What is Real American Food? Explained with Lip-Licking Photos

By Mark Wiens 24 Comments
Is this authentic American food?
Is this authentic American food?

After traveling for a number of years, I recently returned to the United States for about a month long visit. I visited family in Hawaii, friends in Washington D.C., and more family in Phoenix, Arizona.

Just like traveling anywhere else in the world, food is one of my ultimate passions and motivations.

But what exactly is REAL American food?

American food is as diverse as its people – spanning the entire globe. I’ll let the photos do the talking – here are the kinds of “Real American Food” that I love so much!

Chinese barbecued ribs
Chinese barbecued ribs

I flew into Honolulu where I was greeted by relatives and immediately began eating some of my favorite culinary comfort dishes.

These Hong Kong street food style ribs are available throughout Chinatown’s in the United States – and WOW were these tasty!

From Alicia’s Market in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Sushi buffets!
Sushi buffets!

Japanese food is popular around the world and there are lots of places to eat delicious sushi in the United States. I could barely control myself at this Japanese sushi buffet!

From Tsukiji Fish Market in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Dim Sum
Dim Sum

I’m a huge lover of dim sum, and to be honest, I think some parts of the United States (particularly Honolulu and San Francisco) have dim sum that rivals Hong Kong.

Chinese stir fried crab
Chinese stir fried crab

Since many of my relatives are Chinese, I was able to indulge is some outrageously delicious Chinese dishes – like this pile of crab!

The Spicy Bomb!
The Spicy Bomb!

This Japanese Hawaiian inspired inari roll, known as a Spicy Bomb, was stuffed with rice and piled with spicy tuna – it was insanely delicious.

Get it at Genki Sushi in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Hawaiian Poke Bowl
Hawaiian Poke Bowl

Hawaii also has some of my favorite home-grown creations – like poke bowls – raw ahi fish marinated in spices and placed over a bed of rice. It just doesn’t get much better in my opinion.

Traditional Hawaiian Food
Traditional Hawaiian Food

Traditional Hawaiian food is also fantastic – dishes like lomi salmon, laulau and kalua pig.

Hawaiian Plate Lunch
Hawaiian Plate Lunch

Nothing in Hawaii is more famous than a plate lunch. Plate lunches normally consist of steamed rice, macaroni salad, and a choice of Asian influenced meat such as teriyaki beef, chicken katsu, or fried mahi mahi (pictured above).

This plate is from the famous Rainbow Drive-In in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Burgers. Real American Food?
Burgers. Real American Food?

The hamburger is one of the most well recognized American foods – but during my 1 month visit, I only managed to eat a burger once – there are just so many other things to eat!

Giant Lamb Shank!
Giant Lamb Shank!

Da Spot in Honolulu, is an awesome restaurant that serves intense international flavors. The owner is Egyptian American while his wife is Japanese – the duo combine to make dishes that are beyond delicious.

Portuguese Hawaiian Malasadas
Portuguese Hawaiian Malasadas

Malasadas are soft pillows of deep fried dough sprinkled with sugar. Originally Portuguese, Hawaii has continued their production on the islands.

From Leonard’s Bakery in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Korean food in the USA
Korean food in the USA

After a few weeks in Honolulu, I caught a flight to Washington DC where I connected with some friends and attended a Korean American wedding.

The food needs no explanation – just look at the photo. I was in food heaven, limitless plates of South Korean food, seafood and a mixture of Japanese delights.

Ethiopian food in America
Ethiopian food in America

There are lots of Ethiopians in Washington DC, so there are tons of outstanding Ethiopian restaurants in the DC area. My mouth was able to reacquaint itself with the vibrant tastes of Ethiopia in DC and also in Phoenix, Arizona.

Italian inspired meatball sub
Italian inspired meatball sub

Phoenix, Arizona is an interesting place. It’s like a mini version of Los Angeles. Nearly everything is available from nearly every country on the planet if you look in the right place.

This Italian inspired meatball sub at a small Italian deli in Scottsdale, Arizona was magnificent.

From DeFalco’s Deli in Scottsdale, Arizona.

A Peruvian plato
A Peruvian plato

I was able to visit some Peruvian friends while in Phoenix and enjoy a few plates of grilled meat, Peruvian style rice (kind of like Thai khao man gai rice), and spicy Peruvian “aji” chili sauce.

Delicious Lebanese food!
Delicious Lebanese food!

Lebanese food is high on my list of world cuisines, so eating authentic Lebanese kofta kebabs, hummus and tabbouleh is always a joy! I’m glad I can also eat delicious Lebanese food in Bangkok too!

From Haji Baba in Tempe, Arizona.

Mexican huevos rancheros
Mexican huevos rancheros

One cuisine that I really miss living in Asia is good Mexican food.

Some of my best friends in Phoenix are originally from Mexico – and they really know their food! This scrumptiously messy plate of huevos rancheros was heartwarming for breakfast!

Carne Asada Burrito with Rice and Beans
Carne Asada Burrito with Rice and Beans

One of the last meals I ate on my visit back to the US was this platter consisting of a carne asada burrito lathered in enchilada sauce with rice and beans on the side – made me very happy.

From Moreno’s Mexican Grill in Chandler, Arizona.

So there you have a few of my favorite examples of real American food.

Sure, the US has burgers and fries and pizzas and pancakes, but in REALITY, the United States is an international melting pot of diverse cultures and cuisines.

What do you think? What’s your idea of “Real American Food?”



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

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  • Stefano

    3 years ago

    Hi Mark!

    Did you try Pappa’s in Phoenix?

    The owner is a real food lover and he talked to me for hours about food and it’s history, he is a real character!

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Hey Stefano, no have never been there, but may have to try it the next time, thanks!

  • Lindsay

    4 years ago

    Maybe this is how Big City people eat, but I think you missed the heart of American food. Most people, who live in smaller to medium cities, don’t have access to Ethiopian, Dim Sum, or many other ethnic foods. And I can’t believe you missed pizza! Seriously, what American childhood would be complete without a slice of pizza or a pile of spaghetti with red sauce poured out of a jar?

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hey Lindsay, it all just happens to depend on what area of the US you grew up in and what background you came from. Sure versions of pizza can be considered American food, but so can versions of Mexican food, Chinese food… The point here is that American food does not need to be defined by pizza and spaghetti, American food is so much more diverse and spans the entire globe.

  • Andrea

    4 years ago

    I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and the number one cuisine I miss living in Thailand is Mexican! I’ve had some decent Mexican food in Chiang Mai and Bangkok, but there is always at least one thing that was off (in Chiang Mai they didn’t have guacamole…..that is a crime!) A tantalizing post, for sure!

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hey Andrea, cool to hear you grew up in Phoenix! I was born there, but grew up mostly overseas and returned to go to university. I fully understand what you mean about Mexican food – just one or two things off can throw off the whole meal – so I’ve become quite hesitant to try Mexican food in Asia. Thanks for the comment!

  • 2Summers

    4 years ago

    Do you remember the name of the Ethiopian place where you ate in DC? Just curious. Amazing pics!

  • Ryan Hanson

    4 years ago

    Try La Monita in Bangkok. Great Mexican for when you get that south of the border craving. Top 5 Mexican I’ve had, in any country.

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hey Ryan, I’ve been there a few times, and it’s alright, but to me it’s more of a Tex-Mex restaurant, which isn’t bad, but not that street style Mexican food. It is one of the best Mexican restaurants in Asia though!

  • Rachel

    4 years ago

    Mmm… tasty. That is what I miss most about living in DC – just the sheer variety of foods available! And Mexican food… those huevos rancheros look so good!

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      DC has such a wonderful variety Rachel – I wish I had had a bit more time to eat and explore!

  • Ayngelina

    4 years ago

    I don’t know if hamburgers are American or not but that gross processed cheese slice definitely is!

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Haha, yes it is!

    • Nate @yomadic

      4 years ago

      A hamburger isn’t a hamburger without some of that processed cheese melted on top 😉

      PS, Mark – this is surely the best food blog anywhere on the Internet today. You are completely relentless!

      • Mark Wiens

        4 years ago

        Hah, processed cheese plus a giant blob of mayo!

        Thank you so much for your kind words Nate – I really appreciate it!

    • Caanan @ No Vacation Required

      4 years ago

      Careful, Ayngelina! That cheese is a national treasure.

  • Caanan @ No Vacation Required

    4 years ago

    > I only managed to eat a burger once…

    You didn’t try hard enough! I expect more! 🙂

    One of the things I love most about the US is the diversity (as you pointed out). Here in Seattle, we can choose from almost any international cuisine that we can think of. What is even better is that it is generally made by people who have deep roots in those cultures, so the food tends to be fairly authentic.

    The absolute best part of the US though is that you can find great Mexican food in almost every major city. That is something you just can’t find outside of North America. I see that Laura agrees!

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Yup, the diversity is just unparalleled (apart from London) I think the US dining scene is just about as well rounded as it gets, and if you know where to look, you can get authentic food from around the world!

      I’m back in Asia now and having second thoughts… I should have had 1 more really good burger before leaving!!

  • Laura

    4 years ago

    The #1 food I miss when I’m away from the US is Mexican food! So hard to find good Mexican food abroad 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Yes, in Asia, Mexican food is just not quite right, and now I’m just afraid to try Mexican food anywhere apart from the US or Mexico itself!

  • sully86

    4 years ago

    mark: I am apparently lucky at the moment, having a sucky internet connection so the pictures don’t load fully which spares me the agony of uncontrollable flow of saliva and imagining I could reach the food and also the stomach symphony which is the s.o.s code for hunger. Mark but from a bro to another bro. I still love you even this entry does not comfort me at all.

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hahaha, you’re the man Sully! Thanks for the comment!