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Best Manapua - Results Coming Soon

The Manapua Madness took place on September 20, 2008. Six ancient masters of steamed manapua  dualed to the death in a WOW Grinds Blind Taste Test. Who's Kung Fu was the strongest? The results and rankings are coming soon.

What is manapua? The Competitors The Planning

Best Manapua - Final Results and Rankings

It was Manapua Madness on September 20, 2008. Six grand masters of the ancient art of manapua making faced off in a WOW Grinds Blind Taste Test. In the end only one master was left standing. His technique was "real good...hmmff" with an overall score of 8.1 while the next closest competitor scored only a 6.68. How's dat for a blow out. Click "read more" to see the results.


Planning the Manapua Madness

Planning the Manapua Madness forced us to be much more resourceful than even before. In particular, we had to figure out how to serve the manapuas to the judges as close to fresh as possible.

Challenge #1 - Most of the manapua shops close early...around 1pm on Saturdays so we had to pick em up early in the day and refrigerate.  So wasn't fresh as fresh can be.  So I was going microwave the manapuas with a wet paper towel on top to try get the steamed effect and then maybe would be almost like eating em fresh.  But then I got scoldings from couple people who told me "just re-steam!"  Sorry I not one trained chef so I never think of that! We borrowed two steamers from friends and used this as our reheating method.  Came out good as fresh. Soft bun and juicy tender pork filling.

Challenge #2 - We had to standardize the re-steaming process so no one manapua would get the upper hand. To solve this, I bought couple extra manapuas and did a test re-steam practice run before the judges arrived. I re-steamed the test manapuas and when they were hot enough, I took the internal temperature with a meat thermometer and saw that it was about 150 degrees.  Just before serving to the judges, we re-steamed the manapua competitors to an internal temperature of 150 degrees. This ended up giving us evenly heated manapuas. 

We did the same side by side judging style as the other challenges where all the manapuas were lined up with their random letter. Then the judges served themselves in any order and scored each one. We did weighted scoring again with taste=50%, texture=30% and presentation=20%.

What is Manapua?

I not one manapua expert, but I grew up eating it from the manapua truck down the street and from some of the tiny manapua shops.  From my manapua experiences, I would describe it as a steamed bun, that is small kine sweet, filled with salty sweet minced pork, usually dyed red.  Get all kind differences too. Some places get more doughy bun, while others are more light and fluffy.  Some places get plenty bun and not so much pork, while others get one good balance of bun to pork. Some places get the pork filling that is more dry, while others get a more stick gooey oily pork filling. And then get all the places in between.

I think that manapua is little bit different from the char siu bao you can get at the dim sum restaurants.  I heard that manapua is a local version of the dim sum char siu bao. 

For more detailed information on manapua, check out the Wikipedia and Ono Kine Grindz take on manapua. 

Manapua Selection Rationale

Here are the Manapua Madness competitors and the reasons we selected them to compete. If you think your favorite manapua won, leave a comment.

7-11 Convenience Store - Rumor has it that this manapua is mass produced by machine from Tokyo Bento...the same guys who make the meat jun bento from Marukai. It's a decent tasting bao, but up against the masters of manapua this place should rank near the bottom...if the judges know what they are doing.

Aiea Manapua and Snacks - Plenty friends and family from the Leeward and Central Districts recommended this place to compete.  On KHNL Cheap Eats 2002, Lyle and Same talked this place up saying they've been in business for 20 years.  From what we hear, this place may be bordering on legendary status. 

Char Hung Sut - Two popular local food blogs, Ono Kine Grindz and Tasty Island mentioned this place as one of the best.  Honolulu Advertiser named them in their Hawaii's Best Restaurants guide in 2005-2006.

Chun Wah Kam
- Everybody know this place for their manapua and stuffs.  They were named in Honolulu Advertisers Hawaii's Best Restaurants in 2004-2005, 2005-2006 and 2007-2008.  This was no-brainer to include them.

Island Manapua - Honolulu Weekly, in their article "They Once Were Bao", made special mention of Island Manapua as one of the top places for manapua. Honolulu Advertiser also did a special article on this place featuring their manapua.

Libby Manapua Shop - A titan in the realm of manapua, Libby was recommended by almost everyone I talked to.  Tasty Island and Honolulu Metromix both called this place an "institution" when it comes to manapua. It even made the top 100 restaurants in a regional survey by I think I would've got mobbed if we never include this place as a competitor.