When you think “Hawaii,” chances are food is not the first
thing that comes to mind. Instead, you are probably picturing beaches and palm
trees and sunshine. And that's fair; Hawaii IS known for its tropical
But did you know that Hawaii is also home to some really
Next time you're thinking of Hawaii, make sure you picture
yourself eating some of these local favorites on that palm-tree-studded beach.
Pronounced poh-kay, poke is a raw fish dish usually made
with cubes of seasoned ahi (tuna). It's similar to a sashimi or fish tartare,
and is usually served as an appetizer or side dish. You'll also usually find
ingredients like sea salt, soy sauce, onions, sesame oil, seaweed, and even
chili peppers in poke dishes.
Lomi lomi salmon
“Lomi lomi” actually means “to massage” in Hawaiian, and so
the name of this dish refers to the preparation of the salmon. Lomi lomi salmon
is salmon “massaged” with salt, diced, and mixed with tomato and onion. The
dish is served as a cold side.
When you first see poi, you probably won't have any idea
what it is. This traditional Hawaiian dish looks like a thick purple paste –
but is actually just mashed stems from the taro plant. Taro crops up in the
traditional foods of many Polynesian cultures, but only Hawaiians mash it up
into poi. The paste is very mild in taste, and rich in vitamins – perhaps that
is why it's been a staple of the Hawaiian diet for centuries.
In Hawaiian, “kalua” actually refers to a traditional method
of cooking that involves an underground oven, hot stones, and banana leaves.
Pork cooked in this fashion becomes incredibly tender, and kalua pig is
commonly served at luaus.
Similar to kalua pig, lau lau is pork wrapped in taro leaves
(though it can also be fish or chicken, or a combination of any or all three)
and then steamed (again, often underground) until the meat is tender. It's
usually served with a side of rice.
This food item isn't traditionally Hawaiian like poke or
poi, loco moco has nevertheless become a “Hawaiian” food. Invented in the
1940s, loco moco is essentially a hamburger patty topped with a fried egg and
gravy, and then served over rice.
Go to Honolulu and mention Leonard's Bakery, and you will
have both locals and visitors gushing about malasadas. Malasadas are deep-fried
sweet yeast donuts without holes that are friend to a golden brown and then
coated in sugar. While these confections aren't Hawaiian (they actually have
Portuguese roots), Leonard's is a Honolulu staple – no visit to the city would
be complete without having a malasada (or three).
Similar to a snowcone but different because (as the name
would suggest) the ice is shaved instead of just crushed, shave ice is a
popular cool treat in Hawaii. Local flavors like pineapple, coconut, passion
fruit, kiwi, and guava are popular, and by far one of the most famous shave ice
vendors is Matsumoto's on the North Shore of the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
Yes, Hawaiians also love Spam. The popularity of this canned
meat dates back to World War II, when Spam was shipped over to the troops and
the surplus ended up distributed all over the Pacific. Today, Hawaii consumes
more Spam than any other U.S. state, and you can find the “Hawaiian steak”
served everywhere from McDonald's restaurants to high-end sushi joints (try
some Spam musubi).
What’s your favorite Hawaiian food?