Pineapples Don’t Make it Hawaiian!
A common joke among local people is the fact that many different foods are titled “Hawaiian” because it contains pineapple in some shape or form. In reality, pineapples are originally from South America and were introduced to Hawai’i in the early 1900’s.
Traditional Hawaiian food commonly consists of kalua pig cooked in an imu (underground oven), as well as taro, sweet potato, and bananas. Then, there is the abundance of fresh fish caught from the shorelines, as well as the bigger deep sea fish.
Seasonings were very simple, usually consisting of freshly harvested sea salt, and occasionally, seaweed was mixed into the salts. Another favorite seasoning was inamona, which is made from roasted mashed kukui nuts.
Laulaus consist of a protein, usually pork, wrapped in the leaves of the taro plant, then wrapped in a ti leaf and steamed for several hours or placed in the imu alongside the pig, and let’s not forget the kalo (taro) poi.
Although these are the common items found on a traditional Hawaiian menu, there are other delicacies that we cannot forget: opihi (limpets), raw fish, a variety of limu (seaweed), as well as desserts like haupia (coconut pudding) and kulolo, which is a sweet, sticky mixture of kalo, coconut milk, and sugar steamed for a long period of time.
Local cuisine, or simply known as “grindz,” is a fusion of many foods brought by the immigrants to Hawai’i – Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Portuguese, Puerto Rican, Spanish, and American cuisine to name a few – thrown together harmoniously to create an amazing mixed plate of some of the best grindz on the planet.
Seriously, think about it! Where else in this world can you go to a restaurant to get a plate lunch with American potato-macaroni salad, pork tonkatsu from Japan, Korean kimchee cabbage, and a side order of Portuguese bean soup? What about one of the newest deliciously sought after creations called poke nachos, which is wonton chips from japan or tortilla chips from Mexico topped with your favorite fresh poke, drizzled with a blending of Thai sweet chili sauce and mayonnaise, then a sprinkle of furikake (sushi rice sprinkles). Are you hungry yet?
SPAM! It is the dreaded canned meat product to some people. Just the word alone is enough to send some running for the nearest fast food chain. Yet, it has been adopted by those living in the Aloha state and today can be found in many different family recipes. SPAM wontons, musubi’s, sandwiches, stir fried with cabbage or string beans, added to fried rice, or even made into SPAM fries. The American military personnel who introduced it to the islands probably never thought it would become one of the beloved food items of these remote islands in the Pacific Ocean. Hawai’i is the second largest consumers of spam, first being Guam.
So how do locals like to eat their pineapple? I can’t speak for everyone but I like mine fresh sliced with the core still intact, chilled, and then sprinkled with a little salt and fresh ground black pepper! Don’t knock it till you try it!
Just remember, the next time you think of getting some “Hawaiian” food, skip the pineapple and get some real local grindz.
This article is part of a new weekly BigIslandNow.com series by KAPA Hawaiian FM personality Darde Gamayo.