Hawaiian-American Fusion Food

The evolution of the Hawaiian plate lunch is unique. Many ethnic groups came to the Islands and added their culinary tastes to create these local dishes you see on the menu of a Hawaiian food restaurant. Polynesian, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Filipino, Korean, Puerto Rican, and mainlanders all contributed to the Hawaiian dishes we love today. Hawaiian-American fusion food illustrates the creativity of merging cultures, Fusion Food that signifies a trait that has come to define American culture.

The Shave Ice - Halo Halo Connection
To call Shave Ice a Hawaiian snow cone is an insult. A mainland snow cone with its crude crushed ice doesn't even compare to the smooth finely shaved ice of a real Hawaiian shave ice. The ice is rock hard from many hours of being frozen and after being finely shaved make it easy to hold its shape by hand. When adding the syrup flavor of choice and topped with condensed milk the flavor becomes heavenly creamy to taste unlike the snow cone that will only give you an ice headache. I add azuki beans and ice cream as an added treat.

Japanese contract workers not only migrated to Hawaii for work they also migrated to the Philippines to help build bridges and roads. To make extra money on the side the Japanese women would make a treat called kakigori made of shaved ice, milk and Azuki Sweet beans. The Filipino kids loved it. They would buy one and mix-n-mix it all up and eat it!

Being in the Philippines with an abundance of tropical fruit it didn't take long before they added other ingredients like, sweet mango beans, young coconut, jackfruit, ube yam, sweet corn and more, that’s how Halo-Halo was created. Halo Halo means mix-n-mix. The sweet mongo beans are similar if not the same as Azuki sweet beans. That's why I add Azuki beans to my Shave Ice. It's a Halo Halo thing.
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Spam Musubi
They actually trace Spam Musubi to internment camps where people of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast mainland were imprisoned in internment camps for the duration of World War II. With the pink canned meat prevalent, they crafted an oversized sort-of sushi using seasoned slices of fried Spam over white rice and wrapping it with slices of dried Nori seaweed.

From the Chinese words “sai” meaning “thin” and “mein” meaning “noodle" which dates back to the early days of Hawaii’s plantation era, when immigrant laborers cooked noodles with whatever they had available. Wonton dumplings, thin slices of Spam, "Kamaboko" Japanese fish cake were popular to use in Saimin.

The deep-fried, sugar-dusted dough treat was brought to Hawaii in 1878 by Portuguese plantation laborers from the Madeira and Azores islands. Originally didn't have sweet fillings, it was added later to the pastry in Hawaii.

Manapua is the Hawaii name for char su bao. In the 19th century Chinese migrant workers brought bao to Hawaii. A steamed or baked bun filled with sweet char siu pork, like the traditional Chinese bao. The Hawaiian phrase "mauna puaa", translates to “mountain of pork.” or from the phrase "mea ono puaa" which translates to “pork pastry.”

Loco Moco
Created in Hilo Hawaii in 1949 at the Lincoln Grill restaurant owned by Richard and Nancy Inouye at the request of teenagers from the Lincoln Wreckers Sports club across the street. They wanted an alternative to sandwiches. Something quick to prepare and inexpensive. Nancy was asked by the teenagers to put some rice in a bowl, a hamburger patty on top and pour brown gravy over it. Eventually an egg was added later. The teens named the dish Loco Moco after a teammate, George Okimoto, they added "moco" just because it rhymed, loco-moco. In Spanish loco-moco doesn't sound so appetizing it means "crazy snot."

The cultural fusion of Hawaiian food is evident of diversity that represents our culture and symbolizes the principles that this nation was built on, a nation of immigrants coming together and contributing to our American way of life.