Pineapples might be the token Hawaiian fruit, but locals consider them an export product rather than part of their culture. The Big Island is an incredibly cultural and ethnically diverse Island, and this has left its influence on the Big Island food-scene. This led to some very special local delicacies that you cannot miss trying out yourself!
You can of course also sample all the locally grown food in the farmers markets on the Big Island.
Coffee, Chocolate, Beer and Macadamia nuts
Hawaii’s tropical climate allows for the production of many exotic crops that you cannot find anywhere else in the Unites States. Hawaii is the only state where coffee is commercially produced, which has led to the world famous Kona coffee and the just as tasty but well-known coffees from the Ka’u, Puna and Hamakua district.
Chocolate is another of the exotic crops that you can find on the Big Island. The cacao is organically grown on the rich volcanic soil, and afterwards locally processed and sold on Hawaii. If you are looking for more healthy local products, go for Hawaiian macadamia nuts. These nuts are amongst the most healthy of the world, and have been connected to lower cholesterol levels.
After indulging in these treasures, you can finish your day with a local beer. There are (micro)breweries in Waimea (the Big Island Brewhaus), Kona (the Kona Brewing Company) and Hilo (the Mehana Brewing Company), and the beers they brew are sold in bars and supermarkets all over Hawaii.
Real Hawaiian Local Food
Next to these “Big 4″, there are many snacks that are typically Hawaiian. They were already consumed by the traditional Hawaiian population or are a result of the unique ethnic melting pot that has become current-day Hawaii.
If you happen to see any of these snacks during your vacation on the Big Island, we heartily recommend having a bite!
- Poke is raw fish marinaded typically with soy sauce, onions and lemon (but many other marinades also exist). It is very typical Hawaii and comes in an array of styles. Available in most restaurants, but also in the supermarkets!
- Spam Musubi is the local adaptation to the traditional “sushi” hybrid - made with crunchy SPAM. Hawaii is the biggest consumer of SPAM of the country, and perhaps even of the world. Hawaiians love the stuff! Try the SPAM version. It really is good (even though it doesn’t sound like it.)
- Po’i is a traditional Hawaiian “pudding” made from the taro root. It was a main source of carbohydrate for the native Hawaiians.
- Lomi Lomi Salmon is a fresh tomato and salmon salad. It is a traditional side dish served at Hawaiian Lu’aus.
- Laulau consists of fish and pork wrapped in taro and ti leaves and smoked in an underground emu oven.
- Kālua Pig. Kālua is a traditional Hawaiian cooking method that utilizes an emu, or underground oven. The word kālua literally means “to cook in an underground oven” and also describes the flavor of food cooked in this manner. Kalua pig is traditionally served at Hawaiian Lu’aus.
- Haupia is a traditional Hawaiian dessert made from coconut milk and cornstarch.
- Loco Moco is a favorite local style dish with steamed rice, a hamburger patty, fried egg and brown gravy. Guaranteed to get you through the day!
- Mochi (little Japanese rice cakes) are now a very popular snack in Hawaii. For one of the best tastes of the Island, go to Two Ladies Kitchen in Hilo and ask for the Strawberry Mochi!
- Huli Huli Chicken. Huli means ‘to turn’ in the Hawaiian language, and it is a great description of these chickens. They are roasted golden brown over a grill while they are continuously turned.
- Malassadas are Portuguese sugared and fried balls of fluffy yeast dough. Tex Drive Inn in Hanoka’a serves the best malassadas on the Big Island.