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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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).
What’s your favorite foods from home?