When I was living in Chicago, I got asked once, “So what do you folks eat in Hawaii?”
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?
Then there are the category-less foods: shave ice, guri guri, garlic chicken, dry min, crack seed and, of course, the Spam musubi.
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.
And if they’ve never been to Hawaii before, I’d highly recommend a Spam musubi. My picks are from Tanioka’s Seafood in Waipahu or any 7-Eleven.
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?
mac-nut crusted mahi mahi,chi chi or pina colada with da umbrella & slice of pineapple,2 scoop rice,side poi…..haupia sorbet to cleanse the palet. AND mango cheesecake for dessert. have a nice day.
that sounds amazing! Where would you find these?
Haupia sorbet does sound nice!
oops…forgot the sashimi for pu pu.
then of course they’ll want some Maui Onion Potato Chips when they get back to where ever they are staying……
iconic Hawaii foods butter mochi from my auntie (hint Nov. beach house), Leeward Drive Inn, and the list goes on and on…
Butter mochi! Too bad I can’t mail you some!
Cuz when I said my auntie its your Mom.. tummy needs input, auntie are you reading this (November beach house) your butter mochi will make my tummy very 🙂
Historically, the most iconic and well known around the world is POI… which I actually happen to enjoy!
That’s true, completely neglected poi. It’s not hugely popular among visitors, but it’s certainly iconic. Nowhere else!
I actually, really and truly enjoy it!
ono seafood in kapahulu ahi poke with the works /waiola shave ice/kabuki delicatessen in aiea/elena’s or thelma’s in waipahu
Kabuki Delicatessen — is that the one across from the old Advertiser?
love this blog Cat. Can’t wait to hear all the replies to this particular post. I am going to have to save this one! Can I ask you and your readers if you make your own haupia from canned coconut milk or do you like the mix from Costco? Which is better? I would love to try the “from scratch” recipe made from fresh coconut that was in the advertiser a couple weeks ago. Sigh.
I could try to make both — that would be a great blog post!
Hello Cat, so many choices, so many places to grind I don’t know even where to start. The first place to take out of towners for me would be Ono Hawaiian Food.
Ono’s has the best lau lau!
I would add loco moco and Zippy’s chili (it’s not like the chili you get elsewhere). I know I missed those things when I was on the mainland…oh, and POG or Hawaiian Sun/Aloha Maid drinks.
Anyplace Lounge steak with onions and fried rice
Never been there… Shocking, isn’t it?
even with side street getting all the glory, I’m an Anyplace loyalist. I’ll put the fuud up there with any bar in honolulu.
Side Street Inn and Happy Days for Dim Sum.
Leonard’s for malasadas
Love the fuud topic! When I think “iconic”, since this is Hawaii, I think Hawaiian food. I like everyone’s examples, but our melting pot culture here includes foods from various ethnic groups which can be found elsewhere. But couple which I would list are: oxtail soup, saimin, shave ice, crack seed, spam musubi, plate lunch, loco moco, poke, mochi/manju, dry min (Sam Sato’s of course!). Mmmmmm…..is it lunchtime yet!
It’s hard to decide since so much of our local food culture has ethnic influences. Hawaiian food, though, should rank high, since this is the food of the host culture. After all!
I always send my mainland friends to the same places, Indigo, Haleiwa Joe’s Kaneohe, Aoki’s Shave Ice, Agnes, Rainbow, Duk’s Bistro, Chef Mavro’s, Pho to Chau? River Street, Hale Vietnam, Buzz’s Kailua, Roy’s, 3660, and a coffee and newspaper at Kalapawai. There really are too many to name. I also love Phuket Thai, the one near Waikiki. I think what it is is the variety of what is offered. and sometimes the appetizers are way better than the entrees. Used to go to Haleiwa Joe’s just to eat the appetizers, pupu platters, and have a beer. But in all seriousness I used to love to go to 7-11 and get a small coke and a spam musubi because for $2.00 you could not beat it for a snack. I also love that burger joint near Chaminade but don’t remember the name. There is also something called the Shack in Kailua, on occasion it was great. Most tourists might not liek it but it was pretty good. There is a hole in the wall pizza place near the airport called Big Kahunas that has the most outrageous garlic cheeseballs. Damn I miss those things. Assaggio’s Kailua, Big City Diner. And right now, yes RIGHT NOW, I would give almost anything to be sitting outside at Boston’s North End pizza eating a slice. ANYTHING. all this food talk… guaranteed to make this kama’aina one homesick puppy… gonna go cry now.
LOL! Sorry to bring you back down Food Memory Lane!
🙂 no worries Cat. At least I know where to eat when I come home.
Seeing as how the Cuz is from Chicago I guess this is one blog I can’t really participate in. I will say that all of the above sounds good, especially the plate lunch….
I will take traditional Hawaiian food over Deep Dish Pizzza and Steak any day of the week.
So, question: Where do you take out-of-towners in Chicago? (I’m heading there in November!)
The food court at ala moana center has every kind of ethnic food you can think of.
another thought……as simple as it may be is rice.White sticky rice. Mainland folks arent really familiar with it. They mostly have uncle Ben’s, wild rice, or maybe a brown rice of some sort. Charred rare pepper-crusted ahi sashimi is great! And a great way to get a non-raw-fish-eating tourist to at least try.
In more recent times, been taking people to Dean’s in Kaneohe. He has a good veggie selection on the menu. For those who look to eat off the full menu, get the ahi cakes. Call first as they sometimes are out catering.
Andy’s Sandwiches in Manoa, they get to try his papaya seed dressing and always good fun talking story with him.
Young’s Fish Market, Zippy’s, Lee Ho Fook, Gulick, Manu Bu, Moke’s Bread & Breakfast, Bogart’s Cafe, Dee Lite Bakery, Lee’s Bakery for custard pie, Waiola, Shimazu…
Been asked so many times about places to eat, I ended up creating a word doc with my picks, then moved it to xanga, over to a note on Facebook and now it’s a Google doc. Reminds me, I should go update it again. 😀
For the longest time, I searched for the old time wet crack seed and finally found it several years ago at Kay’s Crack Seed at Manoa Marketplace. Now, whoever goes home has to bring back some for me.