Maui Food and Dining

Modern Hawaiian Foods to Enjoy

December 7, 2010, 11:02 AM HST
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There are many types of traditional Hawaiian foods and recipes to try, but did you also know that there is a great variety of Hawaiian foods to tickle your taste buds? Here is our list of modern Hawaii foods to try:

  • Lau-Lau – A lau lau is an authentic Hawaiian dish that is typically made with pork shoulder, a chicken or vegetable filling and salted butterfish. Each lau lau is individually wrapped with taro leaves, which are similar to spinach leaves. The individually wrapped bundles are then tied together, inside two ti-leaves that form a pouch to lock in the moisture and flavors found in the taro leaves, fillings and seasonings. Lau laus are typically pressure cooked in a steamer oven, and some are still cooked in underground ovens. The ti-leaves are removed before eating and are not an edible part of the dish.
  • Kalua Pork – The piez de resistance of any Hawaiian luau is Kalua pork. Kalua pork is typically cooked in an imu, an underground oven, although Kalua pork can be cooked with liquid smoke flavoring and Hawaiian salt to reproduce the smoky flavor.
  • Poke – Poke is a raw fish salad that is typically made with ahi, or yellowfish tuna. Poke is flavored with soy sauce, sesame oil, kukui nut and seaweed. There are more than 100 types of poke throughout Hawaii, so have fun trying to sample them all!
  • Lomi salmon – Also called lomi-lomi salmon, this salmon dish combines diced salmon with tomatoes, crushed ice and green onions. Lomi, which is Hawaiian for “to massage,” is actually massaged together when creating the dish. It is common to find lomi salmon at today’s modern luaus and often compliments poi, a taro dish.

  • Poi – This Hawaiian staple food is made from mashing cooked taro to a fluid. The taro plant can either be baked or steamed before mashing. Water is added either during the mashing or before serving to achieve an ideal consistency. Although poi is considered to be rather bland, it is an acquired taste and found at nearly every Hawaiian feast.

  • Manapua – Manapua is a pork-filled bun that has been around since the 19th century in Hawaii and is a traditional Chinese food. It is quite common to find food peddlers selling Manapua around business districts in Hawaii. There are traditional versions of this dish that are steamed, and more modern versions that are baked and use sweet, Hawaiian bread.
  • Haupia – A sweet Hawaiian dessert, Haupia is often found in luaus across Hawaii. It has the texture of a pudding, but it is usually served in blocks like gelatin. Traditional haupia involves coconut milk mixed with ground arrowroot until the mixture becomes thick. Modern recipes call for diluted coconut milk, sugar and salt that is mixed with cornstarch until a thick, smooth consistency is achieved. Once the mixture is thickened, it is poured into a rectangular pan and chilled as one would with gelatin. Some recipes also call for using unflavored gelatin in place of the corn starch.
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