As I pointed out earlier, Maui has got the beef. But of course, a lot of people make a beeline for all the other foods you can get on the islands, which include a great many things that you can get on the mainland like Italian, French, Mexican, and Chinese. Since I can get these readily in San Francisco, it begs the question as to why on earth I’d eat them while traveling. I mean, apparently, the offer is quite good, but again, why not try what the locals eat?
Thus we found the ultimate culinary path to the plate lunch and saimin. The plate lunch is ubiquitous around Maui and tends to consist of some form of meat with rice and macaroni salad of all things. It has its background in the fact that multiple cultures (like Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino) mixed in with the Hawaiian culture to create a lunch that they shared amongst each other when they were working on the plantation. It’s quite good and I find my favorite to be either the pig or the chicken. These elements are both prepared in a truly Hawaiian manner and give the dish a touch that make it worth seeking out, as you’re not going to find this on the mainland very easily. Even in San Francisco about the only thing I can find is Samoan plate lunch down in the south city, which is also great, but a good deal different. When on Maui, head over to Lahaina, to the north part of the town where you’ll find Aloha Mix Plate. It’s a nice setting along the water and offers a good selection.
Then there is saimin, which I can only really compare most closely to a Vietnamese pho. It is a noodle soup of saimin noodles (thus the name) with any variety of meat tossed in there. The test of a good saimin lies in the broth that they use and this place on Kress Street in Lihue, Kauai called, Hamura Saimin makes up the bestest. Apparently they serve up some 1,000 bowls of saimin a day and it’s not touristic at all, with locals comprising the majority of the clientèle and a greasy spoon atmosphere to the joint that gives it some street cred.
I suppose the real reason I bring these options up is because when visiting an area, it’s best to try the local cuisine. But, it’s also the case that eating out in Hawaii tends to run a bit more expensive than on the mainland and these local dishes prove to be some of the cheaper options available. Cheap, filling, tasty, and good always make for a winning combination with the foods that I eat.