Food found only in Hawaii


Hawaiian staples such as poi and kalua pig are a unique part of Hawaii’s culinary scene.

But we’ve got our own brand of only-in-Hawaii snacks and foods that aren’t found in many places (save for the communities of ex-Islanders scattered across the country).

Snacks like popcorn and kakimochi.

It’s tough explaining to folks on the Mainland that the theaters in Hawaii sell shoyu rice crackers with buttered popcorn — and provide a waxed paper-line box for it.

Or that every McDonald’s in the state serves saimin and fruit punch.

Or that you’d find boiled peants — not roasted peanuts — at baseball games.

Only in Hawaii.

It’s one of my favorite things about living here, that we can have such a distinct flavor of food we identify with. It’s something we take with us wherever we go outside the Islands, packing the Ziploc of mochi crunch or adding li hing powder to wedges of pineapples.

And yes, we try to order fruit punch at McD’s and rice with our chili.

Any other foods — or food combos — only found in Hawaii? We should start a list — then open a restaurant in Vegas! Who’s in?

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36 Responses to “Food found only in Hawaii”

  1. M July 27, 2012 at 7:06 am #

    Hello Cat!
    How about plate lunches like Rainbows Boneless Chicken.

  2. M July 27, 2012 at 7:15 am #


    • Catherine Toth July 29, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

      I wonder if there’s anything like this dish anywhere else. I know it’s sold everywhere in Japan…

  3. M July 27, 2012 at 8:53 am #


  4. Annoddah Dave July 27, 2012 at 9:02 am #

    CAT: Spam Musubi and other varieties.

  5. Annoddah Dave July 27, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    CAT: Portuguese sausage or spam, rice, and eggs, at McD, Burger King, and Jack in the Box. BBQ stick and saimin. Strawberry mochi.

    • Catherine Toth July 29, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

      Completely forgot about the local breakfasts at fast-food restaurants. And the BBQ stick and saimin; that’s very much my parents’ generation. Not that your’e old or anything. LOL :)

  6. M July 27, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    Fried Rice

    • Catherine Toth July 29, 2012 at 10:09 pm #

      Ah, yes, but that’s served all over China!

      • Argyle of Sock July 31, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

        Local style fried rice is different, though. In my experience, Chinese fried rice is mainly flavored with oil and salt, whereas the local variety has lots of shoyu in it…

  7. kyleepuu July 27, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    I saw an advertisement for Spam Croissant at Jack in the Box

    • Catherine Toth July 29, 2012 at 10:09 pm #

      I SAW THAT, TOO! Did you try it? I had the li hing Spam musubi from 7-Eleven. It was… uh… interesting…

  8. matt July 27, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    cake noodles. people try to tell me that it’s just a form of hong kong style noodles, but hawaii’s the place I see it. it has the crunch of the HK style noodes on the outside and the soft cheweyness of regular noodles on the inside. so not the same.

    nowhere (that I’ve found…and I’ve looked) here do they serve meat jun. they have a seafood jun (forget the korean name) and onion jun, but those are more like omelets than pancakes, imo.

    even the local variants of standard dishes are distinct. hawaiian style chili (not even the rice but the chili itself) is way different than the chili you’d find up here. ditto with the local style katsu sauce you get with your plate lunches at graces (or other places).

    • Catherine Toth July 29, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

      I had no idea about cake noodles. I thought that was a common dish in China or Hong Kong, too! Hmm! Learn something new every day!

    • Catherine Toth July 29, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

      OH, and I forgot about chili with rice. I remember getting served chili with nothing. I didn’t get it.

  9. DIO July 27, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    Shoyu hot dog.

  10. DIO July 27, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    Shave Ice, or if you’re FBI then, Ice Shave.

  11. DIO July 27, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    guri guri

  12. DIO July 27, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    Baked manapua

  13. DIO July 27, 2012 at 1:58 pm #


    • Catherine Toth July 29, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

      True on all!

      Manapua — no more in China…?

      • DIO July 29, 2012 at 10:48 pm #

        I’m sure they have Manapua (whatever the official Chinese name for that is) in China, but I was thinking specifically of the Baked version like you can get at places like Royal Kitchen in Chinese Cultural Plaza, versus the steamed version, like you can get at many other places.

        • Argyle of Sock July 31, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

          Baked char siu bao is pretty common, but one thing is for sure – Hawaiian style dim sum (manapua, pork hash) are all very much supersized compared to the Chinese originals…)

      • Dina July 31, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

        Baked Managua can be found here on the mainland, but Hawai’i makes it their own with varying insides like I’ve seen at Chun Wah Kam. Here I’ve only seen char siu.

        • Argyle of Sock July 31, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

          If you are in Los Angeles, try the Hong Kong Bakery in Torrance:

          They supply the manapua for the Marukai markets in LA, and they have a lot of different kinds of manapua (the baked kalua pig manapua is particularly good)…and yes, I am pretty sure the owner is from Hawaii.

  14. 808pooh July 28, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    the list can go on forever. Hawaii has a ton of different food items that you can only get here in Hawaii. No matter what even if you try to cook the items in other states it just does not taste the same. Do you think it has something to do with the water?

    • Catherine Toth July 29, 2012 at 10:12 pm #

      I remember trying to cook local-style food in Chicago when I lived there… and you’re right, wasn’t the same. But I think the environment had a lot to do with it. Wasn’t the same eating fried Spam when it’s snowing outside!

      • DIO July 29, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

        Yes, environment is a big part of the “taste” of food. Think of it, why does food taste better at the beach? Why does it taste better at the parents or grandparents house than at your own, despite it being the same recipe?

  15. PubAffGuy July 29, 2012 at 4:52 am #

    Meat Jun!!! All Korean Restaurant owners on the Mainland know you’re from Hawaii when you ask for it… but they won’t make it! WHATUP with that?!??

    • Catherine Toth July 29, 2012 at 10:12 pm #

      YES! I tried to order that in Evanson, Ill., and the owner of the restaurant — from Seoul — thought I was making it up!

  16. David Jackson July 29, 2012 at 7:48 am #

    I will only contribute to this list if we open this place in Kailua Beach.

  17. Nathan Kam August 1, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    Vanilla ice cream with arare on top. Winner! Promise!

  18. Shane Blair July 20, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

    I have several items you can only get here….Here is my list:

    1. Snow Puffies from Paalaa Kai Bakery in Waialua
    2. Blueberry Scones from Diamond Head Market (Scones are everywhere but no one makes em like them).
    3. Poi Glazed Doughnuts from Kamehameha Bakery
    4. Puka Dogs from Puka Dog…
    5. Cocoa Puffs from Liliha bakery
    6. Orange Bang from Zippys
    7. Chocolate Haupia Pies from Ted’s
    8. Haupia Ice Cream from Roselani
    9. The Chicken and Pineapple Cole slaw from Ray’s Kiawe Broiled Chicken in Haleiwa.

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