Hawaii has its own unique melding of ethnic flavors that became Hawaii Regional Cuisine in 1991 with the leadership of great chefs. Twelve chefs met in Maui, agreed that dining in Hawaii could be more than continental or French haute cuisine, and the rest is history. Many are still active and influential in the Hawaii food scene.
What does farm to table mean in Hawaii? Along with tropical fruits such as pineapple, papaya, and breadfruit, tomatoes, purple sweet potatoes, and mushrooms are available. Chefs and home cooks also have access to taro, apple bananas, and avocados. There is an amazing variety of seafood including ono, monchong, ahi, opah, oysters, and lobster. Hawaii also has fantastic coffee, chocolate, onions, beef, and pork. This abundance cooked with a Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, or Filipino touch (or fusion) makes some very memorable eating!
Many original Hawaii Regional Cuisine chefs are still active in Hawaii: Peter Merriman, Sam Choy, Alan Wong, George Mavrothalassitis, Roy Yamaguchi, Mark Ellman, Bev Gannon, and Jean-Marie Josselin. Many excellent chefs are continuing the tradition, such as Chai Chaowasaree, Nico Chaize, Dusty Grable and Jesse Cruz , Masaharu Morimoto, and Ronnie Nasuti.
Good hearty, local comfort food can be found everywhere. Some of my favorites are the Highway Inn, Liliha Bakery, Rainbow Drive-in, and Tex Drive In.
Grabbing a bite
Oahu: Chef Chai at Waikiki Hawaiian Fusion and Kapiolani Boulevard; Dusty Grable and Jesse Cruz at Lucky Belly, Livestock Tavern, and Tchin Tchin in Chinatown; Nico Chaize at Nico’s Pier 38; Roy Yamaguchi at Roy’s Hawaii Kai, Waikiki, Ko Olina, and Turtle Bay; Peter Merriman at Monkeypod Kitchen Ko Olina (watch for Moku Kitchen coming soon to Kaka’ako); Alan Wong at Alan Wong’s Honolulu and The Pineapple Room; Chef Mavro on King Street; Sam Choy’s Island Style Seafood Grille at Pearl Harbor; Morimoto Waikiki; Ronnie Nasuti at Tiki’s Grill and Bar Waikiki
Big Island: Merriman’s at Waimea; Sam Choy’s at Kai Lanai; Roy’s at Waikoloa
Kauai: Jean-Marie Josselin at JO2 Kapa’a, Merriman’s at Poipu
Resource links for Hawaii regional cuisine
- Present at the food revolution in Hawaii from Honolulu magazine
- Saveur article on Amy Ferguson
- Local recipes from University of Hawaii
- Cooking Hawaiian Style
- Sam Choy’s in the Kitchen YouTube channel
- Hawaiian fish guide from Gayot
- Hale ‘Aina Award Winners from Honolulu magazine
Let’s talk story
Hawaii is my happy place. We like to visit regularly. There is so much beauty, culture, history, and food to enjoy.
I’ll be looking for your comments or contact me at lisa[at]thecasabouquet[dot]com. What’s your favorite Hawaiian food?
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