Deeply rooted in tradition and flavoured by a respect for locally sourced ingredients, Hawaiian cuisine combines rich comfort food with a cultural heritage that dates back a millennia, to when Polynesian settlers first set foot on Hawaii’s volcanic islands. They brought along crops from their homelands in canoes, including many of the local ingredients that visitors to the islands will still find in use today, such as taro and sweet potato.
Already highly skilled farmers and fishermen, the first Hawaiians lived in small communities along the island coastlines where they could take advantage of the rich growing soil and seafood available to them. This reliance on locally sourced ingredients helped set the stage for Hawaii’s culinary traditions today.
However, in the 1850s, the sugar plantation industry began to attract workers from countries outside the islands, such as the Philippines and Japan. Sharing recipes and stories, these workers created the framework for the mixture of flavours and ingredients that characterises modern-day Hawaiian food. The much-liked fusion of flavours that emerged from this cultural blending became known simply as ‘local food’, rather than ‘traditional’ Hawaiian food, the heritage of which has been kept alive by luau feasts and local eateries. We’d suggest visitors to the island sample as much of both as they can, to taste a thousand years of Pacific history.
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