The food in Kauai has a rich and varied history of unique food and is a mixture of many different ethnic cuisines. People from all over the world have made a home on Kauai, and they brought with them the traditional dishes of their homelands. Over time, these foods have blended with the traditional fare of Kauai, and today there are a number of unique foods to try in Kauai that are delicious and you simply can’t leave without experiencing them.
If you were hungry in ancient Hawaii, grab your spear and head to the nearest ocean — sort of your version of raiding the fridge. the fact that the Yeti Cooler had not yet been invented meant the moment you caught a fish, however, it would need to be eaten at the beach house.
Top Unique Foods to Try in Kauai, Hawaii
Traditional Fare of Kauai
Poke is a raw fish dish that’s often served as an appetizer. Two of the most common types of poke are tuna (ahi) and octopus (tako). The fish is cubed, seasoned, and served as a salad. This is one of the foods you must eat in Kauai.
If you caught an extra-large reef fish, to keep it fresh you would skin, gut and debone the fish, and “poké” it into chunks.
The word “poké” in Hawaiian means “to cut crosswise into pieces.” You would probably season these chunks with some sea salt you’d collected and/or some seaweed to help preserve it a little longer, creating a nutritious, high-protein and delicious snack. Eventually, recipes would be exchanged and you might crush up some kukui nut on top for special occasions.
Lomi Lomi is another fish dish, but in this case it’s smoked salmon instead of raw tuna or octopus. This delicious food is traditionally served with tomato, sweet onion, and green onion.
Of all the Hawaiian islands, Kauai stands out as having the biggest taro-producing farm. Poi is a dish made from mashed taro root, and has the consistency of runny mashed potatoes. It’s eaten on its own, made into desserts, baked into sweet breads, and sometimes even blended with hummus.
Kauai Local Food Favorites
Loco Moco consists of a hamburger topped with an egg cooked over easy. The whole thing is served on a bed of rice and smothered in brown gravy. This is a favorite for any and every meal of the day.
Fish tacos are a light and delicious alternative to the traditional beef taco. The fish is usually deep-fried, though you can also find grilled varieties in some Kauai restaurants. Fish tacos are served with all of the familiar toppings such as lettuce, cheese, salsa, and sour cream.
Saimin blends Japanese, Filipino, and Chinese traditions to create a soup and noodle dish that’s often accompanied by fishcakes, pork, spam, eggs, and onions.
Coconut shrimp is an island favorite. The shrimp are dipped in a light batter and then rolled in crushed coconut flakes before they’re deep-fried. They are usually served with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce.
Spam musubi is a Hawaiian take on sushi, but instead of raw fish, you can expect your rice to be topped with a piece of teriyaki fried Spam and wrapped in nori.
Kalua pig is something that you may get to experience if you attend an island luau because this delicacy is usually reserved for parties and special occasions. To make this dish, a whole pig is cooked in an imu, which is an underground oven.
Plate lunch is, as the name suggests, a local favorite for lunches. The dish is made up of separate portions of rice, meat, and macaroni salad.
Tasty Desserts to Finish the Meal
Malasadas were brought to Kauai from Portugal, and they are essentially deep fried dough balls rolled in sugar. Depending on where you go for these sweet treats, they may be made fresh to order or stuffed with tasty fillings.
Lilikoi is a type of passion fruit that’s used in a variety of desserts on Kauai, including crème Brulee, meringues, chiffon pies, and more.
Hula Pie is a decadent ice cream pie that features your choice of two scoops of Macadamia nut ice cream, chocolate sauce, and graham cracker crust. It’s usually topped with whip cream, roasted macadamia nuts, and a maraschino cherry.
Shave ice is a staple in any Hawaiian dessert. In Hawaii, “Shave Ice” is the local name for the refreshing dessert that’s commonly known as “shaved ice” elsewhere. Regardless of what you call it, this simple but delicious treat consists of fluffy ice flavored with your choice of sweet syrup, such as strawberry, mango, or coconut.
Fresh Local Food Grown on Kauai Island
Many different crops are grown on Kauai for both local consumption and exports. If you’re looking for a fresh food extravaganza, be sure to try the locally grown coffee, coconut, sugar, fresh fruit and pineapple. You can visit the farmers market in Kauai for a variety of local grown foods. Also check out the amazing food trucks, to support local businesses.
A world of tasty delights awaits you on the garden isle, and if you’ve got a taste for exotic cuisines, then you’re in for a special treat. Many of the local and traditional dishes on the island involve favorite ingredients like pork, spam, and fish, and pull inspiration from cuisines around the globe to create delicious and unique dishes. If you’ve got a trip planned to Kauai, make sure you try as much of the local fare as possible, including the sushi, burgers, pork dishes, and desserts.
Koloa Landing Resort’s Chef, Sam Choy
Oahu-born chef Sam Choy started to kick the idea of cubed fish up a notch or two. Ahi tuna was becoming more accessible and its dark pink flesh made for a strikingly attractive dish — much prettier than with the paler reef fish. Choy sought out the freshest ahi he could find, “poké’d” it into bite-sized pieces, paired it with a unique marinade and variety of goodies and elevated this once traditional dish into something exciting and absolutely delicious. People started referring to the dish as “poké” around this time and the name stuck. As one of the founding fathers of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine Movement, Choy continued to bring poké to an even wider audience. With his ever-growing poké empire, Choy is still satisfying taste buds from the islands to the mainland.
Are you interested in learning more about the best activities on Kauai and more about what the island has to offer? Contact us today and book your Kauai beach villa at Koloa Landing® Resort.