Hawaii is a melting pot, home to people from all corners of the planet, and in that pot several unique styles of food synthesize and simmer. The result? A richly diverse plethora of food derived from Japanese, Portuguese, Filipino and Chinese influences. They’ve brought their rich cultural histories and time-honored family recipes to create what’s known as local cuisine.
I could eat my weight in poke, the finely-diced raw tuna, one of the staples of the Hawaiian culinary tradition (pronounced poh-kay, not poh-kee). A meat, two scoops of rice and macaroni salad are the three essential elements of the Plate Lunch, which is sold on almost every street corner in Hawaii. And then there’s the Loco Loco, a heaping plate of sunny-side eggs served over a hamburger patty on a bed of white rice, all doused in brown gravy.
Just a few miles away from where the Sony Open will be held is Rainbow Drive-In, which started serving up this Hawaiian classic to locals and visitors a few decades ago. Chris Iwamura is the third-generation owner of Rainbow Drive-In. His grandfather Seiju Ifuku opened the restaurant after serving in World War II.
Shaved ice, the island version of a snow cone, only served with shaved instead of crushed ice is a go-to treat. Locals swear that Matsumoto Shave Ice, on Kamehameha Highway in Haleiwa, serves the best.
For a morning treat, although any time of day works too, malasadas are a pastry dough fried until the crust is golden brown while the inside remains fluffy and light. Long ago the descendants of Portuguese laborers brought them to work in Hawaii’s sugarcane fields. For these hole-less doughnuts rolled in sugar, you’ve got to go to Leonard’s Bakery, an institution in Waikiki dating to 1952. Leonard’s is known for its sweet-toasted flavor, both crunchy and chewy. Finding parking can be a chore but totally worth it – I sampled original, cinnamon and Li Hing, which is sweet and sour.
Hear me out but I’m a fan of Spam masubi, Hawaii’s unofficial state snack, a sushi-style combination of a thick slice of Spam, steamed white rice, a sprinkling of furikake, Japanese seaweed-based rice…