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Modern cuisine of Hawaii is a fusion of many cuisines brought by multi-ethnic immigrants to the islands, particularly of American, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Polynesian and Portuguese origins, and including food sources from plants and a nimals imported for Hawaiian agricultural use from all over the world. Many local restaurants serve the ubiquitous plate lunch featuring the Asian staple, two scoops of rice, a simplified version of American macaroni salad (consisting of macaroni noodles and mayonnaise), and a variety of different toppings ranging from the hamburger patty, a fried egg, and gravy of a Loco Moco, Japanese style Tonkatsu or the traditional lu'au favorite, Kalua Pig.

HAWAII REGIONAL CUISINE

In August 1991, a group of chefs in Hawaii came together to form an organization to create a new American regional cuisine, highlighting Hawaii's locally grown ingredients and diverse ethnic styles. In 1992, twelve chefs including Sam Choy, George Mavrothalassitis, Alan Wong, and Roy Yamaguchi, came together to sponsor a cookbook to be sold for charity. The goal of this new group of chefs was to link local agriculture with the restaurant industry, making Hawaii Regional Cuisine a reflection of the community. For this, they took an uninspired international hotel cuisine based on imported products and replaced it with a cuisine based on locally grown foods.


ISLAND FOOD 101

Island foods extend far beyond coconut and pineapples, Hawaii's native dishes robust with flavor and prepared with the freshest ingredients from both land and sea, should be on the checklist of foodies who are looking to try something new and authentic.

Since it is a group of islands, it's only natural that Hawaii's waters are bountiful with a variety of seafood, and sushi and sashimi lovers will be in heaven here. Hawaii's residents consume the most fish in the nation, a majority of it prepared raw as poke (pronounced poe-kay). The dish dates back to ancient Hawaii, when raw fish was seasoned with sea salt and crushed kukui nuts, and cut into bite-sized pieces or served whole. Poke is now a staple of the island table, usually prepared with fresh 'ahi (yellow fin tuna) and mixed with soy sauce, onions chili peppers, limu (seaweed) or wasabi (Japanese horseradish). Other gems from the sea such as octopus, aku (skipjack), mussels and even raw crab can be made into poke. Most restaurants and bars offer poke on their pupu (appetizer) menu, and it can be found in the seafood section of grocery store and served at some of the lu'au shows. It's great with a cold beer and its flavor and texture will wow even the most discriminate seafood connoisseur.

For many visitors who sample Hawaiian food, Kalua pig is the hands down favorite. Traditionally served at a lu'au, the pig is cooked in an imu (underground oven) all day long yielding juicy pork with a distinct, smoky flavor. Served shredded, it's a favorite of locals too, and the dish is offered as a main course at many "plate lunch" eateries. Its popularity has led to several area chefs to incorporate it into sandwiches, quesadillas and even tacos on their menus.

Real Hawaiian food can't be discussed without a mention of poi. While many have heard of it, they may or may not understand what it is made from: it comes from the taro root, a starch staple throughout the Pacific, and it is steamed, mashed and mixed with water into a smooth, thick paste. Hawaiians have been eating it for centuries, and it's been touted for being low in calories and nutritious. Poi is an acquired taste, and a sprinkling of sugar makes it palatable for novices. Dig in and discover what 'ono (delicious) means!

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