A big part of the local culture in Hawaiʻi revolves around eating, and due to my extended time away from the Islands, I missed out on a heap of ʻono (delicious) food at birthday parties, weddings and holiday gatherings. Because of this, my friend Chris decided to take me on a kanak attack journey so I could finally get my fair share of the great local cuisine.
We hit up Tanioka’s and Laverne’s in Waipahu and took our feast of kings to a park in Waipiʻo to enjoy. At Tanioka’s we bought butter mochi, inarizushi and a garlic chicken plate that came with white rice. At Laverne’s we opted for the laulau and kalua pig plate that came with white rice, lomilomi salmon and haupia. We also ordered a side of chicken long rice, which is one of my favorite Hawaiian food dishes.
Here’s the breakdown of what we ate:
Butter Mochi: A popular dessert in Hawaiʻi with roots in Japan. However, I’m not sure if it’s been altered from a more traditional Japanese recipe to fit the tastes of people in the Islands. Sweet rice flour and other ingredients are baked into a firm and dense custard-like consistency.
Inarizushi: A type of sushi made from a fried tofu pouch filled with rice. In Hawaiʻi, slivers of carrots, green beans and greater burdock root (gobō) are mixed into the rice before it is packed into the pouch.
Garlic Chicken Plate: Just like it sounds, this is a dish of fried chicken coated with a sweet garlic sauce and served with white rice.
Laulau: A Hawaiian dish of pork and butterfish wrapped in taro leaves. An outer layer of ti leaves helps to contain the flavor and keep everything moist when the entire bundle is cooked in an imu or underground oven.
Kalua Pig: Also called kalua pork, this Hawaiian dish is salty, smoky and tender and cooked in an imu.
Lomilomi Salmon: Also called lomi salmon, it is a mixture of raw salmon pieces with diced tomatoes, red onions, green onions and seasonings and is served cold.
Chicken Long Rice: A Chinese dish that has become a staple in Islands made with chicken, vermicelli rice noodles (sometimes called cellophane or glass noodles), ginger, garlic and lots of other seasonings and served with a tasty chicken broth.
Haupia: A coconut, custard/gelatin dessert and a great way to end a meal.