The highs and Alohas of Hawaiian cuisine

The highs and Alohas of Hawaiian cuisine

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Nachos as big as your head

Merica, the land of the brave and the home of the free or something like that. Everything is measured in non-metric, or as one local put it (tongue firmly in cheek) “freedom units“.

I’m led to believe that this failure to transition to metric (like the rest of us) is the reason that every food served in the states is so much bigger than at home. Why stop at one pound when five sounds far more impressive? 12oz? Heck no I’ll have the 32. Oh my good gosh that’s a lot of coca cola!

I recently spent 3 weeks exploring the islands of ‘The Big Island’, Maui and Oahu in Hawaii on honeymoon. This led to much food exploration, all in the name of research of course! We had the opportunity to really explore what the islands had to offer, which was most definitely not forgiving on the waistline!

Whilst I’ve made completely unfounded assumptions about America’s scale system, and perhaps some history, the fact still remains that everything is bigger in the U.S. The cars, the food, the beers and certainly the people, though we aren’t much better in Australia.

This might all seem like a bit of a dig on the US… not at all! I loved our time in the islands! The people are really lovely, the climate is to die for, the scenery is postcard perfect and the food is certainly available.

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Hawaiian BBQ … We tried to get veggies and were looked at like aliens.

The Hawaiian cuisine seems to be going through a bit of an identity crisis. Traditional Hawaiian BBQ and seafood fare has been fused or even confused with Southern BBQ and Tex Mex style. You can get a fish taco at almost every pub (quality terrifyingly varied). Pulled ‘Kalua’ pork is available with sides of rice and kimchi or with hot chips and coleslaw.

The influence of the Japanese population is everywhere. There are plenty of Bento boxes, sushi rolls and ramen/udon restaurants. Traditional Japanese food has, I believe unfortunately, been bastardised to the point of including ranch dressing in crab meat sushi rolls. I wish that were a joke.

Then there is the spam.

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Spam musubi

IT IS EVERYWHERE! Spam Musubi. Spam and eggs, fried spam steaks, Spamburgers at Macdonalds and Burger King, Spam in Bento boxes and served with chilli and fries. According to the Spam website “The true root of the island’s love for Spam products goes back to World War II, when the luncheon meat was served to GIs.”

Spam stands for “Spiced Ham” but it’s truly become more than that. I found teriyaki Spam (popular in the musubi), mexican Spam, dried spam and even Spam with macadamia nuts. Seriously … I’ve eaten some weird shit but that grosses even me out. If I never eat Spam again it will be too soon.

There are two beverages that Hawaiians do particularly well that surprised me. Coffee and Beer. The Kona Brewing Company and Kona Coffee is actually rather delicious, and that’s coming from a bonafide Melbourne coffee snob. If you’re gonna eat fried Spam, you can at least be satisfied with a delicious red ale or a coconut porter … mmm.

Perhaps we were asking the wrong people, or staying in the wrong places, but I was a little disappointed to find very little “traditional” Hawaiian fare available. Dishes made from Taro like Poi Pudding and Lau Lau Pork were certainly missing from the menus of tourist areas of Waikiki and Kailua-Kona. Plenty of Starbucks and chains like ‘Bubba Gump Shrimp’ were far too common instead.

When we did venture out of town adventuring, many places were closed. I hope due to the low season and not due to lack of interest.

Seafood dishes like Poke (raw fish) could be found at many of the Japanese restaurants due to their sashimi style but I am left wondering where all the great Pacific Polynesian fare has escaped to.

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‘Chicken’ polystyrene chips of sadness

Hopefully it’s not buried under a mountain of Macdonalds or Taco Bell fries.

It’s not all doom and gloom, I’ve made a little list of some great places I found in Waikiki and will link it here once posted. Some truly great noms, for all budgets.

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