Find Asian Snacks Galore at 1-2buy in Kaka‘ako
Spicy shrimp Lay’s potato chips, instant curry rice cups, salted milk tea and more fill this Asian warehouse store on Cooke Street.
It’s easy to miss amid the eye-catching Pow! Wow! murals around Kaka‘ako, but at the corner of Cooke and Auahi streets is a splash of aqua with an open door. Head inside to discover the treasure trove that awaits at 1-2buy.
The store may not look like much at first glance with its warehouse interior, aisles of stacked cardboard boxes and handwritten prices, but I find it endearingly low-key. Anyway, I’m not here for the looks. I come with a reusable bag or two (the shop does provide branded paper bags) to load up with snacks and other goods from the corners of Asia.
Since I discovered 1-2buy last year, I’ve been making regular trips to see what’s new. It gives me those kid-in-a-candy-store wiggles of excitement. It’s got everything from instant curry rice cups to pineapple cakes to milk teas to Lay’s chips in never-before-seen flavors like spicy shrimp, avocado mustard and Spanish ham. You’ll spy some nostalgic snacks and drinks too, like Vitasoy milk, haw flakes and Ovaltine. And everything is so affordable—most things I get are under $5.
The store is owned by Chinese company Titans Global Inc. and offers products from countries including China, Thailand, Japan and Australia. Although I’m mainly hooked on the snack and drink selection, 1-2buy sells a range of Asian groceries, skincare and hygiene products and home goods, which are also worth exploring. Like have you seen the soap dispenser that plops a cat paw- or flower-shaped dollop of soap in your hand?
Since I became friends with the manager, Cecilia Yang, I get the inside scoops on what’s new and good. She’s turned me on to mysterious self-heating hot pots (no idea how they work, but they do), mango gummies that you can peel like the actual fruits and bean-filled mochi pops. Feel free to ask her and her team what they recommend and nibble on the snacks at the sample table.
Being able to try new things and have fun while experiencing other cultures through snacks is what 1-2buy is all about. That’s why it hosts monthly tasting parties where you can come in and try products—once, it was snacks and drinks, another time it was an instant noodle fest. The shop also pops up at events around the island with snacks and even event-exclusive merch, like light-up cat and rabbit ear headbands.
Shipments come in monthly but may soon be twice a month, and the shop restocks popular items while introducing new products into the mix. So you may not find everything you picked up before, but you’ll discover something new each time. My favorites right now are the stacking Lay’s chips, Nissin instant curry rice cups (beef curry FTW) and salted cheese milk tea. That ranking may change once I get through my latest haul, which includes crunchy chips shaped like chicken drumsticks, fruit juices from Japan and a whole carton of salted eggs.
- Bring cash or pull up your Venmo account to pay. Credit and debit card charges come with extra 3.5% service fees.
- The few parking stalls right outside of 1-2buy on the Auahi St. side usually don’t get filled up. But if they do, scope out the nearby roads for street parking—I’ve had luck on Halekauwila St. You can also park at Salt at Our Kaka‘ako or H Mart and walk over, but remember to get validation from those businesses.
- The dates on the products aren’t always expiration dates. Chinese and Thai products typically print the production date, which is why you’ll see 2022 on them, so don’t assume they’ve expired already.
- Follow the 1-2buy Instagram for info on the latest products and events.
- Brought something home but can’t read its instructions? Use the Google app Lens feature to take a picture and translate the packaging. Also handy when you’re browsing at 1-2buy.
- You can buy online too! Neighbor island folks, take advantage of free shipping with a $100+ order.