It’s always flabbergasted me. ‘What makes Hawaiian pizza, ‘Hawaiian’?” I always ask.
Is it the pineapple? For whatever reason, I know the fruit has come to symbolize the state from places near and far – so much so that I had someone call me “Pineapple” for my entire first year at Mizzou – but surely people know it grows in other places. It isn’t even a fruit native to the islands. Surely, by now, someone would have pointed that out.
Maybe people are getting “luau” undertones with the pineapple-and-pork combo. That’s always a possibility. Well, my friends, if that’s the case – let me tell you now. If you think Hawaiian pizza comes anything close to a luau just because of some measly chunks of ham and cold fruit scattered here and there, you really need to get out of town and book a trip to Hawaii Nei. Slapping pineapple on a dish doesn’t magically whip it up into something exotic, tropical, OR Hawaiian. And don’t even get me started on “Hawaiian” punch!
That being said, I get it. Meeting someone from Hawaii in this part of the country is rare, so it might be hard to know the difference between “Hawaiian” food and Hawaiian food. Today, let me take a second to list off a few of my favorite local dishes – and surprise! They’re all sans pineapple.
I could talk about Hawaiian food all day, so for the sake of time (and my stomach), let’s start with the traditional Hawaiian plate lunch.
Clockwise, from the top left:
1. Ahi Poke
Ahh, poke. A sushi lover’s dream, and stuff I wish I could bring back to Missouri with me every time I leave home. Essentially, it’s raw tuna (ahi) cut up into bite-sized chunks, typically served either in a bowl on top of white rice, as shown above, or as an appetizer. There are many variations of the dish, some with limu (seaweed), Hawaiian salt and sesame seeds, but my favorite has to be plain poke with shoyu (soy sauce) and maui onions to taste.
Haupia is basically coconut pudding. Sometimes garnished with crushed macadamia nuts, it’s usually served as a side dish and makes for a nice, fluffy dessert after a huge plate lunch. Walking around the islands, you’ll see it baked into cakes and pies – McDonald’s even has their own variation! (I’ll talk more about the beauty of McDonald’s in Hawaii next week).
3. Lomi Lomi Salmon
Another delicious side dish – pretty straightforward and super easy to make! It consists of freshly chopped tomatoes, chopped raw salmon, green onion, maui onion, and Hawaiian salt to taste. A personal favorite of mine, of course, but when it comes to Hawaiian food, I’m pretty non-discriminatory. 🙂
It might not look appetizing to many tourists, but it sure is good. Laulau is a classic Hawaiian dish where fish or meat is wrapped in taro leaves and steamed to fall-off-the-bone perfection. The protein in the center can be anything from chicken and pork to butterfish, and is typically served with a side of white rice and other yummy appetizers.
5. White Rice
I guess you could say this doesn’t necessarily count because it isn’t Hawaiian per say, but steamed white rice is such a staple in Hawaii, I thought I’d add it anyway. Locals will eat it nearly every single day. “Add rice and anything’s a meal,” my mom always said – and she hasn’t been wrong yet!
So, there you go! Real Hawaiian food. Next time you host a luau or a Hawaiian-themed party, add a little authenticity and throw in a few of these fun dishes. No pineapple necessary!