Fish & Rice is worth braving Pālama Supermarket’s parking lot.
When Rice = Comfort Food: 6 Steaming Bowls from Around the World
Where to find warm, comforting rice porridge from China, Japan, the Philippines, Spain and more, all in Honolulu.
I n cool weather, our thoughts turn to warm jook or chazuke or caldoso or arroz caldo—pick your country for its rendition of the most comforting of comfort foods. Of course, you can always make rice porridge at home, but here are some of our favorite bowls that offer a taste of the world.
Preserved egg and pork rice soup from Lam’s Kitchen
Chunks of pi dan, or century egg, add bits of umami creaminess, like spoonfuls of melting brie, to this jook that also includes slices of lean, tender pork. You’ll find this pairing of pork and pi dan at other Chinese restaurants in town, but go to Lam’s Kitchen so you can also pick up freshly fried and airy youtiao to dunk into your bowl. —MC
$7.75, 1152 Maunakea St. # A, (808) 536-6222
Tokusen Chazuke from Sushi Izakaya Gaku
Chazuke (or ochazuke, if you’re being polite), is the simplest bowl of comfort: hot tea poured over cold rice, with salty ume or pickles on the side. Not at Gaku. Here, rice is topped with flaked salmon, spicy mentaiko cod roe, slivered konbu kelp, drizzles of crunchy bubu arare and a soft sphere of ume (usually shiso ume but if you’re lucky, the less-punchy honey ume from Wakayama in Japan)—and it’s not tea in the earthenware pot that accompanies, but Gaku’s dashi broth. Japanese like to close out a night of izakaya drinking with a simple rice dish to settle the stomach; this one is worthy anytime. —MT
$12.50, 1329 S. King St., (808) 589-1329, @izakayagaku
Jook from Ireh
Do you like your jook red? Green? Black? Spicy? With or without beef, seafood, vegetables or mushrooms? Ireh is the only place we know where you can choose from 14 kinds of jook, each one accented Korean-style by a whiff of the sesame oil used to sautée the rice grains before water is added to the pot. Korean friends swear by the abalone jook when they’re under the weather. Our current fave: the glossy, emerald-hued chlorella jook (pictured above, with beef-vegetable jook) with yielding, slightly sweet pieces of Korean zucchini. All are $13 to $15 a bowl and come with sides of kim chee and banchan; abalone tops the list at $15.95. And if you were wondering, the black jook is black sesame, and the red is azuki bean. —MT
911 Ke‘eaumoku St., (808) 943-6000
Arroz caldo from North Star
Get to this Kalihi spot before noon—most items, including the arroz caldo, sell out before then. Here, it’s simple, straightforward comfort in the form of a chicken rice soup, flavored with ginger, garlic, onion and chicken bouillon. The lechon is also terrific here—the crispy skin makes for a good side to the arroz caldo. This is a classic Filipino turo turo (point point) takeout place—when I get home, I like to add chopped green onions and a squeeze of calamansi for a bit of freshness. —MC
$3.50/$6.25/$12 for small/medium/large, 2225 N. School St., (808) 847-7644
Clam caldoso from Rigo
Classic economics: the price for a simple dish doubles when it comes from a Western country. But if you’re going to go for luxe, Rigo’s Spanish clam caldoso is the way to go—made with Italian carnaroli rice, this is more akin to risotto. The clams flavor the bowl with their brininess, underscored by a seafood stock, and butter gives it extra lushness. —MC
$25, 885 Kapahulu Ave., (808) 735-9760, rigohawaii.com
Mama’s Beef Chao at The Pig & The Lady
This comforting hot slurp is like that favorite jacket you’ve held onto for years: classic, reliable and incredibly warm. It comes dressed up with bits of beef, fresh herbs, sliced onion, chili sauce and fried shallots in a broth that rivals pho—so beefy it’s like drinking bone broth fortified with rice. It’s hearty and fills you up. —TO