With a rich history of immigration to the venerated isles of Hawaii, it’s no surprise that the food here is a fusion unlike anything else. Modern Hawaiian cuisine owes its roots to the mix of American, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and Polynesian immigrants who each brought over their own native food and unique styles of cooking.
But the real reason Hawaiian cuisine is so good is because it’s so fresh! There are certainly imports in Hawaii like everywhere else, but many of their staple food items are Hawaiian born and raised. The history of each food staple is as rich as Hawaiian culture. Going local is the best way to get a true taste of Hawaiian cuisine. All the items on this list are must haves for travelers and locals alike…
Taro is Hawaii’s oldest plant (actually one of the first harvested in the world!) and has been cultivated for tens of thousands of years in the region. If you’re unfamiliar, taro can most accurately be described as a root vegetable and looks a bit like elephant ears (a common nickname). When mashed to the right consistency, you get Poi. And you can’t go to Hawaii without trying this most traditional, age-old food staple.
Breadfruit is one of those things that you have to see to believe. A fruit? A starch? A vegetable? Let’s start with appearances: green, prickly, and oval shaped. It grows in a tree that can reach up to 85 feet high. And why do we eat it? Because it tastes like fresh-baked bread! A surprise your eyes, and stomach, won’t believe.
Coconut is the most obvious Hawaiian food staple, but figuring out how to eat it can be a bit of an adventure! There are tons of local food trucks that sell fresh coconut water out of the cracked skins. You can even visit local forests to go coconut foraging (just watch your head!) There are many ways to enjoy coconut on the island. We suggest just trying to crack it open yourself as fun activity for the family.
Tuna is another one of Hawaii’s biggest exports and greatest dishes. My favorite thing about eating ahi in Hawaii is feeling like I can still taste the salt water (it’s that fresh)! Poke is one of their most famous dishes, which is raw ahi chopped up with a variety of spices and add-ons from green onions to kukui nuts. Whether you like it grilled, filleted or straight out of the ocean, Hawaii does their tuna right.
Kona coffee is your last must-have as far as local varieties go. Kona coffee is what I dream of when I drink Folgers. It all comes from the main island and is usually shipped off and mixed with beans from other regions that are not pure Kona. Getting a fresh cup of the real thing is something every coffee lover should experience at some point.
There’s no shortage of places to try these unique Hawaiian snacks—from hotels like the Maile Sky Court to an abundance of great hole-in-the-wall spots. Even the local super market has treats you won’t find anywhere else! Good luck hitting everything on the list!
This guest post has been brought to you with the support of Aqua Resorts.