Remember the famous Azeka Ribs in Maui? I do. I came to Maui in 1994 and remember how my husband used to host a “Rib Fest” and we would buy tons of Azeka Ribs and hold a pot luck. Everyone loves Azeka Ribs! It’s so deliciously yummy! Bryan reached out to me a several weeks ago and told me about his project of making Azeka Ribs sauce available again. I told him he can be a guest blogger here at A Maui and so here is his post!:
In September 2006, the famous Azekaí’s Ribs & Snack Shop in Kihei, Maui closed. During their 56 year run the Azeka’s were known for many Hawaiian delicacies; however, the Azeka’s became famous for their Hawaiian-style ribs. Fondly known as Azekaís Sweet Meat, Azeka’s Ribs were enjoyed by both locals and travelers alike. Now, I am bringing back the secret family recipe for people to once again enjoy those Sweet Maui Memories no matter their location.
Bill Azeka and Azekaís Ribs
It all started with my great uncle, Bill Azeka, who was the original creator of the Azekaís secret sauce. Uncle Bill was born on Maui in 1921, but was raised by his grandmother, Miyono, in the town of Fukuoka, Japan. During his younger years Uncle Bill spent much of his time helping run a small family owned grocery store in the country side. Some of Uncle Billís greatest lessons learned were that perseverance keeps a business strong, providing great customer service is essential, and enticing customers with new products keeps them interested. When Uncle Bill moved back to Maui at the age of 16, he took various jobs on the island including cooking at his parentís Aloha Restaurant, working as a watermelon farmer in Kaanapali, working in the sugar cane fields, and as a chicken farmer in Kihei. With each job Uncle Bill had, he practiced and perfected the valuable lessons he learned from his grandmother.
When Uncle Bill opened his first grocery store in 1950, he stocked it with necessities for the weekend fishermen, ranchers and local families who were located on the beautiful south shore beaches. Eventually, the property was built to what is currently the well-known Azeka’s Place in the heart of Kihei. Within the grocery store he sold the marinated beef-ribs ready to go in 5 pound bags. This way locals and tourists could enjoy Azeka’s Ribs on the beach, at home, or back in their condos.
Azeka’s Ribs and Snack Shop, Kihei, Maui
For years, Azeka’s Ribs grew in popularity which meant that Uncle Bill needed a better way to supply his large fan base. Thatís when, in 1994, the Azekaís opened the Azekaís Ribs and Snack Shop. Located next to the Ace Hardware in Kihei, this classic Hawaiian snack shop treated people to some of the best Maui food favorites on the island. The Azeka’s served the tastiest chicken katsu, lomi salmon, loco moco, and beef teriyaki plates on Maui. However, the Azekaís Ribs remained the most popular item on the menu by far. Average sales for the Azeka’s Ribs were as much as 2,000 pounds per day. The ribs themselves were made from the finest grain-fed beef and the freshest local ingredients. As Maui grew into a world-class destination for travelers, the Azekaís Ribs fan base grew internationally. Patrons would order for the ribs from all over Canada, the U.S. Mainland, and Japan as well. Sadly, in June of 2000, Uncle Bill passed away at the age of 79. While the Azeka’s Ribs and Snack Shop continued on until 2006 with the help of family members, patrons always remembered the generosity that Uncle Bill showed towards them and the community of Maui. Uncle Bill was grateful to have had the chance to live out the entrepreneurial values he learned from his grandmother in Japan.
Azeka’s Sauce Comeback and Revival
Since closing, people from all over the world have been scouring the internet in search of this beloved Maui food staple; some even attempting to recreate the flavor that they grew to love. This essential destination for island visitors has only turned into disappointment as they see it is gone. This recipe was near and dear to the hearts of Maui locals and visitors alike. Now, nearly a decade later I am ready to once again provide everyone with the sweet Maui memories of past times.
I was born and raised in Gilbert, Arizona and despite the distance remained close to his Maui roots. Spending his summers on Maui with his aunts, uncles, and cousins, I eventually learned the secret recipe as it has stayed a trade secret throughout the years. Similar to Uncle Bill, I also learned his entrepreneurial values through helping family businesses. My mother, Rhonda Azeka, successfully ran an event planning business for over 26 years. It grew to be one of the most successful event planning businesses in the greater Phoenix area.
The Chance Meeting
It wasnít until a chance meeting in the spring of 2013 that would help me realize that people still miss the Azeka’s treasured secret sauce. While I was attending college, I was on my way to see a new professor for some advice about a project he was working on. During this meeting the professor recognized my heritage having spent many of his earlier years traveling the world. He spoke to me about his familyís love for the old Azeka’s recipes and that he himself missed the Azekaís Ribs the most. Later that week I surprised the professor by whipping up a batch of Azeka’s Sauce to enjoy.
After this meeting, I took to the internet to research who else still wanted his familyís secret sauce. I discovered that there were many people waiting for the revival of the Azekaís Sauce recipe. Some even resorted to making and sharing mock-recipes to try and relive the flavors they experienced in the past on Maui. After seeing this I decided to take action, creating small batches and giving them to local friends and family. As the popularity rapidly grew I realized that this essential Hawaiian flavor needed to be shared on a larger scale than just local farmers markets and grocery stores.
Azeka’s Sauce Revival and Kickstarter.com
Today, I am the owner of Sweet Maui Memories, Inc. located in Gilbert, Arizona. I make and sell Azeka’s Sauce locally. My goal is to share the delicious Azeka’s Sauce with past fans as well as future Hawaiian barbecue lovers. Reaching out to the internet once again, I will utilize the website Kickstater.com to help launch Azekaís Sauce.
On April 19, 2014, I launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring back the much-loved flavor that millions experienced for over 50 years on Maui, Hawaii. Anyone that would like to try the sauce can simply go to Kickstarter.com and support the campaign. The campaign will last for a little over a month from the start date. Please help make the Azeka’s Sauce campaign successful so Hawaiian barbecue sauce lovers can be reconnected with this great product. Once the Kickstarter campaign is over, please see Azekasauce.com for all of your future Azeka’s Sauce needs. Enjoy the Azeka’s Sauce!
Wow! And Aloha! I’ve been looking for this for years! Planning on a Hawaii party and looking for recipes for Axeks ribs! HUDE FAN since the 80’s. Going to check out your sauce! ?❤
I absolutely remember Azeka Ribs. I worked for Northwest Electric in Lahaina back in the early 90’s, and one of the projects I worked on was the then called “Manele Bay Hotel”. For our “Topping Off Party” when we were pretty much finished, our owner, Noel Kennett, had a huge amount of Azeka Ribs sent over on the inter-island boat. Craig’s boat. I remember the captain’s name but not the name of the ferry. It wasn’t actually a “ferry” boat in any other way than the task it performed, it was pretty damn fast for a big ass boat like that. One of my friends made a bet with Craig that he could ski behind the boat all the way back to Lahaina Harbor. Yeah. No. He lost. He was freezing his ass off, kept having to switch hands and grips and run the rope around his body. No help. He smartly gave it up. It was brave, and stupid, to try. We barbecued the ribs on Hulupoe Beach, and drank lots of beer and played tackle frisbee, as was our want in those days. We took all of our wooden wire spools, some rather large, piled them up on the point at the end of the finger pointing out at the northeast side of the bay, lit it on fire and made a HUGE bonfire that apparently you could see from Lanai City, because the cops came down and made us literally kick the fire apart until it was almost out. In hindsight it was juvenile but it was spectacular and beautiful in the dark. The finger of lava looked like a live lava finger pointing out into the ocean. The point is, I blame the Azeka’s. We were all euphoric from the ribs and made a huge party foul. I can taste the ribs right now when I think about them. Best I’ve ever had or made myself. I became a chef later on in my life and my best friend is a killer chef for the stars in Los Angeles and Hollywood and neither one of us has ever tasted better.
I am born and raised in Kihei Maui, born in 1963. My family still own our family property on Halama Street, which is about a 10 minute walk past St. Theresa Church to Azeka’s . We would ride our bikes , through the trail’s ( which we called it) to get shave ice . There was a pet monkey in the back of the store. Back then life was so easy , Kihei was so rural. Bill Azeka’, was the butcher, and we would get our fresh beef ? from him . He would wrap the meat in pink butcher’s paper. The meat was so fresh , so clean, no hormones etc…. we use to eat Azeka’s hamburger …raw ……no fear of salmonella……it was a treat . I miss those days. We could go to the store , and our family, like many other Old time local Kihei families could run a tab and just pick up our items and sign for it. At the end of the month we would pay our bill. Then a lot of families moved to different parts of the island. We moved to Pukalani then Wailuku However, when ever I was in Kihei , I would stop at Azeka’s Snack shop. I would have ribs, teriyaki, or Hawaiian plate. Their macaroni salad was old school and still the best I had ….the sweet meat/teriyaki sauce also the best.. …..but it was the way they cooked the teriyaki and ribs that was the winner too. They use to to marinate the ribs in 5 gallon buckets ….. the snack shop ladies were long time family friends, so sad when it closed. I just wanted to share. Good Luck in your business in keeping Bill Azeka’s dream
Is there a place in Kihei or nearby to buy the meat and the sauce?
I used to work at the management office at Azeka’s Place while the market and snack shop where there. Remember Bill, Jane, Tyler; those were the great days. Missed the food. Will certainly order the sauces.
I love Azeka ribs! We visited kehei every month of November from 1977 to 1989. I miss it so much and Azekas.
Mahalo !!! I went to Maui for my honeymoon and my Mother-in-law told me to go to Azekas and get some of their rib eyes in their secret sauce, (the condo had bbqs), I asked to taste the sauce and named off the Ingredients I tasted in it …he was not very happy about that. We bbqed them and just the smell of them cooking was amazing and unforgettable and they were fantastic. When I got home I mastered the sauce and have enjoyed them for years. Lately I’ve tried to make it and cannot hopefully I’ll find here what I’m missing thank you so so much….missing Maui and Azeka’s Ribs..Sincerely, Kelly Nelson