Traditional Hawaiian Food + Must Eat Dishes
Hawaiian cuisine takes a pinch of this and a dash of that from the many cultures that played a role in Hawaiian history.
Polynesians brought taro, sweet potatoes, bananas, coconuts, sugarcane, pigs, chickens, and dogs. Early settlers ate local fish, shrimp, crabs, octopus, seaweed and sea salt. Western explorers brought cattle, pineapple, and a variety of seeds and livestock to the islands.
Pineapple and sugarcane plantations followed and attracted international workers from Japan, China, Korea, Puerto Rico, Philippines, and Portugal. Each contributed their own culinary influence to modern Hawaiian cuisine.
Chinese dim sum dishes like manapua (pork buns), Korean kimchi and marinated meats, Portuguese malasadas and pork dishes, Filipino garlic and vinegar dishes and Japanese sashimi, bento, tofu, and soy sauce are all commonly eaten in Hawaii today.
This combination of flavors and cultural influences all work together to form modern Hawaiian cuisine.
Traditional Foods + Dishes
Typical Hawaiian Dishes
Plate Lunch – similar to a bento, usually including two scoops of rice, macaroni salad, and a protein like hamburger or chicken katsu
Pupu – appetizers or small bites
Spam – canned and precooked spiced ham, common in Hawaii and in Hawaiian dishes
Musubi – a snack made of meat (often marinated spam) over rice, tied with seaweed
Kalua Pork – pulled pork
Saimin – a Hawaiian inspired noodle soup similar to ramen
Loco Moco – white rice topped with hamburger patties, a fried egg, and brown gravy
Manapua – fluffy buns filled with pork
Huli Huli Chicken – marinated chicken
Lau Lau – pork wrapped and cooked in taro leaves
Poi – thick purple paste made from taro
Lomi Salmon – salmon diced with tomatoes, onions, and peppers
Squid Luau – taro leaves and squid cooked in coconut milk
Poke – raw seafood salad, cut into chunks and marinated
Chicken Long Rice – noodle dish with vermicelli and chicken
Mac Salad – a mayonnaise-based macaroni salad with carrots
Hō’i’o/Pohole – fiddlehead fern
Shave Ice – elevated snow cone with flavored syrups and sweet toppings
Malasadas – Portuguese sweet bread similar to a donut
Haupia – coconut pudding
POG – papaya, orange, and guava juice
Kona coffee – coffee grown in the Kona region on Hawaii’s Big Island
Traditional Foods: Locally Grown, Caught & Raised
In addition to the common Hawaiian dishes, you’ll see these Hawaiian-grown and raised foods on menus and in seasonings during your visit.
- Taro (root veggie common in Hawaiian food)
- Macadamia Nuts
- Beef (and dairy)
- Ahi/Yellowfin Tuna
- Aku/Skipjack Tuna
- Bigeye Ahi
- Tombo/Albacore Tuna
- Mahi Mahi
- Kajiki/Blue Marlin
- Nairagi/Striped Marlin
- Broadbill Swordfish
- Grouper/Sea Bass
- Red Snapper
Take a deeper dive into Hawaiian food and culture while you learn to make traditional Hawaiian dishes.
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