I paused — not because I didn’t know the answer, but because there seemed to be so many answers.
I could start with the traditional foods of Native Hawaiians — kalua pig, lau lau, pipikaula, haupia.
Then there are those ethnic dishes we can’t seem to live without — saimin, pork adobo, manapua, ahi poke, malassadas, meat juhn, katsu curry, Portuguese bean soup, andagi.
And how can I forget the iconic plate lunch, with two scoops of white rice, some kind of meat-based entree — barbecue pork, chicken katsu, teriyaki beef — and a nice dollop of macaronic salad — heavy on the mayo — and gravy all over? I mean, isn’t that as local as you get?
The list goes on.
I was thinking about this recently when a reader from the Midwest e-mailed me, saying she was coming to town — and wanted to know what and where to eat.
Where do I begin?
I would tell folks to hit Rainbow Drive-In in Kapahulu for a plate lunch, Agnes’ Portuguese Bake Shop in Kailua for deep-fried malassadas and either Ailana Shave Ice near Ala Moana or Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha in Aina Haina for some innovative shave ice.
For poke, try Alicia’s Market in Kalihi. For Hawaiian food, visit Helena’s Hawaiian Food in Kalihi. For local-style saimin, go to Shige’s Saimin Stand in Wahiawa.
These must be my picks for iconic Hawaii foods.
So I’m throwing it out there: where do you tell out-of-towners to eat and what do you consider iconic Hawaii foods?