June 15, 2018

Hawaii’s long history has made it a unique melting pot of language, culture and cuisine. Students considering and actively pursing an online culinary arts degree can look to dishes from the Aloha State for inspiration, whether it means adding a classic Hawaiian dish to a menu or letting the unique fusion of so many different foods and backgrounds guide your own creative efforts.

Let’s look at some of Hawaii’s most popular foods and understand how students at culinary arts schools can incorporate them into their own repertoires.

A close up shot of a plate holding a loco moco and salad.The loco moco is an excellent example of the long tradition of culinary fusion in Hawaii’s history.

The humble yet mighty Spam musubi

There are few hot foods that are both wildly popular and most commonly served at gas stations and convenience stores. The Spam musubi is one of those rare items, a dish that is equally at home at a 7-11 and a modern restaurant. The recipe is simple: A slice of Spam, often cooked on a griddle, attached to a block of rice with a nori seaweed wrapper, very similar to the Japanese onigiri rice ball. The rice or spam may be flavored with soy sauce or teriyaki, respectively, and there are a number of further variations involving eggs, seasoning, pickled daikon radish and other additions.

The Spam musubi is both fusion cuisine and comfort food. From construction workers grabbing a quick snack to catering service at formal affairs such as weddings, this dish is popular and widely enjoyed in a variety of contexts. The ease of making and serving this dish means it’s a simple appetizer to serve in a professional kitchen or at home. The taste can be altered, by adding seasonings and ingredients or substituting proteins, to match the palates of your diners.

Poke: already a mainland hit

Poke, a mixture of raw fish with a variety of other ingredients that can include seaweed, soy sauce, seasoning mixtures, rice, chili pepper, green onion and many other additions, is widely accepted in the mainland U.S. A number of individual restaurants and small chains have popped up in recent years to serve this dish, which has sharply risen in popularity. The mix of lean protein with a number of generally healthy ingredients and a wide range of exciting flavors has certainly found its niche.

As chef Rodelio Aglibot, a Hawaiian native who now leads Chicago poke restaurant FireFin, said to Bon Appetit, poke is a casual dish with nearly endless varieties, and making new versions should be encouraged. After you familiarize yourself with basic flavors of this dish, consider how you can put your own spin on it.

The impressive indulgence of loco moco

You likely won’t want to eat loco moco every day – but for many Hawaiians, when they craving hits, they have to have it. This combination of hamburger patties, rice, gravy and a fried egg, often over easy, is familiar and filling yet unique, a dish that doesn’t have many direct comparisons in other cuisines. A classic comfort food, loco moco is another example of how fusion dishes have long been invented in kitchens – and not only upscale restaurants, but small family diners and lunch spots – throughout Hawaii.

The mixture of strong flavors relies on careful preparation and attention to detail to create the best possible final product. Use this recipe from the Food Network to help familiarize yourself with the dish, then consider if you want to stick with the classic version or prepare your own twist on the loco moco to better please local tastes. Such a step is certainly in line with Hawaii’s strong culinary history.

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