Whenever friends are going to Hawaii for the first time, their first question for me is “What should I eat?”
I wouldn’t call myself a foodie. I’m too picky for that. (After all, I’m a vegetarian who makes an exception only for crispy bacon!) But, the food I do like, I eat a lot of. And, I do this often while in Hawaii!
Other than the warm weather, cooling trade winds, beautiful beaches and seeing my family, my favorite thing about going to Hawaii is eating all of the food.
My family and I basically plan all of our activities and obligations around our meals when we are together. Visits to Hawaii are no different.
When Bryce and I were on the island as a layover before and after our big New Zealand trip, there were three main food groups we had to consume: ramen, poke and shave ice.
While my hometown of Seattle has many ramen shops these days, there aren’t many good ones. Kizuki is pretty good, and is our main go-to. (Side note: Kizuki in North Seattle tastes pretty darn similar to Kizuki in Tokyo!)
But, Gomatei in Hawaii is where it’s at! My cousin claims that of all the Gomatei locations on the island, the one at Ala Moana is the best. I have never had time to go around the island, tasting all the ramen, so I’ll take her word for it! Gomatei uses more goma (sesame) in its soup than most other ramen joints. It is so delicious!
You’ve probably either eaten poke or have heard of poke. The correct pronunciation is still up for debate. My family from Hawaii calls it “po-key.” Others call it “po-ké.” Either way, it is pieces of raw fish seasoned with soy sauce and other seasonings, always eaten with white rice. These days, poke shops are popping up left and right — at least in Seattle! — but nothing compares to poke from Hawaii, where it originated. My hands down favorite is the spicy tuna from Foodland. Yes, poke from the grocery store, not some fancy restaurant!
If you are going to Hawaii for the first time, please give these foods two a try! And, lastly, you’ll want something sweet, right? Shave ice! Not to be confused with the snow cones you get at your state fair every summer.
Shave ice in Hawaii is special because the ice shavings are fine, so you’re not eating clumps of hard ice. And, the syrup is just better! Most places have a ton of different syrup flavors. I always want to try something new but always end up getting rainbow. And, honestly, if you ask me what “rainbow” is, I’d have a hard time telling you. Last time my family discussed this, I think we concluded that it is vanilla (blue), strawberry (red) and lemon (yellow).
OK, these three “food groups” are merely chipping away at the tip of the ice berg when it comes to eating my way through Hawaii.
The fruit is fresh and delicious. My mom claims she eats a papaya every day when she is in Hawaii because it tastes so much better than papaya back home in Seattle. For me, it’s coconuts. I am not a fan of coconut water but I am a fan of drinking water straight out of the coconut at the Aloha Stadium swap meet. I swear, it does not taste the same as the coconut water that comes in a box or a can — I don’t care if the label says it’s “all-natural!”
There’s so much good Asian food, too! I can’t rattle it all off. I mean, even some of the joints at the mall food court is great!
And, lastly, the local kine grindz. (Yeah, I know, I titled my blog post this and didn’t actually talk about true Hawaiian food. Well, I guess shave ice counts?) Since I don’t eat meat, I can’t enjoy laulau to its fullest but I love the laulau leaf. I also had squid laulau for the first time during our last Hawaii visit and it was delicious! Oh, and can’t forget saimin, a noodle soup akin to ramen.
Now I’m really getting hungry and I don’t quite know what the actually point of this post was …. I guess plan your meals accordingly when in Hawaii. You will have more dishes, desserts and snacks you’ll want to eat than you will have time for!
Why else do you think Bryce and I were eating poke for breakfast? It was so we could eat ramen for lunch, of course!