Hometown Hungers: Hawaii Loco Moco

In addition to the wondrous sunshine and hypnotic waves, Hawaii is also swimming in loco moco — a comfort food dish created right here on the Big Island.
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Photo by: LauriPatterson ©Lauri Patterson

LauriPatterson, Lauri Patterson

The verdict is in: Hawaii may just be the ultimate paradise. After all, in addition to the wondrous sunshine and hypnotic waves, this state is also swimming in loco moco — a comfort food dish created right here on the Big Island.

As the locals tell it, loco moco got its start as a way to satisfy the most outsized of appetites: those of teenage boys. If the goal is to leave one stuffed, this protein-packed powerhouse is certainly up to the task. A beefy burger patty is nestled on a mound of steamed rice, crowned with a fried egg and then drenched in a downpour of glistening brown gravy.

That original version dates back to 1949, though it has never been officially decided if the dish was first cooked up at the long-defunct Lincoln Grill or the still-going-strong Cafe 100 (which has trademarked the loco moco name).

Different variations have been dished out through the decades, with some riffs switching out the steamed rice for fried, substituting Spam (or another type of meat) for the beef patty and even using an entirely different kind of gravy altogether. Loco moco has continued to surge in popularity, as the dish has spread beyond its birthplace of Hilo, Hawaii, and can now be found on menus across the mainland United States. Check out Food Network’s gallery to find out where to tuck into a traditional take on Hawaii’s comfort food classic.

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