Jump Down The Alley Way for Lemon Crunch Cake and Oxtail Soup

There is a little restaurant, in a bowling alley in Aiea, on Oahu, called The Alley.  This place is what you might call a hole in the wall, or a hidden gem.  Most local people do know about the place, but it took Marg the Intrepid, in Australia to clue me in.  She wanted to come to Hawaii to see the Arizona Memorial and partly for the Alley's Lemon Crunch Cake.  Now we don't hop over to Oahu all that often, and when we do go, it is not to Aiea.  However, Bob had his Kaiser eye surgery not too far away.  And we were taking advantage of Uber, so no worries about finding it. Our driver was an older Filipino gentleman who asked us how we knew about The Alley:)

I wanted their famous Oxtail Soup, but just mentioned the cake to Bob.  That was enough (especially after his fasting pre-op).  We took our cake back to the hotel for later, and it was quite good, though Marg's version actually sounded better (isn't home made always?). However, the Oxtail soup was TO DIE FOR.  Thus today's post, wherein I attempt to duplicate their soup.  Luckily, Chef Glen was interviewed on a local program, and shared his secrets (handed down from his mother).  Nothing written out, but he demonstrated pretty clearly, and there were a few versions online that purported to be authentic.  I am transcribing as best I can what he, and I did here. I felt good about the beef, which was from a local rancher, hard hit by the recent volcanic eruption.


  • 2 lbs oxtails
  • 1 strip dried lemon peel (zest, not the pith)
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dates
  • ¼ lb. dry shitake mushrooms (fresh are ok)
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced (?) he didn’t add it in the video
  • Salt, at least a tablespoon, more to taste
  • 1/2 cup of shelled, skinned, raw peanuts (can sub roasted unsalted peanuts)
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • A handful of fresh mustard greens, baby bok choy or watercress, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups, loosely packed) I used both bok choy and watercress.
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Green onions, white and green parts, sliced on diagonal
  • Freshly grated ginger

1  In a large pot, add the oxtails and cover with cold water. Bring to slow boil. Parboil for 30 minutes. Drain the pot. Rinse the oxtails in water, and trim off any excess fat.

2  Return the oxtails to the pot. Cover with water by an inch. Add the shitake mushrooms, lemon peel, star anise, ginger, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for one hour.

3  Add the peanuts and simmer for 2-3 more hours, until the oxtail meat is tender and falling off the bone.

4  At this point, you can either skim the fat off the soup and proceed to the next step, or let the soup cool, and chill it overnight in the refrigerator. The next day the fat will have solidified and will be easy to pull up from the top of the soup. The flavors will also have had more of a chance to blend and be absorbed by the oxtails if you let the soup sit overnight.

5  Bring soup to a simmer. Add the chili pepper flakes and greens of choice. Cook for 5 more minutes, or until the greens are tender.

6  Serve with garnishes of chopped fresh cilantro, green onions, and freshly grated ginger.

If you want, you can strip the meat off the bones before serving. If served bone-in, you will want to provide a bowl for the bones. Serve with ponzu sauce and rice.  I however, served it with some of my fresh baked, sourdough bread.

Ponzu Sauce  (Supposed to be his mother's secret recipe from years and years and years ago.)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine)
  • 1 teas. Sesame oil
  • 1 teas. Sugar
  • 1 teas. grated ginger
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Mix ingredients together and chill. An excellent adjunct.

 However the soup didn't have that robust flavor I was expecting, as at The Alley, so I added some "Better than Bouillon" au jus concentrate and a bit of bone broth to amp it up (2 tablespoons each). That did it nicely.

I'll send this over to Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event, and to Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sundays link-up. Check out both for lots of good food and cooking ideas.


Tina said...

I was surprised at the addition of peanuts. Thanks for posting a step-by-step as this comes so highly recommended by you and Marg. It does look wonderful!

Hope the eye surgery went well.

Mae Travels said...

Your combination of spices and aromatics is really mouth-watering. I would love to try The Alley, though on our trips to Hawaii we’ve always gone to other islands, not Oahu. I’ll have to check on that cake, too — lemon is a favorite of mine. By chance I just bought a bottle of Ponzu, which I find to be a nice salad dressing as well as a condiment.

Best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Beth F said...

I love oxtail soup and this version looks awesome. Marg's bakes this past year have all looked awesome, haven't they? I have no idea if the Alley existed when I lived in Hawaii all those years ago, but I sure didn't know about it then. If I ever get back to Oahu, I'll have to check it out.

Jackie Mc Guinness said...

I love oxtail soup as well and will definitely give this a try.

Just back from Spain where we had oxtail stew that was soooo delicious!

jama said...

Ox tail soup is one of my Dad's favorites. Can't remember ever eating any but now I'm intrigued by your recipe. Looks like a nice hearty soup for a winter's evening -- though I know it's a favorite among locals in Hawai'i, despite the year-round summery weather. I'm also craving lemon crunch cake now.

Carole said...

that's a hearty soup! Merry Christmas. Cheers form Carole's Chatter

Deb in Hawaii said...

The lemon crunch cake is a favorite of mine although I have only been to The Alley once to eat it. Diamond Head Grill which is closer to me makes it too. The oxtail soup looks amazing. Thanks for sharing it Souper Sundays this week!

Marg said...

I am so glad that you got to go and try Lemon Crunch Cake. And thank you for the kind words about my cake. It was certainly delicious!

And thanks for the kind words @Bethfishreads