Top 6 must-try foods of Kauai

28 January 2014

There are so many incredible dishes to try in Kauai. We took the many recommendations of our islander friends and went out of our way to indulge in a few of their favorites.

Top 6 must-try foods of Kauai by The Brave Little Cheesehead at
1. Saimin from Haumura's
Saimin is a flavorful noodle soup concocted in Hawaii. Originally, saimin descends from a combination of Japanese, Chinese and Filipino dishes--and it certainly will not let you down, especially a piping hot bowl from Hamura's. Similar to ramen, saimin is a soup of wheat egg noodles, a slightly salty fish-flavored broth, and sliced Spam topped off with some chopped green onions. Hamura's is the highest-rated saimin restaurant on the island, and for good reason! This cafeteria-style kitchen serves up a variety of saimin flavors, but its original is raved about most. For under 10 bucks, you can treat yourself to an XL bowl of original saimin (okay, maybe stick to a medium. The XL was big enough to swim in).

2. Kimo's Original Hula Pie at Duke's
Sink your teeth into a giant slice of Kimo's Original Hula Pie at Duke's along the waterfront. At just the mention of it, my mouth is watering. I seriously miss it. It's a massive layered pie starting with a chocolate cookie crust, about a pint of macadamia nut ice cream (no joke, it's at least a pint), a smooth layer of hardened chocolate fudge, and a dollop of whipped cream. The BF doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, but my attempt to get him to hand over the fork on Kimo's Original Hula Pie was entirely unsuccessful. He was hooked! And it seems he's not the only one. Duke's has a website dedicated solely to his dessert and I quote, "this is what the sailors swam ashore for in Lahaina." I don't doubt it for a second.
Top 6 must-try foods of Kauai by The Brave Little Cheesehead at
3. Kalua pig
Just about any luau you can find serves kalua pig. It's a tradition! Kalua refers to the cooking method, which takes place underground. To start, a fire is built in a deep sand pit and rocks are placed inside to retain heat from the fire. In goes the pig, which is laid atop banana leaves covering the scolding rocks. T
he pit is then topped off with wet burlap and more sand to keep the heat from escaping. The pig cooks for six hours in the imu (the underground oven) until it's removed and shredded in time for the evening luau. Surprisingly, I am a big fan of this dish. I don't typically like pork. I absolutely love bacon and I don't mind an occasional pork chop, but I tend to stay clear of ham, ribs and pork in general. This, though, was packed with flavor. I loved it!

4. Haupia pie
From the name, I expected a slice of coconut cream pie with a flaky crust and a layer of whipped cream hugging the crust. Your fork eases into the fluffy coconut center, breaking the crust beneath it.

Nope. Not even close.

This pie is no pie at all. It's a pudding with a gelatin structure. It was served at the luau and cut in tiny little white squares-- no crust, no whipped cream, no coconut cream. It was coconut-flavored, but it certainly wasn't what I expected! I've heard Ted's Bakery makes a top-notch chocolate haupia cream pie, which may or may not better fit my original expectations. Let me know what you think about this one.
Loco moco at Tip Top Cafe in Lihue on
5. Loco moco at Tip Top Cafe in Lihue
Another dish to write home about is the one that surprised me most. Loco moco is a breakfast I raved about for months after our Hawaiian getaway. It's not something that even caught my eye on the menu, to be honest. But the waitress recommended it, and I trusted her judgement.

White rice, a hamburger patty, and a fried egg stacked the plate that arrived at our table. The waitress did the honor and smothered the trio with beef gravy. I was seriously concerned I was in over my head this time.When did this combination of textures and flavors ever seemed appetizing to anyone? To my surprise, it was absolutely delicious--the perfect blend of flavors for a hearty morning meal! The BF was shocked I liked it; so shocked he had to try it for himself. By the time he was done with this taste test, there was barely any left. We had drank the loco moco Kool-Aid and there was no looking back.
Jo-Jo's Shave Ice in Waimea by The Brave Little Cheesehead at bravelittlecheesehead.com6. Jo-Jo's Shave Ice in Waimea
Alright, here's a recommendation that we continuously heard before heading to Hawaii. "You've GOT to go to Jo-Jo's Shave Ice. It's the best on the island. Really, go!"

After a day of driving up Waimea Canyon, we were ready to indulge in this icy treat chalked up to be the best in the business. It took some navigating to reach Jo-Jo's Shave Ice since it moved to a new location that wasn't noted online. Locals pointed us in the right direction (head toward Lihue on the main highway and turn left at the Bank of Hawaii, it'll be directly in front of you).

Stuffed at the bottom of this large Styrofoam cup is a heaping scoop of macadamia nut ice cream (again, delicious)! Then comes the mound of shaved ice, flavored with two homemade syrups. This was the hardest part--there were so many options! In a few minutes of standing outside in the sun, the ice and ice cream began to melt, making it a sweet, creamy shake-like dessert.

Go to Jo-Jo's? I mean, okay okay! Don't twist my arm... ;)

We got our fill of favorite dishes before leaving for Washington. But thankfully the Northwest is home to a number of authentic Hawaiian restaurants that recreate many of our favorite dishes from Kauai. We never have to go too long without our fix of loco moco.

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