Hawaii is a paradise with its gorgeous beaches and tropical breezes. If you’re lucky enough to go, don’t forget to try all the food the island has to offer, too. It’s a unique blend of East Asian (especially Japanese), native Hawaiian, and American culture that can’t be found anywhere else. Here are the dishes you have to try:
When you have pork in Hawaii, it’s going to be good. One of the most famous ways to serve it to make lualua. Pork gets wrapped in taro leaves and cooked underground in a hot oven for many hours. The meat becomes melt-in-your-mouth tender, while the leaves become like spinach. Fish and chicken can also be prepared using this method.
In Japan, raw fish is called sashimi. In Hawaii, it’s poke. The freshest fish, usually tuna, is chopped up into raw cubes and served with all kinds of condiments, like spicy mayo. Shoyu poke is also very popular, and consists of ahi cubes mixed with soy sauce, Maui onion, sesame oil and seeds, macadamia nuts, ginger, salt, and chile pepper.
Poi is basically Hawaiian mashed potatoes. It’s made from taro root, which is similar to a potato, but it has a distinct purple color and more starch. To make poi, you bake or steam the taro and pound it into a paste with water. You end up with a sticky consistency. Before serving, it’s chilled. Poi has a unique flavor that’s a little sour because there’s slight fermentation occurring, and not everyone loves it. Enjoy plain or with salted fish.
If you’ve ever been to Hawaii, you know the island loves spam. After WWII, a large military presence remained in Hawaii, and spam was the ideal food to ship because it lasts forever and doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Local chefs began incorporating the meat into their dishes, experimenting in innovative ways, and created delicious dishes still popular today. Spam musubi is one of the most beloved snacks. First you grill a piece of spam and then put in on a block of white rice and wrap it in nori (seaweed). Lots of variations exist, like spam musubi with cucumber, plum sauce, and even eggs and bacon.
There’s debate about who invented this hearty meal, but there’s no question about its deliciousness. A loco moco is a hamburger patty on top of white rice, with an egg on top and lots of brown gravy. It isn’t unusual to find spam in there, too. It’s traditionally served for breakfast and you can find it just about everywhere, including the McDonald’s in Hawaii.
You can’t go to Hawaii and not eat fruit. Pineapple and passionfruit (known in Hawaii as lilikoi) are amazing and the perfect end to a meal or as a beach snack. For the most affordable fruit, head to a farmers market and see what looks the best.
Hawaii’s most famous treat, shave ice is the perfect refreshment on a hot day. The texture is incredibly fine, like snow dust, and soaked in the syrup of your choice. If you want to go all out, you can enjoy shave ice with add-ins like ice cream, adzuki beans (sweet red beans), and sweetened condensed milk.
Road-tripping through Hawaii? Here’s what you need to know.