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Must-Try Street Food on Oahu

From raw fish to fried donuts, don’t leave this Hawaiian island without sampling its tastiest gastronomic delights.

Diners enjoy a meal in an Oahu restaurant
Hi, I'm Karen!

Karen is a Scottish freelance travel and culture writer based in the US. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, National Geographic, BBC, and Condé Nast Traveler.

With poke shacks and menus touting traditional Hawaiian fare cropping up in cities around the US, there’s never been a better time to visit the source: Oahu itself. Hawaii’s rich culinary history, Pan-Pacific flavor fusion, and thriving locavore movement have made Oahu a hotbed of food culture and unique cuisine. When visiting Oahu, foodies shouldn’t miss these tasty dishes featuring distinct island flavors.

1. Poke

A poke bowl being served up on Oahu.
Poke bowl are always popular.Foto: Ruslan Mitin / Shutterstock

Eat this dish of cubed raw fish as a snack.

Possibly Hawaii’s best-known dish, poke is traditionally made up of cubed raw fish (usually ahi tuna), seaweed, and sweet onions. It’s typically seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil, but you’ll find all sorts of variations around Oahu, including a creamy, spicy style and a cooked shrimp version. Locals often pick up poke at their local supermarket to eat on the go, but you’ll also find hole-in-the-wall eateries throughout the island serving up their own takes on poke. Consider an off-the-beaten-path food tour of Oahu, including a stop in Chinatown, where you can sample poke.

2. Garlic shrimp

Garlic shrimp and rice is a must-try on Oahu.
Garlic shrimp and rice is a must-try.Foto: Elyse Butler / Viator

Chow down on this seafood delight at a food truck.

Snacking on hot garlic-butter-infused shrimp by the side of the road is a must-do when on Oahu’s North Shore. There are several trucks parked alongside Kamehameha Highway to choose from, but we recommend braving the long line at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, the North Shore’s original garlic shrimp spot. Stopping for lunch at a garlic shrimp truck is standard on most circle-island tours of Oahu, but true foodies can amp up their culinary Oahu experience by booking a food-focused circle island tour.

3. Shave ice

Shave ice is perfect on a hot day on Oahu.
Shave ice is perfect on a hot day.Foto: Elyse Butler / Viator

Opt for classic or unusual flavors.

Another essential stop on any trip to Oahu’s North Shore is Matsumoto Shave Ice, the small Haleiwa store synonymous with shave ice in Hawaii — it serves over 1,000 cups a day. Stick to classic flavors such as strawberry, or order something more adventurous, such as lilikoi (passion fruit) or li hing mui (tart Chinese plum) topped with mochi and azuki beans. Matsumoto is a typical stop on most circle island tours, and it’ll definitely satisfy your sweet tooth.

4. Malasadas

Malasadas donuts and flowers on Oahu.
Donuts and flowers on Oahu.Foto: studio presence / Shutterstock

Indulge in these tasty fried donuts.

Hawaii’s second best-known dessert, malasadas may be of Portuguese origin, but Oahu has made them convincingly their own. No one does these fried yeast donuts better than Leonard’s, a small bakery in Kaimuki on Honolulu’s South Shore—a handy location for refueling after a hike up Diamond Head Crater. Leonard’s also has a truck that travels all over the island. Wherever you get your malasadas, you’ll be offered a choice of fillings from custard to haupia (coconut) and toppings from plain sugar to li hing mui (tart Chinese plum).

Related: Where to Find the Best Views on Oahu

5. Spam musubi

One of Hawaii's quintessential dishes is Spam musubi.
One of Hawaii's quintessential dishes.Foto: Brannon_Naito / Shutterstock

Munch on this Japanese-inspired snack.

This classic handheld snack is perfect for filling up on the go. It’s made from a simple slice of grilled Spam on top of a block of rice held together with a strip of nori like a Japanese onigiri (rice ball). Find this portable snack in convenience stores all over the island. Or, taste it on a private Oahu food tour with an award-winning local food expert.

Huli Huli chicken

One of Hawaii's quintessential dishes when on Oahu.
6. Huli Huli chicken is the perfect barbecue dish.Foto: Matt Jordan / Shutterstock

A tasty barbecue island favorite.

If you’re driving around the island and see smoke rising and smell a sweet, rich fragrance, that might be someone cooking up fresh Huli Huli chicken. This Hawaiian-style barbeque dish takes its name from the Hawaiian word for “turn" because while roasting, the chicken is turned back and forth to keep the teriyaki-style glaze from burning. Huli Huli chicken has long been a favorite of locals, and you can find it at roadside stands. Sample it after a morning visiting Pearl Harbor.

7. Loco moco

Loco moco involves a hamburger patty and fried egg, smothered in a rich, brown gravy.
Loco moco tastes best after an adventure tour.Foto: ao nori / Shutterstock

Locals and visitors love this hearty dish.

Save plenty of room for loco moco, a plate piled high with steamed white rice topped with a hamburger patty and fried egg, smothered in a rich, brown gravy. Better still, enjoy a well-earned plate of loco moco after a long day of island exercise and exploring via a walking or bike tour.

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