Since the arrival of the Polynesians in about 300 A.D, traditional Hawaiian cuisine has certainly been unique from most of the world, and certainly America. But how did this one of a kind food culture begin, and what are the popular eats on the islands today? Lucky for me, in my adventure to Hawaii, I was able to taste the flavors of old and new Hawaii, and here is what I learned!
It all starts around the time of 300 A.D, when a large group of Polynesians came upon the sight of the beautiful Hawaii. But these Polynesians did not come empty-handed, bringing pig, taro plants, coconut, chicken, banana, sweet potatoes, and many more Pacific plants and animals important to the Hawaiian diet. But the most important of these is taro and the poi made from it. Poi is the main staple of Hawaiian food. It would be served with the hundreds of meals created by the inventive Hawaiians. So I just decided to try some of these “Hawaiian staples” and see if they deserve all the hype.
So I stopped at the “Poi Bowl” a small chain in Honolulu, Hawaii. I got the “Local boy” a hardy meal consisting of poi, Pork Laulau, Kalua Pig, and chicken long-rice. The poi was…good. I’m not going to lie, it tasted like flavorless yogurt that was passed it’s expiration date. It is definitely an acquired taste. So after all that build up, poi was a little different from what I had imagined. Pork Laulau is delicious pork wrapped in raw taro leaves and cooked in a traditional Hawaiian oven called an imu. It was fabulous. The pork was tender and flavored with the unique taste of a taro leaf and ,after you unwrap the pork from the leaves, the taro acted as a sort of spinach to give the sweet pork the pinch of bitterness it needed. Kalua Pig literally means “pig cooked in an underground oven”. To me it tasted like pulled pork, without the smokey barbecue sauce, but with a sweet, juicy, sticky, tangy, fruity sauce that just sends your mouth to paradise. I could eat it all day. Lastly, the Chicken Long-Rice. This strange dish left me thinking. It was just noodles and chicken…. clear noodles and chicken. It was basically chicken noodle soup, without the soup. It was good but not extraordinary. All in all, I loved the traditional Hawaiian food and without a doubt could have lived in Hawaii in 300 A.D. So after I finished off this meal with a little coconut dessert, it was time to see how Hawaii eats today!
From tacos to burgers, Hawaii kept me excited; presenting me with three untraditional Hawaiian meals
that have thrived with the influence of Hawaiian ingredients. First stop was the Mermaid cafe. On a late night after swimming and beach hopping, I was exhausted. As we drove into town most shops were closing up, except for one light coming from a little shack, smushed between two buildings. The Mermaid Cafe served tacos in Hawaii. I looked once. The idea perplexed me, for how could you have good tacos in Hawaii? Then I looked again, and I saw a fusion of spices, flavors and presentations created by The Mermaid Cafe. Before I knew it, in front of me was my meal! A black bean taco with Ahi, a traditional fish of the islands. With spicy salsa and tangy cheese, this certain Hawaiian taco woke me up. The mild, lemon fused Ahi mixed with the hardy black beans and melted cheese, spiced up with salsa left nothing to be desired. This was a great example of how food from different cultures can taste delicious together on the same plate.
Are you ready for some comfort? Because this comfort food is going to make you feel like you are right at home. Brought from the mainland USA, Chicken in a Barrel is just chicken in a barrel. I had chicken with a side of chili. It just melted in my mouth. The chicken was to die for, and the chili had sausage, beans, tomatoes, onions, and do I see pineapple? Yes pineapple. The amazing chili completed this delicious chicken. Chicken in a Barrel gives Hawaii a southern twist.
Last but not least I give to you Bubba’s Burgers. This famous Hawaiian Chain owns burger joints all across the islands. These burgers were little time machines back to the fifties. You have your classic burger and fries, but with the Napali coast in the background . The delicious food and amazing weather combined with the astounding views hit the spot. Hawaii is a slice of paradise.
Hawaii is filled with traditional food, but also food from around the world with a special Hawaiian twist. With a perfect variety of cuisine Hawaii is one place I have to visit again. It just goes to show you that you can learn a lot about history and culture through food. Aloha and Mahalo to Hawaii for letting me experience and taste the culture of Hawaii.