Thai food at the Thai Buddhist Temple of Hawaii

Khanom krok, what Nat Bletter of Madre Chocolate calls "UFOs of deliciousness."

"This doesn't look promising," says an out-of-town friend as we turn down a small street behind a freeway overpass and pull up next to a narrow pathway. A sign marks this as the Thai temple, but it looks more like a house.

"Some of the most promising food in Hawaii is found in the least promising places," I say. (Has he learned nothing!? I have already taken him to Helena's and Home Bar and Grill.)

Indeed, at the end of the path, we find a long table full of Thai food I haven't seen anywhere else in Hawaii: khanom krok, like griddled rounds of haupia with a sprinkle of green onions; khanom jin, curried noodles; and tray after tray of curries such as one with catfish and pea eggplant. I feel transported to Thailand streets.

Green papaya salad coming together.

One woman makes green papaya salad with a mortar and pestle and explains each ingredient she mixes in: garlic, tomatoes, fresh lime, tamarind with anchovy, fish sauce, sugar, a sprinkle of MSG. She asks how many chilies I want. I get two. The girl next to me laughs: she likes seven. (Seven! The two in mine are much too spicy, and I am no heat wimp.)

There's a noodle vendor reminiscent of Thai street vendors, dishing out pork or seafood noodle soups.

There are endless sweets: fried bananas and sweet potato in a sesame batter that tastes like crunchy candy; neat little packages of sticky rice—one steamed with red beans, another with taro. There's a coconut drink with chunks of water chestnut, jackfruit and colored squiggles (technical term) chewy like mochi.

All proceeds from the food go to the temple. This terrific spread is only on Sundays during the Buddhist Lent—when the monks live at the temple for three lunar months. They started in July, and the last Sunday is November 4. Also, mark your calendar for when the temple celebrates Loy Krathong on Saturday, November 10 at Kapiolani Park.

10 am to 2 pm, at Wat Buddhajakramongkolvararam, the Thai temple in Pearl City: 872 Second St #A
Thai Loy Krathong Festival, Saturday November 10, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Kapiolani Park