Everything you need to know about today’s Hawaiian menu

The history of Hawaiian food is insanely complicated

hawaii is one of the remotest set of islands in the world

Hawaii is one of the most isolated sets of islands in the world, slap bang in the middle of the ocean between the Americas and East Asia. This has made it a perfect layover for sailors for centuries, not to mention a site of sugar plantations from 1876, attracting labourers from across the world, all of whom wanted to eat food from home and made sure it was brought over. The island is still full of shops selling food from these different cultures.

“Local Food” didn’t happen by accident

Modern Hawaiian cuisine is known as Local Food. Now, you usually expect “melting pot” cuisines to happen organically, the natural mixing of different food traditions. Not so much in Hawaii. In the 1930s a bunch of home economists from mainland USA showed up and “designed” a cuisine, which they called Local Food, with the aim of providing everyone with a balanced diet that contained something they liked, a mix of all the different available foods.

I don’t want to suggest Hawaiians themselves have had nothing to do with how their national cuisine developed. They all put their own personal touches on the food and will continue to change and adapt it as the years go by. Still, the idea of a deliberately “built” food tradition is a fascinating one.

Lomi lomi is a lot like ceviche

lomi lomi salmon is a Hawaiian type of ceviche

Lomi lomi salmon involves salted, raw salmon mixed with beautiful fresh ingredients like tomatoes and onions, and has a lot in common with Latin American ceviche, in which the fish is cured using citrus instead of salt. Both give a lovely cold kick of flavour. It’s a side served at most lū‘aus as a celebration food – and the flavour fireworks it brings about sure explains why.

Saimin soup has a lot in common with ramen

saimin soup is a kind of Hawaiian ramen

Pictures of saimin give it away to anyone who regularly haunts their local ramen bar. Egg noodles, broth, narutomaki (the thing with the pink swirls) slightly cooked Asian vegetables and sliced meat make up this fusion dish that also has influences from Chinese and Filipino noodle dishes.

Like the best ramen, it’s a perfect comfort dish for the cold winter nights, and days. Or summer nights and days. Or autumn or spring. We like saimin.

Huli huli chicken has raised millions for good causes

huli huli chicken was used for fundraising for years

The recipe for huli huli was invented in 1955 by a guy called Ernest Morgado as a twist on Teriyaki chicken. It was so popular it was used regularly at fundraisers for years, resulting in a ton of money being raised for schools and sports teams.

Huli means “turn”, so unsurprisingly it’s a grilled chicken dish with lots of spicy marinade and lots of flipping! Ingredients in the sweet sticky marinade include soy sauce, brown sugar, sherry, ginger and honey, and judging by today’s lunchtime effort, it tastes pretty darn good.

So that’s what we learned at today’s Hawaiian themed special lunch – if any Hawaiian food aficionados have any other tidbits to offer, drop us a tweet @JustHospitality.