7 Must-Try Hawaiian Specialties To Taste Right Now

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Hawaii is overflowing with tasty treats and delectable dishes. From local classics to Asian fusion, there’s a bit of something for everyone in the Aloha state. Can’t escape to Hawaii for a tropical vacation of your own? Don’t worry. These must-try Hawaiian specialties and recipes will let you bring the tastes of the tropics to your home anytime you like.

Here are some of our all-time favorite Hawaiian recipes to inspire your inner foodie:

O'ahu - Honolulu: ONO Hawaiian Foods - Ahi Poke

Poke

Poke has long been a staple dish in Hawaii, but recently the healthy meal has gained popularity in destinations everywhere from Boulder to Brooklyn. Poke is raw seafood like tuna or salmon that is finely chopped and coated with a variation of salt, soy sauce, sesame oil, seaweed, and chili pepper. The appetizer is famously fresh and healthy, and can turn up in a wide array of variations.

Learn how to make a poke bowl like a true Hawaii local in this recipe by the Huffington Post.

Mai Tai

Nothing says Hawaii quite like the signature Mai Tai cocktail. A mix of rum, orange, pineapple, guava, and fresh lime juice, this is an ideal drink for anytime you want to immediately feel whisked away to someplace slightly warmer.

The key to a five-star Mai Tai is finding the perfect fruit juice to rum ratio. This recipe for Molly’s Maui Mai Tai is a great place to start.

Manapua

Hawaii’s food scene has been heavily influenced by Chinese and Japanese cultures, creating a unique fusion of flavors that’s hard to find anywhere else in the world. A perfect example is Manapua. This popular street food consists of steamed Chinese buns stuffed with barbecue pork, sweet potato, Lau Lau and more. It’s a variation on traditional Chinese dumplings that is now an easy-to-find staple in 7-11s and mom-and-pop shops.

Hawaiian style steamed buns aren’t the easiest dish to whip up, but the reward is well worth the effort. This recipe will get you started. 

Loco Moco

Loco Moco

Before fast-food drive-throughs, locals considered Loco Moco to be their quick go-to meal. Loco Moco traditionally starts with a base of white rice, which is then topped with a hamburger patty, fried eggs, and gravy. The meal has taken on several variations over the years that now include ingredients like teriyaki sauce, mahi-mahi, shrimp, and bacon. Get as creative as you like, but remember you can’t go wrong with the original.

Loco Moco makes a hearty breakfast, especially if you had a few-too-many cocktails the night before. Try throwing together this quick and easy variation.

Shaved Ice

You may call them ‘snow cones,’ but the paper-cone staple has nothing on its Hawaiian cousin. What makes Hawaiian shaved ice so delicious is the ultra-fine ice that allows the sugary syrup of your choice to absorb directly into the ice (rather than pooling at the bottom of your cup.) Head to the beach any time of year and you’ll find food trucks and shops serving the cold delicacy in flavors like passion fruit, Mai Tai, and Hawaiian rainbow.

For a fresh version of this tasty treat, try this healthy recipe for Shaved Ice with Mango and Coconut Milk.

Kalua Pork

Kalua refers to cooking in an Imu, or a traditional Hawaiian underground oven. It’s perhaps one of the most iconic ways to roast pork, and a staple at any tourist luau in Hawaii.

Rest assured—if you’re not keen on digging up your backyard to roast an entire pig over an open fire, you can still make a variation of Kalua Pork in your oven or slow cooker. Epicurius has an easy-to-follow recipe to get you started.
SPAM musubi

Spam Musabi

For many, the Hawaiian love affair with this canned pre-cooked meat is difficult to understand. Yet somehow Hawaiians have managed to incorporate spam into numerous recipes—many of them surprisingly delicious. Spam Musabi is always a classic. Based on the Japanese specialty, this portable snack consists of specially cooked spam and rice wrapped in delicate nori.

One of the beautiful things about Spam Musabi is just how simple it is to make. Learn the details here.

What are your favorite Hawaiian dishes, ether to enjoy on a tropical getaway or to savor in the comfort of your own kitchen? Be sure to share in the comments below!

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Casey Siemasko

Contributing Writer

Casey Siemasko is the founder of ACruisingCouple.com, an award-winning travel blog dedicated to adventure travel with a dash of class. Her travels have seen her photographing jaguars in Brazil, chasing the Northern Lights in Lapland, and braving stinky tofu in Taiwan. When she's not traveling, you'll find her penning stories from her home base in Costa Rica. Click below to follow Casey on Instagram.

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