6 Traditional Hawaiian Foods to Try

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Hawaii is perhaps known as one of the best beach destinations in the US. But beyond its crystal clear waters and summer that seems to stretch forever, Hawaiians pride themselves for their passion for local cuisine.

Hawaii’s traditional cuisine is a result of the state’s diverse culture. You see, Hawaii is made up of varied demographic of ethnicities, each one adding their own flavor to the local cuisine. The result? An unforgettable gastronomic adventure. Heading to Hawaii for summer? Get a real taste of Hawaiian cuisine by trying out these traditional food:

1. Poi

The first on our list is poi, a traditional paste used as filler in Hawaiian cuisine. This dish is made from taro root. Taro is a root crop similar to a potato or yam. It has the same starchy root but has a denser consistency and sticky texture. To create poi, taro roots are boiled or steamed until soft. Once it’s super soft, taro is pounded, water is added to achieve a pudding-like consistency.

Because the pounded taro goes through mild fermentation, it’s slightly sour. It’s not the kind of dish that appeals to everyone but poi certainly has a unique flavor.

2. Laulau

No traditional Hawaiian meal is complete without a generous serving of laulau. Similar to poi, laulau is made from taro. But instead of the root, taro leaves are used. Usually, dollops of pork are wrapped in taro leaves and cooked over hot rocks for hours. The leaves impart distinct smokiness to the meat, they also protect the pork from overcooking. Once cooked, the meat remains juicy while the leaves take on a spinach-like texture.

3. Kalua Pig

Kalua pig is a mainstay in major Hawaiian events. This extravagant pork dish is usually reserved during special occasions because of the long cooking process.

Kalua Pig is cooked in an underground oven called imu. It’s similar to pulled pork, but it does not use barbecue sauce as seasoning. The meat is roasted for several hours until its tender on the inside and crispy on the outside. The meat also retains delicious smokiness. It’s eaten without any sauce accompanied only with a steaming pile of white rice.

4. Poke

Poke is a fusion between Peruvian ceviche, and sashimi, a traditional Japanese food. The raw fish or octopus meat is sliced in bite sized cubes. It’s then seasoned with soy sauce, Hawaiian sea salt, sweet onions and seaweeds. The result is a light, hearty dish! Poke goes well with a bowl of rice.

5. Lomi Salmon

Yet another healthy and hearty traditional Hawaiian dish. Lomi salmon was brought over from other Pacific Islands, but it’s commonly paired with poi. Lomi salmon is similar to salsa except it has local salmon.

Slices of raw salmon are cured with salt. Then, they’re diced along with onions, tomatoes and chilies. Lomi salmon is usually paired with bland dishes because the acidity of tomatoes and pungent flavors of onions will complement mild flavors.

6. Saimin

Saimin is a classic Hawaiian comfort food. It’s usually consumed during the mild winter season. Saimin is a noodle dish cooked Asian style. The soup is made from chicken or dashi broth. The wheat noodles are topped with strips of green onions, fish cakes and Chinese roast pork. Saimin is also a popular cure for hangover.


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