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The Honolulu Advertiser

By Mari Taketa
Special to The Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, January 22, 2010

Being good to your inner thin

 • Cheap eats

What, you too? Paying penance for all that extra poundage after a season of holiday feasting? Or just trying to keep a New Year’s resolution to eat healthier?
Well, there’s more to healthy eats in this town than salads and turkey sandwiches. If you want your eats low-cal, low-fat and low-carb — and you’re saving your bucks — then here’s where to go and what to eat.


Get past the pho and spring rolls. Vietnamese food abounds with fresh vegetables brought to life by flavorful herbs, hints of chili and pops of succulent proteins. This three-course menu will feed four medium eaters for $40; two will be happy with the roll-ups alone.
Lemon beef salad (bo tai chanh, $9.99) combines lettuce with basil, tomatoes and beef in a healthy mound, with pickled veggies, crushed peanuts and pork cracklings.
Get this next dish if you love catfish — and tomatoes, and pineapple, and okra. Vietnam’s ubiquitous sweet-sour soup (canh chua, $13.99) is lightly spiced and chock-full of veggies and fresh catfish. Remember to ask for a side of fish sauce and chilies for dipping.
Beef grilled in betel leaves (bo la lot) is street food to die for. Ask for it on a platter of do-it-yourself wraps ($15.99 with regular vermicelli, $18.99 with a
finer variety).
Here’s a quick lesson:
1) Dip rice paper completely in hot water. 2) Lay flat on plate and put small amounts of lettuce, herbs, beef rolls and everything else near the middle. 3) Fold in the sides and roll up the bundle.
4) Dip in sauce and eat.
Not a beef eater? Try the banh hoi chao tom, which replaces beef-in-a-leaf with minced shrimp grilled on sugar cane.
Super Pho, 3538 Waiçalae Ave., 735-9989


Healthy herb broth is where it’s at. At this Taiwanese cafe, cooking your color-coded plates of meats, veggies, mushrooms, noodles and tofu in a milky soup turns it so flavorful that when they pack up the leftovers, just throw in your own veggies and proteins and voila, you get a second healthy, yummy pot.
The price depends entirely on how much and what you eat. Hefty eaters and those with expensive tastes (lamb, beef tongue, lobster balls) will leave behind $18 to $20 a person; lighter eaters will pay less than $10. Throw out that New Year’s resolution to make room for the complimentary Taiwanese shave ice dessert — it’s totally worth it.
Sweet Home Cafe, 2334 S. King St., 947-3707


Yup, a food court. Because undoubtedly, sashimi + salad = healthy eats, no? This Korean haedupbap salad ($7) comes atop a bed of rice, which you have the option to swap with brown rice. Pour the mildly spicy sauce over, mix everything together, and revel in the knowledge that by going the food court route, you’re paying half as much as you would at a restaurant.
Palama Market, two locations: 1670 Makaloa St., 447-7777; 1210 Dillingham Blvd, 847-4427


Smoked salmon rolled into a rice-paper wrap with loads of lettuce and long rice noodles ($3.30) is guilt-free until you add the creamy wasabi dressing — shhh! Small eaters will fill up on one; medium eaters two; manly-man eaters three.
Also yum: The Chinese turkey wrap ($2.95) combines the lean protein with lettuce and noodles plus cucumber, carrots, cilantro, almonds and a mandarin orange dressing.
Wraps & Rolls, 1425 Liliha St., 535-9727


Did you know Bangkok Chef’s expanded in Nuçu­anu? It’s not the size of a garage any more. It’s now the size of a double garage, having taken over the space next door, which means more tables at which to eat yums. Like this meal, which will feed three good eaters for less than $8 each.
No fatty coconut milk, no fried foods, no noodle stir-fries: Start with spicy-sour tom yum goong soup ($7.95), with shrimp, tomatoes and straw mushrooms in a broth flavored with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Add on green mango salad bursting with cashews and shallots ($7.25), a straight throwback to your hanabata days when Grandma pickled her own mangoes; and generously skewered grilled chicken sateh sticks with peanut sauce ($6.95).
Bangkok Chef, two locations: 1627 Nuçuanu Ave., 585-8839; 2955 E. Mänoa Road, 988-0212


Do not disbelieve — oatmeal can taste good, and it can taste good on top of Taiwanese-style, sugar-free shave ice. City Cafe’s sugar-free strawberry and vanilla syrups are nice by themselves, but exponentially nicer topped with dollops of barely sweetened oatmeal, soft chunks of taro and aiyu or grass jelly, all handmade (three flavors + three toppings = $4.50).
OK, so there are carbs here, but look at all this fiber. The caveat is you have to not mind oatmeal’s natural slight slime factor, which for many will up the appeal, rightly.
City Cafe, 1518-F Makaloa St., 398-7598

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