March 3, 2015

I love Hawaiian food! Here you will find fruits that don’t grow many other places, the freshest fish and sushi, innovative chefs influenced by many different cultures, BBQ everything, the absolute best coffee, and farmers markets all over the island, all year long.

So today I thought I would share with you some of the food that is unique to Hawaii as well as the meanings of a few Hawaiian words that you will see on menus or signs. While everyone in Hawaii speaks English, there are a few Hawaiian words that are used quite frequently, especially when it comes to food. I hope this helps you find new foods to try when you come!

Ono – “delicious!” It is used a lot to describe food and advertise restaurants. But, ono is also a type of fish. So, if you see Ono on a menu, it is referring to a mackerel-type fish.

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 Haupia – a coconut milk pudding. It is used in desserts, drinks, and smoothies. I usually do not like coconut at all, but I absolutely love any dessert with haupia. This is my new favorite smoothie, made with kale, apple banana, pineapple juice, and haupia, from one of my favorite places to eat in Hawaii, the Farm Cafe.
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Liliko‘ia passion fruit that is used in many desserts and beverages. It is used in desserts and in ice cream, as well as in smoothies or other drinks. It is a bit tart and super sweet. I love it when it’s in a dessert or drink! You can also find it at farmers markets and try it on its own.
Li hing mui powder –This is a powder made from tart plums (li hing mui). It is sprinkled onto all kinds of snacks, fruits, and even fish. I have never tried a whole li hing mui, but I always like the powder sprinkled onto other foods. The first time I tried it was in a margarita and I loved it! If you are afraid to order an entire meal with it, you can pick up the powder at grocery stores.
Poke – my favorite thing to eat! Poke is raw fish, usually tuna. Poke literally means “to slice or cut.” So the fish is cut into bite-sized chunks and usually mixed with seaweed and other seasonings. But chefs like to get creative with it! If you see poke on the menu and are not afraid of eating raw fish, you have to try it.
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Taro –staple in the traditional Hawaiian diet and central to Hawaiian culture, taro is a plant with big heart-shaped leaves and is believed to be sacred.
Poi – A paste made from pounding taro root. It’s very popular at luaus and traditional Hawaiian restaurants.  I am not a fan at all but I think it is one of those things you just have to try.
Kalua pork – The word kalua means “to cook in an underground oven.” Today it refers to cooking in an imu, an underground oven. Kalua pork is absolutely delicious, a very Hawaiian dish that I highly recommend trying.
Opah – a firm, white fish. I make it at least once per week at home and love to order it in restaurants!
Ahi tuna – very popular tropical fish. It is usually made in sushi or poke, but you can also find cooked versions in restaurants.
Mahi Mahi – another tropical fish that is very popular here! It is very mild and firm and goes well in fish tacos or with fruit salsa toppings.
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Pupu – appetizer or snack. You may see signs advertising “ono pupus,” – delicious appetizers!
Lanai – an outdoor patio area. A lot of homes and restaurants have them.
Wahine – women. You will see this on signs for the women’s room!
Kān – men.  You will see this on signs for the men’s room!
E komo mai – “Welcome.” It is a very common greeting!
Opala – trash.
Keiki – children. You will see “Keiki menus” in restaurants.
Pau – finished!
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There is so much more I want to say about Hawaiian food so I need to get better about writing about places Nick and I go to eat and the things we cook. Some of the food here has become so important to me so I am trying to eat as much of it while I can!
What are some local foods near you that visitors just must try?
Linking up again with the lovely ladies, Kelly, Emma, and Rebecca, along with their guest host Sam! This month’s topic is “lost in translation.”  
Come join the fun!
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12 responses to “Hawaiian food, translated!”

  1. Christy says:

    Stop! It all looks so good! I wonder if I can find huapia here!

  2. carolann says:

    You might be able to! I think that Hawaii is heaven for a pescetarian! I can’t wait to take you around to my favorite places and eat lots of poke.

  3. The Haupia sounds delicious and I’d love to try and make that smoothie – it sounds like it’s full of nutritional goodness! I’d never heard of Mahi Mahi until my honeymoon but there seemed to be quite a lot of it being served in Zanzibar and I like lots of different types of fish so really enjoyed it! Didn’t realise it was popular in Hawaii toof!

    • carolann says:

      Mahi mahi is SO good! I think opah is my favorite fish here; if you like mahi mahi I think you will like opah too!

  4. Emma says:

    Ono! Especially the Li hing mui powder, I’m fascinated!

    • carolann says:

      Emma, I never really thought of Hawaii as a foodie destination but there are such awesome things to eat here! If you ever get the chance to try Li hing um powder, go for it! I hope you like it 🙂

  5. Melanie says:

    I love hawaiian food. I grew up eating white rice and spam lol
    Melanie @ meandmr.com

  6. Polly says:

    Errr wow – all looks amazing, especially the Poke (all sorts of terrible ‘give you a good poke’ jokes come to mind…).

    Because I love your blog so much, I’ve just nominated you for a Liebster Award – check out my post here!

    Polly xx

  7. Catherine says:

    Oooh it all looks delicious, especially the raw tuna! I’ve only discovered I actually like raw fish in the past year, and now I can’t get enough of it!

    C x | Lux Life

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