Let’s not kid ourselves – food is one of the best parts about taking a vacation. Any massive foodie will know the excitement of visiting a new destination and learning all about its delicious local delicacies – and, of course, sampling one or two of them! Everyone loves trying out different cuisines, and you’ll often end up returning home with a new firm favourite dish that you’ll immediately want to cook up every night.
If you’re coming to Hawaii and food is your thing, you won’t be let down by the culinary scene. Hawaii has long been known for its mouth-watering locally sourced dishes, and with so much on offer, there’s something to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. A lot of its food reflects the widespread immigration to the Hawaiian Islands, so there’s a mix of everything on offer, from traditional island meats and seafood, to fascinating Asian and European creations.
It’s probably not going to be possible for you to sample every one of Hawaii’s dishes if you’re visiting the island for a limited time period, but you can do your best to fit as many in as possible! To get you started, here are 9 delicious foods to look out for on your trip to the sunny islands:
Mochi ice cream
Because standard ice cream was so last year. Mochi ice cream consists of your usual ice cream as a filling, coated with sweet, sticky rice, which is known as mochi. The combination of the firm, chewy rice with the sweet ice cream filling is enough to satisfy your sugar cravings for an entire month. It comes in every flavour imaginable, from cookies and cream to matcha, and here’s a well-intended warning: it’s very, very addictive.
Poke bowl? we can hear you say, I’ve had plenty of those at home. Yes, you might have done – but you’ve never had a real poke bowl unless you’ve had it in Hawaii, we promise you that. Real Hawaiian poke is pre-prepared, allowing the delightful flavours of the fish, seasonings, sauces and vegetables to marinate together for the best overall taste. You can find poke all over Hawaii, but don’t miss out on opting for a more traditional bowl if you get the chance.
Shave ice is basic by nature, but it’s a Hawaii staple that will really hit the spot right when you need it. If you’re struggling with the heat, stop for a shave ice and you’ll cool yourself instantly while enjoying a fruity treat. Shave ice is presented in a cone or cup, and is made by combining ice with syrups for flavouring. Sometimes you can even add a topping – condensed milk is a popular option in Hawaii.
Honestly, don’t knock this until you’ve tried it. Spam might not be the thing you reach for on a daily basis, but Hawaiians have turned this unlikely meat option into a dish so delectable, you’ll find yourself wanting to recreate it for yourself back at home. Spam musubi is essentially a combination of rice, spam and nori, although there are thousands of different ways to serve it with your own kick. Some places will pan fry the spam to give it a crispy texture that’s well worth a try. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by this one, for sure.
Not many people know that malasadas were actually the invention of Portuguese immigrants, and not Hawaiians themselves, but that doesn’t make them any less of an island staple. These sugary, doughy balls are similar in texture to donuts, and are usually filled with a delicious sweet custard. Like mochi ice cream, these are a dessert that you’ll find yourself craving time and time again once you’ve tried them!
By far one of the most popular dishes in Hawaii that’s definitely worth a try is the Hawaiian plate. It’s what it sounds like – a plate of Hawaiian food. Specifically, you can expect some variation on rice, kalua (Hawaiian pig), pork or chicken, dried beef, salmon, and poi, finished off with kulolo, a coconut cream pudding, if you’ve still got room for dessert after all that. Yes, Hawaiians here like their meat, and they know how to cook it just right. If there’s one staple dish you make time for on the island, make it this one.
It’s unsurprising that banana bread is so popular in Hawaii, considering the fruit is one of the most widely grown on the island. You’ll find banana bread in all the Hawaiian supermarkets, but for guaranteed deliciousness, head to the local markets and get yourself a slice of the homemade stuff. The natural sweetness of the banana gives off the most mouth-watering aroma – and of course, it tastes even better than it smells!
One of the most portable snacking foods in Hawaii is the manapua. If you’re a fan of Chinese bao buns, you’re guaranteed to form a long-lasting obsession with manapua. They’re essentially white buns, soft and pillowy in texture, that are filled with sweet pork. You’ll find them either baked, which gives them a crispy edge, or steamed, for a more traditional texture. The original pork manapua are the ones to try, but you’ll find takeout places that offer a variety of different fillings, including vegetarian options, for something a little different.
Everyone who’s been to Hawaii talks about loco moco, and that’s because it truly is a classic that you’ll find on all the menu boards in the traditional cafes on the island. Normally, a loco moco consists of white rice, hamburger patties, fried eggs, and a thick gravy. It makes the most delicious breakfast, but like all good breakfast foods, there’s no rule to say you can’t enjoy it at any time of the day while in Hawaii. Be warned, though – the portion sizes are generous! You might want to share your loco moco if you’re not the biggest breakfast person.