5 Traditional Hawaiian Food That Aren’t Poke

HAWAII IS KNOWN FOR THE FRESHNESS and brightness of its ingredients, which are exemplified by one of the island’s most famous meals, poke. Of course, this as-fresh-as-you-can-get raw, chopped, and barely seasoned fish meal is worth eating in Hawaii, but there are so many more native Hawaiian cuisines that deserve the same cult reputation as poke.

Try the poke the next time you’re in Reno, NV  but don’t forget to appreciate how varied the islands’ food is. Beyond poke, these are other meals to try in Hawaii.

1. Loco moco

Loco moco, a Japanese dish that takes its inspiration from Japanese hambagu might be a disassembled hamburger on a bed of rice. The island’s most beloved comfort food, it consists of a hamburger pat covered in a soy sauce-based gravy and then topped with a sunny side up egg.

It is interesting to learn that the origins of this dish are linked to a group of teenage boys from Hilo known as the Lincoln Wreckers. They were well-known for their athletic prowess. The group hung out at Lincoln Grill and, as broke teenagers, asked the owner for a quick, cheap, but satisfying meal. In 2018, Dr. George Takahashi, who was a member at the time of the Lincoln Wreckers, told this story to the East Bay Times. He claimed that he and his friends created the name out of sheer whim. Soon, the dish was featured on many menus in Hawaii. Takahashi acknowledges that the Wreckers may not have thought of the dish at first, but he claims they came up with the name.

2. Luau stew

This hearty stew features voluptuous luau (the leaves of the taro plants) as the main ingredient. The leaves are then cooked until they turn dark green and become soft. After that, it is served with rice or poi. This stew is usually made at home and isn’t often seen on restaurant menus. Denise Yamaguchi, CEO of the Hawaiian Food Festival and Alan Wong’s colleague, says that it may be underappreciated.

She adds that it also looks like green spinach soup. And many people who don’t live here are put off by its appearance. It’s delicious and healthy.

Chef Chang cultivates taro in his own backyard. This gives him direct access to fresh luau leafs, making luau stew more meaningful. His version also includes beef shortribs and onions. He says, “I love the texture of luau leaves.”

Make it at Home!

3. Plate lunch

Plate lunch is a staple of Hawaiian cuisine culture and can be found at street vendors or diners. According Eater, it is a multi-cultural descendant of the “Southern meat-and-three plates.” The main dish can be changed, but it is always served with macaroni, cheese, and two scoops rice. Plate lunch is a reflection of the multi-cultural heritage of Hawaii islands. It incorporates flavors from Japan, China and the Philippines as well as dishes from Korea and Portugal. The main dish could be, for example, kalua pork or chicken katsu.

Plate lunch dates back to late 1800s when it was an inexpensive and easy lunch option for workers on Hawaii’s sugar and pineapple plantations. Its name is deceptively simple because it was first served on paper plates in the 1930s. Plate lunch was a staple of the islands’ plantation era, but it is still available on the mainland in California, Texas, New York.

4. Garlic shrimp

The proliferation of food trucks on Oahu’s North Shore helped to make this spicy shellfish a household name. The shrimp are marinated in a mix of cayenne and paprika, and then dipped into garlic butter sauce. They are served on a Styrofoam tray along with rice and a wedge of lemon. Giovanni’s Original White Shrimp Truck was the one that started the trend for garlic shrimp. The first truck was launched in Kahuku, a region known for its freshwater aquaculture farms. Soon, lines began to form. There are currently at most five active shrimp trucks on the North Shore, which still enjoy bustling service.

5. Manapua

The snack is very similar to Chinese char siu bo. Which are steamed buns with pork. In the 19th century, Hawaiians were introduced to Hawaii by Chinese immigrants who had been hired to work in sugar and pineapple plantations. These delicious, nutritious snacks proved so popular that Chinese workers started selling them at plantation workers’ camps. These hawkers of pork buns evolved into the Manapua Man, a mobile vendor. They are still common throughout the islands. However, instead of selling their goods from carts or baskets, they now set up shop in areas near beaches and in cargo vans.

Manapua was originally called mea ono pua’a. Which is a combination of the words cake, pastry, and pork. However it was eventually changed to manapua. Manapua is typically filled with sweet red bean paste and pork. Bat Moi Kam Mau, a legendary restaurateur, owns Char Hung Sut. He is most famous for popularizing manapua using local Hawaiian flavors like sweet potato, laulau and kalua pork.

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