World Class or Street Fare and Everything In-Between
It wasn’t that long ago that Hawaii was considered a waste land when it came to “good eats”, but that has changed and even the fussiest of connoisseurs will find dishes that will satisfy their pallets. As for me, I personally am drawn to the more everyday dishes that can be found throughout the islands.
Some local favorites are well-known, such as King’s Hawaiian Bread which can be found in most grocery stores throughout the US. Most tourists have heard of kahlua pig and the greater majority eventually get to try some at one of the many commercial luau’s. And, of course, there’s the always popular, “poi”, which has been most aptly described as being a “paste-like dish”, in appearance, consistency, and taste. Even many of the locals add sugar when they eat it.
The beauty of Hawaii is the variety of food that are so readily available. Food Courts have become standard fare at every major mall across the country. Unfortunately, so have the vendors…the usual fast food chains, Chinese take-out, and occasionally a local or regional surprise or two. My favorite food court doesn’t quite fit this standard mold and sits in a non-plus setting of the Ala Moana Shopping Center. It doesn’t matter what you or those you are with are in the mood for, everyone will find something that will appeal to them.
Whether I’m in the mood for Chinese, Hawaiian, Japanese, a slice of pizza or a hotdog…they offer it. And, for the most part, very tasty fare at that. Its popularity with the locals attest to that. It’s hard to beat the combination of variety and prices offered and I never miss an opportunity to eat there.
Odds are that you will have ample opportunities to try “Spam musubi” and “Loco-Moco”, both iconic foods unique to Hawaii. It should be noted that, contrary to what many think, “Spam” is not made in Hawaii, but rather in Minnesota. However, Hawaii leads the world in per capita consumption of this somewhat mysterious meat. A love affair that can be traced back to the rations of World War II. (I will say that if you compare the ingredients with the more popular hot dog, you might re-think your lowly opinion of Spam.) You can even attend the annual Spam Jam, held in Waikiki around the end of April each year.
Loco-Moco is a dish consisting of rice topped traditionally with a hamburger patty, fried egg, and brown gravy. Currently, there are a myriad of iterations of this favorite dish, cholesterol not withstanding. Some places give you options as to what type of meat you’d prefer, some add macaroni salad as a side, but the rice, egg, and gravy are pretty much mainstays to the dish. In other words, a lot of food for the money and a fitting meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
I also have a soft spot for Chinatown. Whether I’m just wanting some manapua, char siu, roast duck, almond cookies, or something more substantial, the quality of food available there is pretty consistent. It has to be, after all that’s where many of the recent arrivals and locals get their food daily. Having said that, it should be noted that everyone has their favorite place to go when they want some manapua or char siu, which often times is not in the confines of Chinatown.
Legends restaurant is hard to beat for their dim sum…and I admit to having a passion for these little plates of delicacies. The novelty and the chance to try something different by simply pointing out a tasty looking dish from a passing cart is hard to beat. If you go, go with an adventurous mind and revel in new tastes and flavors that come with not knowing exactly what it is you’re pointing at!
The only danger is forgetting that each finger-point adds to the bill that can sometimes surprise you at checkout time. Of course, you can get yourself somewhat prepared by simply counting the dishes piled on the table in front of you as your eyes add to your bill.
What’s your favorite eating establishment? Is there a must-have dish for you?