Comfort foods around the world have a way of warming the soul, and Hawaii’s favorites are no different. Here in the Islands, our best comfort food is often rooted in our multiple cultures, with many chefs stepping up to offer hyperlocal, gourmet or unique versions of childhood favorite eats. Another bonus? Hawaii’s best comfort foods are also super tasty.
From food trucks to farm-to-table restaurants, it’s easy for you to get a taste of local comfort food made the way mom or dad used to (and often still do) or in new interpretations hopeful of becoming local favorites. We suggest you recommend these five great eats:
Similar in appearance to ramen, saimin is a simple Hawaii-born meal of savory noodles in bonito- or shrimp-flavored broth often topped with green onions and fishcake. Hamura Saimin, a no-frills Kauai must-stop, is known for its secret-recipe broth and housemade noodles. Head to Sam Sato’s on Maui for its famous dry mein – al dente noodles tossed in secret seasoning, with a side of broth for dipping.
#2 Plate Lunch
Two scoops of rice, macaroni salad and a main dish of choice are staples of this classic meal inspired by the multicultural dishes made by laborers during Hawaii’s plantation era. Today, you can pack a plate with Japanese chicken katsu, Korean short ribs, Filipino pork adobo and lots more. Try one at Big Island Grill on the island of Hawaii, or get a healthy gourmet take at Oahu’s Pioneer Saloon.
#3 Loco Moco
Maui’s Da Kitchen has an entire section of its menu devoted to inventive versions of this ultimate Hawaii comfort food dish, whose classic recipe calls for a mound of hot rice, topped with a tasty hamburger patty and sunny side up eggs, finished with a ladling of brown gravy. On the island of Hawaii, try the classic loco moco at Hilo’s Café 100, which claims to have had a hand in inventing it.
#4 Kalua Pig
Traditionally cooked in an imu (underground oven) and a staple of local luau menus, kalua pig done right is shredded smoky, juicy, porky perfection, often served with sides of rice or poi, or sautéed with fresh cabbage. Enjoy it on a hot dog or in a grilled cheese at Porky’s food truck on Kauai. Or get it with other tasty Hawaiian food faves – laulau, squid luau, poke, etc. – at Highway Inn on Oahu.
#5 Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Yup, the classic American comfort food favorite is beloved here in the 50th State, as well. On Oahu, encourage clients to localize their mac ‘n’ cheese with toppings like Hamakua-grown mushrooms and local ham at 12th Ave Grill. Those seeking a morning fix should try the unusual, but surprisingly delicious, mac ‘n’ cheese pancakes at Morning Glass Coffee + Café during its weekend brunch.
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