When considering delicious flavors of the tropics, Hawaiian food is an obvious choice. This unique cuisine is a blend of cultures, with the native Hawaiian flavors combined with flavors from the many countries that have influenced the islands. The result is a plethora of delectable dishes that can tantalize the taste buds.

Whether enjoying a plate lunch on the beach or a luau with family and friends, exploring Hawaiian food can be an entertaining and delicious experience. Here, we’ll examine some of the most popular Hawaiian dishes, giving readers an overview of what they can expect on the islands.

Overview of Hawaiian Food

When it comes to Hawaiian food, there are some staple dishes that have helped define the island’s cuisine. The acclaimed chefs at the famed Big Island restaurant, Hualalai Resort, have identified seven Hawaiian dishes that guests should sample when visiting the islands.

These delicacies include:

  1. Poi – Poi is a thick, sticky paste is made from the mashed starchy root of taro, a tropical plant. This dish is served as a side at nearly every Hawaiian meal.

  2. Poke – Poke is a salad-like dish made from diced raw fish, an island favorite with flavorful ingredients such as limu (seaweed), Maui onions, soy sauce, and sesame oil. It is typically served with poi, rice, and lomi salmon.

  3. Kalua Pig – Kalua pig is a classic Hawaiian dish made with slow cooked shredded pork and cooked in an underground oven. It is often enjoyed at luaus and served with poi, poke, lomi salmon, and haupia (coconut pudding).

  4. Laulau – Laulau is a steamed pork dish that has been popular in Hawaii for centuries. It consists of pork wrapped in taro leaves and steamed until it is tender. It is often served with poi and sweet potatoes.

  5. Lokahi Patties – Lokahi patties are like mini-burgers, except they are made of taro and green onions, and can come with a variety of dips and sauces.

  6. Amaebi – Amaebi is a unique seafood dish consisting of sweet, buttery shrimp that has been fried and battered in tempura batter. It is commonly served as an appetizer at luaus and other special occasions.

  7. Haupia – Haupia is a traditional Hawaiian coconut pudding that is beloved by locals and visitors alike. It is a popular dessert at luaus, particularly with guests watching hula performances.

Exploring Regional Hawaiian Cuisine

While each of these dishes are popular staples in Hawaiian cuisine, each region of the islands has its own signature flavors. These flavors are reflected in the cooking, from local seafood to traditional dishes that have been passed down for generations.

Let’s explore some of the most iconic dishes from various regions of Hawaii.

Maui

Maui is known for its diverse array of driving, as well as its fresh seafood dishes. One Maui specialty is Moco Loco, a plate of white rice and hamburger patty smothered in gravy. It is often accompanied by macaroni salad.

Another favorite dish is Pipikaula, a salty-sweet mix of jerky, wontons, and cream cheese. It is often served alongside fried garlic chicken and mac salad.

Big Island

The Big Island is not to be outdone when it comes to regional dishes. One of the most popular of the Big Island is Liliokoi Butter Fish, topped with liliokoi (passionfruit) butter sauce.

Ono Barbecued Chicken is also a favorite, made with lots of garlic and onions, served with poi and haupia. In addition, Laulau Stew is a time-honored favorite, with pork chunks slow cooked in pork broth, taro leaves, garlic, and onions.

Oahu

Oahu boasts some of the most modern, vibrant, and diverse types of cuisine in Hawaii. The flavors of the island have been influenced by the many multicultural communities that are present on the Islands.

A popular dish from Oahu is the Puaa Saimin, a mix of Portuguese sausage and saimin noodle soup with diced vegetables and honeybaked ham. For dessert, Malasadas are a must-try, sweet fried dough and coated with sugar.

Kauai

Kauai is renowned for its abundance of fresh seafood and tropical fruits, which is reflected in its cuisine. A beloved regional dish, Laulau Ribs are slow roasted in banana leaves and smothered in a mixture of tangy shoyu and warm spices.

Another favorite is the classic Hawaiian plate lunch, with a choice of two meats such as Kalua pig, laulau, or fried chicken, rice, mac salad and poi. This dish often comes with haupia, the renowned coconut pudding.

Kona

When visiting Kona, be sure to try the area’s iconic poke bowls. These bowls often start with a base of steamed white rice, topped with poke of your choice, and finished with a variety of toppings from seaweed, Maui onions, and ginger to seaweed Salad, octopus, and diced tomatoes.

Kona Coffee is another classic that every visitor to Kona should sample. L&L Hawaiian Barbecue is one of the most popular places to get authentic Kona coffee, made with freshly roasted beans grinded to perfection and brewed with distilled water.

Exploring Hawaiian food is an exciting and delicious way to experience the essence of the islands. From Poi and poke to traditional luaus, the local cuisine is sure to tantalize the taste buds with its unique blend of cultures and flavors.

Each area of the islands has its own unique dishes, so be sure to sample as many as possible to get a feel for the area’s culinary specialties. From Kona’s Kona Coffee to Maui’s Moco Loco and classic Laulau, Hawaiian food is sure to satisfy any appetite.