Sun. May 19th, 2024
The food in Hawai’i is as good a reason to visit as much as the culture and aloha spirit. Hawai’i’s regional cuisine is a reflection of the islands’ diverse melting pot of cultures blending Polynesian, Japanese, Chinese and Portuguese influences to create a fusion of flavours that is truly unique. Let’s explore ten of the most delicious regional Hawaiian foods!

Hawaiian Poke

1. Poke

Poke is a must-try when in Hawai’i. It is made with chunks of raw fish, mixed with soy sauce, ogo (Hawaiian seaweed), sesame oil and green onions. It comes in myriad flavour combos from ahi tuna, salmon and prawn with a range of dressings from spicy mayonnaise to classic soy. Poke can be served with just the fish itself or on a bed of salad or rice but it is always healthy and made with the freshest seafood caught that morning. Did you know that poke is actually the Hawaiian word for “to slice” and it is pronounced poh-kay?

2. Loco Moco

Loco Moco is the ultimate comfort food. It consists of a beef hamburger patty served over rice with beef gravy with a fried egg on top and was designed as the perfect post-surf meal. The origin of the name Loco Moco is often disputed but one story goes that it was created by a group of teens who ordered steaks and eggs with rice and gravy at a local restaurant and nicknamed it “loco moco” because it sounded like “crazy” in Spanish.

Hawaiian Loco Moco

3. SPAM Musubi

If you love nigiri sushi then you’ll love SPAM Musubi. This is a popular, portable snack in Hawai’i and is made with a slice of grilled SPAM on top of a block of sushi rice, wrapped with a band of nori seaweed and is like a giant nigiri. It’s a delicious and portable snack to enjoy on the go and it is so popular in Hawai’i that musubi cafes specialise in making these with a range of toppings like SPAM, egg, avocado and cheese!

4. Plate Lunch

Plate lunches started as a way to feed sugarcane and pineapple plantation workers during their lunch breaks. A plate lunch consists of two scoops of rice, a scoop of macaroni salad and meat like teriyaki chicken or kalua pork. Some consider that you haven’t truly visited Hawai’i until you’ve had a plate lunch!

Hawaiian Shave Ice

5. Shave Ice

The ultimate place to enjoy a shave ice is in Hawai’i with its cool breezes and warm, sunny days. This Hawaiian dessert consists of finely shaved ice topped with flavoured syrups. The Hawaiian version of shaved ice is fluffier and lighter than snow cones made with crushed ice and shave ice vendors often make their own syrups from scratch. Stuck on which flavour to choose? Try the classic Hawaiian POG flavour combo (Passion fruit, Orange and Guava).

5. Kalua Pork

This delicious slow-roasted pork dish has its origins in Polynesia and is a traditional Hawaiian favourite. Kalua Pork is traditionally cooked in an underground oven called an imu with kiawe wood and banana leaves. Once cooked it is then shredded until flossy and fine and served with rice and sides.

Kalua Pork Hawaii

7. Poi

This traditional Polynesian Hawaiian staple dish is made by pounding taro root into a smooth paste. Poi is often served alongside other Hawaiian dishes and has a mild taste and a thick, pudding-like texture. Hawaiian bakeries sometimes make donuts and cakes in poi flavour eg. poi mochi donuts.

8. Manapua

Manapuas are a popular Hawaiian snack that has its roots in Chinese cuisine. The word “manapua” is a Hawaiian style version of the Cantonese term “mein bao,” which translates to “meat bun.” In the late 19th century, Chinese labourers emigrated to Hawai’i to work on the sugarcane plantations bringing the recipe with them. Manapua are especially popular in Honolulu’s Chinatown and along with SPAM musubi, are often sold at convenience stores and food trucks throughout the islands.

Poi Hawaii

9. Malasadas

These Portuguese-inspired doughnuts without a hole are a staple in Hawai’i. These delicious treats made their way to Hawai’i when Portuguese labourers who worked on the sugarcane plantations brought the recipe with them. Try haupia or guava custard filled malasadas or malasadas dipped in Li Hing Mui powder for a truly Hawaiian experience!

10. Haupia

Haupia is a traditional Hawaiian dessert made from coconut milk, sugar and cornstarch that has its origins in Polynesia. This coconut pudding is a popular Hawaiian dessert and is often served at luaus and other special events such as weddings and birthdays. It has a gelatinous texture and is usually served cut into squares and has a creamy texture and a sweet coconut flavour. Like Poi it is a popular flavour for ice cream and pies.

Hawaii Malasadas

Hawaiian cuisine is diverse and delicious and you won’t go wrong trying any of these wonderful regional dishes. Only in Hawai’i!


By Lala