Fresh Local Greens and Fruits are Hallmark of Hawaii Cuisine
It all began in 1991 when twelve master chefs in the Islands got together and formed an association to create a world-class cuisine. Since that time Hawaii Regional Cuisine has grown into a movement and has won major international culinary awards.
The main elements of Hawaii Regional Cuisine include fresh local fish, vegetables, and fruits while utilizing the culinary techniques of both Western and Eastern traditions. The multicultural cuisine derives from Hawaii’s rich history of immigration when waves of workers arrived from Asia, Europe and South America to work on plantations.
Hawaii is blessed with a wide selection of highly regarded fish and seafoods including the very popular ahi (yellowfin tuna) as well as opakapaka (snapper), opah (moonfish), shutome (swordfish), prawns and scallops. These are prepared with a creative variety of sauces that give Hawaii Regional Cuisine its unique flavors.
Hawaii Regional Cuisine is a blend of various ethnic traditions brought to Hawaii by immigrants who arrived to work on the sugarcane plantations—wasabi and sashimi from Japan, marungary and jicama from the Philippines, sausage and malasadas from Portugal, soybeans and tofu from China, and the list goes on.
From end of the 19th century into the 20th century the community cookhouse of the plantation villages blended the traditions of these ethnic groups as well as others including Spanish, Korean, Samoan and of course Hawaiian.
Today the finely developed Hawaii Regional Cuisine incorporates these influences with the freshest of island ingredients to create flavorful and aromatic dishes. Ginger, soy and garlic are often used in innovative ways along with the fresh Island products.
Exotic island fruits are used in such tasty desserts as lilikoi chiffon pie while island produce is employed in creative dishes such as seared ahi served with shoots of pipinola (native Hawaiian squash root).
A diversity of fresh Island ingredients includes Waipio Valley fern shoots, Maui basil and asparagus, Waimea mint, coffee and lobsters from Kona and goat cheese from Puna. Master chefs may pick fiddlehead fern shoots from the mountains or smoke Hawaiian lamb with guava wood.
Coconut milk may be used in a pudding while coconut milk curry sauce adds an island flavor. Macadamia nuts, palm hearts and breadfruit are used in new and innovative dishes and Hawaiian vintage chocolates are to die for!
The twelve chefs who originally conceptualized Hawaii Regional Cuisine and brought it to fruition include Alan Wong, Sam Choy, Roy Yamaguchi, George Mavrothalassitis, Philippe Padovani, Mark Ellman, Jean-Marie Josselin, Roger Dikon, Amy Ferguson Ota, Beverly Gannon, Gary Strehl and Peter Merriman.
Popular with locals as well as visitors, Hawaii Regional Cuisine is now found at fine restaurants throughout the Hawaiian Islands. On Kauai you can visit restaurants of the cuisine’s founding chefs at Roy Yamaguchi’s Tavern in Princeville or Roy’s in Poipu, Merriman’s Fish House in Kukuiula Village Shopping Center in Poipu, and Josselin’s Tapas Bar & Grill, also in Kukuiula Village.
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