Man, I really need some color on me. Because of this new job--in Commerce, CA, of all places--I do not get out very much. Not because I don't have the time or because I'm not allowed to, but just because of the fact that my office is in the middle of industrial-ville and that, compared to my last job, there's not as many good eats within a five mile radius. Give it a few more weeks of being enclosed in an office for eight or nine hours a day and I guarantee you that I'll be pasty as hell.
Anyways, a couple days ago, I decided to venture out of the office for lunch for the first time since I've been here. According to my Thomas Guide, if I keep driving east on Garfield for a few miles, I will end up in Monterey Park. And I know there's good food there.
For my first eat-outside-the-office-adventure, I chose Shakas, a Hawaiian joint in Monterey Park near the 60 freeway. I can't tell you how many train tracks I crossed to get here; fortunately, no actual trains crossed my path, otherwise what normally would have been a 10 minute drive would have turned into 30, and I really don't need that much color on me.
I've actually been to Shakas several times; it's become a regular snack stop for us to go and pick up some Spam musubis to snack on while fobbing it up in Monterey Park. It's fast and convenient--just pull into one of the mini mall's parking spaces, walk through the door past the Spam shadowbox, place your order at the tiki hut looking counter and go sit down. One of Shakas' people will bring you your food, whether you're taking it to go or not, in a to-go container.
Now this is artwork
Oh, what I'd give to be in Hawaii...
You can go Hawaiian plate-lunch traditional and order yourself a loco moco, the gravy topped hamburger steak and eggs with rice that San Diego food blogger Kirk loves so much. Not feeling very loco? Then perhaps some slow cooked kalua pork or taro leaf wrapped pork lau lau will make you wish you were away from the mainland. There is the honey and soy glazed sesame chicken, Shaka's sweeter, Hawaiianized version of Korean kalbi, and deep fried chicken katsu...with or without curry. And if that doesn't work, just go with the always reliable fallback: Spam or Portuguese sausage and eggs.
I like them, Pam I am
This time, I wanted to try something new, and I went for the House Special Mochiko Chicken, described as "an island favorite that has been served for many generations. Always found at your Auntie's Sunday picnic. Marinated in sweet Hawaiian batter then deep fried to lock in the flavor." OK, I didn't know what they were talking about, 'cause well, first of all, my aunties never had Sunday picnics. And second of all, if they did, they'd serve wintermelon soup or something like that. Anyways, this Mochiko Chicken sounded good.
Not more than five minutes of waiting and my styrofoam to-go container was ready. Back in the car, back across the tracks and back to my anti-paradise.
Granted, I've never had Mochiko Chicken before so I have nothing to compare this one to, but I think it would have been better had I eaten it fresh at Shakas. (No, I was not too chicken to eat there alone...I had to get back to do some work) I think the ten to fifteen minutes it spent cooped-up in a covered styrofoam box collecting steam may have made it lose its crispness. But it was not a waste. So I didn't get to savor the delicate crunch of rice-flour batter, but at least the chicken tasted good. The chunks of boneless dark meat chicken were tender and had nice touches of sugar, soy, and ginger. As with all Hawaiian plate lunches, my meat sat over (what was supposed to be) two scoops of rice and came with a creamy mac(aroni) salad on the side. Shakas' mac salad has always been a bit on the bland side, in my opinion, but give it a few shakes of salt and you'd never know. I do love the funky tartness of the pickled cabbage that comes with all of Shakas plates. The meal also came with a small cup of what looked like a sweet teriyaki glaze, which I ended up not using for fear that the whole thing would get too goopy.
Nothing my aunties have ever cooked
Of course no trip to Shakas is complete without one or more of their Spam musubis, little bundles of nori-wrapped Spam and rice. Forget the sandwich--these are the ultimate take-with-you-when-you're-on-the-go food. They're comforting, and somehow, always manage to put a smile on my face. Shakas wraps theirs in cute red and white checkered paper, with the musubi in the middle and the paper gathered on both ends like a piece of candy. A treat indeed.
Work ain't no picnic, but this is.
Shakas is not brain surgery. It's not grand gourmet, it's just simple Hawaiian comfort food...a cheap and easy way go out to get some sun and deal with the bullshit of making a living in Commerce, CA. Man, I should have stayed and ordered a shave ice.
2300 Garfield Ave.
Monterey Park, CA 91754