Friday, December 10, 2010

Five Traditional Hawaiian Foods

I was randomly reading today and saw a column called "5@5" which is a daily food-related blog that compiles lists by chefs, writers, foodies, and other self-important people who think they know food.  I have never read it before, but the headline on the front page of was "Five Traditional Hawaiian Foods." I was intrigued.  The list was compiled by Carol Wallack who is the executive chef and owner of sola in Chicago, Illinois. The writers at 5@5 decided to focus on Hawaii in the midst of a cold spell hitting...well...the rest of the country.  They were longing for the warmth of Hawaii.  While I didn't come up with this list, I have certainly come across all of the items on it and have eaten most of them.  I have not eaten Spam yet and don't really have plans to.  Anyway, without further ado:

Five Traditional Hawaiian Foods:

1. Kalua pork
"Kalua pork, unlike the way it sounds does not have Kahlua, the liqueur, in it. It's pork butt baked in an underground oven called an imu. If you don’t have an imu, you can replicate the flavor by seasoning and wrapping the butt in banana leaves and baking it, then smoking it in a regular smoker. You can pull the pork and mix with herbs,  and put the meat into pot stickers. They are served with a mango and kumquat salsa which really says Hawaii with fruity deliciousness. It’s about the only way I’ll eat pork, besides bacon of course."  [Ed. Note: This is seriously delicious].

2. Poke
"Poke (pronounced po-kay) is my way of having just another form of Hawaiian tuna to eat, and I serve it with avocado which is my second favorite food! It’s so popular at sola that it’s been on the menu since we opened. The tuna is mixed with a hijiki (seaweed) salad layered with avocado and sushi rice, garnished with wasabi tobiko, sweet soy, wasabi oil and scallions. It doesn’t get much better than that. Everyone loves fresh Ahi tuna, and the best is right off the dock in Honolulu at the auctions." [Ed. Note: when I first moved to Hawaii and was invited to Justice Duffy's house to watch football, a local friend suggested I bring this instead of typical "chips and salsa."  This is something you will see at almost any party.  If it's fresh, it can be quite good].

3. Pineapple
"Pineapple just makes everyone think of Hawaii and it can be used in so many dishes. The best part about it is that in Hawaii, it's always in season and can be used in an array of dishes. I love to grill it and dice it into risotto. A Hawaiian favorite is French onion soup with pineapple in the stock. It tastes fantastic and is the perfect fruit to add sweetness and acid simultaneously." [Ed. Note: If you're a vodka drinker, I recommend putting pineapple in your drink instead of lemon or lime].

4. SPAM musubi
"SPAM musubi is a favorite in Hawaii. Locals eat it all the time. It’s a slice of SPAM over a block of rice. Recipes vary but typically slices of SPAM are grilled first, sometimes with a light teriyaki flavor. An acrylic mold is then placed over a sheet of nori, which is edible seaweed, and rice is pressed into the mold. The grilled SPAM is placed over the rice in the mold, then the mold is removed. The nori is then wrapped over the top and around the musubi. And there you have it, Spam Sushi!" [Ed. Note: Yea, not gonna happen].

Spam Musubi

5. Loco moco
"Loco moco is a rice and hamburger concoction with brown gravy over it. There are many ways to eat it, including what I call the 'Big Kahuna.' I take a Wagyu burger and serve it over togarashi potatoes, cheddar cheese from a local farmer, bacon, fried eggs, onions and Hollandaise. It’s definitely a great brunch item. Sort of poetic license, if you will." [Ed. Note: Haven't had this, either].

Loco Moco
If you find yourself in Hawai'i, then I highly recommend going to a local dive somewhere in Chinatown and ordering these plates.  You'll be considered Hawaiian in no time.  Just make sure you don't do it while wearing a fanny pack!


  1. On a Chicago side note, Sola is one of my favorite brunch places there. The atmosphere is great, and so is the food. They even serve Malasadas as an appetizer! Also, if anyone reading this blog watches Top Chef All-Stars, Dale used to work at Sola - the head chef there was his mentor!

  2. I have never been, but next time I am in Chicago I want to go! Also, great info re: Dale. I love Top Chef!