Beyond Pineapples and Poi

Very soon I will return to Hawaii for a couple weeks of vacation. Some people go for the sun and the beaches and the soft tropical breezes. While I deeply enjoy these, especially the sweet scented air that wafts to your nose the second you step off the plane, I also go for the food.

Hawaiian food, or should I say the food you can get in Hawaii is like none other. Two scoops of Polynesian blended with a side of Korean and a dash of Japanese best describes much of the food there. An excellent example of this is the traditional “plate lunch” usually served with a scoop of potato-mac (just like it sounds - potato and macaroni salad with tons of mayo), steamed white rice, and a main meat like kalbi (Korean marinated and grilled beef short ribs) or chicken katsu (pounded thin, breaded and fried chicken cutlet akin to the Japanese tonkatsu). 

Plate lunch can be found about anywhere in Hawaii – in a strip mall, at a roadside stand or from a lunch wagon at a local surf contest. A popular place to get plate lunch has found its way to the mainland in the form of L&L Hawaiian BBQ (called L&L Drive-in or just L&L in Hawaii). Check out this eye candy:  

I mentioned my love of Spam in a previous post. Well, Hawaii is a good place to get my fix. (mmmmm…Spam musubi) Several stories try to explain Hawaii’s love of Spam. Regardless of which one you believe, Spam is everywhere – even on the McDonald’s menu. Mainland has its Big Breakfast, but Hawaii has its Spam, Eggs and Rice. Oh…and Portuguese sausage Eggs and Rice! I love Portuguese sausage! Last time when we flew back, I packed about 6 long links in my luggage (two spicy and four regular).

Another favorite, and the one my husband is most looking forward to, is the huli-huli chicken. Any given weekend, someone somewhere is cooking huli-huli – probably for a fundraiser. Look for the smoke and head towards it. You will probably end up in a grocery store parking lot waiting in a line of cars for your share. Just drive up when it’s your turn, hand the man your money and get a whole crispy, juicy, salty, messy, delicious rotisserie-style chicken (or two) in a bag. You better have some napkins though, because most people start eating in the car.

Now, everyone has their secret marinade recipe containing some mixture of shoyu (soy sauce), pineapple juice, brown sugar, ginger, garlic and more, but I have been using the Aloha Barbeque Sauce for close to twenty years and love it. The problem is getting it back home. One time I put a gallon bottle in my carry-on. You should have seen the local Hawaiian dude at customs when he saw it. He laughed out loud and said, “Don’t leave home witout it, eh?!” and passed me on through inspection.  Last time security restrictions prevented me from that method, so I bought several quart bottles, double zip-locked them, put them in the checked bag (along with two five-pound bags of Hawaiian sea salt and some NOH Hawaiian Poke mix) and said a prayer. The huli-huli gods must have been smiling on me, because all the bottles made it home without leaking.

So, if you get a chance to go to Hawaii, skip the tourist luau and hit some of the local eateries. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. Oh, and would you stop by 7-11 and bring me back some ginger cookies from the Hawaiian Candy Company? Please? 

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