PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / firstname.lastname@example.org
Aunty's Red Soup appears to be the most fiery of the soup options, but it isn't as spicy as you'd imagine. It starts with a beef base with peppers, ginger, garlic, basil, parsley, celery and onions. Ingredients chosen for this soup were beef, shiitake and enoki mushrooms, beef balls, shrimp balls whole shrimp, and green beans.
Personalization is everywhere and the the build-your-own concept that has been applied to burgers and tacos, has made it's way to soup and noodles.
Over at Hawaii Pot Shabushabu House in the 808 Center, you can now get a personal hot pot. Even so, you're typically sharing ingredients with your dinner date(s), and not everyone always wants the same thing. Maybe you're tired of paying for other people's tripe or shellfish that you're allergic to.
Now, with Aunty's Ramen, Susend Tran (formerly of Sweet Home Cafe) is back with a concept that puts an end to those share days.
Upon entering, get your table assignment, then grab a plastic bowl and start filling it with your favorite ingredients. Next, head to the cashier and take your pick of noodles, soup base and meat. The line for the cashier can be long, but your finished bowl arrives remarkably fast given the crowds this restaurant is seeing.
Only thing is, you'll pay for your chosen ingredients by weight, at $7.50 per half pound, which adds up fairly quickly if you're grabbing such weighty items as any seafood or meatballs, sausages, taro, and pieces of corn on the cob.
Some of my first bowls weighed in at a pound-and-a-half, adding up to $20 and $24. But the last time I got it down to a more manageable $10. You'll learn.
Aunty's Ramen is at 1110 Mccully St., at Young. Closed Tuesdays. Call 946-8686. The small parking lot can get crowded, but $5 parking is available at the American Savings Bank building across the street.
Aunty's Yellow Soup starts with a seafood base with coconut milk and red curry, but it's dominated by yellow curry flavor. Ingredients chose for this soup were lamb, corn, shrimp balls, fish balls and mini spicy sausages. Topped with a sprinkling of cilantro from the sauce bar.
This bowl features shrimp, pork, kabocha, won bok and enoki mushrooms in Aunty's Golden Soup that starts with a creamy seafood base with kabocha, celery, garlic, fresh onions and dried fried onions. The red is the spiced version that aunty recommends.
To get started, grab a basket and tongs and start making your selections from plastic bins in refrigerator cases. Pictured are two sizes of imitation crab, kamaboko, baby corn, squash and Shanghai cabbage, orbok choy.
After making your soup, noodle and meat choices and paying at the cashier, it's time to visit the sauce bar for various chili, sesame and black bean sauces, and other condiments and garnishes.
I usually opt for a blend of cilantro, sesame sauce and a chili sauce or two.
For those ordering udon noodles only, you have the option of turning them into jjajangmyeon (with black bean sauce) for $1 extra.
There is a handful of $5.95 each side order dishes, such as dried fried chicken wings with a shoyu-based sweet, slightly sour Taiwan-style glaze.
Butterflied garlic shrimp is another of the side dishes.
The build-your-own concept also applies to shave ice dessert. Choose from various fruit jellies and fresh fruit. Then hand your bowl over for the ice and condensed milk with brown sugar syrup.
Here's another shave ice with the focus on custards. Clockwise from top are mocha, taro, mango, green tea and almond flavors. The taro tastes more like lychee, and the green tea has a minty finish.
The custards await selection, and it looks like taro and mango are the most popular. I like the mocha and almond for their creamy flavors.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.