There are those who say Hawai‘i speaks noodle. On the Big Island, here’s where I converse with them.

Shizuko Teshima opened Teshima Restaurant (79-7251 Māmalahoa Highway, Kealakekua; 808-322-9140) in 1940 where she first started a store in 1929. Now 103, the spirited owner—she once told us she checks receipts every night and finds mistakes—still runs this family-style joint that sports ’50s decor and comfy red-leather booths. Hot tea and a sushi amuse-bouche are presented upon arrival for dinner.

Noodlewise, you can gain traditional comfort in hefty saimin or beef sukiyaki in a kettle, but you might want to consider a kettle of nabeyaki udon. A steaming enameled pot is delivered to your table with an old wooden top protecting plump udon, two kinds of fish cake, celery, cabbage, and a gently cracked egg. Mix it around so the egg cooks, turning the broth rich and creamy, then toss in a few shakes of Shichimi Togarashi red pepper granules for a perfect one-pot meal at the end of a long Kona day.

Though The Lotus Café’s (73-5617 Maiau Street, Kailua-Kona; 808-327-3270) strip-mall location just above Costco isn’t very atmospheric, its healthy and eclectic dishes more than make up for it. Owners Howie and Ladda Simon (from New York and Thailand, respectively) offer a big menu that’s half northern Thai and half dishes from the likes of Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia. The Simons grow some ingredients in their garden and create 17 of their own sauces.

Sit under the solar-panel illuminated pavilion strung with colorful prayer flags, then dig in. Lemongrass shrimp noodles are bathed in a gently spiced tomato-based sauce backed by a rainbow of vegetables. Singapore laksa blossoms with sunny, aromatic turmeric that complements shrimp or organic chicken; its one-third coconut-based liquid to two-thirds noodle ratio makes a nourishing, palate-pleasing meal. Save room for gelato and raw desserts that the Simons make—you guessed it—from scratch.

Read about more Hawai‘i noodle spots here. LL

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