Hawaii’s multi-ethnic heritage has resulted in a cuisine that incorporates a rainbow of flavors from all over the world. If you’re planning to visit the Aloha State, be sure to try some of these local favorites.

Spam Musubi
People in Hawaii have a long-standing fondness for Spam. This canned meat product was a convenient staple item before the advent of refrigeration, but judging from its ubiquity on Hawaiian supermarket shelves, its popularity has proven to be timeless. Spam can be prepared in many ways. In Hawaii, one of the most common local dishes is Spam musubi, a snack found in convenience stores throughout the islands. It consists of a piece of Spam on top of a rectangular portion of rice, bound with a strip of nori.

At its most basic, haupia is a firm pudding made with coconut milk, sugar, salt, and cornstarch or arrowroot. However, there are many types of haupia to be found everywhere from farmers markets to fancy restaurants. A common variation of this popular dessert adds a layer of sweet sauce derived from lilikoi, or Hawaiian passion fruit, on top of the haupia base. Sweet potato haupia, made with a mashed-up layer of purple sweet potatoes added to the haupia foundation, is another alternative.

Plate Lunch
This popular meal, found at roadside stands, food trucks, small cafes, and local fast-food chains, is made with a meat item, two scoops of white rice, and a scoop of macaroni salad. The meat item can be beef, chicken or laulau, which is pork cooked in the traditional Hawaiian way by being wrapped in taro leaves and baked. Similar to, and likely originating from, the Japanese bento, the plate lunch dates from the plantation period of the 19th century, and now it’s a convenient lunch item that people in Hawaii from all walks of life enjoy.

A central part of the traditional Native Hawaiian diet, poi comes from taro, which is a starchy root vegetable grown as a staple food all over Polynesia. Poi is made from pounding or grinding taro and mixing it with water to form a thick, light-purple paste with a mild flavor. Traditionally, poi was eaten on its own, but these days, you might find poi incorporated into pancakes, cookies, and burgers. Poi is best when freshly made, as it begins to ferment naturally after it is prepared. You can find fresh poi at farmers markets or roadside stands.

Loco Moco
This hearty comfort food originated at Cafe 100 in Hilo, on the Big Island, and purists insist that the best Loco Mocos are still found there. A Loco Moco consists of a base of rice, topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg, and gravy. From this template, chefs all over Hawaii have created countless variations. Cafe 100 offers Loco Mocos with different kinds of meat instead of hamburger, as well as special holiday-themed Loco Mocos.

Hawaii has a fascinating food scene, with unique dishes that are very different from the typical cuisine in other parts of the United States. From farmers markets to fine dining establishments, you’ll experience plenty of enticing flavors in Hawaii.

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