Traditional Hawaiian Food and Where to Find It

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Visiting Hawaii has been something of a travel daydream for me for quite some time now. It’s one of the top five US states I’d most like to visit (that I haven’t already), and I even wrote about my debate between Hawaii or Alaska a while ago.

A glimpse at my constantly shifting waistline should give some indication of how much I love food, and enjoying good food with family and friends is part of the Hawaiian tradition and culture. Often the best way to experience a travel destination is to talk to the locals and explore the recommended places to eat.

Like in any country, the quest to find authentic local food often leads you down winding alleys and into places that don’t look particularly appealing. My favourite dumpling place in China was in a foul-smelling alley affectionately known as ‘bird flu alley’, but damned if they weren’t amazing dumplings. Likewise, you can find some of the best Hawaiian food at some of the most ordinary-seeming restaurants.

Of course, knowing what Hawaiian food is will help you on your culinary adventure. Watch the video below as an introduction to Poi, Kalua Pig, Poke, lau lau, and lomi lomi — all dishes that are guaranteed to make your mouth water.

Once you’re up to speed on Hawaiian delicacies, you can be more excited than ever about that Honolulu hotel reservation you made on Once you’ve unpacked and got yourself situation, you can seek out one or more of the following restaurants to delight your palate.

Ono Hawaiian Foods

Ono Hawaiian Foods is known for Kalua Pig, an authentic pork dish cooked in an underground oven for hours. Once done the pork has a smoky taste and resembles American pulled pork, without the BBQ sauce. This dish is succulent and full of flavour.

Photo by Chotda
Photo by Chotda

The restaurant is small and often has people waiting in line, but Ono is worth the wait. Don’t let the run down decor and chipped dishes fool you, the staff is friendly and helpful and the food to die for!

Helena’s Hawaiian Food

Helena’s, located just outside down town Honolulu, is a quaint place serving local flavours. A must try speciality food, labelled as a comfort food, is the pikikaula ribs. Rubbed with special seasonings, marinated for hours, and smoked to perfection, the ribs are crispy on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside.

Yama’s Fish Market

Yami’s Fish Market will delight your tastebuds with lau lau — served with either pork or chicken — and lomi lomi, a cold salmon dish with diced tomatoes and onions.

Another dish you might want to try is the Hawaiian coconut pudding, which is sweet potato haupia, a colorful dessert with a sweet and buttery crust, purple mashed sweet potatoes, and a topping of coconut and macadamia nuts.

Photo by Kathryn Linge.
Photo by Kathryn Linge.

Lani’s Loco Moco and Plate Lunch

Lani’s, a bright yellow food truck, serves some of the best Prime Rib Loco Moco on the island. Coupled with a delectable mac salad, it is known as the greatest in comfort foods. The salad is slightly tangy and sweet and is the ideal complement for the tasty, fall apart ribs. Give this truck a try.

Honolulu Farmers Market

A farmers market may seem like an unusual backdrop for traditional foods of Hawaii, but here it is easy to come by fresh, authentic fare. There are plenty of local dishes to try here, and a day of tastings will fill your belly with some of the most flavorful dishes of the islands. The poke — cubed raw tuna, seasoned with pink sea salt, soy sauce, sesame oil, seaweed, and chili pepper — melts in your mouth.

Photo by Nate Grey.
Photo by Nate Grey.

Your journey for authentic Hawaiian foods, whether traditional or non-traditional, should without a doubt take you to Honolulu. Bring your taste buds and your appetite, and enjoy!

 Your Say

Have you ever been to Hawaii? What are your favourite Hawaiian dishes and the places to find them?

Content written by Miles Young

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