to one of these iconic locations, you’ll be able to find and enjoy this wonderful comfort food anywhere on the islands.