Beyond the Comfort Zone: Foods to Try in Waikiki

Hawaii is undoubtedly a melting pot of different cultures, and this is most obvious when exploring local cuisine. Chinatown and Waikiki have many options for foods that might seem bizarre to Mainland visitors, but are staples in other cultures. Here are a few tamer options for foods you might not find back home, but aren’t too far afield, either.


Combination Seafood Platter
Bali Steak and Seafood


Many visitors come to Oahu with one unique Island food in mind: poke. This traditional Hawaiian cuisine is cubed raw fish in a variety of sauces. It can be intimidating to try something new and totally raw. So try poke in the combination seafood platter at Bali, where guests can try poke alongside more familiar seafood, such as king crab legs, lobster, shrimp, Japanese-style sashimi and fresh oysters from the Pacific Northwest.


Goofy Café and Dine


This Korean dish literally translates to “mixed rice.” At Goofy, a bed of brown rice is topped with fresh local vegetables, pork and a fried egg. The chili sauce is served on the side so that patrons can determine how spicy they want the dish. It also comes with a warm seaweed soup to perfectly accent the potentially spicy meal.


Washu Beef Tataki Roll


Tepid sushi eaters usually object to consuming raw fish. They may go for a cooked tempura roll in lieu of sashimi. Kaiwa has another option for meat lovers. The Washu Beef tataki roll uses ultra-rare seared beef on and in the roll. The marbled beef is flavorfully paired with sushi rice, cucumber, garlic and green onion.


Bangkok Red Curry
Noi Thai Cuisine


Eating at Noi is as much about the experience as it is about the food. The chefs are all from Thailand, and use unique techniques in cooking and presentation. Elaborately carved vegetables made to look like flowers or birds often garnish plates. Their red curry is a chef favorite, served with a choice of meat that comes in a separate dish, still steaming on smoked kiawe wood.


Kahuku Shrimp
Kai Market


Most restaurants on the Mainland serve shrimp shelled with the tail off. Some restaurants are now trending toward leaving the tail on for presentation, but that’s usually about as adventurous as it gets with serving shrimp. In Hawaii, Kahuku shrimp is often served fully intact, with the head, legs and tail. Generally these shrimp are cooked in butter and the outer shell and tail are crispy, providing contrast to the soft meat inside. You can also remove the head and tail if eating the shell has no appeal.