Thu. Jun 20th, 2024
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Pork lau lau

Pork lau lau is Hawaiian soul food at its finest: Fatty pork wrapped in taro leaves, then pressure cooked in a steamer oven until it’s melt-in-your-mouth tender. Traditionally, lau lau is cooked in an underground imu oven for many hours, often accompanied by salted butterfish and sweet potato. Though the pork is served inside the taro leaves, the leaves are not to be eaten—their only purpose is to seal in flavor and moisture, to create intensely juicy, succulent pork.

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Lomi Salmon

Lomi salmon is a refreshingly light signature Hawaiian dish typically served as a side to pork lau lau. It’s prepared by mixing raw, salted, diced salmon with tomatoes, sweet Maui onions, and flakes of chili pepper. Lomi, the Hawaiian word for “massage,” refers to the method of preparation: The salmon is massaged with the other ingredients by hand to break up the fish and meld the flavors together. The dish is best eaten cold, and crushed ice is sometimes added to further chill before serving.

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Poi may not be pretty—the purple goo has the consistency of paste—but what it lacks in aesthetic appeal, it makes up for in taste. The native Hawaiian dish is made by mashing baked or steamed taro (a root vegetable that basically helped sustain the earliest Hawaiian settlers) with a stone pestle, gradually adding in water until it’s thick, smooth and sticky. It has a mild, slightly sweet taste that complements fresh island fish, and is often used as a dipping sauce for pork lau lau.

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Squid luau

Like poi, squid luau isn’t cute (at best, it looks like creamed spinach), but don’t let that put you off: it’s one of the tastiest dishes that Hawaii has to offer. It’s made by slow-cooking luau leaves and squid in coconut milk or cream until tender, adding salt and sugar to taste. The result is a thick, creamy puree that’s simultaneously briny, savory, and sweet—often served alongside pork lau lau and poi on a plate lunch, but delicious enough to eat on its own.

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Haupia is a traditional Hawaiian coconut milk-based dessert that’s served at luaus, but you’ll find it on many dessert menus throughout the islands. It’s made by mixing coconut milk with ground pia (Polynesian arrowroot), which is cooked until smooth and creamy, then poured into a pan and chilled. Though haupia is considered a pudding, it has a gelatin-like consistency and is typically cut into blocks like jelly squares before serving.

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Loco moco

Loco moco, the ultimate Hawaiian comfort food, is definitely not for the faint-hearted: It’s a mountain of rice under a floppy hamburger patty, topped with an egg and doused in brown gravy. Delicate? Not a chance. Delicious? Very. Though it’s traditionally served as a breakfast dish at diners and mom-and-pop eateries, nowadays you’ll find it everywhere from McDonald’s to fine-dining restaurants. Get it like a true Hawaiian and throw in a couple slices of fried Spam.

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Kalua pork

Not to be confused with the equally delicious pork lau lau, Kalua pork is a whole pig that’s stuffed with hot rocks, covered in banana leaves and then cooked for six to eight hours in an underground dirt pit called an imu. (The literal translation of kalua is “to cook in an underground oven”). While cooking, the banana leaves and burning koa wood, used to heat the oven, impart smoke and flavor into the moist and tender pork. Afterward, the meat is shredded before serving to allow the melted fat to mix with the meat.

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Shave Ice

Don’t even think about calling it a snow cone: Hawaiian shave ice boasts a superfine, snow-like texture (as opposed to coarse, crushed pellets) that absorbs syrup rather than just being coated by it. It’s smooth, silky and never crunchy, usually served in a conical paper or plastic cup. Often, shave ice is paired with ice cream and azuki beans, and then topped with a “snow cap”—a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk.


By Lala