One mistake people make when living in Hawai’i is not trying the local food. Hawai’i features a mix of many different cultures, resulting in delicious fusion dishes you won’t find anywhere else. Some food may sound weird or even look funny, but don’t let that stop you from trying the most “ono” food you will ever taste. Skip the tourist traps, take a break from your favorite food chain, and venture out to local joints you will only find in Hawai’i nei. Here are five local Oahu favorites to get your started!
1. Purple Pancakes
Photo credit: Adventure Girl Horizons
I’m not really a pancake person, however the Purple Pancakes or Ube Pancakes at Yogurstory are in a category of their own. You might have a long wait to be seated, but the pancakes (and the rest of the menu) are worth the wait. The pancakes are made from Okinawan sweet potato flour and the syrup is made with coconut and ube (Filipino purple yam). Don’t let the unusual ingredients or color scare you — this dish is decadent and satisfying!
2. Spanish Rolls
If there’s anywhere to get Spanish rolls, it’s Nanding’s Bakery. They are to die for! Ask anyone that has ever been to Nanding’s and they will tell you that the Spanish rolls are addictive. Nanding’s is a Filipino-owned bakery in Waipahu that sells many delicious baked goods. However, these heavenly baked rolls of dough that melt in your mouth will sell out fast! You need to get them by the dozen while they are hot. Nanding’s, like many locally run establishments in Hawai’i, only accept cash, so come prepared. Seriously, get them by the dozens. Trust me!
Photo credit: Jennifer
Poke (pronounced po-keh) is a must while in Hawai’i. Virtually every grocery store in Hawai’i will have it. Poke is cubed raw fish that is served over a bowl of sushi rice topped with furikake (dry Japanese seasoning). I lived in Hawai’i for almost four months before I tried it, and I regret not trying it sooner. It comes in different variations, but the popular ones are Shoyu (soy sauce) Poke, Spicy Tuna Poke and Limu (seaweed) Poke. The trick is to get Poke as early in the day as possible while it is still fresh. Foodland has a great Poke Bowl for a great price. If you can’t make it off base, the commissary on Schofield Barracks also serves a mean Poke Bowl by the seafood section. If you only try one Hawai’ian dish, it has got to be Poke. Your taste buds will thank you!
4. Hawai’i Shave Ice
Photo credit: Jennifer
That is not a typo folks! Hawai’i does not have snow cones or shaved ice. In Hawai’i you eat SHAVE ICE. If you want shave ice, skip the line at Matsumoto’s (which is delicious) and head farther north to Sunset Beach. There, you will find a little hidden gem called Country Shave Ice. They serve organic, handcrafted, real fruit shave ice. It has just the right amount of sweetness and I like to think it’s healthy. Not only does it taste good, but acquiring one is a rare Instagram win you can brag to your friends about. They move around the island in their shave ice truck and may not always be at Sunset Beach, so follow them on Instagram @countryshaveice to find their current location and treat yourself to a one-of-a-kind Country Shave Ice.
5. Tasty Chicken
A bowling alley is the last place you might think would serve amazing food, but Aiea Bowl’s Alley Restaurant is a local favorite that stays packed. There are three main courses you need to try at this hidden spot. Start off with the Tasty Chicken — a Korean-style fried chicken that is my absolute favorite on the whole island. Then order the famous Oxtail Soup, which is filling and voted one of the best in Oahu. The portions are large enough to share with a friend. Lastly, order the Grilled Coca Cola Marinated Turkey Sandwich to-go for a snack at your favorite local beach. The line is usually long, but you can also call ahead for pick up.
Cover photo by: Katarina