I have not met local braddahs or sistahs who would disagree on a subject of food. We love them all. If you have been living on the islands full-time, 10 years or more, I’m sure you know or have an idea how strong the passionate affair we have with local food. Eating is almost a ritual and we don’t stop eating when we get full but until we’re tired. Not only we take our time to savor every bite but we also enjoy “talking story” in between scoops.
So, here’s your top 3 local favorite food on the islands:
SPAM – I know exactly what you’re thinking, the “mystery meat” that’s not even a meat. SPAM was introduced to the islands after World War II and was invented to supply the U.S. soldiers. Out of 16 millions of cans of this “wonder meat” produced in America, 7 million cans (44%) are consumed in Hawaii. SPAM is a must item on our grocery list and a common ingredient to our local favorite dishes. It replaces the greasy bacon or the expensive ham on our breakfast plate. It also adds flavor and color (and lots of sodium) to stir fry cabbage for lunch. Bottom line, we cannot make SPAM musubi without it. You know you’re local if not having a can of SPAM in the house is consider as an emergency! We take our SPAM seriously.
Poke (po-keh) – basically fresh catch, raw fish fillet, cut in cubes and seasoned with rock salt and select “add-ons” to bring out its unique taste and flavor to your palate. Contrary to incorrect notion, fresh fish don’t smell or taste “fishy” at all – it only stinks if it’s not fresh. Some popular “add-ons” and spices include onions, wasabi, sesame oil or seeds, chili peppers, seaweeds, kukui nut, soy sauce and green onions. Poke is great as an appetizer, it’s like hands and gloves with fresh poi and perfect with steamed rice for every meal. This is something you make and eat right away to enjoy. Remember, if you can’t taste the ocean in every bite, then it’s not poke. P.S. I haven’t seen poke served with SPAM and personally, I do not look forward to that sad day!
Saimin – begin with glorified noodles from Asia, most likely introduced to the islands by imported sugarcane and pineapple plantation workers from China, Japan and Philippines. Saimin is a noodle dish like a soup with meat stock or broth and garnish with fish cake, SPAM, green onions, shredded cabbage and eggs (boiled or scrambled), that’s your basic recipe. Through the years, locals add their own ethnic flare. Some choose their own type of meat, vegetables, seasonings, garnishes and even change the way it is prepared and served. Some like it with broth, others like it dry. In restaurants you can order your bowl with an option to add seafood, char siu, roast pork, dumplings, vegetarian or plain. Did you know that McDonald franchises in Hawaii serve saimin on their menu? Hot saimin is our great companion and comfort food during those cold and rainy days. Okay, here’s your next challenge. If you love noodles or hamburgers, be brave and discover, better yet, sink your teeth in our famous saimin burger. It’s a blissful experience, indeed like no other. Don’t knock it until you try it.
How about you? Have you try any of these local favorites? What’s the #1 on your list – you can eat almost everyday?