Saimin is a noodle soup dish of soft wheat egg noodles served in hot dashi (broth) with various garnish. Saimin is comfort-food staple of the Local people of Hawai’i. The popular Hawai’i noodle dish is inspired by Japanese ramen, Chinese mein, and Filipino pancit.
Resources claim the saimin (word/name) origin comes from the Chinese sai mihn fine noodles [s-a-i m-i-h-n]. The word or name saimin is a contraction of the Chinese words “sai” meaning “thin” and “mein” meaning noodle dates back to the early days of Hawaii’s sugar and pineapple-plantation era, when immigrant laborers cooked noodles with whatever else they had on hand. Saimin is a term peculiar to Hawai’i, although with the blending of cultures there is some uncertainty on whether saimin (food dish, not the name) is Japanese or Chinese.
Saimin is a term peculiar to Hawaii. We do not know when or how it was coined. Local Chinese think saimin is a Japanese dish; local Japanese think it’s a Chinese dish.
– Dr. Shunzo Sakamaki, Asian History Professor, UH-Manoa
Saimin shares a great deal of commonality to Okinawa Soba with regards to noodles and broth, with the biggest difference being the garnish toppings. China and Okinawa had close relations at one time. It is possible that an alternate explanation for the origin of saimin comes from the historical relationship between the two Asian cultures.
Hawai’i Saimin Styles
Saimin noodle dishes can feature different garnish to include kamaboko fishcake, char siu pork, sliced Spam, Portuguese sausage, sliced scrambled egg, nori (dried seaweed), bok choy, and green onions among other creative additions. Hawaii saimin can pick up traits of other Asian noodle dishes. Different noodle types can substitute the thin saimin noodles such as the larger Japanese udon noodle. For a combination, Japanese pot stickers, called gyoza, as well as Chinese wonton, may be added to the dish’s noodles. A pan-fried version, primarily inspired by Filipino pancit, is also popular.
The popularity of saimin in Hawai’i has made it available at majority of “mom & pop” restaurants throughout the island chain. Zippy’s is a good choice too. Even mainland restaurants and noodle shops with Hawai’i Island flare showcase saimin on their menus. In Hawai’i saimin is so popular that American national food chain restaurants as McDonald’s serves saimin.
Whether fresh and hot from the restaurants or store bought frozen, prepared at home saimin is perfect for late night meals and/or the best way to warm your heart on cold blistery days while satisfying your island taste.
If you’re not familiar with saimin, I (Punaboy) challenge you to pass up that “cup-O-noodle” or dried out 10 cent bag of ramen and try the Hawaiian style saimin.
It’s no different here on the 9th Island of Las Vegas. You can find saimin at any Hawaiian restaurant and in frozen food sections of stores such as Walgreen’s.