Ono Pops and Grilled Abalone @ KCC Farmers’ Market

We found some delicious cool and hot grinds at the popular Saturday KCC Farmers’ Market in Honolulu.

KCC Farmers Market

Annie and I are suckers for farmers’ markets. There’s just something magical about being in the open air, browsing (and grazing) the different stalls for whatever is in season at that moment. Whether it’s sand dabs in Saratoga, pimientos de padron (and pervs) in Palo Alto, California mangosteens in San Carlos, slurpaliciously fresh oysters in San Francisco, a delicious Japanese bento lunch in Austin, fiddlehead ferns at a Kuching night market, water apples at Kuching’s Satok Market, cat’s eyes in Serian, or live chickens in newspaper tubes at Sibu’s Central Market, you never know what you’re gonna find.

So even though we’d barely gotten off the plane from Taiwan, we knew there was no way we were missing the Saturday farmers’ market at KCC (Kapiolani Community College). It’s my neighborhood farmers’ market – situated on the backside of Diamond Head – and a foodie destination for locals and tourists alike.

What new foodie finds would we discover on this trip?

kcc farmer's market

Over the years, the KCC Farmers’ Market has become more and more popular with locals as well as tourists. The parking lot is full by the time the market opens at 7:30 am. A shuttle bus ferries tourists from Waikiki to a stop just near the market entrance. Thousands of people pack the busy aisles and crowd the most popular food stalls. Still, the atmosphere is pretty laid back – must be all that fresh Hawaiian air 🙂

Fruity Goodness

Every farmers’ market showcases the best of what’s in season, and the KCC Farmers’ Market is no different. What *is* different, though, is the variety of produce. How about locally grown apple bananas, or giant ripe perfumed mangoes bigger than your fist? There are golden cherry tomatoes picked that morning from their North Shore farm. And creamy Hawaiian avocadoes ready to eat – just give me a spoon and a dash of soy sauce, mmmm-Mmm!

KCC Farmers Market fruits bananas mangoes tomatoes avocadoes

Fragrant Flowers

If fruits don’t tickle your fancy, there are also fresh cut flowers for the flower lovers. I saw vendors specializing in anthuriums, ginger, hibiscus, bougainvillea, and even fancy orchids.

Kcc Farmers' Market flowers anthuriums ginger

Prepared Foods

It seems like for every stall selling fresh produce, fruit or flowers, there were food vendors selling all manner of prepared foods. The Ba-Le Bakery stand is the place to buy breads and pastries (unfortunately, they were all out of the decadent almond croissant by the time we got there). There were locally grown honey, coffee, chocolate, and macadamia nut stands.

There were also hot foods being made for hungry market-goers like grilled North Shore sausages, fried green tomatoes, and grilled pesto pizzas. With all the saliva-inducing aromas wafting around the market, it was very difficult to keep our concentration as we shopped for our groceries!

KCC Farmer's Market prepped foods bread macnuts fried green tomatoes pesto pizza

Ono Pops

One thing about the KCC Farmers’ Market is, it’s HOT. Kaimuki is typically dry, and the sun beats down from overhead like an oven set to broil.  Esther was complaining about the heat and demanding a shave ice from one stand (I wanted to hold off until we could get to the best shave ice stand, Waiola Shave Ice). Fortunately, we came upon this new stall at the farmers’ market, OnoPops.

OnoPops are basically popsicles. But they’re not your normal sugary-syrupy popsicles from the grocery store. They are more related to the Mexican-style paletas, frozen pops made from fresh fruits. However, these guys use local, Hawaiian ingredients in awesome combinations for a truly unique taste.

Why go for plain strawberry when you can go for strawberry-goat cheese flavor (made from Kula strawberries and Maui goat cheese)? That’s what Daniel got, and he loved it.  I went for the cucumber-yogurt-shiso flavor, which was very cucumber-y and not that yogurt-y. (I should have gone for the chocolate-dipped strawberry!)  Annie picked up the popular ume-Thai basil flavor, which had a salty pucker to go along with the minty sweetness of the basil. 

OnoPops Gourmet Popsicles

KCC Farmers Market Ono Pops

OnoPops has a truly dizzying array of flavors and they are constantly developing new ones. I wish I could bring them all home with me!

Other reviews of OnoPops: Hapa Hale, Tasty Island, The Hawaii Independent

Grilled Kona Abalone

One of those aforementioned saliva-inducing hot food vendors kept drawing my attention as we made our rounds. You can’t miss them, because they are very close to the entrance of the market – the stand with the blue flag proclaiming “Kona Abalone” in English and Japanese, with the dozen-deep line of people waiting to place their order.

The abalone are raised on the Big Island of Hawaii and shipped live to Oahu as well as Japan and the US mainland.  If you want, they’ll prepare the squirming gastropod sashimi-style. If that seems too extreme for you, then you can get them grilled (most people were in the line for the grilled mollusks). Here’s where coming to the market late is a plus – for $6 they’ll give you 3 grilled abalone compared to only 2 if you come earlier in the day.

Kona Abalone Stand

KCC Farmers Market Kona Coast Abalone

Truth be told, I only got to savor 1 of the 3. Annie ate the first. Then Esther chomped the second. I was left with the last one. And boy, it was good!

I think the closest flavor I could compare it to would be clams. But the flesh is so firm and meaty. Being a young abalone, it wasn’t like chewing leather. More like a medium-rare steak, but briny like an oyster.

I wish I had ordered some more.

Best part about it is we get to take home these pretty souvenirs. Those abalone shells clean up really nice! 🙂

Pearly Shell Souvenirs

KCC Farmers Market Kona Coast Abalone shells

Other reviews of Kona Abalone: Tasty Island, Straight out of Kampung, Travellicious

Any magical farmers’ market finds in your area? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

KCC Farmers’ Market
Saturdays from 7:30 am to 11 am

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We’re just getting started with our Hawaii vacation, and there are lots more of foodie finds to talk about.  So stay tuned! The best way is to subscribe to our blog, either by email or by RSS reader.

5 thoughts on “Ono Pops and Grilled Abalone @ KCC Farmers’ Market”

  1. Hawaii should start up more farmers markets because that KCC one is so packed, but fun as your photos suggest. The ume-thai basil pop sounds amazing, and those abalones are pricey!! Hey, how long has it been since you visited Honolulu? Sounds like it’ll be a fun visit. Can’t wait what food find you discover because I’ll be there for my niece’s graduation in May! 😉

    1. Ben –

      There are now many neighborhood farmers’ markets popping up all over the island, but the KCC one is closest to Waikiki AND the most popular, so that’s why there are so many tourists there.

      We were last here in 2008, so about 3 years. A lot has changed. It’s difficult to choose between going to our old favorite haunts and trying out the newest places to eat. But we’ll do our best! 😉

  2. Ohhhh…look at the gorgeous weather and the awesome farmers’ market and the delicious-looking ono pops. I need a vacation!!! 😀 Looking forward to reading more about your trip and Happy Belated Birthday to Daniel!

  3. After reading about the KCC Farmer’s Market from your and other bloggers, I definitely want to go there next time I visit family on Oahu! I think the Ono Pops stand would be first on my list.

    A few years ago we were in Kona and were lucky to hit the Kona Farmer’s Market, where we bought beautiful papayas, rambutins and 100% kona coffee (from the actual coffee farmers!) for a steal. Then we hit the Hilo Farmer’s Market near closing time and managed to pick up about five large ripe papayas for $1.

    Both markets had less than what you’d find at KCC, but they were very laid back and relaxing. In fact, at the Kona market, they had a competition going on between about seven kona coffee farms where you could test each farm’s coffee and fill out a ballot. It was heaven for this coffee fanatic! I don’t remember which one was the best, but I enjoyed chatting with the farmers and getting information from them about their coffees.

    We have some awesome farmer’s markets in and around Seattle (not including the famous Pike Place Market) where you can sample an incredible variety of produce, cheeses, meats, seafoods, clay-fired grilled pizza, soup, etc. Also, since Seattle has more dogs than it has children, you can find a dizzying array of gourmet dog treats. 😉

  4. Thanks for the shout out to our KCC Farmer’s Market post on Travellious! The market was by far the highlight of our trip…but I didn’t see those ono pops! Yet another reason to go back.

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