As the most isolated population center on earth — located more than 2,000 miles from the closest continent — the Hawaiian Islands are unique. Everything from our culture to the food we eat is a bit different than the mainland. From sweet treats and unique pastries to savory dishes and popular snacks, there are certain foods abundant throughout the islands you simply can’t find elsewhere. And if you ever leave Hawaii — whether for two weeks or two years — there are certain local foods you’ll undoubtedly crave.
Poke, a raw fish salad, usually consists of cubed ahi (yellowfin tuna) marinated with sea salt, soy sauce, sesame oil, limu seaweed and chili powder. The delicious dish is currently taking over the mainland, but Hawaii obviously still does it best.
2. Kalua Pork
This traditional dish is usually cooked in an underground oven, called a Imu, and served at most Hawaiian luaus and traditional eateries. Unfortunately, all you’ll find elsewhere is plain, old, boring pork.
3. Fresh Pineapple
It’s hard to think about Hawaiian food without talking about pineapple. Hawaii is famous for its pineapple production, though the sweet fruit was not introduced to the islands until the 1500s. While you can buy pineapple anywhere, it’s never as good as it is in Hawaii.
You sure won't find this traditional Hawaiian dish anywhere else. Poi is made by pounding boiled taro roots and mixing with water until the ideal smooth consistency is met.
This wildly-popular noodle soup dish is inspired by Japanese ramen, Filipino pancit, and Chinese mein. It was developed by immigrants during Hawaii's plantation era, and has become a staple of Hawaiian cuisine ever since. While you can find ramen elsewhere, saimin is special.
Malasadas — Portuguese donuts without a hole — are wildly popular in Hawaii, and nowhere does them better than Leonard’s Bakery. A crispy golden brown exterior gives way to a soft and chewy inside in flavors like cinnamon sugar — some malasadas are even filled with custard or haupia, and there is a malasada flavor of the month. You can guarantee we dream about these delicious treats when we leave Hawaii.
7. Loco Moco
The loco moco: A beef patty nestled into a bed of rice with a fried over-easy egg balanced on top, with a smothering of brown gravy bringing everything together. It’s a shame the rest of the country knows nothing of this mouthwatering comfort food.
8. Spam Musubi
More Spam is sold in Hawaii than the rest of America, so it makes sense that the islands have combined Spam and sushi to create spam musubi… but it’s a shame the rest of the country hasn’t caught on to this tasty snack.
9. Hawaiian Plate Lunch
A plate lunch is a specific meal consisting of two scoops of rice, an entrée, macaroni salad, and sometimes a generous helping of gravy. You can get lunch anywhere, of course, but Hawaiian plate lunches will always be our favorite go-to meal.
Manapua translates to "delicious pork thing" in Hawaiian, and that is exactly what it is: diced pork filling inside a steamed white bun. You can substitute other meats, or even bean paste if you would like, but you’ll only find it in the Aloha State.
11. Shave Ice
Ah, Shave Ice: the quintessential Hawaiian treat, the perfect snack for a quick sugar rush after a day spent in the ocean. Is there really any better dessert on a hot Hawaiian afternoon? Other states try, but they'll never get the consistently quite right.