Honolulu is where Polynesian, Japanese and American influences combine to create a delectable cuisine and offer you a unique eating and drinking experience
With plenty of fresh fruit and fish to inspire both hearty and light eaters, the food in Honolulu is delicious. This Honolulu’s top 10 food and drink guide shows you the top tastes and where to get them in this laid-back tropical paradise.
Poke, which means “to cut crosswise” in Hawaiian, is also the name of a traditional and healthy Hawaiian dish: the Poke bowl. The standard Poke consists of cubed raw Ahi Tuna smothered in sauce and served with a side of rice. However, the dish’s recent popularity has inspired numerous variations – like substituting Ahi with other raw fish, shrimp or octopus and adding jalapeno for an extra kick.
Where to try: We say the hole-in-the-wall Ono Seafood (747 Kapahulu Ave) has the best Poke. For an innovative take on Poke, try the Chopped Ahi Sushimi and Avocado Salsa Stack at the elegant Alan Wong’s (1857 S King St).
Kalua pig (luau pork)
The centrepiece of Hawaiian feasts and once reserved for only the chiefs and king of Hawaiian society at lū’aus feasts, Kalua pig is now a dish that can be enjoyed by all. Rubbed in sea salt, wrapped in leaves, and cooked in an underground oven known as imu for an extended period – usually over 12 hours – the meat is juicy, tender and can be shredded into pulled pork easily.
Where to try: Helena’s Hawaiian Food (1240 N School St)
Lomi-lomi (Lomi Salmon)
For those who love fish, lomi lomi is a must-try. Traditionally served as a side salad dish at lū’aus feasts, it consists of chopped raw salmon and diced tomatoes and onions massaged together by hand (lomi lomi means “massage” in Hawaiian).
Where to try: Head to one of the city seafood markets, such as Yama’s Fish Market (2332 Young St).
A classic Hawaiian side dish prepared from fermented taro root that has been baked and pounded into a paste, poi can be bought from nearly any grocery store in the city. For visitors looking to get a taste of poi, several restaurants in Honolulu offer poi as part of well-crafted, tasty dishes.
Where to try: The Ala Moana Poi Bowl, in the Ala Moana Shopping Center (1450 Ala Moana Blvd), offers quick and affordable poi dishes. For a spin on the tradition, try a poi-glazed donut from Kamehameha Bakery (1284 Kalani St).
Hawaiians are well known for their love of Spam, and a musubi is one of their favourite ways to eat it. To prepare this Japanese influenced snack, one presses a fried slice of Spam into a block of sticky rice and seals it together by wrapping a strip of seaweed around the snack like a belt. Great for on-the-go or as a lunch sandwich, you’ll find musubi nearly everywhere you turn in Honolulu.
Where to try: Masubi Café lyasume (2427 Kahio Ave) in the Aqua Pacific Monarch Hotel.
A coconut milk-based custard, Haupia is just the treat for those with a sweet tooth. This fragrant white dessert can be as firm as jello or as soft as pudding. Today, many bakeries and restaurants bake haupia into pies or use it to top white cakes.
Where to try: Sweet Revenge Bakery (979 Robello Ln)
No trip to Hawaii is complete without experiencing a Hawaiian shave ice, and Honolulu has some of the best around. Hawaiians know how to create their extraordinary version of shave ice – tucked beneath or beside your chosen flavour of shave ice, you’ll find a scoop of vanilla ice cream soaking up the fruity syrup.
Where to try: The longest-running shaved ice store on the island, Waiola Shave Ice (2135 Waiola St) is a must-stop. For organic, fresh fruit syrups, head to Monsarrat Ave Shave Ice (3046 Monsarrat Ave).
The Mai Tai is Hawaii’s classic adult beverage, a photo-worthy symbol of a tropical vacation spent reclining on sun-warmed beaches. Known both for their strength and their sweetness, Mai Tais taste of delicate citrus, almond and rum, and are topped with fresh fruit and a paper umbrella.
Where to try: The Mai Tai Bar, the original home of the Mai Tai, at the iconic Royal Hawaiian Hotel (2259 Kalakaua Ave).
Fresh fruit juice & acai bowls
One of the best ways to sample Hawaii’s fresh pineapples, mangoes, coconuts, almonds and oranges is in a blended-to-order smoothie. Juice bars are popular in Honolulu and they are the best places to get your fill of fresh smoothies, juices and acai bowls.
Where to try: Try Jewel or Juice (3619 Waialae Ave) or the popular city chain, Lanikai Juice (680 Ala Moana Blvd).
It’d be a shame to visit Hawaii, the only US state that grows coffee, without sampling the locally grown Kona beans. With limited production capacity, the best Kona coffee can only be found in a few local and family-owned establishments scattered across the city.
Where to try: Head downtown to Kai Coffee (207 S King St) or Honolulu Coffee (Ala Moana Center) for a classic Hawaiian coffee experience.
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