Do you like Southeast and East Asian food?
Do you like Polynesian food and Portuguese food?
Do you like fresh fruits, strong flavors, and well seasoned meats?
And last, do you like when these all come together?
If you answered yes to the above, then you need to eat in Hawaii, especially Oahu. Hawaii literally has the best food in the world.
What and where should you eat when you get there? Here are the foods and restaurants that you absolutely have to try when you’re in Oahu and want to eat the best food of your life.
Note: How do you know if you can trust my food list? I’ve been to Oahu a few times, and most of my friends and family live there. We’re all food obsessed, so they always take me to their favorite food spots. This list is technically my favorites among their favorites- so really, thank them!
Corned beef hash at Sweet-E’s Cafe
Growing up, corned beef hash was like a comfort food. When I tried Sweet-E Cafe’s corned beef hash, it was that comfort food but on steroids. Garlicky, flavorful steroids. Like how is it possible that one dish has so much tasty. If you’re craving something else, they also have other Hawaiian-influenced brunch things like breakfast burritos with Portuegese sausage and “standard” brunch things like amazing stuffed French toast.
By the way- the lines are usually long because the food is amazing, so I would recommend either going early or on a weekday if possible.
Shave ice from many places
Shave ice is a popular Hawaiian dessert. Think snow cones, but the ice is literally shaved- not crushed. It makes for a really flakey, really delicious dessert. Plus, Hawaii has a lot of Asian and tropical syrup flavors that you can add on top, like li heng, lychee, and passionfruit.
Açai bowls at anywhere
These are something you can get outside of Hawaii or make yourself pretty easily, so how different can they be in Hawaii vs the mainland??
Somehow they are even more freaking awesome here. Maybe it’s the fresh fruits and the cheaper price (compared to Seattle). I try not to repeat foods when traveling to maximize everything I can eat, but I always have multiple acai bowls whenever I’m in Hawaii because they’re so refreshing, yummy, and easy to grab. I have never had a bad one, but Kokonuts Shave Ice and Snacks is allegedly one of Obama’s favorites so it’s cool to try there, unless you’re a white supremacist (but then, what are you doing in Hawaii?).
Shrimp from food trucks
Again, it feels weird at first to add shrimp to this list. How different could good shrimp here be vs good shrimp anywhere else? Again, if you go to the right places in Hawaii, you will find the most perfect, soft, tender, and flavor explosion-y shrimp.
My absolute favorite place, Andy’s Kahuku Shrimp, had amazing garlic shrimp and tasty Korean food but has sadly closed down, so I would recommend the shrimp food trucks in North Shore (with Giovanni’s being the most popular) because there are so many tasty places to choose from!
Ube Pancakes at YogurStory
Ube pancakes at YogurStory are HANDS DOWN one of the best things I’ve ever eaten- not too sweet, but so much flavor. That is all.
Their pork belly eggs benedict are tasty as well.
Malasadas at Leonard’s Bakery
Malasadas are Portuguese donuts. Portuguese donuts aren’t like Krispy Kreme donuts, they’re more like fried dough rolled in sugar. Try malasadas and then try malasadas stuffed with island flavors inside at Leonard’s with their main store being in Honolulu. I always take a box home before I leave Hawaii. Many other bakeries that make them as well, but Leonard’s is the most famous.
Plate lunch at local joints
Plate lunches are almost like bento boxes of Hawaiian food. You get rice or poi (kind of like mashed taro) and mac salad (macaroni salad) with a couple of main dishes. Main dishes can include kahlua pork (think salty shredded pork with cabbage, and add tabasco as desired), lau lau (pork and fish wrapped in taro leaves), poke (raw fish with soy sauce and flavor), short ribs, lomi lomi salmon (chopped salmon with tomatoes and onions), etc. You can also add haupia (a coconut dessert) for dessert. I loved getting plate lunch from Yama’s Fish Market in Honolulu because they are amazing.
Japanese food from Japanese food places
Asian food in Hawaii is so good, likely because there are tons of Asian people who live here. My favorite that’s just way better in Hawaii than the rest of the US is Japanese food, specifically ramen. Yotteko-Ya’s noodles (firm style) and broth are legit, and Hokkaido Ramen Santouka overall just has a perfect ramen.
And that wraps up all of my must try foods in Hawaii. What are you most excited to try? What’s your favorite thing to eat in Hawaii? Let me know in the comments!
PS – Need to burn off some calories after all that eating? Check out some of the best hikes and beaches in Oahu!