Enjoy fusions of flavor at Aloha Cookin’


I’m often guilty of eating an incredible meal somewhere but failing to return for extended lengths of time due to matters of convenience or budget, even while remembering the meal often and with great longing. So it was with Aloha Cookin’, a restaurant serving the greatest hits of Hawaiian cuisine in downtown East Lansing, where I enjoyed delicious Korean-style chicken wings and teriyaki salmon about a year ago. Thankfully, this past week, I returned to my senses and revisited Aloha’s wonderful food.

What is Hawaiian food, exactly? It’s so much more than the roast pig and poi featured in television and film luau scenes. Like any other cuisine in any other geographic location, it represents all the different cultures that have collided and coalesced. In the case of Hawaii, the core foodways of the Indigenous Polynesian people are mixed with Korean, Japanese and American influences. The menu at Aloha reflects this, with poke bowls, teriyaki, katsu, spicy cucumber salad and pineapple-ring garnishes all on offer.

I was tempted to get the teriyaki salmon again, but then I saw the Hawaiian barbecue section of the menu — more specifically, the short ribs. Being familiar with kalbi, the delicious Korean-style short ribs, I had an inkling these would be similar. They were similar — but superior to any other preparation of short ribs I’ve had. Marinated in what tasted like soy, brown sugar, ginger, garlic and toasted sesame oil, they were sweet, smoky and intoxicatingly caramelized. This was a rare dish where the first bite, taken with the eyes, paled in comparison to the explosion of flavor and texture of the second.

Like most other entrees, the ribs came with rice and two sides, and for those, I was already set on what I’d had before. The first was a side salad identical to the variety that often comes with your meal at a sushi restaurant, but with the freshest, most blazingly orange ginger dressing I’ve ever had. The second was one of my favorite and most unexpected examples of culinary fusion: macaroni salad.

The main ingredient was, of course, macaroni, but I had to guess a bit about the other components. It was similar to the macaroni salad that sometimes comes as ban chan at Korean restaurants but with its own fresh spin. There was carrot, some green onion and a light, slightly sweet, slightly tangy mayonnaise dressing. Simple but oh-so delectable. I recommend peeling the meat off your short ribs and using it to pick up gobs of mac salad for a perfect bite.

Don’t be like me. Go indulge yourself at Aloha Cookin’, and then don’t wait nearly a year to go back!

Barbecue short ribs


Aloha Cookin’

350 Albert Ave., East Lansing

Noon-8 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday

(517) 657-7963



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