9 Foods You Should Never Leave Hawaii Without Trying

Hawaii is a haven of everything nice. From the breathtaking sand beaches, to the jaw-dropping cliff diving spots, the Aloha State has a lot to offer to our plate, figuratively and literally.

Aside from enjoying the waters of the Islands, fill your stomach with must-try delicacies best served at the Paradise of the Pacific.



Often served as an appetizer, poke is salad made from raw seafood like tuna, salmon, octopus, or shellfish. Poke was first made by fishermen as a snack using cut-offs from their catch and seasoning.

Poke seasonings, having been influenced by Asian cuisines, include sesame oil, soy sauce, green onions, chili pepper, sea salt, wasabi, onions, among others.

You can grab a taste of this local salad at Da Poke Shack on the Big Island or at Tamashiro fish market in Honolulu.



Manapua was brought to the Hawaiian Islands by Chinese plantation workers as cha siu bao, a Cantonese barbecue-flavored pork-filled bun.

Although larger than cha siu bao, manapua has not diverted far from its Chinese counterpart. It can also be steamed or baked, and be filled with pork, chicken, beans, hot dog, sweet potato, to name a few.

Manapua is available in restaurants, convenience stores, and bakeries like Libby Manapua Shop in Honolulu.


Spam Musubi

Onigiri is for Japan, while Spam musubi is for Hawaii. This simple creation is a staple snack in Hawaii found in convenience stores, cafeterias, and can easily be made at home.

Spam was immensely popular in Hawaii after the Second World War, becoming a ubiquitous food product in the Aloha State.

Spam musubi is made by frying a slice of Spam soaked in a sugar-soy sauce mixture and assembled with rice and wrapped with nori.



Developed during the plantation era in Hawaii, saimin is a soup dish influenced by different immigrant groups. This comfort food is made with egg noodles, dashi broth, topped with deli ham, fishcake, and green onion.


Huli Huli Chicken

Huli, a Hawaiian word for “turn”, best describes this Hawaiian dish as it involves turning or rotating the chicken to cook. Huli huli chicken was developed by Portuguese-American businessman Ernest Morgado.

The chicken is barbecued over wood and basted with a sweet sauce whose recipe was never revealed by Morgado but is said to consist of pineapple juice, ketchup, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger.

Still, various variations of the sauce recipe have emerged through the years as well as other ways to prepare the chicken.


Loco Moco

Another known comfort dish in Hawaii, loco moco is a filling rice dish which consists of white rice, topped with hamburger patty, fried egg, and brown gravy.

It is a well-known Hawaiian dish with variations including Spam, bacon, teriyaki beef, shrimp, ham, chili, among others. Café 100 in Hilo features 30 types of loco moco.



A malasada is Portuguese confection brought to Hawaii in the late 1870s by plantation workers. These sweet treats are deep-fried and resemble a doughnut coated in sugar.

Although traditional malasadas do not have fillings or holes, contemporary variations of these confections are filled with cream or other fillings.


Shave Ice

Shave ice is the perfect match to Hawaii’s tropical climate. Made by shaving ice and generously pouring syrups, a shave ice is Hawaii’s iconic frozen treat brought to the island by Japanese laborers during the plantation era.

Shave ice in Hawaii is often flavored with guava, pineapple, coconut cream, kiwi, mango, li hing mui, etc.


Hawaiian Plate

A Hawaiian plate is one of the best way to experience the mouthwatering goodness of Hawaiian dishes. A plate often consists of a scoop of rice, kalua pork which a pork cooked using an underground oven or imu, chicken laulau which is wrapper in taro or luau leaf, pipikaula or salted and dried beef, lomi lomi salmon which is a fresh tomato and salmon salad, poi, and kulolo.