The open space off of Kahului Beach Road near the small boat ramp has become a food court by the sea with lunch trucks filling the dirt lot with take out food options. Each one has his specialties, nobody seems to be stepping on each others toes here, the only overlap in items is the hot dog and sodas that each carry. The regulars are Tommy Lau Hee Chicken Hekka, The Shrimp Truck, and $6 Plate Lunch Truck. There is a loose decorum and respect for each other that I can appreciate. These chefs are hard working, and all plates are made to order. The best day to come is Saturday when you also have the tamale lady, smoke sausages, pasteles and various other vendors that come out for the day. More often than not there is also fresh fish for sale, just caught from the boats that go in and out of the small boat harbor.
The shrimp truck features shell on shrimp, deveined and sauteed on the spot. Plates run about 12 dollars for a huge amount of shrimp. I have not been able to finish one yet, even with sharing a bunch of shrimp with colleagues. Their shrimp are fat but not jumbo, and juicy and sweet. Very fresh. He offers the plates in a variety of butter base sauteed sauces, Hawaiian Scampi is the basic, hot and spice, spicy pineapple and lemon pepper round out the offerings. The crab salad served here is a mac salad with crab, it pairs well with the shrimp. When I ask what is in it, he says he has some secret ingredients that make it good. Plates have two scoops rice too. He tells me that the oil spill tragedy in the Gulf is affecting his ability to find shrimp. Usually he gets it from Eskimo Candy, but this week prices have risen on the shrimp and he has a new connection. The shrimp is cooked perfectly, and a plate takes about 5 minutes from the time you order. The spicy pineapple is sweet and spicy, the shrimp are served over a bed of cabbage with a lot of sauce, beware of spillage in the car. They do wrap it all up in a bag, but the bags are not spill proof either. The hawaiian scampi is garlic and butter, two great flavors that go with shrimp perfectly. The kids and family did not mind the shell on for our saturday feast, but the shell pulling off at the office was messy eating. I wished he had a shell free option for us during the week. The shrimp truck comes out Tuesday through Saturday and starts the day at Kahului Beach road around 10:30 am.
Tommy Lau Hee must be famous for his chicken hekka because he bills that right on his banner. His booth is busy too. Everyday (monday through saturday 9:30 am to 4:30 pm) he is cooking up his two specialties, chow fun and chicken hekka. You can get them in 1 pint containers for $5 or a quart for $10. Chicken Hekka is a sweet soy based soup-ish type of dish similar to sukiyaki, with roughly cut chicken peices (no bones in Tommy Lau Hee’s version), long rice, tofu, shitake mushroom, bamboo shoots and aromatics. It is considered a comfort food in the islands. The tradition behind it is throwing in the pot “whateveh da heck(a) you have in da pantry.” Tommy Lau Hee has refined his into a sought after favorite. His chow fun is simple and delicious, lots of pepper on the wide fat noodles with ground beef, but otherwise plain. He offers some specials, like Wednesday and Thursdays spare rib plate with corn and rice for $8 and also has mini plates of all his specials for a couple bucks less. Mondays and Tuesdays is their bargain day with chili and hot dog for $6 and mini for $4. On Friday and Saturday is beef stew.
The $6 Plate Lunches truck means business. For $6 they offer steak, chicken, pork or pork ribs in their basic plate that comes with iceburg lettuce green salad with your choice of dressing and two scoops rice. They sell out, and the few times I have been by after noon, the first thing they tell you is what they have left to offer. Judging from how I haven’t made it early enough to try it, the steak must be good. For a dollar more you can get two meat choices on a plate, and for $8 you can get a shrimp combo or short ribs, or a third choice of meat. The options are good and cheap, which makes these guys popular. Their barbecue has fantastic char, and everything has their own sauces, sweet teriyaki style, and the meats are pre cut into chunks, not bite size but workable with a fork. The chicken is boneless, thigh pieces tender and crisp with caramelized barbecue char from the sweet teriyaki. The green salad is basic, just iceberg with your choice of ranch, thousand or papaya seed, but a great option if you don’t want the extra starch from mac salad. The short ribs are tasty. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday they have pork adobo, and Fridays have chicken adobo too. You can call in orders for $6 plate lunch at 808-283-8544 and pick up too.
On Saturdays the food court is crowded with extra vendors. You can pick up green chili and cheese, chicken, or pork tamales for $2 each or dozen for $20. The spicy red sauce that comes with them is incredible poured over your tamales. The tamales are great, little pockets of corn masa wrapped in corn husks and steamed in their foil wrappers. You buy them fresh and warm. Whatever you don’t eat is easily heated up in the microwave or re-steamed. We like to eat them for Sunday breakfast with fried eggs over them. The smoked sausage and pasteles and fish and everything else is open market for gastronomics. Its a little busier than usual with the swap meet right across the street.
About Jen Russo
I write lifestyle and culinary columns for MauiTime. I love being a Maui girl and adore my big family. Dedicated food taster, blogger, internet fanatic, and Maui and Hawaii specialist.