Hawaiian food and local food are not the same thing (but visitors often get the two mixed up).
What is local food? Local food is the food of Hawaii.
Local food is not Hawaiian food. It's also not Chinese food, Japanese food, Korean food, or Filipino food. Local food is a combination of ALL those different types of food.
Local food is a melting pot of many types of Asian food, plus traditional Hawaiian food and also Portuguese food! There's also a tiny bit of European food mixed in there, but that is very minor.
These different cuisines made their way to Hawaii a long time ago via immigrants (mostly during Hawaii's 19th century sugar plantation era). And because we love food in Hawaii, all the cuisines got beautifully mashed together and then evolved over time to adapt to Hawaii (in terms of ingredient accessibility, local tastes, weather, etc)...and that's how local food was created.
Some very cool and specific examples of how local food came to be:
- Manapua evolved from Chinese char siu bao.
- Pork Hash came from Chinese siu mai.
- Chicken Hekka came from Japanese sukiyaki.
- Samin is a combo mix of Chinese wonton mein, Japanese ramen, and Filipino pancit.
Hawaii Local Recipes
When you're in Hawaii, make sure to check out all our local restaurants. We love places like Ethel's Grill, Zippy's (aka Hawaii's local diner, you'll find the full menu of local dishes at Zippy's), Shige's Saimin Stand, Shiro's Saimin Haven, ‘Ōlena by Chef Ron Simon, Feast (for slightly fancier version of local plate lunches), Char Hung Sut, Tin Roof Maui, Hamura Saimin (don't skip lilikoi chiffon pie for dessert), Sam Sato's (there's a recipe below for the famous dry mein from Sam Sato's) and Liliha Bakery...just to name a few!
When you're back home, easily recreate your favorites with the recipes below: