Amanda Williams a RoamRight Blog Author

A Foodie Guide to Hawaii

Spam musubi is a popular snack and lunch food in Hawaii composed of a slice of grilled Spam on top of a block of rice, wrapped together with nori dried seaweed CT

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 landscape.

But did you know that Hawaii is also home to some really unique foods?

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.

Kalua pig

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.

Lau lau

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.

Loco moco

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).

Shave ice

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?

Note: Available plans and coverages may have changed since this blog was published.


About the Author

Amanda Williams

Amanda Williams, a RoamRight Blog Author Graduate student by day and avid traveler and blogger by night (and on weekends and during holidays), Amanda is just a small-town Ohio girl trying to balance a "normal" life with a desire to discover the world beyond her Midwest bubble. Amanda's adventurous nature and inability to say "no" have led her to some pretty amazing adventures all around the world. But she has no desire to stop exploring anytime soon. Read Amanda's blog, A Dangerous Business, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.

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