Hot Food


Set your mouth ablaze and order something with a spicy kick during your next Waikiki restaurant outing. From subtle to strong, nothing is out of the realm of possibilities when it comes to creating a tempestuously tasty inferno on your tongue.






The lovely seaside setting and ocean breezes at this dining establishment will help cool you down after sampling something spicy like the Seared Hamachi. Served with succulent fresh Pacific yellowtail seared in truffle kabayaki sauce, the pupu (appetizer) is garnished with sizzling shichimi or Japanese spice and garnished with sweet onions, Fresno chilis and cilantro. You’ll want to make sure your water glass is full to help smolder the heat of this fiery dinner item.




Tucked along Waikiki Beach Walk on Lewers Street, this trendy restaurant, open for lunch and dinner, specializes in authentic Japanese cuisine mixed with contemporary Hawai‘i flavors, some that pack a powerfully spicy punch. The Spicy Double Tuna Roll, made with cucumbers and fresh tuna, is topped with several scorchers, such as habanero tobikko (flying fish roe), green onion, jalapeno and shichimi pepper. Additionally, this delicacy, exploding with peppery properties, is gracefully accompanied by a spicy miso and eel sauce.




Known for expertly crafted Sicilian meals, this quaint European style restaurant has a pasta dish with the kind of spice you need in your life. The Bolognese Siciliana is a spaghetti dish made with homemade beef ragu sauce that tastes like it was lovingly made in a countryside kitchen by your grandmother. Blended with spinach and garlic, the meal is lightly and flawlessly spiced with red chili pepper. The seasoning is integrated in such a way that it won’t overwhelm your senses: rather than numb your taste buds, it accentuates the sauce’s flavors. If you find that you desire more heat, you can always ask your server to add the chef’s house-made chili oil to the mix.




This restaurant is known for offering hearty pieces of juicy, mouthwatering steak, and its Cajun Ribeye is no exception. Tender and buttery, the hefty slab of meat is coated with a combo of jazzy spices, including cayenne pepper, that elevate the dish to the next level of any meat lover’s paradise. Make sure you bring your appetite, not only for the main course, but for this international restaurant’s sensational sides, such as Lobster Mac and Cheese, which are just as worthy of sampling and will help simmer down the heat.




Located within the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, this elegant Japanese restaurant doesn’t hold back when it comes to presenting dishes with unique spices and flavorings. The Grilled Hawaiian ‘Ahi and Sansei’s Award-Winning Shrimp Cakes is a perfect example of how an unusual spicy ginger chili lime butter sauce is ingeniously crafted with ginger, shallots, lime juice, butter, white wine and sweet Thai chili. Layered atop this superb dressing, that includes a dash of cilantro pesto, are slices of a 6-ounce serving of grilled ‘ahi, as well as an Asian rock shrimp cake mixed with a hint of peppy Dijon mustard, sautéed local vegetables and a generous side of grilled furikake rice onigiri. Savor each item separately, or combine them for a burst of unreal flavors for which your taste buds will thank you.




Look no further than this intimate Italian restaurant in the heart of Waikiki to satisfy your cravings for lively flavors with an emphasis on Napoli style. Its dishes incorporate ingredients straight from Italy, including cheeses, meats and pastas, and many infuse locally caught seafood, as well as produce grown in Hawai‘i. But if you’re looking for something with some extra zest, try the Penne all’Arrabbiata con Gameretti that is accompanied by a distinctively peppy house-made tomato sauce created with garlic and chili pepper flakes. What sets this primo dish apart from others is that you get an extra zap of salty seafood flavor in the form of several snappy shrimp.

Hawai’i’s Edible Canoe Plants


POLYNESIAN VOYAGERS CROSSED UNCHARTED ocean in double-hulled canoes to discover one of the most remote landmasses on Earth more than 1,000 years ago. These savvy sailors brought supplies with them that would allow them to inhabit territory they predicted would be unoccupied by humans.

More than two dozen “canoe plants” joined the ancient mariners in the form of roots, seeds and cuttings. The plants would allow the settlers to survive, serving as various resources, such as medicine, bedding and mats, and, of course, food. While they aren’t endemic to Hawai‘i, these species are considered indigenous, or native, because they were – and still are – revered by the Islands’ original inhabitants.

“They knew how important it was to be able to bring their plants with them,” says Michael DeMotta, curator for Living Collections at the National Tropical Botanical Garden.

Sabra Kauka and Michael DeMotta near lo‘i (taro patches) at the National Tropical Botanical garden on Kaua'i.
Sabra Kauka and Michael DeMotta near lo‘i (taro patches) at the National Tropical Botanical garden on Kaua’i.


By the time the Polynesians arrived in Hawai‘i, they had learned new ways to help the plants thrive, including the unique method of propagating kalo (taro) in wetland fields.

“We survived for many, many centuries with only these plants,” says cultural practitioner kumu (teacher) Sabra Kauka. “These plants and the kai, the ocean.”

Each plant carries its own cultural significance. Kalo, for example, represents the “staff of life.” The creation story of Hawaiians centers around two gods, whose firstborn did not survive. At the spot where their baby was buried, a kalo plant subsequently grew. Their second child, named Haloa in honor of their firstborn of the same name, was a healthy boy from whom the Hawaiian people are believed to be descended. Haloa went on to nurture the kalo that sprouted from his older brother – a reminder that the earth will provide if it is properly nourished.

Uncle Bo's serves "Hobo's"’ warm beignets made with   taro and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Uncle Bo’s serves “Hobo’s”’ warm beignets made with taro and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.




Because of the care that Hawaiians put into their food, the plants tended to them in return. Kalo, ‘uala (sweet potato) and ‘ulu (breadfruit) were their staple foods, usually steamed in an imu (underground oven) and paired with fish.

The edible canoe plants provided nourishment for Hawaii’s people for centuries, and many of the species still thrive today. Contemporary chefs in Waikiki are aware of the rich, authentic flavors they add to meals, and have found ways to harmoniously incorporate them into their dishes.

Sugar cane was originally brought to the Islands by Polynesian voyagers.
Sugar cane was originally brought to the Islands by Polynesian voyagers.


Moreover, Waikiki, during the 1920s, was once the prominent site of the state’s wetland lo‘i (taro patches). Other canoe plants were grown here as well, including niu (coconuts) and mai‘a (bananas).

“Honolulu was like the breadbasket of the island of O‘ahu,” says DeMotta who adds that O‘ahu’s south shore was where many of Hawai‘i’s ali‘i (royalty) resided. “You didn’t ever have to leave Waikiki.”

Sweet potatoes (left) and coconut trees were among the ‘canoe plants’ that ancient settlers brought with them to Hawai‘i in order to survive.
Sweet potatoes (left) and coconut trees were among the ‘canoe plants’ that ancient settlers brought with them to Hawai‘i in order to survive.

Consider sampling a dish with one of Hawai‘i’s famed canoe plants while you’re in Waikiki, and reflect in the significance of these mighty flora and their continued importance to native people. “If people embrace eating Hawaiian food, then that’s better for us; it’s better for Hawaiians and the culture,” says DeMotta.

Breadfruit is one of the most highly esteemed of the canoe plants, particularly on Kaua‘i, where it is said to have been brought by the Tahitian voyager, Mo‘ikeha, who later became ali‘i nui (high chief) of the island. The starch can be eaten in a number of ways and is a complex fibrous carbohydrate. When green, it can be baked or boiled and tastes like a potato. When ripe, it becomes sweeter and can be used in desserts.

Bananas in Hawai‘i today are nothing like those that were originally brought to the Islands. The fruit was used more like a starch and baked or boiled while still green. A little coconut milk was poured onto them after removing the bananas from an imu, creating a filling, nutrient-packed meal. Additionally, banana stumps were used to ignite heat in an imu. They were laid in the ground with water before a pig or fish was settled in, and the heat from the ground would cause the stumps to steam and cook the meat.

This plant is best known for being the main component of poi, the pounded and baked or steamed root of the plant. You’ll find this dish at several markets and places like lu‘au (Hawaiian feasts). Poi was a popular edible for natives because of its ability to keep its nutritional value for extended periods of time. The leaves of the taro plant, which are also edible, are heart-shaped, and its thick bulbous root, or corm, has a characteristic purple tint.

This plant prevailed in Hawai‘i long before sugar cane became a commodity synonymous with the Islands’ plantation era. Hawaiians used its sweetness for many purposes, including masking the bitter taste of plant medicine. Juices from its thick stalk were also used to sweeten desserts.

Cultural Cuisine


EDIBLE PLANTS made their way to the Hawaiian Islands courtesy of adventurous Polynesian voyagers.  These “canoe plants” provided the nourishment natives needed in order to survive on previously uninhabited land. Today, they are celebrated by contemporary Waikiki chefs who use them in their dishes.




Specializing in cultural cuisine that melds all of Hawai‘i’s ethnicities together, this rustic chic restaurant also incorporates native flavors into its menu items. The House Cured Pipikaula is served with poi, which is the pounded and baked or steamed root of kalo, or taro. Poi is one of Hawai‘i’s most celebrated edibles. In this case, it hails from Hanalei on Kaua‘i and is paired perfectly with the pipikaula—akin to beef jerky and marinated in shoyu with garlic, onions, pineapple juice, curing salt and liquid smoke to give it an extra zip. Served with a side of pickled ong choy, or water spinach, that’ll make your lips pleasantly pucker, this dish personifies local cuisine.




Aptly named, this restaurant serves breakfast items that taste like they were made in the Promised Land. No matter when you reach the restaurant’s Pearly Gates, breakfast items are available, such as Big Island Honey French Toast or a Sunny smoothie. The latter is made with the anti-inflammatory canoe plant, ‘olena (turmeric), and packed with a host of other good-for-you ingredients like organic carrots, ginger, oranges and mai‘a (bananas). For a more indulgent meal, try the French toast, created with locally made sweet bread and topped with vanilla beans and whipped cream, as well as chopped mai‘a. Papayas and pineapples—neither of which are actually canoe plants, add even more flare to this tropical treat.



Ulu Malasada ingeniously incorporates three of Hawai‘i’s well known ‘canoe plants.’

Market Grill Your mouth will rejoice with the delicious dessert ‘Ulu Malasada. Expertly crafted Portuguese-style donuts (malasadas), just the right size for popping in your mouth, are fried with Hawaiian’s beloved ‘ulu (breadfruit) rather than traditional dough. A hearty handful of these impeccably crisp on the outside and soft on the inside confections are served with two canoe plant dipping sauces: one a banana custard that creates a flawlessly sweet combo, and the other, one of the most popular desserts in Hawai‘i, called haupia, made with niu, or coconut. Blend all three of these confections together for a sensationally saccharine palate party.


M.A.C. 24/7


Raw fish salad, or poke, is a prized meal in Hawai‘i. When it’s served with house-made kalo chips, it’s all the more exquisite. Open 24 hours every day, this dining establishment at the Hilton Waikiki Beach Resort gives patrons an opportunity to try chips made with Hawai‘i’s most famous canoe plant, while, at the same time, sample a celebrated local dish. The ‘Ahi Poke Stack is crafted with fresh, melt in your- mouth ‘ahi, or tuna, and blended with ogo (seaweed), green onion, avocado, tomato, onion, cilantro and sesame oil. The chips easily scoop up this divine blend of flavors and add a crispy element to the luscious flavor-filled poke.