By Léo Azambuja

Justin Barcial, left, Nick Barcial and Ashley Oishi-Larusso are the fourth generation of the Hamura family that will one day take over Hamura Saimin.

Justin Barcial, left, Nick Barcial and Ashley Oishi-Larusso are the fourth generation of the Hamura family that will one day take over Hamura Saimin.

Modern local Hawaiian cuisine is a combination of early Hawaiian foods and dishes from immigrants of different ethnicities who came to Hawai‘i in the last two centuries, especially during the sugar plantation days.

There are countless types of food establishments on Kaua‘i where you can enjoy local foods. The rule of thumb for the best places to find local food is the smaller ma-and-pa types of restaurants. But Kaua‘i’s upscale restaurants and resorts also offer many dishes inspired by local cuisine.

Saimin, an original Chinese noodle soup, took a Hawaiian flair during the sugar plantation era in the 19th century. Here, it added ingredients from the Japanese, Filipinos, Koreans, Portuguese and Hawaiians to become Hawai‘i’s first fast food dish.

Serving the public since 1952, Hamura Saimin in Lihu‘e has become an icon among local food restaurants. It is always crowded with locals and visitors.

“We really take pride in what we serve. There’s real goodness in what you’re getting,” said Lori Tanigawa, the current president of Hamura Saimin. She has been working at Hamura since she was 9 years old. Her grandmother, Aiko Hamura, was the one who started the business. But it took her much trial and error, more than three renditions to finally get it going.

“I don’t know how the word is getting out, but a lot of people know about this place, which is amazing, and we don’t advertise. We never advertise,” said Tanigawa, describing Hamura Saimin as “kinda like a whole in the wall” with no ambiance and very local. Many patrons know all the workers and are considered part of the family.

Halli Holmgren enjoying a Tege Tege shave ice.

Halli Holmgren enjoying a Tege Tege shave ice.

“My workers, they see them, they already know what they want, without talking,” Tanigawa said of her regular customers.

The family’s fourth generation, Tanigawa’s daughters and nephews, have been working at Hamura for many years. Tanigawa said she hopes they will take over the business one day, but shrugs and says, “You can never tell them what to do.”

Many visitors to Hawai‘i arrive here with a checklist that inevitably includes attending a lūʻau. The quintessential tourist activity on the Islands, lūʻau are actually quite accurate when it come