We at Hawaii Revealed are adventurous. Not just in our search for hikes, waterfalls and reefs, but also when it comes to dining. Hawai‘i is such a unique place in the world and the blending of cultures over time has brought some amazing food to the table, so to speak. The tropical climate and huge variation in elevation also allows for growing of a wide range of fruits and vegetables. It is easy to stick to what you know when on vacation, burgers are always a crowd pleaser and we do have some amazing burger joints in the state. For those that save money (sort of) by buying groceries and cooking at their condo, it is also easy to go for what you know and keep it simple (PB and J, anyone?). What we encourage is taking a step out of your comfort zone and try some foods that you can’t easily find back home.
Farmers’ markets are a great way to find some of the more exotic fruits and vegetables we have. We will talk more about the particulars in another blog (rambutan is really tasty despite their crazy appearance), but when you see something you are unfamiliar with you have the luxury of talking to the person that actually grew it. Those running the booths are more than happy to tell you about what it is, how to serve it, and may even offer a sample. When at the grocery store (even our Costco’s), check out the local foods. Even the seasonings/condiments are unique with a large variety of salts produced here, chili pepper water (a spicy sauce with a hint of vinegar. Good on boiled peanuts, another local favorite), to Hawaiian style BBQ sauces. We have many small, local grocers too that specialize in regional, Asian foods. Just visiting one of these shops is a feast for the senses. You may not get the same kind of personalized service that you do at farmer’s markets, but just exploring the aisles is fun. Be sure to check out the beverages at these shops- teas, fruits juices and combinations of the two come in all kinds of colors and packages.
Dining out will be the easiest way to have unfamiliar foods prepared the right way. Hawai‘i has so many great restaurants to choose from and luckily, many chefs have embraced the wide range of flavors and cultural influences that make modern Hawai‘i. Some places, like Migrant on Maui, even make it a point to serve local-style comfort food with a gourmet flare. Locally caught seafood is an obvious option for trying new food. Mahi mahi and ono fish are often featured specials, and usually excellent (so long as they’re not overcooked). Opakapaka (pink snapper) and Uku (grey snapper, though not a true snapper) are some of our favorites and hard to pass up when on the menu. If you’re lucky enough to find someplace serving Opihi, the Hawaiian limpet, be sure to give it a try. Edible seaweed is also something you can find fresh here and comes in a variety of colors, textures and tastes.
Everyone has different tastes and unfamiliar foods are one of the biggest hurdles for people to clear when stepping out of their comfort zone. It can also be difficult to branch out on a $30 (or more!) dish at a restaurant. If you’re a picky eater, start small with samples of things at a farmer’s market. If you’re more adventurous, go for that thing you can’t even pronounce. Remember, you’re on vacation and you only live once. Besides, you may find your new favorite food.