KCC Farmers’ Market: Drinking from coconuts and feasting on pho
Every Saturday, 7:30 am to 11 am
Parking Lot C (Off of Diamond Head Road)
4303 Diamond Head Road
Every Saturday bright and early, in the shadow of the Diamond Head in parking lot C of the Kapiolani Community College is Honolulu’s biggest farmers’ market. The market opens at 7:30 am and closes at 11 am so get there early! Parking is free.
The KCC Farmers’ Market is hosted by the Hawaii Farm Bureau. It’s a great place to meet local vendors and talk to local farmers. I found out about the market from a great website called Go Hawaii. There’s a complete list of farmers’ markets on the island. I’m not sure how up to date the list is though as we tried to go to a farmers’ market on Tuesday night on the roof of the Royal Hawaiian shopping center only to find the roof empty. A security guard told us that the farmers’ market lost their funding a year ago and hasn’t been back.
The first booth we saw when we arrived was the one serving up barbecued abalone. It was also one of the booths with the longest line but that didn’t stop us. The scrumptious shellfish was barbecued to order and one of the servers slices the meat up for you after it’s cooked and a large selection of sauces and seasoning were available at the booth. We sprinkled on some soy sauce and gobbled up each abalone in mere seconds, they were so fresh and succulent. Nothing beats seafood on the island.
The market was full of local shoppers doing their weekly grocery shopping, most of them were regulars who the vendors knew by name. It was a warm, friendly atmosphere with a huge selection of produce and dining options. I wanted to eat everything there!
We love strawberries and mochi so we couldn’t help but buy a box of strawberry stuffed mochi desserts. The strawberries were juicy and sweet and the mochi was the perfect, chewy vehicle to hold the fruit, it wasn’t too sweet and didn’t upstage the fresh fruit. There was also some delicious red bean paste gluing the entire dessert together. This was a great light treat as we wandered around the market looking for more eats.
I soon spotted a guy drinking out of a giant coconut from a straw and asked where he bought it. There was a man at a booth in the market just chopping open coconuts at $5 a pop, he sticks a straw in and voila, coconut water. It doesn’t get more fresh than that. As we lugged around our giant coconuts, more than 5 different people asked us where we bought them from. When we were finished drinking the water from the coconut, we brought them back to the coconut man and he chopped each coconut open for us so we could eat the coconut meat. I was snapping so many pictures of him chopping coconuts that when he chopped our coconut in half, he placed each half in my boyfriend’s hands and urged him to pose for my picture before he scooped out the coconut meat for us. I guess he is used to snap-happy tourists!
When our arms were tired from lugging around coconuts, we decided to sit down for some pho. I had read rave reviews about this new pho place called The Pig and the Lady. They’re opening their brick and mortar shop this month. The queue at this booth rivaled that of the barbecue abalone place. Since we had only rolled out of bed a couple of hours ago, I ordered the breakfast pho, chock full of smoked applewood bacon, a perfectly poached egg, charred green onion, spicy bean sprouts and bouncy, chewy pho noodles. I loved the smoky bacon in this dish.
As far as produce goes, you can buy everything at the market from local squash to mini pineapples. The pineapple juice they were selling wasn’t as sweet as the coconut water though.
Aside from the coconuts, the other item we repeatedly saw people carrying around were whole sausages, grilled and skewed with a stick. But by the time I found their booth, they were already sold out. I had my heart set on the pineapple sausage. Next time, this booth will be our first stop.
Next to the sausage booth there is a dessert booth called Happy Cakes. They were also sold out of one of the cakes but their Pineapple Macadamia Nut cake was still available, and we discovered it was delicious! Owen O’Callaghan, the owner of Happy Cakes chatted with us for a bit, after guessing that we weren’t locals (I think the giant coconuts gave us away) and hailed from Vancouver, Canada. I still have no idea how he guessed Vancouver on the first try.
Owen told us that Happy Cakes has been a local dessert for many years, everyone from Ronald Reagan to Frank Sinatra loves it. The cake can be eaten plain, served with ice cream or toasted. The texture is similar to that of a Christmas fruit cake but the cake is full of dried, sweet pineapple and macadamia nuts, dense in texture and not too sweet. The cake keeps for a while, up to a few months so the desserts actually would make good Christmas gifts.
The other dessert booth we visited sold the tastiest brownies I’ve had in a while. Made from local Hawaiian cocoa, No Ka Oi Cookie Company sold delicious peanut butter brownies that were dense, rich and sweet. I would totally go back for more.
We loved the farmers’ market and talking with some of the local vendors. It was definitely worth waking up early for.