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Foods to try when you're in Hawaii

Hawaiian cuisine today is the result of a fusion of different cultural influences, such as Japanese and Polynesian, as well as touches from Portuguese and westernised cooking. However it came to be, Hawaiian food is good for the soul, made from the heart with flavours to keep you coming back for second helpings.

With such a wide range of delicacies, we're making it easy – here are some of our picks for dishes to try while you're on one of Hawaii's beautiful islands.


Poke, pronounced "po-keh", is a Hawaiian staple, and comes in many varieties. At its core, it is a sort of salad usually made with ahi (yellow fin tuna) or a similar type of fresh fish.

Similar to Japanese sashimi, the fish is not cooked, instead chopped into small pieces and mixed through with a crunchy salad. Soy sauce and seaweed add to the characteristic poke flavour, with some dishes containing rice or chilli for more balance.


A comforting noodle soup, akin to ramen, saimin consists of a broth with onions and other vegetables, as well as egg, char siu pork, chicken, seafood or the ubiquitous canned SPAM meat. A beloved dish of Hawaii, saimin can be food in local restaurants and stalls across the islands, as well as in local McDonalds.


This Portuguese-influenced food is a must try Hawaiian favourite. It is a donut-style pastry (without the hole) where the ball-shaped dough is deep fried before being sprinkled with sugar for the ultimate sweet treat. While you can find malasadas being sold around Hawaii, Leonard's Bakery in Honolulu is a crowd favourite. Get in and get your donuts fresh – you can even get malasadas filled with custard or chocolate.


These Chinese char siu bao-style buns are traditionally stuffed with tasty pork and steamed to give them their fluffy, delicious texture. You can also find vegetable fillings for those not keen on meat. The best manapua will have a good bread-to-filling ratio, without too much of an air pocket.

Shave Ice

This crunchy, icy, treat is a blessing on a hot Hawaiian day, coming with a rainbow of different colours. Plus, you can't visit Hawaii without trying shave ice at least once. There's definitely a rule, somewhere.