Few places capture the imagination like the Hawaiian Islands. Lush green mountains rising out of the clear blue waters of the Pacific, palm trees swaying on the beach – just writing this is making me thirsty for a Mai Tai. The natural wonders of this state match its rich history. For centuries Polynesian culture flourished before contact came from both the East and the West and the cuisines of all mingled in one big melting pot. Those of us who are lucky enough to have traveled to the islands have experienced the richness this fusion has provided, along with a wide variety of native and introduced tropical foodstuffs. With the explosive growth of poke shacks across the nation, Hawaiian cuisine has gone mainstream on the mainland. Here are some island-inspired trends to watch out for:
Meat + Fruit
Beef with pineapple. Salmon with mango chutney. Peach ponzu prawns. Many Hawaiian dishes call on the islands’ abundant tropical fruits to pair with different cuts of meat, and this trend is popping up on menus all over the place. Not only does the fruit provide sweetness and acidity to cut the fat of richer meats, it also adds a splash of color to replace that boring parsley sprig garnish.
Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
In the 19th century, Portuguese immigrants introduced sweet breads that have developed into the famous Hawaiian sweet roll. The sweet bread is a perfect accompaniment to savory dishes and it is starting to reach ubiquity in the US – even popping up on the menus of fast food restaurants. I expect to see these when a chef desires a subtle sweetness in a sandwich where another ingredient might be too cloying. If you have time to make some at home, I suggest you do it – they’re great treats.
One area of the menu that is primed to explode with Hawaiian cuisine is breakfast. Tropical fruits, guava jelly, and fried SPAM (yes, SPAM!) are all staples that add island flair to morning menus. Also look for the comfort dish Loco Moco to become more widespread – a hamburger patty served over rice and topped with a fried egg and gravy. It’s breakfast and lunch! It’s rib sticking goodness that’ll get you ready to grab your surfboard and hit the waves or start planning that next vacation to the Pacific.