Hawaii is known for its beautiful beaches and breathtaking mountains and volcanoes. People travel from all over the world to bask in the year-round balmy temperatures and sunshine. Another amazing thing about Hawaii is the food. The great weather creates an Eden for all kinds of delicious and rare fruits. Traditional Hawaiian food has been centuries in the making, and often has international ties and influences which make it even more interesting. Here are eight Hawaiian foods you must try when you visit that are sure to make your belly smile.
All natural shave ice
Whether you are a fan of the popular version of the sno-cone or not, you need to try Hawaii’s all natural shave ice. The artificial syrups and chunky ice popular in the US simply can’t compare to the finely shaved ice and fresh fruits used in Hawaii’s original version. Back when Japanese laborers had come to Hawaii to work in the sugar and pineapple fields, they introduced the concept of shaved ice. The next logical step was to make use of the sugar and fruit they harvested to make a unique and refreshing treat. You really haven’t experienced Hawaii until you enjoy this authentic treat.
This fermented tea isn’t native to Hawaii, but the natural abundance of exotic fruits puts Hawaiian kombucha in a league of its own. At Valley Isle Kombucha, we source only organic fruits to create signature flavors. Besides the amazing taste, kombucha has a plethora of health benefits. Since it is a fermented drink, it contains “good” bacteria that are essential for a healthy digestive system. You won’t get that from any soft drink! Don’t miss our unique flavors like goji berry, maui lychee, local lilikoi and many others.
Not quite ceviche, not quite sushi, poke is a traditional Hawaiian dish that you can’t miss. This chunky, raw-fish salad is part of all gatherings from formal to very casual. Hawaii’s bountiful fresh seafood mix and match for endless varieties of poke. The basic ingredients of raw fish or seafood plus seasonings are a canvas for hole in the wall and luxury restaurants alike. At its most basic, poke is made from chunks of raw fish or octopus and seasoned with Hawaiian sea salt, nuts and seaweed.
Manapua is another Hawaiian dish that everyone puts their own twist on. In Hawaiian, manapua means “delicious pork thing.” Pillowy buns stuffed with your choice of char siu, beans, chicken or anything else you are craving is the culinary magic known as Manapua. While some people love steamed manapua buns, other prefer them baked.
Hawaii has had several waves of immigrants in its history, who all brought their own food to mix in with Hawaii’s own. Saimin is a great example of the crossroads of culture in Hawaii. Elements of Japanese, Chinese and Filipino cuisine all influence saimin. Made with soft wheat egg noodles, saimin is a hot soup dish very similar to ramen but with a Hawaiian twist. Saimin is often topped with Spam (a Hawaiian favorite) and cha siu.
If you are looking for a completely unique Hawaiian dish, you need to try poi. Made from taro root, which is similar to a potato, poi is a thick paste with a pudding like consistency. The taro root is steamed or baked and then pounded and fermented. You can add whatever you want to your bowl of poi. It is a common side dish with many Hawaiian meals.
The most iconic of all Hawaiian food is the kalua pig. If you imagine islanders in hula skirts dancing around a fire while an entire smoked pig is set on a table for dinner when you think of Hawaii, you’re not alone. And the great news is that it isn’t just a stereotype! Kalua pig is a traditional Hawaiian pork dish made by cooking a whole pig in an underground oven. In the underground oven, known as an imu, the pork slow roasts and absorbs all of its delicious smoky flavor.
Perhaps just as iconic as Kalua pig is the exotic fruit that is native to Hawaii. Fresh coconut, pineapple, passion fruit and many more fruits are symbolic of the lush fertility of the Hawaiian islands. The sunshine and volcanic soil on the Hawaiian islands make a unique growing situation. Fresh fruits and herbs are very much a part of everyday Hawaiian cuisine. Try some fruit for breakfast or dessert while you are in Hawaii. Besides the well known fruits, you can try some that you have probably never heard of like rambutan, egg fruit, dragon fruit, strawberry guava, poha berry, papaya, starfruit, cherimoya, bread fruit and passion fruit.