after yesterday’s dissing of the tourists for dining out on standard american fare, today seemed like an appropriate day for reviewing some of the traditional hawai’ian cuisine that i’ve tried out. though neither “traditional” nor “cuisine” sounds quite right to me at this point. it sounds wrong to say traditional because a lot of hawai’ian foods come from the chinese, portuguese, and japanese influence here rather than extending back to the truly indigenous culture. and it seems wrong to say “cuisine” because that sounds like fancy stuff, and i don’t believe i’ve eaten a single thing here that anyone would consider fancy. starting with…
what you are seeing above is a breakfast of loco moco. i wasn’t terribly interested in trying this for a couple of reasons: 1) the components just didn’t sound that appealing to me, and 2) i speak a li’l Spanish, and in Spanish, “loco moco” means “crazy snot.” however, in the spirit of travel and experience, i felt i shouldn’t pass on this über-hawai’ian meal. i was glad i didn’t, too. who’da thunk that a hamburger patty over rice, topped with brown gravy and egg, would be so dang tasty?
above is a pair of malasadas. i didn’t expect much from them. i mean, they’re just doughnuts, right? well, yes and no. the difference between fresh malasadas and doughnuts is the difference between dunkin’ doughnuts and krispy kremes purchased when the HOT NOW sign is lit. in other words, they were slammin’ ! i ordered one plain and one with creme so i could try both kinds. you win either way you go. plain is like a fluffier version of funnel cake with table sugar on top. i love funnel cake. delish. then you eat one with the warm creme oozing out and the powdered sugar turning into paste on your fingers. delish. it takes a lot of discipline not to go get these six days a week. you can buy them in the grocery store, too, but Home Maid Café is cookin’ ‘em up hot monday through saturday, so why would you?
behold: manapua! it seems to me that most every culture’s cuisine offers up some signature form of filled savory pastry. the spanish have their empanadas (pastelitos to my dominican folk), india gives us samosas, italians give us the calzone, and jamaica blesses us with the beef patty. well, as if to make up for the sorry american entry of hot pockets, hawai’i gives us manapua. you can guess from the exterior that these are not baked or fried. nope—they’re steamed. it makes them slightly sticky on the outside and super light. you’d think there wasn’t anything inside, but, behold again…
…a tasty meat center! manapuas are commonly found in convenience stores here and are available with different fillings. since this is hawai’i, pork is, naturally, the most common. i scored myself a chicken one, though. it was no pastelito, but it made for a nice, filling snack (and i only ate half). and for less than $1.50, it’s about the cheapest thing i’ve found to eat here, which is a major mark in its favor.
above is a photo of the saimin (SIGH-men) i ordered today. the vat you see was placed on a tray in front of me at the counter. the tray weighed about five pounds; there was enough soup there to feed me for four days. saimin is clearly an asian-influenced dish, but it’s unique to hawai’i and is so popular here (according to wikipedia) that it beats out hamburgers and hot dogs as stadium fare. here’s what was in the heavy-ass bowl: noodles, beef, bean sprouts, shredded vegetables (carrot, cabbage, and turnip), green onions, and a light but tasty broth. good thing i liked it because i’ll be eating it for the rest of the week.
and for my very grand finale:
this is a bowl of the popular hawai’ian shave ice, which i ordered with coconut flavoring and haupia (coconut creme) topping. three words: wow, just wow. not only was it magically delicious, it also lowered my body temperature by about fourteen degrees. at $4, it’s the most expensive sno-cone i ever ate, but damn if it didn’t feel worth every penny.
well, that’s all i’ve got. if you want to know about things like poi (taro paste), kalua pig (pork), lomi lomi salmon (raw fish), lau lau (more pork), or poke (more raw fish), you’ll have to come here for yourself. until then, enjoy your burgers and chicken fingers. bon appétit!