Hawaiʻi is a multicultural conglomeration of all sorts of races, ethnicities and nationalities. This is one reason why the people, culture and food in Hawaiʻi are special and unique. Kids in the continental United States (or as Hawaiʻi people say, the “mainland”) grow up on snacks such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies, ice cream, cheese crackers and chocolate pudding. Now donʻt get me wrong, kids in Hawaiʻi eat those things too, however there are certain snacks, that when just hearing the name of it, makes their mouths water.
Shave Ice (not shaved ice)
This cool, sweet treat claims its roots in Japan. Shave ice should never be mistaken for snow cones. Snow cones are made of hard ice chunks that can break your teeth but shave ice is made of fine, soft and carefully shaven ice. “Rainbow” is the most popular flavor among children. No, it is not a combination of every color and flavor on one mound of ice. It is made of of blue vanilla, red strawberry and yellow banana syrups carefully overlapped to create a beautiful flavor rainbow. There are also more unique but equally delectable syrup flavors like coconut, guava and melona along with fantastic toppings such as sweetened condensed milk, mochi balls, adzuki bean (red bean) and ice cream.
Also known as mochi crunch or arare, this crunchy rice cracker covered in soy sauce is hard to put down. Lovers of salty and crunchy snacks like pretzels or potato chips would surely be into this. Kakimochi mixed with popcorn is a common snack. Hurricane popcorn is a mix of kakimochi, popcorn and furikake (a dried seaweed topping) that any kid (or adult) would go nuts for. There is one caveat in consuming this though: the way it affects your breath (not in a good way). Just think of it like garlic, the foul smell is so worth it.
Originating in China, crack seed is an assortment of dried and preserved fruit such as plum, peach, ginger, cherry, mango, lemon, guava, strawberry and even olive. The talk or even thought of crack seed is notorious for making people salivate. A crack seed store is usually a hole in the wall type of place made up of large jars of any and every type of crack seed. It is paid for by the pound, or in pre-packaged bags. The flavors range from sweet, to salty to sour. After sampling, everyone figures out which is his or her favorite.
Li hing mui powder (on almost anything)
This sweet/salty/sour condiment is basically the powder form of li hing mui seed. People are willing to put it on almost anything, because it tastes so freaking good. Some favorites are fresh apples, oranges and pineapple, gummy bears, sour candy watermelon, sour pineapple, watermelon or strawberry belts, sour patch kids, dried mango, kakimochi and even popcorn. It’s especially good sprinkled on cool shave ice or mixed in with an ice cold ICEE.
Made with green mango (unripened mango), vinegar, salt, sugar, and li hing seed, just saying pickled mango will make Hawai’i people’s mouths water. It can be found packaged in stores or from the jar at crack seed shops but we all know the best kind is the one sold from someone’s car on the side of the road with the big sign that says, “ICE COLD PICKLE MANGO”.
Spam haters gonna hate, but Hawai’i kids are raised on this combination of rice, nori (seaweed) and spam. When the spam is fried in sweet shoyu sugar, teriyaki or Korean bbq sauce, da buggah is even more ʻono (Hawaiian word for “delicious”). Add scrambled egg and furikake to it, the thing is KILLAH. Picked up at the local gas station or made at home, kids pack this for anything and everything including the beach, field trips, pre and post sports game or home lunch.
Fresh fruit from the backyard
There is nothing quite like fresh mango, lychee, apple, banana and papaya. Though it may not be from your backyard, you are sure to have a friend or neighbor more than willing to give you some they have growing in theirs. That’s just the aloha spirit. For more about food culture, check out these articles: