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Top-10 Iconic Hawaiian Dishes You Should Try

23 November 2021
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Hawaiian cuisine isn’t limited to poke, pineapples, and fruity desserts. Thanks to its tropical climate, the local food scene is diverse and consists of locally-grown vegetables, herbs, tropical fruits, fresh fish, and meat, making it a fantastic diet to maintain a healthy lifestyle without limiting yourself too much. Thanks to numerous spices and tasteful sauces, every Hawaiian dish is a celebration of flavors on your plate! 

To guide you through a great variety of Hawaiian traditional dishes and help you choose the best of what this cuisine has to offer, we’ve compiled a list of ten mouth-watering dishes every gourmet should try at least once.

1. Spam Musubi

Hawaiians love Spam and can mix it with almost any food—sandwiches, fried eggs and rice, grilled cheese, pies, McDonald’s breakfast menu, or even spam-flavored ice cream with brown sugar and maple syrup. Spam was all the rage during World War II due to its long shelf life so that people could just grab a can of Spam and have a nourishing and tasty meal in no time. 

Spam musubi is a renowned sushi-like Hawaiian snack. It’s made of rice and grilled sliced spam, caramelized with sugar and soy sauce, and tied up with dried seaweed. This simple but delicious combination makes Spam musubi an excellent snack to fill you up and a fantastic complement to such dishes as miso soup or grilled vegetables. Pair Spam musubi with a glass of icy ginger ale and enjoy! 

2. Plate Lunch

If you are looking for a filling and flavorful Hawaiian dish full of proteins, a plate lunch is a perfect match for you! A plate lunch was extremely popular among the plantation workers in the 1880s. Tourists don’t know much about this authentic dish, so you can find it mostly at drive-ins where locals usually gather to have a chat and eat their lunch. 

This traditional Hawaiian lunch usually comprises sticky rice, grilled meat, and macaroni pasta salad. The most common meat choice is fried chicken but you can also go for pork or teriyaki beef. Get a glass of dry Riesling and relish your Hawaiian-style lunch!

3. Squid Luau

Squid luau is one of the most appetizing Hawaiian side dishes every seafood lover should try at least once! Thanks to an exceptional combination of taro leaves and coconut milk, this stew will surprise you with its sweet and salty taste and an exquisite bouquet of flavors.

Hawaiians cook squid luau by simmering taro leaves, chopped squid or octopus, butter, sea salt, and coconut milk. Traditionally made with squid, you can also find variations with chicken breast. What’s more, taro leaves are rich in vitamins A and C, making this dish an ideal addition to a healthy diet, but remember that this plant must be properly cooked as its raw leaves are poisonous and can lead to skin and throat irritation. Chablis wine with its citrus and floral aromas will be a splendid pairing for a bowl of steamy squid luau.

4. Manapua

These steamed buns can be a fantastic option for a relaxing breakfast with a cup of freshly ground coffee and for a joyful picnic with a bottle of refreshing lemonade. With its Chinese roots, manapua is also known as char siu bao, a bun stuffed with pork and sauces. These tasty buns appeared in Hawaii in the 19th century when the Chinese immigrants started working on the plantations. 

Besides pork, you can choose any stuffing your heart desires, from chicken and beef to cheese and beans. The stuffing is combined with hoisin and oyster sauces, sugar, and sesame oil, creating a flavorful mix of sweet and savory ingredients. This traditional Hawaiian dish is worth your attention, so give it a try!

5. Saimin

Saimin is one more lip-smacking Hawaiian dish with an Asian influence to enjoy. A bowl of saimin is a great way to boost your energy after an action-packed day of watersports and sunbathing. It’s a local variation of world-famous Asian noodle recipes like chicken ramen or yaki udon.   

The mix of ingredients is endless and customizable, so your saimin depends either on your preferences or on a chef’s fantasy. Usually, it comprises wheat noodles, Chinese BBQ pork, hard-boiled eggs, nori, spring onions, ginger, and soy sauce. This dish is a pretty big deal in Hawaii so that you can find it literally anywhere, from McDonald’s and drive-ins to fancy restaurants and bars. Grab a bottle of crispy wheat beer or full-bodied porter and enjoy!

6. Kalua Pork

Kalua pork is one of the most ancient and authentic dishes of traditional Hawaiian cuisine. The locals cook a whole pig with vegetables wrapped in banana leaves in an underground oven placed on heated volcanic rocks. Hawaiians also cover an oven with soil and wet leaves to let kalua pork steam and roast slower. Thanks to this method, the pork is so tender that it falls apart and has a tempting smoky flavor. 

You can find this moreish dish in any Hawaiian restaurant as it’s popular among both locals and tourists. Kalua pork goes perfectly with jasmine rice and vegetables. Enjoy this tender meat with a glass of fruit-flavored Pinot Noir. 

7. Lau Lau

Our list would not be complete without lau lau, an authentic Hawaiian dish made of pork wrapped in taro leaves. Just like kalua pork, lau lau is cooked in an underground oven covered with soil and leaves, making the stuffing so tender and succulent that it melts in your mouth. Lau lau requires lots of cooking time and preparation but this dish will amaze you! 

If you don’t consume pork, no worries, Hawaiians also use chicken, fish, and vegetables to cook lau lau. You can savor it as a snack or pair it with basmati rice. Complete your memorable dining experience with a glass of smooth, floral Barolo.

8. Lomi Lomi Salmon

Lomi lomi salmon is a Hawaiian salad made of salted fish, chili peppers, green onions, and tomatoes. It’s extremely easy and fast to cook as you won’t need any exotic ingredients and can find them in the nearest supermarket. 

This salad is served cold so it’s a perfect option to cool down during these scorching summer days. Lomi lomi salad can complement any Hawaiian food, from kalua pork to Spam musubi. It also goes perfectly with steaks and pasta. Pair your salad with chilled Chardonnay and get ready to immerse yourself in the unforgettable Hawaiian atmosphere!  

9. Malasadas

If you are a true pastry lover, don’t miss out on a chance to try these Hawaiian-style doughnuts coated in sugar. Malasadas taste different than regular doughnuts due to a bigger portion of eggs and milk. Traditionally, Hawaiians don’t use any stuffing to cook malasadas but sometimes you can find these doughnuts filled with haupia, an authentic dessert based on coconut milk. 

Malasadas can become a fantastic dessert for any tea party or a tasteful breakfast. You can also go for a healthier option by replacing sugar with cinnamon. Get a cup of aromatic green tea and enjoy! 

10. Haupia Pie

Haupia is one of the most famous Hawaiian desserts as it’s extremely delicious and only requires a few ingredients. This dessert resembles a pudding or parfait and comprises coconut milk, cornflour, and sugar. 

Hawaiians use this simple dish to add a coconut flavor to their pies. A chocolate pie with a haupia layer decorated with homemade whipped cream and fresh berries will delight your taste buds in no time. These pies are so popular that you can stop by any Hawaiian bakery and find it right away. You can pair haupia pies with Irish coffee or herbal tea.  

Discover the World Through Exquisite Food With Ragnar

Traditional food reflects the entire culture and history of a particular country, making gastronomic tours an excellent way to explore the world and expand your horizons. Embark on your next journey with Ragnar to enjoy the most extraordinary dishes and reach the world’s most secluded travel destinations!

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