Poke with rice from Waikiki Brewing Company at Kakaako on Oahu Image Ben Ono Hawaii Tourism Authority
Poke with rice from Waikīkī Brewing Company at Kakaako on Oah'u. Image: Ben Ono Hawai'i Tourism Authority

10 must-try Hawai‘i dishes

From hearty meals created to satisfy hungry surfers to sweet treats the kids will love, a range of interesting dishes can be found across the Hawaiian Islands. Here are some to try during your visit

1. Poi

A Hawaiian staple made from kalo (taro), a starchy vegetable. It is produced by mashing cooked taro on a timber pounding board with a carved wooden pestle and adding water to make a paste.

2. Poke

This raw fish salad, pronounced ‘poh-kay’, usually features ‘ahi (yellowfin tuna), flavoured with soy sauce, sesame oil, kukui nut and seaweed. It was traditionally made by fishermen, combining trimmings from their catch with the other ingredients.

Creamy malasadas from Leonards Bakery
Creamy malasadas from Leonards Bakery

3. Malasada

Also known as a Portuguese donut, this fried dessert is made from flattened rounds of yeast dough, flavoured with lemon zest and coated with granulated sugar and cinnamon. Choose from original (non-filled) or filled malasadas including custard, dobash (chocolate) or haupia (coconut) varieties.

Shave ice Image Hawaii Tourism Authority
Shave ice. Image: Hawai'i Tourism Authority

4. Shave ice

This iconic frozen treat consists of finely shaved snow cones in exotic flavours, with a choice of ice cream or azuki (red) beans underneath.

Loco moco Image Blake Bronstad Hawaii Tourism Authority
Loco moco. Image: Blake Bronstad Hawai'i Tourism Authority

5. Loco moco

Invented to satisfy the hunger pangs of surfers, this high-carb, high-protein hit consists of a hamburger patty, fried egg and brown gravy on top of steamed rice. It was created in Hilo on the island of Hawai‘i at the request of local teenagers – one of whom was studying Spanish at school and suggested the name loco, which means ‘crazy’, and moco because it rhymed.

Lomi salmon Image Shutterstock
Lomi salmon. Image: Shutterstock

6. Lomi salmon

A dish that combines diced salted salmon with tomatoes, onions and spring onions. Lomilomi is the Hawaiian word for to knead or massage, and its name refers to the act of mixing the ingredients.

A garlic shrimp plate Image Hawaii Tourism Authority Dana Edmunds
A garlic shrimp plate. Image: Hawai'i Tourism Authority Dana Edmunds

7. Garlic shrimp

A dish made popular by the shrimp trucks on O‘ahu’s North Shore, it is much loved by local surfers and visitors alike.

Haupia pie Image Shutterstock
Haupia pie. Image: Shutterstock

8. Haupia pie

A dessert made from thickened coconut milk and chocolate, layered into a pie crust and topped with whipped cream.

Saimin is a popular local dish Image Tor Johnson Hawaii Tourism Authority
Saimin is a popular local dish. Image: Tor Johnson Hawai'i Tourism Authority

9. Saimin

Similar to ramen, this soup (which means ‘thin noodles’) consists of a broth made with kombu dashi (dried kelp) and kamaboko (fish cakes), garnished with diced spring onions. It originated in the plantation era when people from different ethnic camps brought ingredients to work to share.

Handmade mochi from a shop in Hilo on Island of Hawaii Image Ben Ono Hawaii Tourism Authority
Handmade mochi from a shop in Hilo on Island of Hawai'i. Image: Ben Ono Hawai'i Tourism Authority

10. Mochi

A sweet Japanese rice cake made of mochigome, a short-grain japonica glutinous rice, and sometimes other ingredients such as water, sugar, and corn starch.

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