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.
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!