When I was looking up The Elephant Shack on the internet, I was overjoyed that galangal was an ingredient used in their dishes. A Thai ginger variety known for its distinctive flavor, it can be a rarity. As opposed to typical ginger, which has a fresh, pungently spicy, and barely sweet flavor, galangal boasts a sharp citrusy, almost piney flavor.
I had first learned about galangal from Gordon Ramsay’s “Uncharted” on National Geographic. On the episode where it made its appearance, Mr. Ramsay was whisked away to the base of a mountain range in Western Sumatra, Indonesia. He scoured the bushes for galangal, and found success thanks to the assistance of a local. It would elevate his take on beef and fish rendang (coconut beef stew) tenfold, as it is said to do so for other Southeast Asian dishes.
After watching that episode, I had to do my own investigation on how galangal was used in at least one dish. That’s how I found myself at the Pearl Highlands Shopping Center food court, one typical workday, at The Elephant Shack’s booth.
There are three methods of ordering food at The Elephant Shack, all of which are cashless: 1) at a self-serve kiosk station at the far left of the serving counter, 2) by downloading the 808elephant application on the Apple or Google Play store and selecting the “Pearl City” location when ordering, or ordering from 3) their website, www.808elephant.com and selecting the “Pearl City” location when ordering. Using these payment methods provides opportunities for less contact, which is appropriate in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. I opted to order from the website, which took me to a chownow.com link. I selected a time slot to pick up at, and my food was indeed ready at the time indicated. The menu boasts Thai favorites, including some dishes that I don’t usually order at Thai restaurants. I got to sample these:
Thai Iced Tea ($4.19 + $1.50 add-on for coconut milk topping)
One can never go wrong with Thai tea. Made from black tea, a mix of spices, milk, and sugar, it’s a pleasant concoction that is a favorite among people with a sweet tooth. The coconut milk topping is highly recommended, as it makes this drink creamy.
Pad Thai ($11)
What distinguishes this pad Thai from others is the house recipe sauce and the BBQ chicken that it is comprised of. There is no shortage of roasted peanuts, cilantro, bean sprouts, and lime to be found here.
Penang Curry ($12)
This is the dish with the galangal I mentioned, and boy, is it packed with flavor! Not only can you taste the creamy coconut base of the curry, you can also taste the herbal mix that is harmonious in nature. With galangal, lemongrass, cilantro root, and shallots, this one has so much depth.
Larb Gai ($12)
This one isn’t as popular of a choice as the other three above, but I think that this can be changed. This is minced chicken cooked in a Northern Thailand citrus sauce, tossed with cilantro, mint, lemongrass, red onion, and kao kua, a Thai ground roasted rice. Served on a lettuce wrap with jasmine rice, it’s a force to be reckoned with. This is refreshing and perfect on a hot day.
I was satisfied with the way that galangal was used in the Penang curry, but above all, I was very impressed with the spread found at The Elephant Shack as a whole. The dishes served here exceed what you’d expect from a food court; the flavors in the dishes have depth. I shared these dishes with my family and the unanimous verdict was that the larb gai was especially exemplary. It has only been a few days since I’ve gotten to indulge in the food from here, but I am already looking forward to my next visit. I hope you are as well.
The Elephant Shack
Hours: Monday through Saturday from 11 am-8 pm, Sunday from 12 pm-7 pm.
Address: 1000 Kamehameha Highway, Pearl City, Hawai’i, 96782
Phone number: (808) 638-1854