I particularly enjoy in Hawaii as I really like the fusion of Japanese techniques and Polynesian ingredients, and there are many other fusion influences (Portuguese, American, Filipino, etc.), so I thought I’d go through some of the unique and very delicious things you can get there.
First, Chef Morimoto is a celebrity chef known for starring on both the Japanese Iron Chef, but also the American version as well. He has a string of restaurants around the world, but his branch in Honolulu, in addition to being a wonderfully elegant restaurant with lots of delicious things on the menu has something special. It is pineapple tempura with jamon iberico on top and a wasabi tzatziki sauce. This four way fusion (Japanese, Hawaiian, Spanish and Greek) dish is just fantastic. The salty ham gets you first with the crunchy tempura, and then the wonderfully sweet and tart pineapple juice fills your mouth. So good. As a side note, pineapple is technically originates from Brazil, but now it is strongly associated with Hawaii. Apparently the lack of pollinators are also what makes pineapples from Hawaii so delicious (they don’t get seeds) and why hummingbirds (which can pollinate pineapple) are barred from the Hawaiian islands.
Photo from Paige S on yelp.
Second, another piece of deliciousness from Honolulu is the kalua pork Cubano from Waikiki Brewing Company. Kalua pork is a very traditional slow cooked pork dish, the mainstay of luaus. The Floridian style sandwich has the kalua pork, ham, homemade dill pickles, and Dijon mustard and then is cooked in a sandwich press. Served up with one of the delicious brew pub beers (for example the amber ale), it’s pure deliciousness.
Third, if you’re looking for something a little (although not too much) lighter, then you may want to try some musubi‘s from one of the many Iyasume locations around Honolulu. They have some main cafes and some express locations. The Japanese o-nigiri rice ball might be most easily compared with the peanut butter and jelly sandwich (or maybe sandwich more generally) in the US; it’s a basic and simple snack that can be taken anywhere. Miyamoto Musashi took them as snacks when he adventured around, at least in the novelization of his life, so they have a storied history. It’s basically rice wrapped in dried seaweed to keep it packaged and contained. Lots of fillings can be added, although I tend to prefer ume plums, pickled mustard greens (takana), cooked salmon, and beef and ginger. In Hawaii they specialize in spam musubi, the spam can be marinated in a teriyaki like sauce and then browned slightly before putting it on the rice ball. I like a variant which includes a little bit of shiso leaf and Takuan pickle. Takuan is named after Takuan Soho the legendary Zen monk and tea ceremony master who serves at the mentor and spiritual guide for Miyamoto Musashi in the aforementioned text. So when you are eating your musubi, it’s appropriate to have a moment of Zen.