This list about Hawaii wasn’t quite as easy to assemble as I thought would be. I wish I had some luaus, spas and luxury hotels to list because I have heard fantastic reviews of such places from those who have visited the island. However, I’ve never had the pleasure of being a tourist in Hawaii, I’ve only ever had the experience of living there.
I lived on Oahu, to be exact, home to Waikiki: playground to tourist with money to burn. Unfortunately, I couldn’t actually afford to live in Waikiki, in fact it took my working two jobs to barely afford my living in Hawaii at all.
But this is not a list of woes, this is a list of things that are to me very “hu’ihu’i” (cool).
I’m starting with this scrumptious soft steamed bun filled with barbeque pulled pork. It’s kind of like a Chinese dumpling, Hawaiian–style, which means bigger! I miss these the most because, unlike when I lived on Oahu, I am now gluten intolerant and one of these yummy babies today would send me straight to the doctor’s office.
If anybody knows of a gluten-free version, sign me up for taste testing.
2. Spam Musubi
What can I say, except for, it tastes waaaay better than it sounds!
Personally, I like most kinds of sushi, but if you are weary of raw fish, think of this as the sushi you’ll never have to worry about. Hawaiians are crazy about their spam and apparently Hawaii’s Asians residents can’t get enough of it either, hence this Asian inspired creation. You can pretty much find Spam Musubi anywhere snacks are sold. The ingredients are pretty simple; sticky rice, nori (dried seaweed wraps), soy sauce and fried spam. If you’d like to try your hand at making this on your own there is a decent recipe at Serious Eats.
3. Shave Ice
This is not a typo, shave ice –not shaved ice– is so much better than a plan old snow cone that it’s not even in the same catagory. The frozen ice is not crushed, but literally shaved by a machine with a thin spinning blade. Although, I have seen more than one hard working Hawaiian, wield one mean shave blade by hand. The delicious flavored syrups (rainbow is my fav) completely melt into the ice because it is so fine. It’s like a finely crushed popsicle or the perfect cross between a Slurpee and Italian ice… not too frozen, not too loose. The best part is you can get it on top of a scoop of ice cream for a dreamsicle of epic proportions! Ah, a ” ‘ono ‘ono” (very delicious) brain freeze!
I should point out that you can also, get this concoction toped with sweetened boiled azuki beans. To me, beans on ice cream or even ice cream made out of beans tastes okay, but tastes, shall we say… er…beanie? Too beanie to be dessert anyway. Sorry azuki beans, I know some people really love you, but I can’t put ya on the list.
4. Kona Coffee
So, it is true, all coffee is NOT created equally. Kona is that smooth yet robust blend grown locally in Hawaii and can be found just about anywhere on the island. My favorite place to sip Kona? The movie theater. That’s right. I am always the girl who has to bundle up in the movie theater to prevent freezing her butt off. Thanks to Hawaii’s commitment to making its local stars available practically everywhere on the island, I’ve got “a`ole pilikia” (no problem) in that department!
I have heard that lately the Kona served at most movies theaters in Hawaii is supplied by the Italian company, LavAzza… go figure.
5. Crazy Popcorn
I don’t know why, but on Oahu, people are “papule” (crazy) about popcorn, not just any popcorn, but popcorn mixed with all kinds of seasonings, snacks foods and candies. There’s popcorn with Goobers candies, popcorn with Reese’s Pieces, popcorn and macadamia nuts, popcorn with seaweed rice crackers, coconut pineapple popcorn, you name it! You can even pick up a bucket of this crazy popcorn at the movie theater, a perfect accompaniment to your hot Kona coffee.
6. The Swap Meet
Aloha Stadium, home to the University of Hawaii’s Rainbows, college football’s Aloha bowl, and NFL’s Pro Bowl, is also home to a world famous Swap Meet. Every Wednesday and weekend day, thousands of tourists, transplants, expats and locals rush to the stadium’s parking lot to spend the day searching for bargins and unique finds. I know that I am a bit biased, because one of my aforementioned jobs was serving concessions at the Aloha Stadium. The Swap Meet is the perfect place to get a glimpse of how Hawaiian, Asian and American cultures meet and create the perfect blend in Oahu, all while getting your serious SHOP on like a “Kamaaina” (a local)!
7. Flip-Flops as shoes
I will never forget the first time that I heard a Hawaiian co-worker refer to “slippas” or flip-flops as (real) shoes. One look at folks perusing mall, the movies, the swap meet and you’ll see that the concept of flip-flops as shoes in Hawaii, well…works. The weather is so warm your feet actually prefer to be uncovered and buying only flip-flops definitely cuts down on your clothing costs. When I arrived on the island from Baltimore, I didn’t even own a pair of flip-flops, when I left, I had a pair in every color. Plus, when it’s time to buy foot-covering shoes on the island, there’s always such an abundant supply that a lot of really great deals can be had. Win-Win!
I know that the nearly perfect weather should probably be on my list. Hawaii is hot, of course and there’s always a tropical wind blowing off the “kai” (ocean) which is, well, all around you. As much as I loved living in the sunshine, I mostly loved the rainy season. Everyday for about eight-weeks, the days would grow gradually hotter and hotter until it seemed that the sky would burst. And when it did, there would be a world ending downpour—for all of twenty minutes. Then it would stop suddenly and fifteen minutes later the ground would be completely dry as if it had never rained at all. But the real prize was that somewhere on this lovely little island you could bet your money there was an “anuenue” (rainbow) in the sky. You simply had to jump in your car and chase it. Luckily, it was hard to get lost because you can make your way around the entire island in about two hours.
Which is awesome for me because I am the queen of the directionally challenged.
“A hui hou kakou” (until we meet again)!