What exactly is Hawaiian food? 13 Best Hawaiian Traditional Meals

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Do you want to know what classic or traditional Hawaiian cuisine is? Then you’ve arrived to the correct location!

Several traditional Hawaiian meals were carried over from the Pacific Polynesian islands. As a consequence, Hawaiian food consists of much more than poke, acai bowls, and pineapple.

The unique position of the Hawaiian Islands is what makes the cuisine scene incredibly diversified and distinct. Traditional favorites and genuine Hawaiian flavors continue to have a devoted following.

History of Hawaii’s Food Scene

Today’s native cuisine on the Hawaiian islands is a delectable mash-up of various cultures. We’re talking about Native Hawaiian, Asian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino ingredients and preparations, as well as American, European, particularly Portuguese, and Latin or Puerto Rican ingredients and preparations.

The distinctiveness of Hawaii’s cuisine culture does not end there. It includes how locals discuss it. Dating back to the plantation period in Hawaii, these many ethnic groups, each with its own language, had to discover a method to interact with one another.

The language still persists today, and you’ll hear it in casual conversation and on menus.

Hawaiian Cuisine You Must Eat While Visiting the Islands

Whether you’re planning a vacation to the islands or holding a backyard luau, you won’t want to miss out on these thirteen Hawaiian meals I’ve put together for you!


Poke is a delicious meal consisting of savory and simple, fresh ingredients that is popular among both residents and tourists.

Most recipes call for ahi tuna cut into little pieces and mixed with onions, sesame seeds, seaweed, and soy sauce. Other freshwater fish or even octopus are sometimes substituted.


The fundamental and popular filler starch preparation in Hawaiian cuisine is something known by locals as poi.

Poi is a thick paste made from taro root that is steamed or baked and pounded, comparable to a yam or potato but with a starchier taste. Water is also added to the mixture to produce a sticky pudding-like texture.

Poi has a distinct taste. Because to the mild fermentation during the preparation procedure, it is starchy and somewhat sour. When in Hawaii, you can’t get enough poi, but keep in mind that the taste and texture take some getting used to.

Plate from Hawaii

It makes no difference whether you discover it at a restaurant, a lunch cart, or someone’s home. While in Hawaii, do what the natives do and get a platter of Hawaiian cuisine.

For dessert, order a scoop of rice with kalua pig on top, pork or chicken laulau wrapped in ti leaves, dried beef, and fish on the side, and poi and kulolo or haupia, which is a coconut cream pudding. You may mix and combine it as you like.


These noodles resemble another famous Asian dish, ramen! The fact that saimin is cooked using Chinese egg noodles and a clear Japanese broth distinguishes it.

Other ingredients were added to the mix as more people moved to Hawaii, including green onions, kamaboko, kimchi, Portuguese sausage, and Spam, to produce the iconic bowls of saimin you see today.

It’s gotten so famous that you can get it at Aloha Stadium athletic events and even McDonald’s restaurants around Hawaii.

Farm Chips Taro Ko

Taro Ko Farms taro, sweet potato, and potato chips are real if the finest foods are defined in part by how difficult they are to get. These handcrafted chips can only be found on Kauai in the little historic hamlet of Hanapp.

Yet, if you drive too rapidly, you may miss it. Thus the hours are straightforward: if the doors are open, the proprietor, Dale Nagamine, will be selling bags out of brown boxes for $5 apiece.

Luau Stew

Luau stew is easily classified as Hawaiian comfort food. Taro leaves are cooked until they achieve the right melt-in-your-mouth softness, then seasoned with a sprinkle of Hawaiian sea salt, and thats all there is to it.

The most popular luau stews are prepared from beef brisket, however there are several variations available around Hawaii. Depending on the restaurant’s recipe, you may also anticipate ginger, onion, coconut milk, pepper, or seaweed to spice up this already excellent meal.


This dish is most readily comparable to char siu bao buns, however any Hawaiian will discard you if you refer to them as such. These doughy buns are steamed or baked and stuffed with pork.

The name is either a shortening of mea ono puaa or mauna puaa, depending on who you ask. Whether they are better baked or steamed is still debated decades after they were introduced to by Chinese immigrants in the mid-to-late nineteenth century.

Manapua is served at the majority of Hawaii’s Chinese restaurants.

Musubi with Spam

The most popular portable food in Hawaii is spam musubi. It’s a little block of rice wrapped in seaweed and topped with a slice of Spam. This dessert is excellent and may be enjoyed both hot and cold.

It may be available in a variety of places, including convenience shops and restaurants.

Chicken Mochiko

Consider mochiko chicken to be Hawaii’s equivalent of popcorn chicken. Chicken bites are marinated in a mochiko flour mixture before being deep-fried. It’s plenty crisp, juicy, and garlicky. This dish is often served hot with a large rice bowl.

Salmon Lomi Lomi

Lomi salmon is a delectable delicacy that was introduced to Hawaii from other Pacific islands. The dish is now included in most traditional Hawaiian dinners and goes well with poi.

Raw salmon is salted and cured with tomatoes, onions, and jalapeƱo peppers. The end product is what I like to term a salmon-infused Hawaiian-style salsa topping, and the flavors complement each other well.

The salty taste of the salmon combined with the acidic tomatoes and onions is one to remember.

Mochi Strawberry

Mochi, a sweet Japanese rice cake, is plentiful in Hawaii and comes in a variety of forms, including mochi ice cream, mochi balls with shave ice, and butter mochi, another local-style staple you should taste. Still, the strawberry mochi remains a local favorite.

Ice shaving

It’s become fashionable to order a bowl of shave ice and lavishly ladle on housemade, all-natural, locally sourced syrups. In many aspects, this refined shave ice harkens back to the history of cool cones.

Japanese immigrants sent to work in the sugar and pineapple plantations in Hawaii carried shave ice with them. Plantation workers would precisely shave ice off big ice blocks using machetes, then pour fruit juice over the fluffy ice.

In the ever-present hot weather, this sweet delicacy of shaved ice and flavored syrup is a Hawaiian favorite. In the islands, this is the closest you’ll come to snow.

Coco Pops

Locals can’t get enough of this light, flaky pastry filled with creamy chocolate pudding and topped with buttery chantilly frosting, and you won’t either when you sample it. The icing distinguishes the coco puff from other baked items.

Restaurants You Should Visit

Surfing, sunlight, sunsets, and swaying palm trees come to mind when you hear the name Hawaii. Yet, twelve innovative chefs rose to prominence for their Hawaii Regional Cuisine.

With wonderful fresh seafood and meats, farm-to-table veggies, and talented chefs rising through the ranks, Hawaii is quickly becoming a destination for foodies.

Alan Wongs’s

808-949-25261857 South King Street, 3rd Floor

Alan Wong’s success on Oahu is a testament to the unique Hawaiian Regional cuisine dishes that he has established his name on. Since 1995, Wongs Honolulu restaurant has served top-tier menu delicacies to customers fortunate enough to visit.

  • Special Diets: Gluten-Free Options
  • Cuisines: Fusion, Hawaiian

Mama’s Fish Restaurant

Phone: 808-579-8488799 Poho Pl.

Mamas Fish House, situated on Maui, is a must-visit restaurant for both tourists and inhabitants of the Valley Island. Many Mamas fans return year after year to dine there, and the restaurant has been named the Maui-est restaurant on Maui.

  • Special Diets: Vegetarian-Friendly, Vegan Options, and Gluten Free-Options
  • Cuisines: American, Hawaiian

The Lahaina Grill

Lahaina Hotel 808-667-5117127 Lahainaluna Rd.

Honolulu Magazine has named Lahaina Grill the best restaurant on Maui for over 25 years. It’s the ideal Maui cafe, located in the heart of Lahaina Town. It’s an excellent choice for a Lahaina birthday, anniversary, or date night.

  • Special Diets: Vegetarian and Gluten-Free Options.
  • Cuisines: Steakhouse, American, Seafood.


808-923-7697226 Lewers St.

Roys in Waikiki has been one of the greatest restaurants since 1988, operated by Chef and Owner Roy Yamaguchi. It is situated near Fort DeRussey, across from the shore.

Roy Yamaguchi operates 31 restaurants globally, including four on Oahu, one on Kauai, Roys Waikoloa on the Big Island, and Roys Kaanapali on Maui. Chef Yamaguchi is also known for his humanitarian work with disabled children, which he shares via three cookbooks.

  • Special Diets: Vegetarian-Friendly, Vegan Options, and Gluten-Free Options
  • Cuisines: Japanese, American, Seafood, Sushi, Polynesian, Hawaiian

Michels works at Colony Surf.

808-923-65522895 Kalakaua Ave.

This restaurant situated on Oahu’s Gold Coast, at the foot of Diamond Head. Delicious meals, spectacular sunset vistas, and magnificent skylines of Waikiki and Honolulu await you here. Michels is known as one of the most romantic restaurants in Oahu.

  • Special Diets: Vegetarian Friendly, Vegan Options, and Gluten-Free Options
  • Cuisines: French, Seafood, International

Last Thoughts

Have you ever tried any of these Hawaiian delicacies? Did you like the Hawaiian cuisine you tried? Did any of them stick out to you?

If you’re seeking for Hawaiian cuisine, check for any of the above meals served at a local caf, take-out counter, roadside stand, farmers markets, or even a fine dining venue in Hawaii, and you’ll get a sense of the local tastes and taste of Hawaiian foods.

While in Hawaii, don’t forget to stop by these restaurants and enjoy the great cuisine they provide. And if you like this essay, I recommend you read the following:

7 Ko Olina Restaurants You Must Try | Best Places to Dine in Ko Olina & Kapolei, Hawaii

The Top 10 Restaurants in Maui.

10 Maui Breakfast Spots You Must Visit

Restaurants in Lahaina, Maui

6 Haleiwa Restaurants You Must Try

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