The food scene in Hawaii features some of the nation’s best chefs serving up high-style cuisine. Step away from the four-star restaurants and orchid-laced drinks, though, and you’ll find the heart of Hawaii in three favorite dishes. From poi – the dish that visitors love to hate – to loco moco and Spam musubi, these foods are a true taste of local food. Better yet? You can try any one of them for under ten bucks.
Loco moco – This island specialty is a favorite of locals and a must-try when you visit the islands. The standard loco moco consists of white rice topped with a hamburger patty, an egg, and (warn the arteries) gravy. Portions are generally very, very large so if you don’t have a huge appetite, consider making it a meal for two. Not a fan of hamburger? No worries. Choose from a variety of other meats, such as Portuguese sausage, beef teri, shrimp, or the ever-present Spam. Try the loco moco at Big City Diner, located in Ward Entertainment Center, or Zippy’s in the Ala Moana Center. Both restaurants are located not far from the Ala Moana Hotel.
Spam musubi – If you’re looking for fast food in Hawaii, look beyond the familiar franchises and try something that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else: Spam musubi. So just what is it? Spam luncheon meat and sticky rice wrapped in nori with seasonings like kukui nut relish or furikake. The go-to fast lunch for people in the islands, you won’t find it in many restaurants. Instead, check the local supermarket or nearest 7-11. Want to give it a try? Stop in at Foodland at Ala Moana Center near The Equus and Ala Moana Hotel. It’ll cost you only a couple of bucks.
Poi – You’ve heard people talk about poi – the stuff they claim tastes like wallpaper paste. You might agree, but you’ve got to give it a try. This nutrient dense food is made from the starchy roots of the taro (or kalo) plant. You’ll find poi served at most luaus, though what you get there will likely be a watered down version of the thicker, richer poi that graces the plates of local families. If your itinerary doesn’t include a luau, you can pick up poi (a pound runs around $6-7) at most any supermarket.
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