It is a fact that Maui is one of the best places to visit if you are looking for a relaxing and unforgettable Hawaii vacation getaway. The tropical beauty of the Hawaiian Islands, the warm and welcoming smile of the residents, the vibrant culture and tradition, as well as the many mouthwatering foods and drink you can only find here are what makes Hawaii a great destination. Many visitors travel to paradise year-round, and that is why tourism is the top industry in Hawaii!
But apart from tourism, the industries of agriculture and fishing thrive on the island, and this is also why Hawaii is a cornucopia of many delicious foods. With the availability of various ingredients sourced fresh from the ocean and from the farm, many culinary experts from all over the world have decided to establish their restaurant on the island.
Upon your visit to Maui, you will find a selection of restaurants, each offering their own specialty dish. So whether you are looking for Hawaiian fusion or traditional Hawaiian meals, you will definitely find yourself loving the different dishes made by the different master chefs of Hawaii. But even with so many cuisines to choose from, most tourists still prefer to try traditional Hawaiian food.
What is Traditional Hawaiian Food?
Traditional Hawaiian food, just like the many Hawaiian dishes that are popular now, is influenced by years of culinary and cultural tradition introduced by the different settlers on the island. These influences include Polynesian, European, Eastern, and Southeast Asian cuisine, which were introduced to native Hawaiians in the past. From there, various traditional dishes were made and are still being prepared and consumed in the same way now.
So if you are a visitor on the island and are looking for authentic Hawaiian dishes, here are some of the most delicious traditional Hawaiian dishes you should try.
- Kalua Pig
Kalua, a Hawaiian word that means “to cook in an underground oven”, is a cooking technique that uses an imu, a type of underground oven. A kalua pig, also called Kalua Pork, is usually served as a centerpiece in Hawaiian luaus. To make the dish, a whole pig is rubbed with sea salt, wrapped in ti leaves, then smoked in an underground pit called an “imu”. During the imu ceremony which precedes a luau, the pig is removed from the pit it was cooked in and then shredded to be served in the luau. For smaller servings, a pork butt or shoulder blade is cooked in an oven or a slow cooker.
The Hawaiian word “poke” means “to slice” or “cut crosswise into pieces”, which is why this popular Hawaiian dish is so named. Poke is made of diced raw fish, usually yellowfin tuna, and is then mixed with sea salt, soy sauce, green onions, sesame oil, limu seaweed, and chili pepper. It is usually served as an appetizer or tossed over rice as part of the main dish. Other variations feature other seafood as the main ingredient, such as octopus, raw salmon, or different types of shellfish.
This native Hawaiian cuisine, considered as a primary traditional staple food in Hawaii, is made using the underground stem or root of taro. To make traditional Hawaiian poi, taro root is baked or steamed and then mashed on a wooden pounding board with a carved basalt pestle. A food processor can also be used to prepare the taro, especially for producing large quantities. The freshly pounded taro is then mixed with water during mashing until desired consistency is achieved. Poi can be consumed immediately, while it’s fresh and sweet, or left a little longer to ferment and develop a yogurt-like sourness.
Laulau, which translates to “leaf, leaf” is actually a cooking method that uses fatty chunks of meat, salted fish, and sweet potato wrapped in taro leaves. The ingredients are then tied up in a ti leaf packet and steamed in an imu. The Laulau packets are usually baked in batches, all placed on top of banana leaves for steaming, then covered with another layer of banana leaves. Laulau can also be prepared using a rice cooker, a pressure cooker, or an oven.
This silky and creamy dessert is a traditional coconut-based Hawaiian dish that is often found at luaus. It tastes of pure coconut and is made using freshly grated coconut mixed with ground pia (Polynesian arrowroot). But modern recipes use cornstarch in place of the arrowroot. The mixture is heated until it thickens. Haupia’s consistency is like that of gelatin and is usually served in blocks.
Want to taste traditional Hawaiian food during your upcoming island escape? There are a number of local Maui restaurants just a few minutes from our oceanfront vacation rentals that serve these dishes but you can always plan to attend a Hawaii luau party to get the full experience. We look forward to seeing you enjoy all that paradise has to offer you soon, mahalo!