Six Onolicious Hawaiian Comfort Foods You Can Find on the Big Island


If you live in Hawaii, you know that the 808 state has some of the most ‘ono (delicious) grindz that you can’t find just anywhere! As Big Islanders we really love to eat; food for us is life, family, and celebration. Gatherings are as much a way to show off our favorite dish and bond with friends and family through the love and appreciation of food. Check out these Hawaiian comfort foods that will leave your hearts and your ʻōpū (stomach) happy.

1. Loco Moco — A Hawaiian Comfort Food Created in Hilo


loco moco Hawaiian comfort foods
A Hawaiian loco moco plate lunch. Photo by Flickr user sstrieu, Creative Commons licensed.

Nothing satisfies the soul more than the hearty, the delicious, the Loco Moco.

Start with two healthy scoops of white rice, top with a hamburger patty; or any other meat or veggie of your choice. Next step: Smother in gravy. Last but not least: 2 eggs, any style, cooked perfectly just the way you like them. Pair that with a side of mac salad and you have yourself a deliciously savory Hawaii style comfort food all in one plate of perfection!

This dish was reportedly created at the Lincoln Grill Restaurant in Hilo, Hawaii in 1949 by owners Richard and Nancy Inouye to satisfy the growing hungers of local teenagers. According to the story, they asked Nancy to put some rice in a bowl, a hamburger patty over the rice, and then top it with brown gravy, the egg (usually cooked over easy) came later. The teenagers named the dish Loco Moco which in Spanish is usually translated to “crazy snot.” But don’t let that stop you, this dish is perfection! 


2. Poke Bowls — Spicy, Shoyu, or Hawaiian Style, These Bowls are one of the Best Hawaiian Comfort Foods on the Go


White Rice Furikake sprinkles 2 types of Ahi Tuna Poke and 2 sides lomi lomi and kimchee
Poke fish plate with white rice, lomi lomi salmon, and kimchi. Photo by Prolific Hawaii.

Freshly caught ahi seasoned with the freshest of ingredients, topped over a steamy bowl of freshly cooked white rice, sprinkled with furikake (sesame seeds, seaweed flakes, salt and sugar) — what more could you ask for? How about two sides! Lomi lomi salmon (fresh salmon mixed with tomato is prepared by mixing salted, shredded salmon with tomatoes, sweet maui onions, kukui nut oil and occasionally scallions, and is always served cold) and kimchi (a very tasty, fermented vegetable dish). Your only problem? Choosing which flavor combination you want! Which of this classic Hawaiian comfort food will you choose? The spicy mayo, shoyu, Hawaiian, or the special sauce? Poke can be found at most grocery store delis, a variety of poke restaurants, and there are always plenty of poke flavors to choose from at local fish markets like Suisan.

3. Kalua Pork — Into the Ground, then Into Your Stomach


Kalua Pork Plate with Rice and Lomi Lomi
A kalua pork plate. Photo by Flickr user Greg Tavares, Creative Commons licensed.

Slowly cooked, tender, delicious pork commonly cooked for a long time in an imu (underground oven) is really all there is to this dish (along with some Hawaiian salt and maybe a few spices). Slap a healthy big scoop of your kalua pork over some hot rice, add a side of lomi salmon, and prepare to take your tastebuds for a ride! Kalua pork is definitely a long standing favorite Hawaiian comfort food that is standard on any luau menu.

4. Musubi — A Delicious, Easy, Make, Grab and Go Hawaiian Comfort Food


Spam Musubi
Photo by Wikimedia user Dllu. Wikimedia Commons licensed.

Musibi is made of white rice perfectly shaped into rectangular cubes, topped with spam or other meats, sometimes bacon is added or you will find them with a nice piece of fish like ono, or sometimes yummy deep friend shrimp tempura! Then they are wrapped up in a piece of nori (seaweed). This is fast-food and will always have a high ranking place amongst Hawaiian comfort foods! You can grab one of these for a couple of bucks and have an affordable and tasty snack thats perfect for on the go.

5. Chicken Katsu — You Can Keep Your Fried Chicken


Plate with Chicken Katsu and green salad over rice
A Hawaiian chicken katsu plate. Photo by Flickr user Wilis Lam, Creative Commons licensed.

The south has fried chicken, but here in Hawaii we are proud of our version, chicken katsu. The chicken is breaded and either deep fried or baked crispy on the outside until it is juicy and tender on the inside. Next step: Dip in Katsu sauce (or Tonkatsu, this sauce is a mixture of Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and other seasonings) and pair with two scoops of hot, fluffy, rice and a generous portion of mac salad. We will forever cherish this dish!

6. Laulau — The Celebratory Hawaiian Comfort Food


Lau Lau, poi and other Hawaiian comfort foods
Lau Lau with various side dishes including poi. Photo by Wikimedia user Takaokun. Wikimedia Commons licensed.

Lau lau, is a Hawaiian comfort foods classic. The word “lau lau” suggests more of the way the meal is cooked, but to Hawaiians they know the goodness that is inside the perfect little package. Lau lau is assembled by taking a few taro leaves and placing pieces of pork, salted butterfish, beef or chicken into the leaf, then sealing and tying it up tight with ti leaf and additional thin strips of the ti leaves, then steaming it all to perfection. This takes several hours and the ti leaves are not eaten, but the tender, delicious meat and earthy taro leaves flavored by the meat creates the ultimate Hawaiian comfort food for special celebrations!

What are your favorite Hawaiian comfort foods? Share with us in the comments below!

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Mitch Roth 2024 Vote
Hilo Ocean Adventures Hilo, HI (808)934-8344

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