May 12, 2021

Hawaiian Poke Bowls are one type of Hawaiian Cuisine

Hawaiian Poke Bowls are one type of Hawaiian Cuisine

by Gary M.

May is Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, and to honor the rich history and accomplishments of AAPIs throughout the history of the United States, I would like to celebrate the month with ono (Hawaiian for good tasting) comfort food that resulted from a mix of Asia-Pacific cultures.  Hawaii is universally known for being a melting pot of cultures. With the native Hawaiian people first populating the islands around 300AD, groups of immigrants from various cultures throughout the Pacific Rim and Europe began to seek work in the islands around the 1800s.

Spam musubi
Spam musubi photo credit to Janine

Spam Musubi

Spam Musubi is the result of East meeting West. Born in Hawaii, where Spam is a basic food group, thanks to the U.S. military introducing the canned meat in the pre-World War II days, Spam Musubi is basically a variant of sushi made with fried Spam instead of sashimi (raw fish). There are variations of Spam Musubi. Some can be tightly rolled with strips of Spam inside, like a tekka maki, or tuna roll. Or it can be a brick of rice topped with a slice of lightly grilled Spam (soy or teriyaki sauce optional) with a strip of nori seaweed around it. Nothing like a Spam Musubi and beer during or after a round of golf!

Shave Ice
Shave ice photo credit to frontriver

Shave Ice

Shave ice or Hawaiian shave ice is an ice-based dessert made by shaving a block of ice and flavoring it with syrup and other sweet ingredients. On the Big Island of Hawai’i, it is also referred to as “ice shave.” On the Mainland it is known as a snow cone, made with crushed ice rather than shaved ice. One of my favorite stops after surfing the North Shore of Oahu was Matsumoto’s Shave Ice stand in Haleiwa town.  My favorite was strawberry syrup with ice cream on the bottom. Nothing like enjoying a shave ice after receiving a pounding from the waves on the North Shore.

Manapua photo credit to Kenji Ross

Manapua and Pork Hash

Manapua and pork hash are the Hawaiian versions of the Chinese Dim Sum, small portions of appetizers served in steamer baskets. Manapua is an evolution of the Chinese steamed char siu bao, a popular dim sum dish, a barbecue-pork-filled bun. Pork Hash is a dumpling filled with ground pork. Whenever we have guests, customers, and/or Industry partners visiting our ActioNet office in Hawaii, we treat them to Manapua and Pork Hash for a mid-morning snack or lunch. If you ever order Manapua and Pork Hash at a Chinese restaurant outside of Hawaii, they won’t know what you’re talking about … it’s a Hawaii thing.

Hawaiian Poke Bowl
Poke bowl photo credit to photoskate

Hawaiian Poke

Poke (pronounce each vowel short) is diced raw fish, usually Ahi (yellow fin tuna) or Aku (blue fin tuna) but you can use any type of marine fish like salmon or even octopus. There are many variations but the basic ingredients are diced fish, diced onions, limu (seaweed), and Hawaiian salt (sea salt). If you don’t have limu you can improvise and maybe use green onions, diced cucumbers, sea asparagus, avacado or none at all.  Enjoy your poke as an appetizer at pau hana time (after work) with your favorite beverage or you can make a meal with poke over rice, known as a poke bowl.

Hawaii regional cuisine is a style of cooking. The group of chefs, including moms and dads,  who developed it, and advocated for it, as a distinct Hawaiian fusion style. Our unique cuisine draws from local ingredients (including seafood, meats, and tropical foods), and is a fusion of ethnic culinary influences throughout Asia Pacific.