Asian American

Foods I love from Hawaii

spam-musubi
The SPAM musubi is the sandwich of Hawaii. Couldn’t agree more JR! [at Shirokiya in Ala Moana]
Folks from Hawaii talk about SPAM as if we are talking about sex or something better. I’m fairly certain if we replaced SPAM with the word ‘sex’ the giddy teenage excitement in our voices would be the same. SPAM is our bacon, our beacon of light, our bowl of comfort and a beautiful mess.

If you think I’m exaggerating, just ask a local, someone from Hawaii, and they will pretty much nod in agreement. SPAM is king.

screen-shot-for-spam
This video on Hawaii’s love for SPAM is pretty good. [Click on the screenshot to watch.]
Plate lunches are also unique to Hawaii and unlike SPAM which grew out World War II’s food needs, plate lunches most likely derived from plantation workers’ diets. Plantation workers came from China, Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Portugal as a source of cheap labor for the sugarcane and pineapple fields.

Plate lunches usually consist of rice, macaroni salad and a meat dish. And like so many origins of Hawaii dishes, it’s a mish-mash, mixed plate of different cultures influencing each other to create delicious awesome goodness.

Meat Jun goodness [at Yummy Korean BBQ]
Meat Jun goodness [at Yummy Korean BBQ]
Chinese varieties include char siu pork, Korean kalbi or meat jun, Filipino chicken adobo, Japanese katsu or teriyaki, Portuguese sausage, Hawaiian kalua pork and the American hamburger steak served with gravy. (Thank you Wiki for the lightly seasoned confirmation.)

Next up! Zippy’s!

Zippy’s is a local fast food/nice sit down restaurant that we just love. And we go crazy for their chili because it tastes ono (Hawaiian for delicious). “Zippy’s sells over 110 tons of it every month through their stores, fund raising activities, and in retail markets.” That’s a whole lotta chili…and in my web scouring, I found attempts at hacking their famous recipe.

Just a quick walk from my mom's place...
Just a quick walk from my mom’s place…

Zippy’s chili is also shipped to the Mainland (the Continental US). And I feel like the cult following for Zippy’s chili is just as strong and loyal as SPAM eaters.  I love eating their chili with rice. Squeeze some Sriracha sauce on it and whooooweee, you got yourself a bowl of heavenly comfort.

Waiting for my fix...[at Waikele]
Waiting for my fix…at Waikele.
Malasadas are another favorite. They are Portugese-style donuts (basically fried dough rolled in sugar and laughter) that slaughter any diet you might be attempting. By the way, I forgot to take a picture of the donuts we bought because we bought it to a family gathering and I was too busy stuffing my face.

Here’s the story of how Leonard’s Bakery got started in Hawaii and how these delightful donuts made their way to the islands…

leonards-screenshot
Their story is endearing, isn’t it? [Click on the screenshot to go to their site]

Now, I know I’m cheating a little with my last choice, Mom’s cooking, but I’m allowed to! And I’m very much aware that there is so much more to the cuisine of Hawaii. I didn’t even touch Native Hawaiian food! But I ran out of time (and I was gaining weight).

Mom's the master. I mean, she's sooo Asian she starts the BBQ with wooden chopsticks, yo.
Mom’s the master. I mean, she’s sooo Asian she starts the BBQ with wooden chopsticks, yo.

What’s your favorite foods from home?

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35 thoughts on “Foods I love from Hawaii

  1. This is the first time I’m hearing of SPAM musubi. It looks good. I want one now 😦 Also had no idea chilli was popular in Hawaii too.

    Growing up, one of my favourite foods was SPAM too, or luncheon meat as Malaysians liked to call it. My mum bought Ma-Ling canned luncheon meat occasionally so it was sort of like treat food. The way she cooked it was with battered egg, fried. If I was fast enough, I’d be able to score a few raw slices of luncheon meat pre-cooking 😀 That meat is so bad, so processed, but it tastes…so…good 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hahahhaa. You’re hardcore eating the SPAM before it is cooked! It’s just salty goodness and I realize the reaction of other is “EWWWW” but that’s because they don’t really want to admit that it’s awesome. 😀

      Like

  2. The sandwich in the first picture looks very interesting, haha. In Spain spam is not popular, but in Britain it is, right?

    I think my favourite thing to eat when I go to Spain is cocido. It is a pot with soup, chickpeas, meat, pork fat, chorizo, potatoes… soooo good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OMG. I forgot about Monty Python’s SPAM skit. Hahahaha. Now, when I go to Spain (yes please), I’ll know what to order first 😀

      Like

  3. Of all things, they sell King’s Hawaiian Bread/Rolls at the small market here. I’ve only had them once (at a friends’ house), because if I were to buy them, I’d eat them all! Ahhh, Yummys. I miss Korean food so much. SO much. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, whoever is in marketing for Hawaiian sweet bread needs a raise because they are on it. I see Hawaiian sweet bread often on the Mainland.

      Ahhh, yeah, Korean food must not be very popular in your neighborhood – yet 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I seriously want to approach every Asian I see (which is not often) and be like, excuse me! Where can I get good Chinese food? Do you cook? Can I come over? Total racial profiling, but I am desperate!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You should totally do that. I remember when I was getting ready to leave Huntsville Alabama and a Chinese restaurant had just opened up near us (damn). I went in and the girl behind the counter…her face lit up. It was funny actually. She was sooo happy to see another Asian. We talked, of course, but we were moving to Thailand. I wish they had opened up when we were living there b/c I’m fairly positive we would have been friends.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I think I would like Hawaiian food. Many Nigerian dishes are cooked with hot peppers that sting your tongue and mind! Mum’s bbq looks delicious. I miss the thick soups made from local ingredients served with dishes made from yam, plantain, or cassava flour.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My Hawaiian-born, Chinese-American guy was reading over my shoulder and saw the spam musubi. He started drooling. I laughed at him until I scrolled down to the malasadas. Then I started drooling.

    But both of us were like: “What? No kalua pork on the list?”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Didn’t make it to the Kalua pork. I do like it and even though I didn’t make it to the Hawaiian foods, it wasn’t high on my list. SPAM musubi was.:D

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m not really a spam fan. Your comment about your mother being Asian in BBQ technique- I’ve mixed baking ingredients with chopsticks when I was into baking muffins, brownies, cakes, etc.

    We have happy memories of huge fresh papaya at the Hilo Farmers’ Market…for only 25 cents each. That was over 13 years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I really should have eaten before reading this post. 🙂 My mom grew up part time on the Big Island and she served us spam on occasion while I was growing up. Mostly though I just learned how to call appetizers “poo poos” in pigeon because of her time in Hawaii. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hello! It’s been a while since I’ve talked to you here, hasn’t it? Anyway, loved the post (though it did make me hungry).

    Ah SPAM. Such memories of childhood. We ate a bit of it growing up, but not much. Since I’ll be moving soon, I keep thinking about what foods I’ll miss. The funny thing is, when I was in Taiwan, I thought I missed mexican food SOOO MUCH. But when I went home and ate it, it wasn’t anything special. It was just good, but it wasn’t like heaven had come down, like I was expecting.

    So I’m hoping not to miss too much. It will always be nice to come home for home cooking and revel in nostalgia, but maybe I can save myself a few denied cravings by not expecting to miss anything.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome back! I have your new blog open and am ready to dig in 😀

      I missed Mexican food, too, but there is actually pretty good Mexican food in Chiang Mai (not Chiang Rai where I live) and I decided a long time ago, I can make my own damn Mexican food when I want to as well!

      Mexican food in Hawaii is really average and when I tried it this last time I went home, I was disappointed. Again. Booooo.

      Like

  9. Awww, nothing like the comforting food that reminds us of home! Although I am NOT a southern girl by any means my father grew up in the south. As a result gravies, grits, and meat at every meal are the things I grew up with and are my comfort food. We don’t eat meat at every meal anymore but I still cannot resist a bowl of grits with my breakfast! We jokingly have something in our family called the gravy gene. Some of us can make great gravy and some of us can’t. I got the gravy gene I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not ha ha.😄 All of these things that I need to know stay away from. Sigh…. oh well. ( and yes, we did eat Spam growing up.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha. I love it. The gravy gene 😀 And grits. Wow. Dated a Southerner for over 6 years so I feel like I know a thing or two about the dietary desires of Dixie. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Lani, My understanding is that SPAM was introduced to the Islands on the Big Island. On what is now (and then) Parker Ranch, the US military had a huge camp called Camp Tarawa named after the famed battle with the Japanese. It was a staging point for later battles and some 200,000 soldiers lived there for a while in tents. The current population of the Big Island isn’t much bigger than that!

    Anyway, the troops had all these cans of SPAM as part of their meal rations and they generally couldn’t stand them. They traded with the locals for fresher stuff, the locals got inventive, and thus SPAM became a Hawaiian tradition. Check out the Foodland in Waimea/Kamuela and you’ll see pyramid stacks of glorious SPAM!!

    Stu

    PS Vienna sausages too, right?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahhaa. No, to Vienna sausages. NOT the same. I had never heard that story about SPAM and I did some research before posting just to make sure I had gotten my story right. Hmmm. Interesting! How did you come by that version?

      Like

  11. I heard about SPAM from watching 50 first dates in class! Hawaii sounds so amazing!

    Btw is there a vegetarian version of SPAM? o.O maybe not the best to ask? LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

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