WHEN people tell you you've got the best spareribs on the island, you don't argue about it, even if you can't really explain why.
Going for ribs
in a Big-Way
Tony Choi, owner of Big-Way Burger in Wahiawa, says people tell him they come from far and wide just for his spareribs. "The Kahala post office will send someone out once in awhile."
It's a very basic recipe: Sugar, vinegar, shoyu, ginger. What's the secret? "I don't know," Choi says. "Maybe it's the browning on the grill."
Whatever the case, Anabel from Manoa is among those who swears by them. "This Christmas, my friend from California came down and we went around the island. We stopped over at Big-Way Burger joint and had the best sweet-and-sour spareribs."
They were the perfect blend of sweet and sour, tender, "and just great," she says.
Big-Way was founded by Choi's parents, Smitty and Daisy, 38 years ago. Back then they were practically alone, restaurant-wise, out in Wahiawa.
The town's complexion has changed, with fast-food outlets moving in, but Big-Way has held it's own, now run by Choi and his wife, Shirley. Daisy Choi still drops by occasionally, "to see if we're doing it correctly," her son says. It was her recipes for stews, curries, ribs and teriyaki sauce that gave the restaurant its start.
The menu is full of plate-lunch favorites -- teri chicken, teri beef, etc., and specials such as chicken adobo, pork gisantes and shoyu chicken. The top plate-lunch combination is teri beef and spareribs.
"Real local-style," is how Choi describes the food -- exactly what his customers want. "That's what's probably kept us in business for 38 years."
That and the seasoned fries, an 18-year-old restaurant specialty that has grown huge in popularity by word of mouth. Choi says the secret seasoning is a blend of salts -- garlic and celery salt, for example -- that was first developed for eggs and burgers.
But back to the ribs. At Big-Way they're first browned on the restaurant grill. Try your frying pan, but this may be hard to duplicate at home and could well be the key to the recipe.
If yours don't come out quite right, Big-Way is near Tamura's Wahiawa market, at 211 Hiwi Place. Call 621-8488.
Sweet-and-Sour Spareribs10 pounds spareribs, cut in 2-inch cubesBrown meat, then transfer to a pot.
1-2/3 cups sugar
3 cups vinegar
3 cups shoyu
3/4 cup crushed ginger
1-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
Add water to cover the meat halfway. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cook 1 hour.
Add remaining ingredients, except cornstarch, and simmer 20-30 minutes. Meat should be tender but not soft enough to fall off the bone.
Mix cornstarch with water until smooth and add to ribs to thicken sauce.
Serve on a bed of cabbage with two scoops rice and kim chee. Serves 20.
Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving, ribs and gravy: 500 calories, 32 g total fat, 12 g saturated fat, 130 mg cholesterol,greater than 1,700 mg sodium.*
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Asterisk (*) after nutritional analyses in the
Body & Soul section indicates calculations by
Joannie Dobbs of Exploring New Concepts,
a nutritional consulting firm.