Photo Essay: Chinatown in Honolulu, Hawaii

By Mark Wiens 11 Comments
Chinatown Honolulu Main Area
Chinatown Honolulu Main Area

Chinatown is one of my favorite areas of just about any major city in this world.

For me it’s an entrance point to any city or culture. Go to Chinatown in any city from Buenos Aires to Bangkok and you’ll find similar people, similar stores, wonderful Chinese food and those familiar Chinatown smells.

I’m comfortable in Chinatown.

Honolulu Chinatown
Where Asia meets the USA?

With a large population of Chinese and other Asian immigrants (these days lots of Southeast Asians and Filipinos), Honolulu’s Chinatown is a thriving entrance to the United States.

For many it’s a place to break into life in America and gradually fit into the new culture while still relying on some home Asian comforts.

Entrance to the Maunakea Marketplace
Entrance to the Maunakea Marketplace

There are four main markets in Chinatown Honolulu.

No, the market’s aren’t quite a thrilling as Sanjiang’s market in China, but you can find lots of cooking ingredients and plenty of delicious Asian food.

Try the Maunakea Marketplace for a delicious food court.

Chinatown Honolulu
Fresh fruits and vegetables in Chinatown

Chinatown Honolulu is a great place to buy fruits and vegetables – some of the cheapest and best produce in the city.

Fresh Mangoes
Fresh Mangoes

Mangoes aren’t quite as cheap as they are at my favorite market in Bangkok, but I will say that the selection of fruit did look wonderful. I wanted to buy it all and begin eating it all right then and there!

Fish in Chinatown
A great place to buy fresh fish!

It’s also the area you want to go if you’re looking for fresh fish or freshly butchered meat to take home.

Pork and Chicken
Pork and Chicken

One thing I found interesting is that you can buy Hong Kong street food style roast pork and duck with food stamps – can you believe that? If I get some food stamps I’m heading straight for the roast pork!

Delicious Dim Sum
Delicious Dim Sum

Alas, it was time to eat, and there’s no shortage of high quality restaurants in Chinatown.

Dim Sum dumplings are widely available, and for all practical matters it’s just as good as Hong Kong dim sum (if not even better).

Fun Roll
Fun Roll

In the center of Chinatown is a small factory that’s been around for years crafting the same exact sheets of wide rice noodles known as fun roll noodles (similar to sen yai in Thailand).

As soon as you taste it  you’ll know the noodles are are handmade by motherly figures – the outstanding taste speaks for itself. Get a little bowl of soy sauce, dip in a piece of fun and you’re set for a mouthful of pleasure.

Get it from Ying Leong Look Funn Factory, opposite from Kekaulike Market.

Char Siu Bau
Char Siu Bau

Lastly on a quick trip to Chinatown you’ll need to stop by Char Hung Sut for a sample of their famous char siu bau. Originally Chinese, these giant steamed buns have been modified to a Hawaiian palate. They are meaty, pork filled and ultimately delicious.

Next time you’re in Honolulu, be sure to check out Chinatown for interesting sites and scrumptious cuisine!



11 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Kevin Nguyen

    1 year ago

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks to you, I got a itinerary to Hawaii jammed pack with hiking and food. Love your website.

  • 50+ and on the Run

    5 years ago

    Oh, I’d forgotten about fun, yum. Thanks for the reminder. Sadly, no Chinatown in San Antonio…

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      No problem, thanks for checking this out. Too bad about no Chinatown in San Antonia, but I’m sure you can get some delicious Chinese food still!

  • sully86

    5 years ago

    mark: the siew paos looks suspiciously different? the meat?

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Barbecue pork, but cooked a little different and more shredded

  • Ayngelina

    5 years ago

    I also flock to Chinatowns across the world, its one of the few places I know I can find green vegetables on a menu, which is so important when you go to countries that think potatoes and corn are all you need.

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Haha, good point. Delicious green leaves are a great part of Chinese cuisine!

  • Zara @ Backpack ME

    5 years ago

    Tip to myself: next time you’re hungry, don’t come to Mark’s blog!!
    Those Dim Sum look like they need to be in my mouth right about now..

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    5 years ago

    Whenever I travel, I always like to check out Chinatown too! I always think that’s where you can find the cheapest (and most delicious) eats, and that culture is so vibrant!

    Also, I have eaten a LOT of char siu baos in my time, but I’ve never seen one that looks quite like the one you posted. Still looks delicious, but different. How have they modified these baos for the Hawaiian palate?

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Steph, great to hear you’re also a fan of Chinatowns, you’re fully right – so many great deals and often delicious food. So for these particularly Hawaiian baos, I think they filled with extra meat, and the char siu is more pulled apart, almost like corned beef rather than chunks of sliced red bbq pork. I’ll have to ask my cousin, who is a chef from Hawaii, as she’ll be able to tell us more!