6 mouthwatering Hawaiian specialties you have to try

Have your tickets booked and ready for your trip to Hawaii? Bags packed? Dreams of your Hawaii vacation rental swirling? Got all of your activities planned? With all of those boxes ticked, perhaps it’s time to start preparing your taste buds for what is sure to be a culinary adventure to the land of “yum,” “this is so good” and “please, can I have some more?”

While Hawaii is rightly thought of to be a dream spot for lovers of sun and surf, it’s also a great place to try new and delicious foods. We’ve put together a list of some of Hawaii’s most tantalizing epicurean treats to help you out – and no, Spam is not included in our list.

1. Poke

“Poke is a Hawaiian dish made of sliced fish and served as an appetizer.”

This is not just something you do when your brother, spouse or requisite family member is proving to be a pest. Poke is a Hawaiian dish made of sliced fish and served as an appetizer. Most often, this raw fish salad’s main ingredient is either octopus or an oily tuna, which is then tossed with classic poke seasonings such as soy sauce, green onions and sesame oil. As foodie culture takes over, adaptations of poke have been cropping up, including yellowfin tuna, salmon and shellfish. While the dish is growing in popularity on the mainland, don’t pass up the chance to eat it while watching the waves roll in.

2. Purple sweet potato

For all of you vegetarians, vegans and non-fish lovers out there, don’t worry! You won’t be starving on vacation. And, I know, the most exciting thing about this entry might seem like the unique color of the tubers, but purple sweet potatoes are one of the more traditional foods in Hawaii that you can give a shot; they were introduced to the island by the earliest Polynesians, according to the website Canoe Plants, who came to the area hundreds of years ago. Now, served grilled, steamed or baked, they are known for their soft texture and floral notes. You might even find a sweet dessert version!

3. Manapua

This dish, brought over by Cantonese immigrants in the early 1900s, resembles what most of us know as a steamed bun. With its sweet pork filling, manapuas can be found (and devoured) at bakeries and food markets across Hawaii. You might want to even consider getting two or three – it’s a vacation, isn’t it?

4. Poi

With its starchy, mushy appearance, poi may be the last thing you want to order at the market. However, if you’re able to look past its sludge-like appearance and give it a chance, your taste buds will be rewarded. The dish is made by mashing the baked corm of a taro plant. Its texture can vary from pudding-like to dough, and its taste can be sweet or strongly fermented. Give this traditional Hawaiian dish (and all of its variations) a try!

Try any of Hawaii's tempting dishes with a side of grilled pineapple.Try any of Hawaii’s tempting dishes with a side of grilled pineapple.

5. Malasadas

Hope you’re ready for the best breakfast of your life! Or snack, for what it’s worth. Basically, malasadas are hole-less donut holes (wrap your head around that!), or just chunks of donut dough fried to golden perfection and rolled in sugar. Sometimes these relatives of the French beignet are filled with cream or fruit, but always they are delicious. Do your vacation a favor and eat these every day for breakfast. Your stomach will thank you, even if your waistline won’t. If you want to pretend you’re being virtuous, grab some of Hawaii’s juicy pineapple!

6. Laulau

Your Hawaiian vacation wouldn’t be complete without trying laulau. This dish, once again, uses the taro plant, but this time layers of leaves are wrapped around pork. To get its smoky flavor, the “packet” is then cooked in an underground hot rock oven. Right? Too cool to pass up.