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.
EATING HOUSE 1849
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.
THE REEF BAR & MARKET GRILL
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.
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.