Today’s well-known Hawaiian cuisine is influenced by many cultures and settlers throughout island history. Some dishes are a fusion of Hawaiian recipes with Japanese, Chinese, and Portuguese influences, though locals still commemorate those classically Hawaiian. Here are a few traditional Hawaiian foods to try.
It may look like a green ball of leaves (because it is) but lau lau is an island favorite. A piece of meat, fish, and fat for flavor is sprinkled with sea salt and individually hand wrapped with taro leaves. Traditionally, lau lau were placed into an imu (underground oven) to cook, but today locals tie them with string or wrap them in foil to be steamed. Visitors can try one at any plate lunch spot or buy them precooked at the grocery store.
This Hawaiian dessert is traditionally made with just two ingredients—sweet coconut milk and ground pia (Polynesian arrowroot) as a thickener. Today, haupia is also used in many types of desserts, such as a filling for malasadas or pies. Locals visit Leonard’s malasada truck and Ted’s Bakery respectively.
The taro plant was the staple of the native Hawaiian diet and the main agricultural crop in the islands for centuries. The most common dish using taro is poi, created by mashing cooked taro corms with a stone poi pounder, against a wooden board. Poi can always be found at a luau and is often eaten together with poke or used as a side dish. Because of its high cost and frequent shortages, poi is a cherished commodity.
Hawaii’s favorite raw fish dish is now trending all over the world. The original poke recipe didn’t include spicy mayo, but instead was seasoned with pa‘akai (Hawaiian sea salt), inamona (chopped roasted candlenuts), and limu (seaweed). This basic combination of ingredients can be found at all poke counters in Hawaii and truly lets the quality of the fresh seafood shine.
This juicy pork dish is on every Hawaiian restaurant and luau menu. Unlike typical shredded pork, a full pig is cooked for hours in an imu to create the kālua pork’s unique smokey flavor. Nowadays, locals add cabbage to the mix and usually pair it with rice and macaroni salad to create an iconic plate lunch.
Kulolo is another dish made with kalo (taro) root, grated coconut, and coconut milk. 80% of all taro in the state comes from Kauaʻi and any local will tell you that the Garden Isle also has the best kulolo around—luckily it can be found on the other islands as well. This sticky dessert is normally steamed or baked in ti leaves and has a consistency similar to grainy Japanese mochi.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.