When visiting Hawaii, you will encounter many foods names and terms that may seem quite foreign to you. This is due to the fact that Hawaii is such a melting pot of cultures from around the world with influences from the Chinese, Filipino, Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Puerto Rican, Samoan, Thai, Vietnamese and others.
Hopefully, when you visit Hawaii, you'll take the opportunity to try many of these foods that you might not find back home.
Hawaii offers many choices for sampling these foods ranging from the up-scale resort restaurants which feature Hawaiian Regional Cuisine to the lunch-trucks parked at many of the beaches and parks which serve "plate lunches" - a Hawaiian favorite.
Most of these foods can also be purchased at the local food stores and supermarkets in the islands, so that if you are renting a condo or home, you can purchase island foods and prepare them yourself. We have an extensive collection of Hawaiian recipes on this site to help you prepare many dishes using the local foods of Hawaii.
We begin our series on the foods of Hawaii with a look at the various types of seafood that you'll find in restaurants or in the grocery stores or fish markets in Hawaii.
Hawaiian Seafood Glossary
A big eye or yellowfin tuna. Ahi is often served raw as poke (chunked, marinated raw fish, Hawaiian-style), sashimi (sliced raw fish, Japanese-style) or sushi. It is also often served crusted and seared as a favorite entree in Hawaiian Regional Cuisine.
Skipjack or bonito tuna which is stronger tasting than `ahi often served as poke, sushi or cooked.
Akule [ah koo'leh]
A big-eyed or google-eyed scad fish which is most often served baked, fried, smoked or dried.
This Pacific blue marlin or broadbilled swordfish is often used when Ahi is not available. It is also known as kajiki in Japanese restaurants.
Enenue [eh'neh noo'weh]
A favorite fish of locals because of the strong seaweed aroma of its flesh. It is usually eaten raw.
Hapu`upu`u [hapu upu u]
Commonly called grouper or sea bass, this fish is is often substituted for more expensive fishes in Chinese restaurants which feature steamed fish. Its popularity as a "catch of the day" in non-ethnic restaurants is increasing.
Hebi [heh bee]
This is a mild flavored spearfish and is often served as a favorite entree in some of the better restaurants in Hawaii.
Mahimahi [mah'hee mah'hee]
A white, sweet, moderately dense fish is Hawaii's most popular fish and the one that is most often exported to the mainland.
Monchong [mon' chong]
A somewhat exotic fish with a flaky, tender texture and mild flavor. It is served broiled, sautéed or steamed.
`O`io [oh' ee yoh]
Ladyfish or bonefish is usually eaten either raw or mixed with seaweed as poke or used to make steamed fish cake.
Onaga [oh na' ga]
A mild, moist, and very tender ruby-red snapper is a favorite entree in many restaurants.
Ono [oh' noh]
"`Ono" means good or delicious in Hawaiian and this fish is a local favorite. It is also called wahoo. It is much like snapper, but a bit firmer and dryer. It is often served grilled or in a sandwich.
Opah [oh' pah]
A rich, creamy moonfish is served both as a raw appetizer as well as baked. Hawaiians consider opah to be a good luck fish, and often used to give it away as a gesture of goodwill, rather than sell it.
`Opakapaka [Oh' pah kah pah kah]
A pink or crimson snapper, this is a light, flaky fish that is a very popular entree. It can also be served raw in sashimi.
If you're looking for swordfish, this is what it is called in Hawaii. It is most often served grilled or broiled.
The Hawaiian name for albacore tuna, yet is much more flavorful when served freshly prepared in the islands.
Uku [oo' koo]
This is a gray, pale pink, snapper that is flaky, moist and very delicate when prepared properly.
Ulua [oo loo' wah]
A large crevally, or jack fish which is a firm-fleshed, flavorful fish also known as pompano.