Many traditional Hawaiian foods are dishes originally brought over from Pacific Polynesian islands.
Though now the islands of Hawaii include a diverse demographic of ethnicities all adding their own flavors, there still remains a vibrant following of traditional favorites – the true tastes of Hawaii.
Let’s just dive straight into these really tasty 7 traditional Hawaiian foods. Be sure to sample all of them when you visit Hawaii!
The staple and traditional filler starch dish in Hawaiian cuisine is something known as poi.
Poi is a thick paste made from taro root (similar to a yam or potato but with a starchy-er flavor) that is either steamed or baked and pounded. While pounding, water is added to the mixture to create a pudding like consistency.
Poi has a unique flavor, starchy and slightly sour from the light fermentation in the preparation process. I personally can’t get enough poi while I’m in Hawaii, but I can understand that the flavor and texture does get some getting used to. I like to add a little lomi-lomi salmon (see below) to my bowl of poi!
Traditional Hawaiian food would not be complete without a dish known as laulau.
Taro is a well respected plant, not only in Hawaii, but also throughout Polynesia and the Pacific islands. While poi is made from the taro root, laulau is made from the leaves.
Traditionally laulau is made with pork wrapped in layers of taro leaves and cooked in an underground hot rock oven for hours until it turns soft and smoky flavored. The meat is tender and juicy while the leaves turn to a spinach like consistency.
Nowadays you can easily find fish, chicken or pork laulau in Hawaii.
3. Kalua Pig
Another giant of Hawaiian cuisine is the famous pork dish known as Kalua Pig.
Cooked in an underground oven (known as an imu), the pork slow roasts so it becomes extremely tender and retains a remarkable smoky flavor.
Kalua pig is similar to southern American pulled pork, but instead of the tangy barbecue sauce it has a pungent wood smoke flavor. In my opinion, kalua pig goes great with a nice big pile of rice!
Poke is the Hawaiian version of Japanese sashimi (raw fish) - and for myself, it doesn’t get much better than poke – I’m in love and addicted.
Instead of slicing the fish thin like the Japanese, Hawaiian poke is served in bite sized hearty cubes. The most common type of fish is ahi (tuna), but a number of other kinds of fresh saltwater fish are used.
After the raw fish is cut into chunks it’s most commonly seasoned with a splash of soy sauce, Hawaiian sea salt, sweet Maui onions, and perhaps some limu (seaweed type of plant).
Note: Also pictured is tako, octopus made in a similar way as poke.
5. Lomi Salmon (lomi-lomi salmon)
Lomi salmon is not originally native to Hawaii but was brought over from other Pacific islands. The dish is now part of most traditional Hawaiian meals and makes a great addition to poi.
Raw salmon is cured with salt and diced up along with tomatoes, onions, and normally some chili peppers. The result is what I’d call a salmon infused Hawaiian style salsa garnish.
The salty flavor of the salmon paired with the acidic tomatoes and pungent onions is a flavor to cherish.
6. Chicken Long Rice
Chicken long rice is not a traditional Hawaiian food recipe, but it has weaved its way into becoming a norm at many Hawaiian luaus and meals.
Originally a Chinese food inspired dish, chicken long rice is a combination of clear mung bean noodles cooked in chicken soup. The result is a slurpy stew with clear noodles, chunks of chicken and often a pleasant gingery flavor.
7. Fruit (like Pineapple)
Topping off a great Hawaiian meal, it’s a necessity to down some freshly grown Hawaiian fruit! The islands are famous for pineapple and it comes juicy and bursting with sweet flavor.
There you have 7 traditional Hawaiian food favorites to enjoy when you’re in Hawaii. Though modern developed Hawaiian plate lunches and SPAM musubi are so popular, Hawaii still holds on dearly to its heritage of cuisine.