Hawaii is a melting pot of so many different foods, flavors, ingredients and nationalities that blend to create unique Hawaiian style food for today. Hawaii cuisine is unique and also comforting at the same time – covering delicious street food and pupus (appetizers or snacks), a mixture of Asian, American and European influence and local favorite dishes that have been passed through the generations. Along with authentic Hawaiian foods, plantation workers from around the world came to Hawaii and shared their favorite comfort foods and helped to create an eclectic melting pot of dishes. Eventually, this became a mixed plate style of local delicious Hawaiian dishes and popular pupus, entrees and desserts . Check out some of these popular Hawaii dishes you need to try when you visit and see which ones end up being some of your favorite Hawaiian food.
Try some of these local Hawaiian dishes
Hawaiian pupus or appetizers
Hawaiian pupus are a typically served Pau Hana or end of day. Enjoying some delicious small bites and a nice beverage with good friends and just relaxing is how we celebrate Pau Hana . Pupus (appetizers) are very popular dishes at happy hour venues or just a take out dish brought to the beach to eat and enjoy outdoors. Here are some of the local favorites you’ll always find in a café, take out counter or a grocery prepared food section.
Poke – raw sushi prepared in a myriad of ways originated in Hawaii and has become well known worldwide. Typically using local fish like Ahi, Ono and mahi mahi, poke is usually prepared with the freshest raw fish cuts and ingredients in a variety of styles and taste. There are many poke shops, grocery deli areas and even restaurants that do their own take of this tasty Poke appetizer dish.
Eggrolls or lumpia – a take off from Chinese style egg rolls or Filipino lumpia, egg rolls in Hawaii are a pupu favorite eaten with or without a delicious sauce. This pupu can be sold traditionally in take out counters or served in fine dining establishments with their on take on an elevated eggroll presentation and taste
Spam musubi – a popular take away snack found everywhere, this easy to eat and simple rice, spam and seaweed wrap is a quick filler in between the main meals and popular with locals. Spam musubi is an easy snack you can find at local mom and pop counter food places, farmers markets and even a local grocery or gas station that sells snacks.
Steamed manapua – a different take on Chinese pork buns, the Hawaiian manapua is typically larger with BBQ style meat or charsui and a yummy sweet/sour style sauce that is easy to devour by yourself. Best eaten when right out of the steamer, it is also delicious eaten at room temperature.
Edamame – Originating from Japan, this simple snack of edamame is simply prepared with garlic, sesame oil and some chili flakes on the boiled beans that absorbs all the delicious flavors from the mixed ingredients. A perfect snack to go along with any popular Hawaiian beer, cider or cocktail drink
Boiled peanuts – An easy to make and eat popular snack, boiled peanuts are just that boiled in water and salt and drained. Whenever locals crave a bit of salt and something nutty, this is definitely the choice of pupu they will look for.
Portuguese Sausage – grilled, baked or fried, Portuguese sausage is delicious as a pupu or a meat side dish that is often served with a mixed plate dish. It is always a local favorite sausage you will find in any local café or takeout counter.
Hawaiian style entrees
Plate lunch – many take places, small store delis or even cafes sell to go plate lunches with local favorite entrees over two scoops of rice and two scoops of macaroni. Try this with favorite fried mochi chicken, deep fried fish or seafood or specials of the day
Bento Box – originally from Japan, bentos are offered at many Japanese places and other take-out spots or cafes that serve up smaller mixes of local Japanese flavored dishes like fried fish, mochiko chicken, chicken or pork katsu and sushi or rolls.
Moco loco – you can get many different versions of moco loco dishes or stick to the local favorite which typically has two scoops of rice, a hamburger steak type patty and a generous topping of gravy with a fried egg on top. This local favorite comfort food is always on the menu at local cafes or restaurants.
Kalua Pig – a very popular entrée meat dish that is always at every pot luck or luau you might go to, Kalua pig is moist, juicy and a great dish to mix with rice or poi as a starch. Typically done traditionally in an imu (steamed underground pit), kalua pig is now baked in a stove or crock pot. Kalua pig is so easy to do in a slow cooker, check out how make Kalua pig here for instructions.
Lau lau – a favorite dish in any Hawaiian menu, lau lau is made with taro leaves wrapped around pork and or fish and steamed to create a delicious, moist, comfort style food especially when combined with poi or rice as a starch dish. If you want to try and make it yourself, check out this simple lau lau recipe here for directions.
Lomi salmon – a typical side dish in a Hawaiian style mixed plate made with diced tomatoes, onions and dried fish or salmon to make this a savory, salty side complemented with some poi or rice. Check out this simple lomi salmon recipe here on how to make some delicious lomi salmon.
Huli Huli chicken – You’ll have to stop if you see huli huli rotisseries at a roadside stand with those amazing smells. It is melt in your mouth perfect chicken that’s moist, flavorful and so delicious with some rice, macaroni salad or lomi salmon on the side.
Luau stew – Just like grandma would make comfort food style, luau stew is just that made with taro leaves, coconut milk and some protein like chicken, pork or beef depending on what’s in the fridge. Everyone has their own favorite style and added flavors, but these basic ingredients make it a favorite Hawaiian comfort food.
Hawaiian Short Ribs – another popular dish that everyone love, short ribs Hawaiian style is typically dried and then grilled or baked to gooey perfection. There are many different preparation styles, sauces and ingredients used, but typical tropical and Asian flavors in preparing and marinating the meat are the local way to enjoy these ribs.
A more Hawaiian take on ramen soup than Asian counterparts, Saimin is a local favorite soup broth made with fish, pork and chicken stock. Add some Portuguese sausage, fish or pork with this soup and you have a hearty and flavorful local dish everyone loves to eat.
Poi – the traditional Hawaiian poi is made with taro that is pounded and water added to create a sticky consistency. Letting the poi sit and ferment for a few days adds a sour touch that is perfect for the various meats and other side dishes that complement this starch.
Pipi Kalua – Hawaiian jerky style beef that is dried outdoors and then fried or char broiled in an oven to tender goodness. When you add some rice or poi with other sides, this is the most delicious Hawaiian meal you have and will crave for days.
Chicken long rice – When the Hawaiians brought their chickens, they saw that Chinese laborers would combine their noodles into a fantastic soup and chicken which created this fantastic dish and flavored with lots of garlic and ginger to make a favorite local dish.
Purple sweet potato – a staple starch brought as a canoe plant by the Polynesians, purple sweet potato is always part of a Hawaiian mixed plate or pot luck style dish that is a perfect complement to all the savory and salty dishes present in any food event or something you’ll find at a café or take out counter.
Hawaiian style desserts
Delicious desserts cover the gamut of tropical flavors, fried goodies or something cold and perfect for those hot Hawaiian days where you want something easy and refreshing. Check out some of these popular desserts below that you might want to try soon.
Hawaiian shaved Ice – You definitely have to try a local shaved ice at any of the popular local venues and on a hot day. Super fine shaved ice is pack into paper cones and you then have a choice of different flavors to top like coconut, mango, lilikoi or a bevy of other popular toppings to choose from to create your own yummy dessert
Haupia – a popular Hawaiian favorite, Haupia is basically a coconut cream dessert that can be served creamy style, more solid and cut or even combined with other sweet ingredients like sweet potato or even sweetened taro to make a more complex dessert.
Malasadas – taken from Portuguese settlers that deep fried this gooey dough and slathered sugar all over the fried goodness. Malasadas are served best hot and also with a bevy of piped
A local favorite dessert you can find at many farmers markets, take out places and even grocery stores. Mochi cakes originate from Japan but with many different variations in Hawaii to include tropical flavors like likikoi, pineapple and coconut. Try some delicious mochi and you will be sold.
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