Hawaii Regional Cuisine
by Steph Vaughn E
You might recognize the cooking style that put Hawaii Regional Cuisine on the map as a destination for something other than beautiful beaches by one of its many names- Pacific Rim, Euro-Pacific, Euro-Asian, Indo-Pacific or simply, Fusion Cuisine. By whatever name, the incorporation of the freshest island seafood and produce, the flavors of the island’s diverse ethnicities and the flair of Hawaii’s most talented chefs was what gave rise to a new class of fare whose popularity is growing beyond the confines of the region. Affectionately known throughout the islands as Hawaii Regional Cuisine, the epicure tells a story of Hawaii’s past and its multi-ethnic people.
Between 1876 and 1890 sugar planters imported about 55,000 Chinese and Japanese laborers to work the plantations. Soon after, they were followed by Okinawans, Norwegians, Germans, Koreans, Puerto Ricans, Portuguese, and Filipinos. This influx of immigrants not only brought their cooking styles overseas, but introduced various food products, ingredients and flavors to the islands from their homelands. The real fusion of multi-ethnic cuisines was initiated on the plantations where the diverse group of laborers lived and worked closely together, sharing communal cookhouses and dining areas. By 1920 this style of blending flavors specific to each culture had been identified as a distinct cuisine and has been evolving ever since.
Like Californian and other fusion cuisines, Hawaii Regional Cuisine is relatively new by comparison to more traditional styles. Established a little over a decade ago, twelve of Hawaii’s most accomplished chefs formed a coalition with the goal of supporting local agriculture by acting as a liaison between the culinary and agricultural industries while trying to promote the cuisine outside of the state. Although Hawaii Regional Cuisine, Inc. dissolved in 1998, it gained international recognition for the Aloha State and the twelve founding chefs and continues to help Hawaii Regional Cuisine grow in popularity. In addition, the success resulting from supporting local producers has not only made food and beverage in Hawaii more sustainable and a favorite of the community, but has also encouraged other businesses to facilitate in fueling the local economy.
Numerous restaurants in and out of state continue to crop up, embracing the fundamentals and the sophistication Hawaii Regional Cuisine encompasses. What was once only a vision to a daring dozen, now helps differentiate Waikiki from other sea, sand and sun destinations by giving the visitor a sense of place that is unique to the islands while masterfully blending the cultural diversity and rich history of the state.
Tipping can be as sweet as dessert. Don’t skip it!!
Check out what’s going on with the “Original 12” and get recipes and menus from their restaurants by following the links below: