Ten Hawaiian Foods You’ve Never Heard Of

You may be familiar with some popular Hawaiian cuisine these days such as POG juice (Passion Orange Guava), Spam or fresh Ahi poke. But do you know what the Hawaiian version of a fresh, deep fried doughnut is? Or how about what a tropical weather pattern and popcorn mean to one another? Well, you’re about to find out! Here are the ten Hawaiian foods you’ve never heard of.

1. Poi


There’s a chance you’ve seen Poi before and stopped to wonder, “What exactly is it?” Poi is pudding like substance made from mashed up Taro. It is a traditional part of native Hawaiian cuisine and can be eaten right with your fingers. The consistency ranges from applesauce to dough-like and can be found in other baked goods like bread rolls and Malasadas (Mala-whats? We’ll get to those!). Poi has even been known to make a guest appearance in the menu here at Kukuiula.

2. Loco Moco

loco moco kauai

A Hawaiian breakfast staple, the “Loco Moco” is quite the culinary feat. Consisting of a scoop (or two) of white rice, one (or two) hamburger patties and topped with (one or) two eggs and smothered in gravy. Not for the faint of heart. A lot of restaurants offer their own personalized version however the portions tend to stay the same.

3. Lomi-Lomi Salmon


The perfect marriage between ceviche and gazpacho, Lomi-lomi salmon is typically prepared by mixing raw salted and diced salmon with tomatoes and sweet Maui onions. It can be found at nearly every luau, birthday party or fish market. Whether you bring it to a picnic or pack it in your beach cooler – lomi is always a good choice.

4.  Pork Laulau


Pork Laulau is Kalua pork wrapped up in a Ti leaf and cooked underground in a hot sand pit lined with lava rocks. “Kalua” literally translates to cook in an underground oven (like the kind seen at luau feasts). The leaves cause the steam to cook the meat from the inside and it gives it this really rich, smoky flavor. Of course you don’t need to dig a pit these days, although it might be fun to try.

5. Malasada


The Hawaiian version of a doughnut. Fried to perfection and powdered, these golden pieces of heaven look more like a beignet than a Krispy Kreme. They can be found at almost every local celebration, art walk or fair. Some come prepared with a cream or jam filling. If you don’t see them, you’ll smell them and then there’s no turning back.

6. Li Hing Mui 


Li hing mui is a salty and sweet dried plum. It has a strong, distinctive flavor, and offers a combination of sweet, sour, and salty taste. The leading brand is Enjoy and can be found at almost all convenience stores. The name “li hing mui” means “traveling plum”. Li hing mui powder can be found on everything from cocktails and shave ice to ice cream and popcorn.

7. Hurricane Popcorn 


Kauai’s no stranger to hurricanes. So we turned a scary situation into a scary delicious concoction with Hurricane Popcorn. Hurricane Popcorn is made by preparing normal popcorn and then adding in flakes of furirake (a seaweed seasoning), arare (mochi crunch or soy sauce rice crackers), sour gummy candy and li hing mui powder. Of course the ingredients change depending on your desired taste and style. We welcome a big batch of these kinds of hurricanes!

8. Portuguese Sweet Breads 


Portuguese Sweet Bread are absolutely delicious. Made with with milk, sugar (and/or honey), eggs, yeast and flour they are light, fluffy and usually served around the holidays. You can eat them with rice pudding or butter (dare we suggest French Toast?) and it’s sure to make your Aloha Spirit sing.

9. Manapua 


While we all know of dumplings, Manapua are the next level of dumplings. Stuffed with barbecued flavored pork, they’re Chinese inspired, Hawaiian improved. Not to mention a staple in island dining. With a combination of warm dough and savory insides, Manapua will never go out of style.

10. Saimin


Saimin, much like the popular Pho, is a popular noodle soup found on Hawaii. Inspired by Japanese ramen, Chinese mein, and Filipino pancit, Saimin was improved during Hawaii’s plantation era. It consists of wheat / egg noodles served in hot broth and garnished with a handful of Hawaiian herbs and meats. It is a go-to comfort food that warms you up from the inside out. If you haven’t heard of Kauai’s famous Hamura’s restaurant, you’re missing out!

Have you tried any of these foods before? If so, we’d love to hear your favorites!