6 Treats to Try
- Dry-Roasted Macadamias - Drive to Kona Coast Macadamia Nut & Candy Factory at Highway 11 and Middle Keei Road in Captain Cook.
- Spam Musubi - Eat Spam served on rice wrapped in nori at Matsuyama Food Mart on Mamalahoa Highway in Kona.
- Poke - Taste raw fish seasoned with salt and seaweed or with soy sauce, garlic and ginger at the KTA Super Stores in Kona, Hilo and Waimea.
- Kalua Pork Quesadillas - Stop in at the Bamboo Restaurant in Hawaii.
- Japanese Rice Cakes - Also called mochi, sample these cakes at the Two Ladies' Kitchen in Hilo.
- Malasada - Try this sweet, deep-fried Portuguese doughnut at the Tex Drive-In in Honokaa.
At the Hilo Farmers Market peruse fresh fruit, such as cherimoyas and rambutans. While there, order a passion-fruit juice. The market is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Back to Basics
Yes, there are first-rate restaurants like Merriman's in Waimea, where a meal is a fine-dining experience, but you can also learn some of the back story of cutting-edge Hawaiian cuisine by signing on for a Hawaiian Agricultural Adventure with Hawaii Forest & Trail. First you'll visit Kahua Ranch and Honopua Farm, a working cattle ranch and organic farm in the Kohala Mountains near the island's northern edge. Then you'll follow your chosen ingredients a short distance from their source to Waimea and Merriman's dining room for a four-course dinner showcasing these homegrown items, from beef and lamb to honeysweet corn and organic greens. hawaii-forest.com
On the Big Island there are few limits to gustatory pleasure, from scallops topped with spicy guava sauce to the working man's loco moco (white rice topped with a fried egg and any manner of protein stuff ). While it's important not to neglect Hawaii's culinary triumvirate -- poi (paste made from taro), kalua pork and lomilomi salmon -- there is only one hard and fast rule: "Be adventurous," urges local food writer Joan Namkoong. "If you see something like saimin (an Asian-inspired noodle dish in broth) or Portuguese sausage, try it." Recommended dishes: plate lunch at the Hawaiian Style Cafe in Waimea, and saimin at Nori's Saimin & Snacks in Hilo.
Poi is a sacred and essential part of Hawaiian life, but this paste, made from the root of the kalo (taro) plant, has a practical side, too. "If your baby has allergies, it's a nutritious food that most babies can tolerate," says food expert Joan Namkoong.