Part of the fun of traveling is being exposed to beautiful elements of culture that you would not otherwise have experienced. The Hawaiian Islands are a paradise where the outdoor activities and adventures are endless and many of the local foods reflect this. After you explore the Hawaii’s many attractions, why not visit some of the best restaurants and shops on the culinary tours or sample fresh produce from farmer’s markets. As you experience new kinds of cuisine, make sure you add these top ten Hawaiian foods to your must-try list.
Poi: Far and away the most important staple of traditional Hawaiian culture, poi will almost always be one of the dishes you’ll find wherever Hawaiian food is served. Poi is made from the cooked, fermented mash of the taro root. Some eat this pudding-like food with sugar and milk; but traditionalist will always eat plain. Taro is almost superfood-like in its health benefits, being filed with vitamins A and B-complex, thiamin, riboflavin, zinc, magnesium, copper, potassium, fiber and iron, making it a preferred food for babies born in the Aloha State.
Kalua Pig: The famous Hawaiian kalua pig is always the main entrée at a luau, a traditional Hawaiian feast. Cooked in the classic way, an entire pig is roasted to perfection in an underground Hawaiian oven called an imu and wrapped in banana leaves until the meat is moist, savory and easy to shred by hand. Once taken out of an imu, a fully cooked kalua pig, before its meat is pulled apart, looks very impressive. Even if you don’t have the chance to attend a luau on your Hawaiian vacation, make sure to sample kalua pig.
Poke: For those who like raw fish, poke may become one of your favorite foods in the Aloha State. Though every island and restaurant may have their own creative take on the meal, poke is typically made from chunks of raw tuna, usually from ahi (yellowfin tuna) or aku (skipjack tuna) and mixed with ogo, (a local seaweed), slices of sweet Maui onions, inamona (the meat of the kukui nut), chili peppers and/or soy sauce.
Lomi Salmon: This is a standard dish served in places that specialize in Hawaiian foods. Lomi salmon is somewhat unique as a Hawaiian food dish in that all of its main ingredients—salted salmon, onions and tomatoes which are mixed together and then served cold—are either not found in or are not truly native to Hawaii. Despite that, this is dish is now considered to be as authentically Hawaiian as can be.
Spam Musubi: Hawaii’s love of Spam goes back to World War II when it was the primary source of protein for many island residents because supplies of fresh meat were prioritized for the military. Since then, Hawaii has taken Spam to new levels in the form of the Spam musubi. Musubi is the Japanese name for rice ball, which is typically molded in a triangular shape. But in the case of a Spam musubi, a rectangular mold of rice has a slice of Spam wrapped onto it with nori, a Japanese dried, pressed sheet of roasted seaweed. Spam musubi can be even be jazzed up by cooking the Spam in teriyaki sauce and is a great meal for people on the go.
Loco Moco: No top ten list foods in Hawaii would be complete without the iconic loco moco. A power-packed bowl of protein and carbohydrates, this dish is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. The loco moco is typically served in a bowl of white rice and topped with a hamburger patty and an egg fried easy-over on top of it and smothered with brown gravy. Whether you crave serious sustenance after a long day in the sunshine or need fuel for a long nap, the loco moco is an absolute must.
Plate Lunch: Though this may not be the healthiest item on the list, the plate lunch in Hawaii is the ultimate gut-busting comfort food in the Aloha State. A typical plate lunch will include two scoops of white rice, macaroni salad and a wide range of heavy duty protein option such as teriyaki beef, pork cutlet, chicken katsu, chili with franks and more. For the diet conscious, in some places you may have the option of substituting the macaroni salad for a tossed salad.
Malasadas: Soft and delicate, these delicious pastries are somewhat akin to donuts, but without the holes and are lighter and sweeter. Excellent either a dessert or morning starter, malasadas trace their roots from the Portuguese immigrants who came to Hawaii during the late 1800s to the early 1900s. The delectable deep-fried malasadas can also be filled with coconut cream, mango or lilikoi fillings; but whether you go with the plain or ones with fillings, this treat is a winner.
Haupia: Traditionally the dessert served at Hawaiian luaus, haupia is a coconut-lover’s delight. Sweet and simple, the haupia is a custard-like dessert made from coconut milk mixed with ground pia root or corn starch. Haupia is typically served in cut squares and is a nice light finish to any robust Hawaiian dinner.
Shave Ice: Last but definitely not least, shave ice might arguably be the most popular dessert in the islands. Famous across the world, Hawaiian shave ice uses finely shaved, not crushed, ice and infused with sweet syrups ranging from the classic strawberry to an amazingly wide range of exotic flavors, such as coconut, lilikoi and kiwi. You can even add sweet azuki beans, ice cream and even condensed milk to sweeten the deal for a pulse-pumping end to the day.