Thelma’s Filipino Restaurant

 

JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM

Chef Aida Alviar adds tomatoes and onions to a Thelma's Special plate at Thelma's Restaurant in Waipahu.


Thelma's Restaurant

Westgate Center, 94-366 Pupupani St., Waipahu; 677-0443. Open 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

The dish: Pork Pumpkin Guisado ("guisado" means to saut or mix) is a slightly sweet combination of Filipino "carabasa" (green pumpkin), roast pork, long beans, round onions, oyster sauce and oil. Rice is served on the side.

"We steam the ingredients until the carabasa is soft," explained "Auntie" Corazon Nanzon, co-owner Thelma Torres' older sister. "You have to do it just right because you don't want the carabasa too hard or too mushy."

"This dish depends on the availability of the carabasa," said second daughter Larma Campos, 30. "It's locally grown but probably originally from the Philippines, because I've never seen it in any other cooking.

"It can be eaten every day, and our dad would make it at home for us when we were growing up. I like the sweetness of the pumpkin; it goes well with the pork."

About the restaurant: Don't let the purple hair highlights or the tongue jewelry fool you; Larma Campos acts as business manager for her parents' restaurant, minus the title.

The Sacred Hearts Academy and Honolulu Business College grad has three sisters: Lorena, 31 (who lives in Las Vegas), Lei Anne, 25, and Liberty, 24 (notice how all the names begin with L? -- that's from Larma's dad, Larry). "My sisters help out on the weekends with the cooking."

Larry Torres opened the restaurant, named after his wife, in 1991. "They were elementary school sweethearts back in Pangasinan (west-central Philippines)," recounted Larma. "My dad came here with his family and attended Waipahu High School, then went back (to the Philippines) to marry my mom and bring her back here.

"My dad loves to cook and was a waiter at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel for about 21 years, and my mom was a waitress and fry cook at another Filipino restaurant for about 20 years, so when my mom got the idea to open their own restaurant, it just made sense."

The first two years were difficult, with the entire family pitching in, but now they have about 25 full- and part-time employees.

"I do plan to continue my parents' business," said Larma. "We're even thinking of expanding, possibly in Kalihi or even in Las Vegas."



JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM

Larma Campos holds a platter of pumpkin pork guisado at Thelma's Restaurant in Waipahu.


 

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