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Blog: Top 5 Hawaiian Must-Eats

Top 5 Hawaiian Must-Eats

Posted by: Eric Chang


Hawaii is an unbelievable place to grow up.  Aside from the natural beauty of the sandy beaches, lush green valleys and vast volcanic craters, Hawaiian cuisine also has a lot of great things to offer.  The availability of fresh fish, fertile soil and a melding of ethnic cuisines ranging from Chinese, Hawaiian, Japanese and Portuguese, among many others, allowed Hawaii to evolve into a very unique culinary paradise. 

I’m not a culinary expert or a chef, but I grew up on Oahu in the 70s, 80s and 90s and ate a TON.  Below are my TOP 5 favorite local Hawaiian foods which are still common on the islands today.  Similar to King's Hawaiian Original recipe breads and rolls, these popular dishes from Hawaii are now available in many parts of the country.  Have you seen any of these in your neighborhood?

5. MALASADAS

Malasadas are basically deep fried Portuguese donuts of sheer goodness.  They don’t have a hole like a donut because someone was smart enough to fill that space with extra deliciousness. Best when eaten hot-n-fresh out of the fryer and rolled in sugar.  They are known for their slightly crispy, sugary outer layer and their soft, moist center.  Leonard’s Bakery in Honolulu and Tex Drive Inn in Hilo are two popular malasada institutions in Hawaii.

4. SAIMIN

Saimin is a noodle soup unique to Hawaii.  Saimin is very similar to ramen, but its roots date back to the plantation days of Hawaii when the Chinese, Japanese, Philippine and Hawaiian plantation workers needed an inexpensive, easy meal they could make with available ingredients.

There are many variations, but some of the core ingredients are thin wheat and egg noodles, broth (dashi), fish cake (kamaboko), egg, green onion and a protein of choice. In Hawaii, SPAM® and Chinese barbequed pork (char siu) are very popular.

Some consider Saimin one of the forefathers of Asian fusion cuisine.  There are not really any rules to consider when making Saimin.  You put what you want into it as long as it’s delicious to you.  The only rule I personally have, is to eat it with chopsticks.


3. SPAM® MUSUBI

Yes, I said it.  SPAM®.  A.K.A. “The Hawaiian Steak.” According to Hormel Foods, the makers of SPAM®, “Hawaii has the highest consumption per capita for SPAM® products, where they are available in restaurants, convenience stores and as a staple in nearly every kitchen pantry.”

Musubi is a traditional Japanese rice ball wrapped in seaweed (nori), the kind you find on sushi.  Musubi often has a “goodie” or “treat” found in the center or on top of the rice ball, such as a pickled plum, to add some saltiness.  They make for tasty, portable snacks.  I’m not a historian, but my guess is that Musubi were great for samurai on-the-go.

Like most Hawaiian kids, I considered SPAM® Musubi a complete meal.  I had my carbs, protein, sodium and other essential minerals from the seaweed.  

If you’re ever near Los Angeles, King’s Hawaiian Bakery & Restaurant in Torrance, California has SPAM® Musubi on the menu.  That’s where I get my fix.


2. AHI POKĒ

Ahi is the Hawaiian word for Yellowfin tuna.  Pokē (pronounced poh-keh) means to “slice or cut” in Hawaiian.  Not many people are lucky enough to have access to fresh, yellowfin tuna like Hawaiians do.  Pokē was a traditional food for ancient Hawaiians and is a still a delicacy today. Traditionally comprised of just cubed Ahi, seaweed (limu) and Hawaiian sea salt; you will find many variations of poke today both in local stores in Hawaii and even some upscale restaurants on the mainland. 

I need to try this recipe.  Pokē is my personal favorite accompaniment to an ice cold beer on a hot Hawaiian day.


1.  KING’S HAWAIIAN® ORIGINAL HAWAIIAN SWEET BREAD
I’ll be the first to admit that I have a biased opinion.  I work for King’s Hawaiian.  You may take my list for what it’s worth.  My TOP 5s are true Hawaiian comfort foods I really do love. But, in all honesty, King’s Hawaiian bread is the only one on this list I don’t get tired of.  It’s very versatile - you can eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and as a snack. It’s not too sugary, salty, rich or starchy.  I could eat this Turkey Taco Dip Bowl all day long.

I used to eat the round bread plain, but my new thing is to make different kinds of sliders out of the dinner rolls and I also have been trying new dip bowl recipes.  After several years of working here, I’m amazed to learn about the widespread appeal that King’s Hawaiian bread has.  Almost anyone, from toddlers to senior citizens, really enjoys the stuff in a wide variety of ways.  This is why it’s my #1 choice.

Have you had Hawaiian food before?  What would your TOP 5 be? 
Eric
Meet the Chef!
Eric Chang
Eric joined King’s Hawaiian in 2008, but has been enjoying King’s Hawaiian since he was a child growing up on Oahu. He now lives in California and enjoys road trips, cooking with fire and eating food from all over the world.