I tried again to make the macaroni salad that I enjoyed with the Hawaiian plate lunches. This time, I followed the recipe exactly, even down to the amounts of ingredients called for. This time, I think I got the taste right, but the texture wasn't quite right. Then I realised - the macaroni was cooked far more than al dente. That might have something to do with it. Their taste must be similar to the Filipino taste - truthfully, I never had pasta done al dente growing up. I grew up eating my father's wonderful macaroni soup, and the macaroni was always nice and soft. I remember marvelling at how the dried pasta would be the colour of egg yolks, and yet it would look snow white when cooked. And, of course, the pasta would be soft and not chewy.
So I think that's the missing element here. I'll have to remember to cook the pasta a little longer so it goes beyond the al dente stage.
Now all I have to do is figure out how to make the Kal-bi, and I'll be happy. A Kal-bi plate lunch! Mmmmmmm.