Hawaii regional cuisine is a relatively new term that was coined by 12 Hawaiian chefs in 1994. After becoming tired of cooking food that didn’t truly represent the Hawaiian culture and lifestyle, these chefs teamed up to create a style of cuisine that shaped Hawaiian food into what it is today. Moving away from food that is popular to the mainland, Hawaii regional cuisine uses fresh ingredients that are sourced from plants, cattle, and fish which are native to Hawaii. To truly take in Hawaii regional cuisine, we’ve compiled just a few of the popular Hawaiian dishes that can be found around the island today, so that you may experience the unique flavor profiles that Hawaii has to offer.

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Kalua

Kalua is a traditional Hawaiian technique for cooking pig, turkey, and a variety of other regional food. The Kalua cooking method involves slowly cooking Hawaiian cuisine in an underground oven, so that the food’s flavors can fully develop over an extended period of time. Many travelers visiting Hawaii have probably experienced the delicious cuisine that is produced by kalua style cooking, as this cooking technique is very popular at luaus and other festive events. Kalua cookouts are a can’t-miss experience while visiting Hawaii if you have yet to taste the slow-cooked flavors achieved from underground cooking.

Malasadas

Originating as a Portuguese dessert, malasadas are made from a yeast dough with eggs, and are rolled in granulated sugar. Similar to a doughnut, malasadas are deep fried in oil, giving them a flaky crust that can easily be pulled apart. While traditional malasadas utilize a limited number of key ingredients, some bakeries pay tribute to the native flavors of Hawaii by filling malasadas with a gooey custard or coconut pudding. Malasadas can be found in just about any bakery, as well as at restaurants where they are served up as a gourmet dessert dish.

Poke

One of the most popular dishes served in Hawaii, Poke is a fish salad made with ahi tuna or yellowfin tuna. This dish is traditionally served raw while seasoned with Japanese-style flavors like sesame oil, green onions, soy sauce, and more. Variations of poke are made using salmon, or he’e, the Hawaiian word for octopus. You can find poke just about anywhere in Hawaii, as this popular cuisine continues to remain as one of the most sought-after dishes on the island.

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