As I was eating dinner last night I got to thinking about must eat food when you visit Hawaii. Everyone has a favorite Hawaiian food. Take my favorite: poke. Poke is a Hawaiian staple. Go into any grocery store and you can find rows of cubed fresh ahi or salmon marinated with shoyu (soy sauce), a spicy mayo blend or oyster sauce, tossed with limu (seaweed), onions, avocados…really the options are endless. I have three favorite kinds. Counters let you sample the different varieties. The best option for one is to order a poke bowl – a bowl-full of rice topped with a generous scoop of poke at an affordable price. The biggest debate on the island isn’t politics…it’s who makes the best poke bowl!
Ofcourse poke is just one of the many amazing delicacies found in this corner of the world. Let’s explore a few more! You can’t go to Hawaii and not have a Shave Ice. Everyone has a Shave Ice…even the president of the United States has Shave Ice when he visits. Shave Ice is shaved ice in a cup (unlike snow cones which consist of crushed ice) and resembles snow. It’s topped with different flavored syrups which evenly flavors the ice. No straw is necessary – just a spoon. Hawaiian shops seem to have an endless array of tropical flavors…guava, mango, lilikoi, pineapple, coconut…special flavors like bubblegum and li hing – the combinations go on and on! They are the perfect treat after a swim at the beach.
Drive down Kapiolani near Waikiki and you will see tour buses stopped and a line out the door at Leonard’s. Leonard’s is a bakery famous for their malasadas. They have been selling malasadas for more than 60 years. Malasadas are warm, doughy and fried…kind of like a cross between a beignet and a donut. Originally from Portugal, Catholic Portuguese immigrants working in Hawaii’s sugar plantations started making these delectable sweets in Hawaii in the late 1800s. Originally coming in just one flavor, today you can buy all kinds – “original”, custard, haupia, chocolate, li hing, pineapple…
Another truly Hawaiian option is the “plate lunch”. Plate lunch is a plate of lunch – brilliant! A traditional plate lunch consists of a two scoops of rice, one scoop of macaroni and some type of meat…terriyaki chicken, shrimp… There are a few food trucks that specialize in selling plate lunches. My favorites are at the North Shore…you can literally enjoy your plate lunch and watch some whales! True story.
A food native to Hawaii is Spam Misubi. Spam Misubi is one of those items that can be a snack or a quick meal on the go. It gained popularity after World War II where Spam was offered as a main course for the troops. Spam Misubi is literally a slice of cooked Spam on a block of rice, wrapped with a piece of nori (dried seaweed). You can find these delicious and inexpensive options at any convenience or grocery store.
Why have Starbucks when you can drink some of the world’s finest coffee right here? Hawaii is the only state in the United States that is allowed to grow coffee commercially. While Kona is most famous for it’s smooth arabica bean flavor, coffee is also produced on Maui, Oahu, Kauai and Molokai. Enjoy it at a local cafe and have a delicious lilikoi pastry of banana and cream cheese scone while you are it!
If you have time to enjoy a proper luau – a traditional Hawaiian party with food and entertainment…you may run into a whole feast of things to eat: kalua pig, laulau (pork wrapped in a taro leaf), poke, poi (a dish made from taro), lomi salmon, seaweed salad, Hawaiian sweet potato (it’s purple!), haupia (coconut custard), Chicken long rice, etc. No eating utensils were needed in olden days..nowadays they are provided. Dig in!
Surrounded by the ocean, you can’t help but have the freshest, finest seafood on the planet! Every day, Hawaii’s fish market provides the best tunas, blue marlin, swordfish, mahimahi, long tail red snapper, pink snapper, sea bass, shrimp, tako (octopus)…and this beautiful tropical island also yields an abundance of fruit…lilikoi, guava, lychee, mango, pineapple, apple bananas. A nice option is to try an acai bowl – frozen acai berry puree with granola, strawberries, blueberries and banana…as you can see – when it comes to Hawaiian food you are guaranteed to find something you’ll love!