As a Travel Agent (and Travel Foodie) for many years, I have learned that the local cuisine is one of the main attractions of destinations. With all due respect to both man-made and natural wonders, food is a major factor in people’s decision where to visit. On a recent trip to the Hawaiian Islands for some chill time between the sun and the sand, I was amazed to see how Hawaiian Fusion Food & Cuisine has become a major draw for travel foodies.
Hawaii is a melting pot of cultures. Travelers from around the world have brought their homeland traditions and food, which has been totally embraced by the locals.
I first took a trip to these heavenly islands some 20 years ago. I remember immediately falling in love with the natural beauty, tropical weather, slower pace and incredible restaurants. The aromas of local Hawaiian food embellished with Asian flavors wafting out of the kitchens made me weak at the knees. So naturally, I was excited to travel to Hawaii again to enjoy all that Hawaii has to offer including the same thriving flavors that I sampled years back. Much to my delight, it still does.
Hawaii put itself on the foodie map years back with its brand of fusion food. Bold Asian flavors and Hawaiian ingredients made chefs like Sam Choy and Roy Yamaguchi household names in the United States. A new wave of young chefs is now landing on these sun-kissed islands, putting local Hawaiian ingredients at the forefront of some innovative dishes.
As I roamed Hawaii, from the posh tourist mecca of Waikiki to the beautiful beach resorts of Maui, for my insatiable cravings, I found some real gems.
This is a Hawaiian fusion classic. The quintessential hamburger patty is topped with white rice, runny eggs and brown gravy. I sampled plenty of loco moco during my trip. In my opinion, Hawaii Kai is the best Oahu neighborhood for your loco moco fill. Check out the Loco Moco Drive Inn. Other really great places to get Loco Moco on Oahu are Liliha Bakery and the Koko Head Cafe also has an interesting spin on the classic, with crispy garlic rice and tempura kimchi.
Manapua is a Hawaiian take on the classic Chinese bun, or bao. Soft buns are filled with meat or veggies. Almost every place in Hawaii worth its salt has a version of manapua. Flavors can vary widely, which is why it is not uncommon to hear raging debates over which place sells the best manapua. My favorite is Royal Kitchen. It has baked manapuas with a generous meat filling. Another really popular place to get manapua is Chun Wah Kam. Also the Hawaiian tradition of Libby Manapua Shop
Roy’s is probably one of the most famous establishments and offers an incredible Hawaiian-style pork ribs that are spiced with Szechuan condiments and are to die for. While the upscale fine dining at Roy’s did satiate my Waikiki curiosity, I missed out on Marimoto’s. The place has closed down and a new restaurant is slated to come up sometime in 2017. While in Waikiki, I will also recommend stops at Alan Wong’s and Ocean House Restaurant. Do not miss the Sunset Special at Ocean House Restaurant.
Puerto Rican Food With Hawaiian Ingredients
Wat Get Kitchen serves a delectable fusion of Puerto Rican food and local ingredients. The pasteles and bacalao salad are a must-have.
Maui Fusion Food
This touristy neighborhood of Hawaii is known for its fusion food restaurants and I wasn’t disappointed. When here, try the Lahaina Luna Cafe and Ami Ami Bar and Grill. The latter serves superb breakfast. A real gem of Maui is Maka by Mana, though. It has vegan and gluten-free options, and I didn’t feel like I was missing out on meat much.
While many people think of beaches and hotels when they consider a Hawaiian vacation, as a Travel Foodie I think of that amazing Fusion Food. This is by no means a complete list of great places to sample Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine, however it may get you started on a mouth watering journey.