So, you’re off to somewhere new and you’re looking for fun things to do. What are the most exciting 2 words you can find on Trip Advisor? FOOD TOUR of course!!!! What better way to learn about the locals than by stuffing your face with their favourite foods?
I rather excitedly signed up for the hole-in-the-wall tour with Hawaiian Food Tours. Apparently, a hole-in-the-wall is not an ATM, but is actually an unassuming restaurant that only the locals seem to know about. One of those places that looks like a dive but makes amazing food. Needless to say the prospect of this tour kept me going through the somewhat lonely hours of conference seminars.
First stop was the Royal Kitchen, which makes the best baked manapua in town. These are a delicious take on the steamed roast pork buns that you get as dimsum. I tried the traditional char siu version, but you could get Kalua pork or sweet potato or coconut.
Next up was the Liliha Bakery, famed for its Coco Puffs. These are so delicious that the bakery sells over 5000 every day – the queue is permanently out of the door. Coco Puffs are choux buns filled with a sort of chocolate custard and topped with Chantilly cream. Definitely worth the hype.
We stopped in Chinatown for a wander around and heaps of lovely food. Our lovely guides Greg and Sahara were rushed off their feet bringing us delicious morsels to try. We were shown around the Look Funn noodle factory, where you can watch them making rice noodles by hand. Here we were given shrimp and pork noodles, chow funn (noodle stir fry) and Korean BBQ chicken.
We then tried (left to right, top row to bottom) longan, which means dragons eye, a fruit similar to the lychee that tastes like melon; ma tai su (Chinese pot pies) and pork hash, which is the Hawaiian version of a meatball; Spam musubi, sort of like sushi, but with Spam instead of fish; ahi poke (yellow fin tuna), which is like a bigger version of ceviche; banana lumpia, a Filipino dish made from apple bananas wrapped in rice wrappers and dipped in caramel; coconut tarts; Kekaulike cocktail, a lychee and pineapple smoothie with li hing flavoured vodka; 5 layers of heaven roast pork and char siu from the Char Siu House.
It was all really good, although I really went to town on the poke and the two kinds of pork. What can I say, I’m a carnivore at heart!
Feeling pretty full we jumped back into the bus for our final stop at Leonard’s Bakery, home of the malasada. These were originally a kind of Portuguese doughnut, but have transformed into the stuff of Honolulu legend. Mine came filled with a home-made passion fruit custard. Yum!
So we ended the tour feeling comfortably full and a little more knowledgable. If you ever get a chance to visit Honolulu, DO A FOOD TOUR. They are brilliant fun and extremely tasty. Plus, you get some of the recipes to keep! I also had a pocketful of restaurant recommendations from Sahara so I wouldn’t have to eat at the over priced chain restaurants that litter the streets of Waikiki.
One of these was Alan Wong’s The Pineapple Room. AMAZING food!!!! He does a really good line in local dishes with a twist. I nearly went for his version of a traditional plate lunch (rice, hamburgers, brown gravy and eggs), but in the end I had the Sizzling Hapa Poke and Strawberry Tiramisu and was not disappointed.
I also took a trip into town to visit Hank’s Haute Dogs, which does an ever-varying selection of unusual hotdogs (wild boar, lobster, buffalo etc.) and incredible fries that are twice-cooked in duck fat. I had the Hawaiian Dog, which came with mango mustard and a pineapple relish. They also do a pretty amazing hibiscus lemonade.
It’s times like this that I am extremely grateful for my fast metabolism!