Why You Should Eat Local Food in Hawaii

Local food is comfort food in Hawaii. In Hawaii, folks don’t call each other “Hawaiians” like people in, say, California call each other Californians. That is because people want to distinguish themselves from “native Hawaiians” or “Hawaiians” as they are a separate ethnicity in Hawaii. So, people who live in or have grown up in Hawaii call each other “locals,” short for “local residents,” which encompasses everyone, including people of different descents. Food of the locals is local food, which is eaten in great quantities all over the islands.

  • What is local food?
    • Hawaii is a mix of cultures: Polynesian, Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, and other Asian ethnicities
    • Local food mixes the best of all these cultures
    • Local food is a spin on traditional Asian food, usually a combination
    • It is comfort food
    • Served in humble eateries
    • Served as “plate lunches,” which is usually one-two entrees and one-two side dishes
    • Not spicy
    • Japanese taste
      • Miso butterfish
      • Sashimi
      • Tempura – fried shrimp or vegetables in “tempura” batter
    • Hawaiian food
      • Kalua pig – shredded pork, pork is cooked low and slow in an underground oven called an imu
      • Lau lau – pork chunks wrapped in taro leaves. Cooked low and slow in an imu
      • Lomi lomi salmon – tomatoes and diced salmon
      • Poke – Raw chunks of ahi mixed with spices or soy sauce
    • Chinese taste
      • Fried rice with lup cheong (Chinese sausage)
      • Gaugee – deep fried wontons
      • Fried chicken
    • Korean taste
      • Tofu soup – spiced soup with tofu
      • Kalbi – BBQ beef ribs
      • Bugolgi – BBQ pork
      • Mandoo – Pan-fried dumplings
      • Kim-chee – spiced cabbage
    • Filipino
      • Pancit – noodles
      • Adobo – pork or chicken
    •  Others
      • Shave ice – not “shaved ice” and not a snow-cone
        • Finely shaved ice covered in sweet syrup
        • Famous beach snack
        • Ice is shaved upon ordering, so it’s fresh
      • White and brown rice
      • Tossed salad
        • Small side salad
        • Usually with a vinaigrette or Asian-style dressing
      • Mac salad
        • Macaroni salad with mayo
        • Usually a side dish
      • Tends to be inexpensive and plentiful
        • For about $10-12, you can get one-two big portions of an entree, two side dishes and rice
        • Can get it at every meal
      • Available everywhere – in every neighborhood
      • Learn about local culture through the food
      • Meet locals
        • Locals love plate lunches because it’s cheap and filling
        • Plate lunch eateries are crowded with locals at lunch
        • Locals are friendly
        • Don’t know what to eat? Ask a local!
      • New experience
        • Traveling is about new experiences
        • Off the beaten track
        • A special treat – can’t usually find “local food” anywhere else, especially Hawaiian food
      • Tends to be fresh food
        • If it’s fish, it’s usually freshly caught
        • Freshly made
        • No frozen foods (except shave ice!)
        • Locals are discerning eaters – a good eatery will have fresh food!

As you can see, local food is not just one type of food ¾ it is a combination of different Asian and Polynesian foods, which is readily available all over Hawaii. It represents and celebrates Hawaii’s Asian and Polynesian diversity. It’s not only tasty, but also cheap!