During our recent anniversary trip to Hawaii, Paul and I tried our best to “eat local” – not only did we look for small, independent businesses to visit, but we also tried to make sure we sampled some truly Hawaiian dishes. A few of these were things we had tried on our previous trip to the islands, but some were brand new taste experiences for us.
Here are our 11 favourite Hawaiian eats (in no particular order):
Ok, I know i said that this list was “in no particular order” but malasadas might just be our top favourite “eat” from Hawaii during this trip. Portuguese in origin, malasadas are “egg-sized balls of yeast dough that are deep-fried in oil and coated with granulated sugar” (thanks Wikipedia!)
Although I had planned on visiting a few places to try malasadas, we were only able to make it to Leonard’s Bakery (several times). Their malasadas come in 3 coatings: Regular (sugar), Cinnamon Sugar and Li Hing (a popular local choice, which is a sweet and sour sugar). They also offer “Malasada Puffs”, which are malasadas with a creamy filling: Custard, Chocolate or Haupia (coconut), plus a “Flavour of the Month” – when we went it was Pineapple. Our favourites were the Regular malasada and the Pineapple puff.
Haupia is a traditional coconut Hawaiian dessert. Although I found many items that had haupia ‘filling’ (including the malasadas mentioned above), what I really wanted was the gelatin-like ‘blocks’ of haupia that are served slightly chilled. I finally found them and yes, they were delicious!
GARLIC SHRIMP PLATE
I know, garlic shrimp isn’t really a “Hawaiian” creation, but wow – do they love their garlic shrimp! Driving along the North Shore of Oahu, there’s TONS of garlic shrimp food trucks to choose from!
We sampled several plates of garlic shrimp (always served with rice and/or mac salad!) from different places and they ranged from a buttery smooth garlic sauce to nearly-raw chopped garlic with an inch of melted butter. The one thing that was consistent was that the shrimp were always cooked perfectly.
Paul’s already working on his own version of garlic shrimp to share (no word on if there’s going to be rice and mac salad on the side yet)
I was pleasantly surprised at how refreshing and light this fish “salad” was. It’s basically raw salted, diced salmon tossed with tomatoes, Maui onions (or green onion), and sometimes flakes of red chili peppers. Served cold, there are several variations, but the ones we had were all quite similar. Paul really enjoyed this dish.
Those who know me, know I love sushi. So one of the top “Hawaiian eats” that I had on my list of things to try was poke. Poke is cubed raw ahi (yellowfin tuna) that has been marinated with sea salt, soy sauce, nut oil, sesame oil, limu seaweed, and chopped chili pepper. A variety of other condiments are often used, including tomatoes, wasabi, sweet onion, garlic, seaweed, etc. We also saw poke made with octopus (which I tried), salmon or other types of tuna instead of the traditional ahi.
During our week on the islands, we were able to try six different variations of poke (including the octopus) and it was all amazingly fresh and buttery. I’m hoping to track down a good source of fresh ahi here in Toronto to try and make my own.
Kalua is a traditional Hawaiian cooking method that uses an ‘imu’, an underground oven. Kalua can also be use to describe the food cooked this way, such as kalua pig (think luau!). When served, the pork looks like pulled pork. However, instead of the usual sauce-heavy pulled pork, the kalua pork we had was sauce-less, incredibly moist and salty.
Seriously, no one should ever visit Hawaii and leave without having shave ice. Unlike the snow cones of my childhood, Hawaiian shave ice features large amounts of snowy-soft shaved ice (the fineness of Hawaiian shaved ice holds syrup a lot better than the flaky ice of the North American snow cones), an insane number of syrup flavours to choose from and “extras”, like condensed milk, ice cream or red beans.
We love this frozen treat so much that I’ve actually looked into the cost of a Hawaiian shave ice machine so that I could make this at home (yeah – it’s expensive!).
When it comes down to it, loco moco is comfort food at it’s very core. It’s basically rice, topped with hamburger patties, covered with gravy and then topped with two eggs. Basic, right?
And FILLING. I had this for lunch one day and had to take most of it back to the hotel, where I had it as a late night snack. And then a late-late night snack. It got to the point where Paul actually asked me “Are you still eating that?”
We discovered Dole Whips while touring the Dole Plantation during our last trip to Hawaii. Apparently, they also serve this at Disney World and several other locations in the USA, so you may have had it without visiting Hawaii before.
Dole Whip is basically a pineapple-flavoured soft-serve frozen dessert and boasts that it’s “Vegan, Chlesterol-Free, Fat-Free, Gluten-Free, and Lactose-Free.” So…basically everyone can enjoy this treat without any guilt (although, I must tell you, it’s pretty pricey!)
What can I say about poi? It’s gluey, purple, kind of bland and blah. But, eaten on the side with some salty kalua pig or lomi-lomi salmon and it’s pretty good. And it’s such a staple of Hawaiian cuisine that I knew I couldn’t do a blog post about Hawaiian food if I didn’t have poi at least ONCE during our week in Hawaii.
The famous Liliha bakery serves up nearly 7,000 of these large cream puffs a day! A DAY! Creamy and cool, with a light pastry shell and a thick filling and topping, there’s a reason these things are so popular!
We’re both saddened by the fact that many of the foods that we fell in love with in Hawaii are hard to find here in Toronto, but we’re definitely going to hit the kitchen in an attempt to duplicate our favourites!
So, how about you? Have you tried any of the things that made our list? Which were your favourites?
Here are just a few of the other great things we ate during our trip…