12 of Our Favorite Hawaiian Foods That Aren't Poke
There's more to island food.
Hawaiian food is much more than poke, acai bowls and pineapple. The unique location of the Hawaiian Islands makes the food scene extremely diverse and different. Whether you're planning a trip to the islands or are down to throw a luau in your backyard, you won't want to miss these twelve dishes.
1. Spam Musubi
Okay, let us just say that spam sushi sounds like the most amazing thing on this planet. The iconic preserved, canned meat was said to have been invented during World War II as an easy, portable food that could be eaten straight from the can. The meat has taken off around the country, but the best way to enjoy it is on top of sticky rice and wrapped in nori.
2. Shave Ice
No that’s not a typo... it actually is called shave, not shaved. This sweet treat consisting of shaved ice and flavored syrup is a Hawaiian classic in the ever-present hot weather. This is the closest you’ll get to snow on the islands.
3. Kalua Pork
Food is an essential part of Hawaiian culture. Kalua pork is one of the most traditional dishes. Pork butt is cooked in underground ovens called “imu” for hours until the meat is so tender that it falls apart. If you attend a luau, odds are you’ll encounter this smoky pork.
4. Plate Lunch
Cheap? Check. Filling? Check. Flavorful? Check. Full of Hawaiian fare? Check. The plate lunch is truly one of the best deals and most authentic eats you can get on the islands. Typically served with two scoops of white rice, macaroni salad and your choice of meat — either teriyaki beef, fried chicken or kalua pork.
5. Loco Moco
All of your favorite comfort food classics, merged into one. Sizzling hamburger patties, warm brown gravy all topped with a fresh fried egg. Oh, and of course it's on a plate of white rice. Can you say comfort?
6. Haupia Pie
Think coconut cream pie times 10. This treat is made with coconut milk to give it that authentic Hawaiian taste. You can find it topped with macadamia nuts, pineapple or even made with cocoa powder!
These are most easily compared to char siu bao buns, but any Hawaiian foodie will quickly dismiss you if you call them that. Doughy buns are filled with sweet pork and baked.
Like manapua, these noodles look a lot like another beloved Asian dish ... ramen! The thing that makes saimin different is that it's made with Chinese egg noodles and a clear Japanese broth.
9. Huli Huli Chicken
If you like teriyaki chicken, you'll loooooove this. The chicken is marinaded in pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, and ketchup, to name a few of the ingredients, and grilled on giant fires like the one above. The best way to enjoy this flavorful meat is on a plate lunch, of course!
10. Garlic Shrimp
If you watch Hawaii Five-0, you know that shrimp trucks on the North Shore of Oahu are somewhat of an institution. Locals and tourists alike flock to the food trucks for plates of fresh shrimp sauteed in butter and oil with garlic. Lots of garlic. Serve it up on paper plate with two scoops of white rice and you've got yourself an iconic Hawaiian meal.
These no-hole doughnuts are everything. Like doughier beignets, malasadas can be eaten as is or filled with local fruit jams. Every decision is a good decision when it comes to ordering malasadas, because every flavor is out of this world.
12. Lau Lau
And now the best for last... lau lau! Now, lau lau is not something you can just whip on a average Tuesday night when you get home from work. Pork is wrapped in taro leaves and cooked in an underground hot rock oven for hours. The final product is a smoky, soft and tender pork that is indescribable. I guess you'll just have to plan a trip to Hawaii!
Photos courtesy of iStock