There's nothing more exciting than trying a new dish or an inspired cuisine based on your vacation preferences. With the world well on its way to achieving some sense of 'normalcy' by the end of 2021, we couldn't help but notice how much of an interest there is in Hawaii and its culture, and a large part of that is its food. Hawaii is unique in the sense that while it is part of the United States, it has its own identity and culture that is separate from the rest of the country and even the world. In Hawaii, life is simpler, more casual, and uplifting - and its food is a reflection of that.
Local ingredients and traditional flair are all part of what makes the state's best dishes exactly what they are: fresh, exotic, and delicious. It's more than just poke bowls here and while this trend may have caught on nationally, it all started in the Pacific with a state that's full of innovative flavor and truly wonderful culture. Ready to learn more about this state's best and most popular dishes? Let's dive right in.
This is the one dish that everyone knows and associates with Hawaii and while there are dishes that are just as popular there, poke has become somewhat of a statewide, regional dish. Traditionally, it was made with ahi tuna or octopus but it has since been expanded to include any type of fish and even tofu or avocado for those who are meat-free. Sesame seeds, herbs, finely-chopped veggies, chili pepper flakes, soy sauce, and yellow onions are usually, if not always, part of this dish.
Pu Pu Platter
Some people might be reading this and feeling confused since the pu pu platter is something that is most commonly found in Chinese restaurants. However, all a pu pu platter is, is a variety of smaller dishes that have been arranged on a platter to give diners a bite of everything. It's believed that this dish actually originated in Hawaii before it was seen anywhere else, and was then brought over to the rest of the states during the mid-1900s.
There's a stigma associated with spam and Hawaii but it's true that spam is part of this dish, which is quite popular in Hawaii and even in restaurants across the U.S. that also specialize in this local cuisine. Spam musubi is a simple dish that consists of sushi rice with a piece of spam on top that has been wrapped together with a piece of nori (seaweed). It's salty, delicious, and full of umami, and can be found practically everywhere in Hawaii, including in convenience shops.
This dish is commonly hailed as the unofficial comfort food of Hawaii and it's easy to see why. The base of the dish consists of sticky rice and on top of that sits a hamburger patty, topped with a fried egg, and covered with a delicious gravy. Variations of this dish can be found throughout Hawaii and include seafood and other proteins but this is the most common and the traditional way of cooking loco moco.
Since Hawaii is all about a casual and laid-back atmosphere, it makes sense that something like a plate lunch would be so popular. This dish couldn't be simpler and usually includes one entree, white rice, and a heavily-mayo'ed macaroni salad. The entree that's served with the plate is almost always meat-based and if a diner opts for more than one entree (such as two types of poke or roasted meat), it's then referred to as a mixed plate.
This dish, much like the rest of Hawaii's cuisine, is super high in nutrients and is considered another specialty of the state. It's high in starch due to the fact that it's made with the taro plant, which is also heavily used in Japanese dishes. The dish is also quite simple and consists of cooked, mashed taro that's mixed with water until it achieves a paste-like pudding consistency. The health benefits are numerous for this small dish and it's a popular go-to for snacking.
The tradition of the kalua pig goes way back and it's rooted in Hawaii's history, as the method of cooking is one that goes back generations and generations. To start, lava rocks are heated and placed on top of a whole pig, which is lowered into a pit that has been dug in the ground. The whole thing is then covered with banana or ti leaves and left until the meat is fully cooked. The pig itself is seasoned simply with only salt, allowing the natural flavors of the pork to shine through, and it's absolutely delicious.