Hawaii is well known for many things: hula, surfing and anthurium flowers. But today I would like to talk about Hawaiian food. Hawaii is filled with people from many different cultures and its food reflects this huge multitude of influences. Hawaii’s cuisine is a blend of Hawaiian, Asian and European influences.
A Lau-Lau is a savory Hawaiian food that usually consists of pork, salted butterfish and taro root wrapped in an inner layer of taro leaves and then an outer layer of ti leaves, which serve to seal in the moisture to keep the meat soft and juicy. It is cooked in an imu (an underground oven) for several hours until the meat is so soft that it falls off the bone. When it is served, you open it up and eat everything but the ti leaves.
Spam musubi has a japanese and a modern Hawaiian influence. Musubis are distinctly Japanese. They are balls of salted rice that are sometimes wrapped in seaweed. Spam was introduced to Hawaii during World War II. Since meat was scarce, island residents started using spam in many dishes including spam musubi, which is essentially a musubi with a slice of spam. This taste for spam has not diminished and Hawaii has one of the highest per capita rates of spam consumption in the world.
Malasadas were brought here by Portuguese sugar plantation workers. They are much like donuts except they do not have holes in the center. The traditional reason for making them was to use up all of the lard and sugar in the house before Lent. The immigrants would often share these delicious treats with their neighbors and this is how malasadas became popular in Hawaii.
Finally, poi was brought here by the early Polynesians, who settled the islands. Poi is made by mashing cooked taro root with water. A thick paste-like mixture is formed and it is the center piece of a traditional Hawaiian meal. Most people remember their first encounter with poi and many say that it has a texture that resembles paste. But those who stick with it often acquire a taste for it.