The heart and soul of all cultures is the food and Hawaiian food is a fusion of many cultures. The islands of Hawaii have been open to different cultures for hundreds of years. What do you see when you think of Hawaiian food? If you’re like me, (born and raised on the (“mainland”) I think of fresh fruits (mostly pineapple), seafood (Hawaii is, after all, in the middle of the Pacific ocean), and exotic luau dishes like steamed taro leaves and roast pig. In reality, Hawaii’s cuisine is both much more and much less than what the stereotypical image beholds.
The bananas and pineapples are abound, in addition to avocados (which grow in most backyards), passion fruit, guavas, and a host of other exotic fruits that are beyond many an imagination. Becoming acquainted with the amazing variety of fruit grown here in Hawaii takes a courageous and adventurous spirit, but one that will be rewarded with unparalleled food experiences. Hawaii is paradise; people from all over the world come to explore beautiful beaches, cities, and especially the food.
Most of the cultures from Hawaii came here from Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, and Portuguese origins. Many plants and animals were imported to the islands from these countries to start agriculture use on the islands. That is when the cultures started to start flourish in Hawaii. Every culture brought there own food and life styles. Some of the foods they brought were, Chinese charsiu chicken, Japanese style sushi, Filipino pork, chicken, fish adobo, Korean short ribs, and smoked ahi, Portuguese sausage. All these foods are still eaten today.
Before all of these cultures came to the Islands the Hawaiians had their own favorites such as, Kalua pig-a marinated pulled pork, Lau Lau-steamed fish andchicken, or pork wrapped in taro leaves, Poi-mashed taro root, Lomi salmon-cubed salmon combine with tomatoes, Maui onions, and chili pepper. Last but not least Manapua-buns that are filled with pork, purple yam, chicken, and kalua pig. All these foods are very important to the Hawaiian culture. These foods are also still being loved and eaten today. Back in 1847 king Kamehameha the third held a gigantic luau with 10,000 in he audience. In every luau the centerpiece is the imu an underground oven (a shallow pit lined with stones). A whole pig (puaa) is wrapped in ti and banana leaves and placed in the pit’s hot center. The pig and laulau (savory bundles containing side dishes) are covered with multiple layers of banana, ti, or sometimes ginger leaves, and a final coating of earth. In about four hours the coverings are removed and the luau begins. Every luau has poi, the traditional starch. In every luau poi is supposed to be eaten with the fingers.
When I first moved to Hawaii I went to a luau and experienced poi. Poi taste good to me but my parents did not like it. They said it tastes like glue. I think it’s bitter but it has its own taste. Modern day Hawaiian food is a little more different than the old Hawaiian cuisines. The locals of the islands have a favorite lovingly called Spam. Some say that it dates back to the Second World War, where provisions like Spam were necessary for troops and easy to transport. Spam was everywhere, and cheap in Hawaii at this time, with lots of left-over stock to enjoy.
Others suggest it dates back to the plantation days, as an easy alternative to meat which wasn’t always available. And others yet suggest that Spam just plain goes well with rice – another Hawaiian specialty. McDonalds offers Spam-based breakfasts, and most local restaurants have some sort of Spam delicacy on the menu. Spam musubi is my favorite Hawaiian snack for lunch. Made of spam, seaweed, rice, and other spices combined makes a delicious salty treat. Another Hawaiian snack favorite is macadamia nuts.
Virtually all of Hawaii’s macadamia nuts come from the Big Island of Hawaii. (Source:about. com: Hawaii/South pacific travel). My Mom says that the dark chocolate covered macadamias are “therapeutic” and has one every night after dinner. We all hope that the Hawaiian tradition of poi bowls luaus, deep culture and love of food, can carry on forever. Hawaiian food isn’t all about the salty and the meaty. Hawaii has a sweet side, introducing shave ice, shave ice is the straight forward sunny day treat. Shave ice is shaved ice topped with flavored syrup.
Many flavor variety for the shave ice but there is only one shop on the entire island that makes the one of a kind shave ice and that is Matsumoto’s. Matsumoto’s is a shop up in North Shore that serves the bomb shave ice. You could put condensed milk icing on top “snow capped”, and or ice cream on the bottom I think Shave Ice makes the perfect dessert. The ancient Hawaiians were fit. The traditional Hawaiian diet may have been “one of the best in the world”. It was a simple, high starch, high fiber, low saturated fat, low sodium and low cholesterol diet. It had 12 percent protein, 18 percent fat and 70 percent carbohydrates.
By comparison, the typical American diet today has 15 percent protein, 40 percent fat and 45 percent carbohydrates. (Source: Noted Hawaiian Scholar, Dr. George Kanahele, Pookela Hawaiian Culture Course. ) Now most modern Hawaiians don’t follow a healthy lifestyle and, as a consequence, they don’t have a long life span. Among Hawaii’s racial groups, Hawaiians have the highest rates of heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, accidents and suicides. Efforts are underway to reverse this trend. Some ancient methods seem to cure a couple of these diseases but not to completely stop the disease.