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Bibimbap from Kona Korean BBQ

Celebrate National Rice Month with These Unique Big Island Rice Dishes

Ever since its introduction in the 1800s, rice has been a staple of the local diet in Hawaii. Rice can be steamed and eaten in grain form, or made into rice flour to produce rice wrappers, rice noodles and baked rice flour desserts. To honor this staple of Hawaiian cuisines during National Rice Month (September), here are some of the best Big Island rice dishes!

Enjoy these Big Island Rice Dishes...

75-5660 Kopiko St, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

808 Grindz is a small, casual local food joint in Kona. Their signature rice dish is adobo fried rice, which can be eaten on its own with a fried egg for a simple breakfast, or paired with one of their many loco moco meat options including homemade beef patty, SPAM, and corned beef hash. 808 Grindz is known for delicious local food at low prices. 

308 Kamehameha Ave #101, Hilo, HI 96720

Cafe Pesto is a long time Italian dining institution on the Hilo Bayfront. Their Seafood Medley Risotto is a creamy Northern Italian arborio rice dish served with grilled fresh local fish, jumbo shrimp, and Alaskan Red crab. Vegetarian and chicken risottos are also available, and just as delicious.  

Roving locations in Kona

Cooling Runnings food truck offers authentic Jamaican eats served with Jamaican yellow rice and peas. Fans of spicy food should definitely get jerk chicken, while those looking for a more rich and savory dish would enjoy the curried lamb plate. The Cool Runnings food truck can typically be found parked next to the 76 gas station next to the Kailua Kona library.  

Waikoloa Village Shopping Center, Waikoloa, HI 96738

Emma’s Kitchen in Waikoloa Village offers a variety of Filipino comfort food.  Arrozcaldo is a Filipino rice porridge dish from Luzon, consisting of chicken broth, rice, garlic scallions, and black pepper with calamansi lime and fish sauce as condiments. For a more hearty dish, have some pancit (stir fried rice noodles). Emma’s Kitchen offers sweet sticky rice on special, but it sells out quickly!

75-5742 Kuakini Hwy, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

The Owner/Chef duo of Just the Two of Us moved from Louisiana to Kona, bringing 20 years of Southern cooking experience to their restaurant. Their Gumbo is full of chicken, shrimp sausage, celery, bell peppers, onions, and rice in a traditional rich dark roux broth. As side dishes to their fried chicken and barbecued meats, they offer red beans and rice and Louisiana dirty rice. 

Kona 75-5770 Ali’i Dr #2-3, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740 Hilo 1235 Kilauea Ave #180, Hilo, HI 96720

Kamana Kitchen offers Northern Indian cuisine, with oceanfront dining at their Kona location (with an additional location in Hilo). Biryani is a traditional aromatic rice dish, containing fragrant herbs and spices and garnished with nuts. At Kamana Kitchen, you may choose between chicken, lamb, shrimp or vegetable biryani. For dessert, try some kheer, a rice pudding cooking with milk and nuts. 

74-5540 Kaiwi St, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

Kona Korean Barbecue offers traditional Korean food, Hawaiian style Korean barbecue and Western sandwiches at their small, casual eatery in Kona. Bibimbap is a traditional rice bowl garnished with various toppings including fresh vegetables, thinly sliced grilled meats, and egg. Fans of spice can order a kimchee fried rice bowl. 

75-5705 Kuakini Hwy, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

Krua Thai offers a generous Thai cuisine menu at their restaurant. Start off with fresh basil rolls, filled with Thai basil and julienned veggies in a rice paper wrapper served with peanut and hoisin sauces. Move on to a rice noodle dish such as Beef noodle soup (rice noodles and thinly sliced beef similar to Pho) or Pad Thai, and finish off with some sweet sticky rice.  

75-5626 Kuakini Hwy, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

Ocean Seafood is a traditional Chinese restaurant tucked away in the King Kamehameha Mall in Kona. Skip the buffet and go straight to ordering family style portions of Chinese comfort food like the House Special fried rice with char siu pork, chicken and beef or the Singapore fried rice noodles with a light curry flavor. 

Locations at Mauna Lani, Waikoloa Queen’s Shops, Kona

Sushi Shiono operates three locations on the Big Island. The basis of all sushi is rice cooked with rice vinegar. Sushi Shiono offers sushi rolls, nigiri, and hand rolls. At Izakaya Shiono in Kona, the variety of sushi add on toppings means many different flavor combinations. Their sushi boat for two is perfect for a date night out. Pair sushi with some sake or shōchū, liquors distilled from rice. For dessert, try the green tea ice cream and shiratama dango (rice flour chewy mochi) sundae. 

697 Manono St suite 103, Hilo, HI 96720

Tetsumen is a Japanese noodle soup, curry and rice bowl restaurant in Hilo. Donburi (rice bowls) are a staple of Japanese home cooking and convenience stores. Tetsumen offers many rice bowls, but the Stamina bowl is a star attraction with fried pork belly and onions, poached egg, garlic and green onions. Sometimes offered on special is Oyako donburi, a traditional Japanese rice bowl consisting of chicken and scrambled eggs with caramelized onions. 

274 Kilauea Ave, Hilo, HI 96720

It’s hard to come to the Big Island and not hear of Two Ladies Kitchen. The hole in the wall mochi shop nearly always has a long line out the door with eager mochi enthusiasts. Two Ladies Kitchen is famous for their fresh strawberry mochi, but their menu is very extensive and features an ever-changing seasonal menu of mochi flavors. The fall seasonal special mochi is filled with pumpkin pie.

Calling ahead to order is highly recommended, and Two Ladies Kitchen mochi can also be found repacked at KTA superstores. 

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