See Hawaii with Your Taste Buds

By Cheryl White
July 23, 2015
Adventures, Lifestyle

You'd be forgiven for thinking that eating out in Honolulu was all ranch dressing and fries on the side. Most major food chains are represented in Hawaii, especially in and around the tourist areas, which is why many people may believe this stereotype. But it would be a sad thing if visitors to Hawaii didn’t take the opportunity to indulge in some of the wonderful flavors that make up the local cuisine. Now more than ever, the food scene in Honolulu is vibrant and exciting. Here are five delicious flavors to try when you next visit the islands.

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Salt

It seems that every buffet table and restaurant in Honolulu offers myriad types of coarse ground salt of many hues to be taken alongside fish, salads and anything else you may wish to add it to. The main two are Hawaiian red sea salt and Hawaiian black lava salt. The red sea salt is actually white sea salt with the addition of red alaea clay. Both are harvested from the sea in Molokai. The red sea salt has a sweeter finish, whilst the black is somewhat nutty in flavor.

Locomoco

This Hawaiian speciality is perhaps the comfort food of all comfort foods. Imagine if you will a plate loaded with rice, boiled or fried, topped with a hamburger patty and a friend egg and gravy. Whilst not to my taste, this messy dish is a huge favorite among the locals, so much so that McDonald’s and Hungry Jack’s offer it on their breakfast menus in Hawaii. Fortunately for me, many Hawaiian chefs have been deconstructing the locomoco to concoct more foodie-friendly versions. Available in food vans and restaurants alike, the scotch egg style locomoco ball is, for me, a definite improvement. In fact, it is absolutely delicious.

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Haute Dogs

Hot dogs are not generally considered haute cuisine, but in Honolulu a hot dog stand called Hank’s Hotdogs has changed all of that. This humble little establishment on Coral Street, Honolulu, offers hotdogs that will change the way you think about ground meats. From the superb lobster hotdog to the Hawaiian hotdog (think Portuguese sausage, mango mustard and pineapple relish), these haute dogs use the flavors of Hawaii in new and unusual ways.

Li Hing

This powdered condiment is made from ground pickled plum skins. The pickling process involves licorice, salt and sugar, which gives the product a sour flavor that works very well in many foods, giving them a sweet and sour element that is surprisingly tasty. You can purchase the powdered ingredient and add it to whatever takes your fancy. It is also used in many restaurants on pineapples. At first this appalled me, as Hawaii has without doubt the best tasting pineapples in the world. However, I was soon persuaded to try Li Hing sprinkled on the fruit and was hooked. Its addition to custard creme donuts is also inspired.

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Sea Asparagus

Thin, bright green and spindly, this vegetable looks like it could almost be some sort of broccoli. But one whiff will tell you that this sea-salt-scented vegetable is anything but. Traditionally paired with fish, sea asparagus is gaining international popularity as a vegetable in its own right. In Hawaii it is used in salads for its crunchy texture and delicious flavor. It is also being given a gourmet makeover. It is sold at farmer’s markets and speciality shops in pestos, salsas and salad dressings. Sea asparagus is, however, not originally from either Hawaii or from the sea; rather it is an intertidal plant from the northwestern United States. But its adaptation to Hawaiian conditions means that it is a great addition to local menus.

Hawaii’s food scene is truly eclectic and often surprising. Maybe it’s time for another visit and a taste of something different from the Hawaiian table.