Honolulu's Freshest Noodles

Meet the noodle makers rolling out the Island’s nicest noodles by hand... and foot!


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One ball of dough begets many types of noodles at Town restaurant (left). A thin tajarin, a broad tagliolini and an even broader tagliatelle are among the cuts of pasta in rotation on Town’s menu (right).

Caldiero brings to Town the pasta pedigree of an Italian kid from Queens raised on his grandmother’s homemade noodles. While he was too young at the time to pick up any pointers from her, he did sleep on the couch for the cause. “When my grandmother came over she wouldn’t have anywhere to dry her pasta, so she would dry it in the sheets of my bed,” he says.

While the cut of pasta on Town’s menu changes nightly, the recipe for the dough generally remains the same: equal parts coarse semolina flour and fine type 00 flour, one egg for each cup of flour, extra virgin olive oil and water. After the dough’s mixed and rested, it’s fed through a shiny stainless steel electric pasta machine, which, after several passes, produces a single band of dough several yards long.

Using a knife, the chef slices the noodles directly from this band. The width of the cut depends on what the noodle will go with. If it’s something hearty, perhaps roasted eggplant and dandelion greens in a chili-flake tomato sauce, the cut may be about a centimeter in width, creating a fettuccinelike tagliatelle. If it’s something delicate, like a bottarga made from the roe of mahi-mahi, then an angel-hair-thin tajarin might be in order. In the fall, when the ragu and bolognese sauces appear, the one-inch-wide pappardelle noodles do as well.

Whatever the case, the pasta noodle at Town is no mere starch component. It’s the star of the pasta show.

“The main thing that you’re eating pasta for is the pasta,” says sous chef Alika Chung, one of Town’s regular noodle makers. “Sauces and condiments are the supporting actors.”

With the joy of fresh pasta also comes a certain challenge for diners—eating it all while it’s still hot. Fresh pasta soaks up sauces more quickly and thoroughly than dried pasta, and, if it’s not eaten right away, the dish can turn bricklike.

“It’s not like eating other pasta,” Chung says. “It’s a completely different experience. It’s a sin to let pasta get cold. When it’s served, the best thing to do is shut up and eat until your pasta is gone.” 3435 Waialae Ave., 735-5900, townkaimuki.com.
 


Before it’s sliced, the look funn at Ying Leong Look Funn Factory resembles flattened burritos.

Ying Long Look Funn

As the name implies, the Ying Leong Look Funn Factory makes look funn, the broad, flat rice noodle. This is the only noodle the factory produces, although it does it in three different ways: plain, with green onion and char siu, or with green onion and dried shrimp. Ying Leong’s look funn is served at nearly 100 Chinese restaurants around Honolulu, including Legend, Fook Yuen, and the Panda Express at Ala Moana Center. There’s a good chance that, if you’ve eaten Chinese on this island, you’ve crossed paths with this noodle.

The noodle making here is old school and labor intensive. It involves four to eight workers, all from China and mostly women. They start at 4:30 a.m., setting four cauldrons of water to boil, preparing orders made the day before for delivery, and making the cheong, the milky slurry of rice, water and corn starch from which that day’s look funn will be made. They work in hairnets, white aprons and well-coordinated flurries of activity. “They’re all synchronized,” says Daniel Chee, son of the factory’s long-time director, Foo Ying Chee. “Basically, they’re like a running machine.”
 

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