Hawaiian Food

Established on the lush, and volcanic western slopes of the Big Island, Coffee Times owner, Les Drent, roasted, and sold his first pound of Kona coffee in 1993. Five years later, Les moved his Coffee Times roasting operation to the beautiful island of Kauai, and established the Blair Estate shade grown, organic coffee farm in 2001. While his passion for farming is now deeply rooted in the Kauai soil, he continues to be a strong proponent for the preservation of 100% Kona coffee.

Hawaiian Food
By: Lois Ann Ell

February 10, 2012

Examine the foods of Hawai’i, and what will be revealed are the plethora of cultures—Japanese, Filipino, Chinese, Thai, Portuguese, and many more—that have shaped the vast cultural cuisine of the islands. Therefore it can be difficult to decipher what authentic Hawaiian food is.

In her book, Ethnic Foods of Hawai’i, author Anne Kondo Corum says “the most distinctive characteristic of Hawaiian food is that is wholesome, pure, simply prepared food not covered with batter, sauces, or condiments.”

Below I explore a few Hawaiian favorite foods of mine (an appetizer, main dish and dessert). I asked my brother Charlie, a self-taught Chef and gourmand who lives on O’ahu to help me pair the dishes with a beverage to compliment the flavors.

Ahi Poke

Ahi Poke

Sam Choy, a celebrated Chef in Hawai’i, describes poke as “the king of island foods.” He even wrote two thick books on the subject. In one of the books, aptly titled, “Poke,” he explains that in early Hawaiian days the cubed raw fish was served simply, with few ingredients added to it, such as salt, seaweed, and Kukui Nut relish (‘inamona), but when the Japanese and Chinese immigrants in Hawai’i prepared it, sesame oil, soy sauce, onions, and many more flavors were added, which brings us up to the present.

The most common type of poke (and there’s hundreds—you can chop and cube anything) is Ahi Poke: raw tuna, most often served with green and white onions, salt, sesame oil and or soy sauce, seaweed, and inamona. The salty flavors against the fresh, clean taste of fresh raw fish is lovely.

Pair with: a cold beer, preferably a lager or pale ale

Also try: Lomi Salmon (chopped up salmon, onion, tomatoes and green onion) or ‘Opihi (limpets) dashed with hot sauce

Pork Lau Lau

Pork Lau Lau

Lau Lau on your plate is a delicate little present to be unwrapped by your fork. Tender, moist pork is enclosed in a cocoon of kalo leaves (think spinach), which is wrapped up in ti leaves and tied with string. There are variations on the meat in Lau Lau: chicken, fish, I’ve even had tofu.

Traditionally Lau Lau is cooked in an imu (underground oven), but in a regular kitchen it can be steamed to perfection over the stove as well.

Pair with: a big, bold glass of Cabernet Sauvignon

Also try: Chicken Lu’au, a thick stew of chicken, kalo leaves and coconut milk


As our palate for desserts evolve beyond the saccharine, syrupy sweetness of our childhoods—birthday cakes with gobs of frosting, candy and ice cream sundaes—we end up with something like Kulolo. A mixture of grated taro root, coconut milk and honey and brown sugar is made into a velvety, thick and chewy pudding with earthy, subtle flavors and a natural hint of sweetness.

Pair with: a hot cup of LBD Kona Coffee

Also try: Haupia (coconut pudding) or taro bread

The freshness of Ahi Poke, the care and time put into Lau Lau—the ultimate Hawaiian comfort food—and the simple goodness of Kulolo, Hawaiian food has all the qualities we want out of cuisine.


Choy, Sam. Poke. Honolulu, Mutual Publishing, 2009.

Corum, Ann Kondo. Ethnic Foods of Hawai’i. Honolulu, Bess Press, 2000.

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Categories: Hawaiian Cuisine, History & Culture |

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