Milk Duds with duck sauce chez Zippy

Today’s Zippy, set in Zippy’s fantasy-fulfillment dream diner, Zippy Food, which serves all his favorite foods, in combinations that especially appeal to him:


Two things: the food combos; food establishments called Zippy or Zippy’s. We will end up in Honolulu.

Food combos. The offense of Zippy’s combos — Milk Duds with duck sauce, Marshmallow Fluff with clam juice, sliced  beets in Gatorade — is that they combine sweet and savory in unfamiliar and unpalatable-sounding ways.  Snatches from my 3/29/17 posting “Another phenomenally bad idea”, initially about dessert hummus:

there’s the sweet (sugary, often fruity, sometimes sour) vs. the savory (meaty, umami, usually salty or spicy),: two taste-based categories of foods that figure in a number of cuisines. (In English, the terms sweet and savory are used as category labels by food writers and the like, but aren’t necessarily understood as (semi-) technical terms by ordinary people.)

… foods that (like dessert hummus) violate this opposition: think clams with maple syrup, or strawberry jam on prime rib.

…  an item from one category generally can’t be combined with an item from the other: Nutella and blue cheese? Pulled pork and banana slices?

… you generally don’t mix sweet and savory (though there are exceptions, like various meats with sour fruit sauces or glazes — duck à l’orange, red wine cherry sauce for meat, Chinese sweet-and-sour dishes — and meat or poultry dishes with Mexican mole sauce, in which chocolate counteracts the heat of chili peppers).

Food at Zippy(‘s). The name is used for food establishments, all over the world,  that allow for quick pick-up or fast service. Sense b in this NOAD entry:

adj. zippyinformal [a] bright, fresh, or lively: a zippy, zingy, almost citrusy tang. [b] fast or speedy: zippy new sedans.

Notable among these is the Hawaiian chain Zippy’s. Basic facts from Wikipedia:

Zippy’s is a fast casual restaurant chain based in Hawaii. It has 24 locations and serves American, Japanese, Chinese, Okinawan, and Hawaiian fusion food. One of their best-selling items is chili.

From the company’s own very zippy “About” statement:

(#2) Zippy’s McCully in the 1960s

Zippy’s is Hawaii’s diner of choice. We’re where everyone goes to satisfy their island-sized appetite. Come for the food, stay for the fun!

Ask anyone in Hawaii about Zippy’s Restaurants and you will hear real stories about cherished weekly dinners with grandparents, post-surf-session munchies satiated, romances won and lost at the restaurant, and the iconic Zippy’s food that helped them to celebrate it all.

Zippy’s grew from simple beginnings in 1966, when brothers Francis and Charles Higa started their first restaurant on King Street in Honolulu [in #2 above]. Through their hard work and vision, Zippy’s has become a Hawaii institution, with 24 locations on Oahu, Maui, Hawaii Island, and — coming soon — Las Vegas!

For more than 50 years, Zippy’s has been the go-to place in Hawaii for hearty, local comfort food. Grab a couple of Zip Pac® bentos and head for the beach! Slurp down a steaming, satisfying bowl of Zip Min®. Dig into a tangy plate of Korean Fried Chicken. And don’t forget to take home a barrel of our famous chili.

On the original site, from Wikipedia:

Zippy’s McCully [1725 S. King St., Honolulu] is where the restaurant chain started on October 17, 1966. The first of many locations, Zippy’s McCully offers a fast food counter, a dining room and freshly baked goods from Napoleon’s Bakery®. The quintessential Zippy’s, it also has been said that President Obama frequented this location when growing up in Hawaii.

On the food, this item from the Tasty Island: Honolulu Food Blog site, “Time for Zip Min” on 1/8/10:

(#3) Zippy’s Zip Min – “A signature favorite! Special menu recipe with noodles, wun tun, breaded shrimp, choi sum, fish cake, dried seaweed, egg, sweet pork and green onion.” [essentially a hybrid of wonton soup and saimin]

Ok, saimin, from Wikipedia:

Saimin is a noodle soup dish common in the contemporary cuisine of Hawaii. Traditionally consisting of soft wheat egg noodles served in a hot dashi garnished with diced green onions and a thin slice of kamaboko [cured surimi (minced fish used as a crab substitute)], modern versions of saimin include additional toppings such as char siu, sliced Spam, sliced egg, or shredded nori.

You see in these dishes massive syncretism of food practices from many different sources — Hawaiian, other Pacific Islander, Japanese, Chinese, Okinawan, American working class (note the export of chili and Spam into new cultural niches). The result is that what has come to be seen as characteristically local food is in fact extraordinarily diverse in its origins (compare, oh, New Orleans food, or Vietnamese cuisine). This is just the way food practices develop, by spread and borrowing (much as with linguistic features); ordinary people don’t care much about historical authenticity, beyond reverence for what Mama and Grandma used to cook.

6 Responses to “Milk Duds with duck sauce chez Zippy”

  1. Karl Kayak Rothenbach Says:

    Why do you think he used a White Castle building?

  2. Robert Coren Says:

    Does mole really count as sweet-savory? My impression is that it’s made with unsweetened chocolate, and I’ve never detected what I’d describe as sweetness in any mole I’ve eaten.

  3. Sim Aberson Says:

    We just watched the Hungarian film Liza the Fox-Fairy – recommended for a bit of escapist fun. In one part of the film, Liza is given a cookbook to entice men, and starts cooking from it (and makes her catch). Recipes include fried carp with maple syrup, fresh dill and watermelon soup, and pork trotters in chocolate pudding. I wish I could remember more of the great combinations.

  4. arnold zwicky Says:

    Oh my. Sweet and sour carp is a fairly standard dish, but maple syrup sounds dubious to me; watermelon soup is not uncommon, with the sweetness of the melon balanced by citrus fruit (lemon or lime), and with some herbal note as well, usually mint, but dill should work just fine; but pork trotters in chocolate pudding is just way over the line.

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