Don’t get us wrong… we’re all for farm-to-table dishes, locally-grown produce and craft creations, but sometimes you just have to stop and savor the street food right in front of you.
While we love supporting the talented chefs in our local Maui craft community, there are plenty of other opportunities to taste delectable, authentic grinds from the hard-working vendors creating some of Hawaii’s best street eats. This month, we hope you enjoy our list of some of the Aloha State’s top street foods, and where you can find them on Maui.
Hawaii’s Best Street Eats: Ono Grinds in the 50th State
Huli Huli Chicken
Meaning ‘turn turn’ in the Hawaiian language, Hawaii foodies have created, crafted and perfected the streetside meal locally known as huli huli chicken. Originally invented in the mid 1950s by a farmer on Oahu named Ernest Morgado, who marinated chicken in a sweet soy teriyaki sauce over a Kiawe wood fire, making sure to turn it just in time to keep the edges crispy but not burnt, you can still find plenty of this classic Hawaiian barbecue dish around the islands today. Although Ernest trademarked the ‘huli huli’ name in order to bottle and sell his own brand of sauce, it’s safe to say the name stuck around anyway.
If you’ve been to Hawaii and haven’t made a mid-drive pitstop for shave ice, it’s time to remedy your previous mistake. As opposed to ‘snow cones’ on the mainland, Hawaiian shave ice goes lightyears beyond the standard expectations with impeccably thin flakes of ice – none of that crunchy, thick stuff – and all natural, fresh squeezed fruit extracts, toppings, ingredients and add-ons that reach all the way to the bottom layer, making it truly no ka oi (“the best”).
Originally brought to Hawaii by Japanese immigrants and plantation workers in the late 1800s, it’s safe to say shave ice has become a local favorite that’s perfect after a day at the beach. Try unique local flavors and ingredients like pickled mango, li hing mui, passion orange, haupia ice cream, shredded toasted coconut, azuki beans and mochi for a real Hawaiian flavor experience.
Where to Eat it on Maui: Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice (Kihei, Lahaina, Wailuku, Paia & Kahului); Beach Street Maui Shave Ice (Kihei); Peace Love Shave Ice (Kihei); Breakwall Shave Ice (Lahaina) & Lorraine Shave Ice (Kahakuloa)
Garlic & Spicy Shrimp
A relative newcomer to the offerings of Hawaii street eats, shrimp food trucks first made their debut on the north shore of Oahu in the early 1990s, attracting a multitude of hungry surfers, local residents and tourists alike. What’s not to like when food is doused in butter, garlic and spices, right?!
Often served with two scoops white rice, mac salad or cabbage, most shrimp trucks opt to serve the shell-on style, best accompanied by a can of your favorite Maui Brewing Co. beer, a slice of lemon and an extra napkin. While not as oversaturated as the Oahu shrimp food truck offerings, Maui still has plenty of solid shrimp flavors to choose from, like Hawaiian Scampi, Hot & Spicy, Spicy Pineapple, Lemon Pepper, Coconut and tons more.
A traditional part of Japanese food culture, bento boxes are single-serving portions of food – most often consisting of some type of meat, vegetables and rice – introduced to Hawaii by Japanese-American plantation workers. Today, Hawaii has infused their own flavors and ingredients to reflect local preferences, and it’s a common choice for lunch on-the-go.
Popular bento box items include Chicken Katsu, Yakitori Chicken, Korean Chicken, Misoyaki Butterfish, Shrimp Tempura, Teriyaki Beef, Spam Musubi, Kalua Pork, Lau Lau, Kalbi Beef Short Ribs, Pork Adobo or Steamed Salmon, as well as white rice, gyoza, noodles, kim chee, potatoes and more.
Photos courtesy of TJ’s Warehouse.
Malasadas & Cream Puffs
In the late 1870s, thousands of Portuguese plantation workers flocked to Hawaii – among a multitude of people from Japan, China and the Phillipines – bringing along a traditional dessert item with them: the malasada. Ever since, these small balls of dough covered in sugary sweetness have been a hit in Hawaii, and a staple of almost any bakery on Maui. For an upgraded version, try one filled with custard or fruit.
For those who like their dessert with a little more flair, cream puffs are the surefire way to your heart. Debuting in the Hawaiian Islands around the same time as the malasada, places like Maui’s own T. Komoda Bakery, located Upcountry, has been specializing in cream puffs for more than 100 years.
Photos courtesy of Sugar Beach Bake Shop.
Due to its obvious remote location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it’s no shock that Hawaiians mastered the art of fishing long ago. One of the largest staples of the native Hawaiian diet, raw fish was once eaten with limu, a type of seaweed, and kukui nuts. By the 1970s, poke – pronounced poh-kay – had transformed from a preferred meal to a local staple, even appearing in grocery stores, roadside food stands and at almost any local gathering.
Today, poke bowls can be found in the majority of states, and has become one of the hottest food trends since grilled cheese. In Hawaii, traditional poke bowls consist of cubed raw ahi fish with shoyu sauce, though varieties using other seafood, as well as tofu or fried fish, can be found almost everywhere. Sprinkle on some seaweed, Maui-grown onions, sesame oil, avocado, spicy sauce and throw it atop a scoop of white rice for the best results.
Photo courtesy of Tin Roof.
Mahalo for reading our list of Hawaii’s best street eats! We hope you get the chance to try some (or all) of these on your next Valley Isle adventure, and until then, happy eating. Be sure to reserve your Maui Craft Tours online to save 10%!