The North Shore and South Shore Hawaiian islands have a cuisine all their own. With its unique tropical setting that can grow a variety of vegetation, some native only to the Islands, to its nautical surroundings that serve a bounty of fresh fish and crustaceans, Hawaii boasts some amazing Hawaiian foods. In addition, these dishes are touched by a multitude of cultures, such as Japanese, Filipino, Chinese, Portuguese, and Korean, which have combined to define Hawaii’s food. From its fine dining, casual restaurants and food trucks, to the weekly Farmer’s market, the luxury real estate found at Kukuiula offers a glimpse into the diversity of traditional Hawaiian food, including these five must try dishes.
This raw fish dish is the Hawaiian version of mahi mahi sashimi or ceviche. Many adaptations are available, mostly made of tuna, salmon or octopus. The mainstay ingredient, however, is shoyu, a Japanese soy sauce made with fermented wheat, soy and sea salt that is sweeter than the typical soy sauce found on the mainland. A traditional poke will also include sesame oil, chili pepper, scallions, and ground kukui nuts.
Modern versions can also include anything from wasabi to caviar. Poke is light and refreshing, perfect for picnics on the beach or while enjoying one of Hawaii’s amazing sunsets.
A trip to Hawaii would never be complete without some fresh pineapple. The climate and soil of the Islands is perfect for growing this nutritious fruit and the difference between freshly picked pineapple and the version found on the mainland is noticeable. A local secret is to sprinkle li hing mui powder, a red powder made up of ground up plum skin that has previously been pickled in a combination of licorice, aspartame, salt, and sugar, on the pineapple to enhance flavor.
Pineapple is great at any time of day, from breakfast to snacks to side dishes of any lunch or dinner.
Kalua pig is worth the six hour wait. Another can’t miss Hawaiian experience is the Kalua style pig roast. While the animal is not unique to the Islands, the cooking method is. Kalua refers to using an imu, which is an underground oven that is dug out and lined with hot stones. Once the pig is lowered into the hole, the entirety is covered with banana leaves to keep in the heat for six or more hours. All of the smoke and steam from the leaves are absorbed into the meat giving it a distinctive taste that is definitively Hawaii. Typically Kalua pork is reserved for luaus and special occasions, but these occur regularly on the Islands, making one of our favorite Hawaiian dishes a common treat.
The most sought after Portuguese contribution to Hawaii cuisine is the malasada. This desert is a crispy deep-fried doughnut rolled in sugar best enjoyed hot and still a little greasy. Many versions exist, most with some sort of filling. Guava jam and vanilla, white or dark chocolate cream fillings are the most revered, though caramel or chocolate dipped are quickly gaining popularity throughout the Islands. These are probably too rich for everyday consumption, but enjoying one or two during a stay is a must.
Shave ice beginners have to try the “Rainbow”
Another desert that is native to Hawaii that is much more than the sum of its parts is shave ice. It is amazing how a block of ice and some flavoring can be so refreshing in the middle of a hot day (which are plentiful on the Islands), and make those mainland snow cone versions seem inadequate.
The ultimate traditional Hawaiian shave ice includes a base of adzuki beans or macadamia nut ice cream, flavors of pineapple, coconut or strawberry and a “snow cap” mixture of condensed milk and cream. Shaved ice is not found at every convenience store, however, and may require some searching to acquire this delicacy.