The cuisine on the Big Island draws from many influences, resulting in a vibrant fusion of flavors and traditions. From kalua pork and poke to malasadas and shave ice, here are a few dishes not to miss when you're on the Big Island of Hawaii.
One of the most iconic dishes in Hawaii, kalua pork is the centerpiece of most luaus, Hawaii's traditional feasts. The pork is slow roasted in an imu (underground oven) until the meat is tender and full of flavor. You don’t have to wait for a luau to try kalua pork though, as the dish is also popular for breakfast, on a plate lunch, and at buffets.
A dish that’s been gaining popularity outside of Hawaii, poke is made from fresh, raw seafood, such as tuna or octopus, which is then chopped and marinated with Hawaiian sea salt, soy sauce, sesame oil, or hot sauce, and served with add-ons such as seaweed, onions, and avocados. Eat it plain or in a poke bowl, atop rice or quinoa. You can find poke in supermarkets and fancy restaurants.
A local comfort food, loco moco typically consists of white rice, topped with hamburger patties and fried eggs, and smothered in brown gravy. Popular for breakfast, the dish can be enjoyed at any time. Cafe 100 in Hilo is said to be the originator of the dish, and it serves around 30 different versions.
Huli means “to turn” in Hawaiian, and that’s the key to making huli huli chicken. Marinated and basted in a sweetened soy sauce or barbecue sauce mixture, the chicken is flipped as it browns over a grill, resulting in chicken that’s crispy on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside.
A popular dessert, malasadas are deep-fried Portuguese doughnuts rolled in sugar or cinnamon (or both) and filled or served with a variety of fillings and dipping sauces, including lilikoi (passion fruit) jelly or butter and Bavarian cream. Tex Drive Inn and Punalu’u Bake Shop are both well known for their malasadas.
Hawaii’s beloved frozen treat is a delight on a hot tropical day. It’s made from finely shaved ice, served with syrup in flavors ranging from classics, such as vanilla and strawberry, to local specialties, such as li hing mui (salty dried plum) and pickled mango. It’s sometimes served with ice cream and condensed milk for extra richness.