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Hawaii Foods You Need To Try

Beyond the beaches and off the beaten paths of the Hawaiian islands, a new generation of Hawaiʻi-based gastronomers, hand-crafters, innovators and farm-to-table devotees are rising.

By: Rebecca Arechiga
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Focused on not just creating Hawaiʻi-grown and -sourced products, but adamant about producing the most high-quality, environmentally conscientious, trailblazing, and distinctive commodities possible. The passion within these groundbreaking creators is evident and the world is taking notice. Hawaiʻi is now prominent for more than tropical weather and vistas, but also for its innovative culinary distinction. These are the Hawaiʻi-made food products you need to try now.

Chocolate might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the Hawaiian islands, but perhaps it should be. Lydgate Farms is run by a fifth-generation Kauaʻi family and is a leader in the bean-to-bar movement in Hawaiʻi. With their 46 acres in Wailua, they employ sustainable crop cultivation and hand-craft their small-batch chocolate. The International Cocoa Awards recently awarded Lydgate Farms a silver medal for the Asia-Pacific region for their outstanding chocolate, further propelling Hawaiian chocolate into the spotlight.

In fact, Hawaiʻi’s cacao, cocoa, and chocolate have consistently been winning awards worldwide since 2015. The region boasts fruity notes and is a strong proponent of the bean-to-bar model. It can be assumed that Hawaiʻi’s chocolate industry will only get more impressive with time.

While chocolate might not yet be synonymous with Hawaiʻi, the classic cocktail—the mai tai—certainly is. Slow Island is a black-woman-owned, Kauaʻi-based food products company that puts high-quality and locally-sourced ingredients at the forefront of everything they make. Slow Island’s Kauaʻi Mai Tai Beverage Mixer was chosen as a 2022 Good Food Award Winner. The Good Food Foundation gives honors to foods both made with responsible practices and boasting superior taste. Slow Island’s Kauaʻi Mai Tai Beverage Mixer fits the bill with Hawaiʻi-grown pineapple, guava, passionfruit, roselle hibiscus, and citrus. 

ʻUlu, or breadfruit, is one of the highest-yielding fruit trees on the planet. It is also one of the original “canoe crops” brought to Hawaiʻi thousands of years ago. Nutrient-dense and easy to grow, scientists have suggested that ʻulu could help combat hunger on a global scale. In Hawaiʻi, ʻulu is so prominent and the trees are so fruitful, that some have gotten creative with their ʻulu use. Oʻahu-based food company ʻUlu Mana has vowed to expand the utilization of ʻulu around the world and sources all of their fruit from small Hawaiʻi farms. ʻUlu Mana’s various flavors of breadfruit chips exemplify the great potential of ‘ulu, one crunch at a time. ʻUlu Mana’s Cool Lime flavor also won them a 2022 Good Food Award

Cozy Bowl Noodles are also no stranger to ʻulu experimentation. Their Rainbow Ānuenue is ʻulu creste di gallo, infused with a rainbow of Kauai-grown vegetables for added flavor and vibrant color. It’s a plant-based, grain-free pasta made from ‘ulu sourced entirely from Kauaʻi. Hand-crafted and visually beautiful, Cozy Bowl Noodles’ pasta is the centerpiece of any meal.  

In Hawaiʻi, invasive species are a wide-ranging problem. 100,000 Axis deer roam Maui, Lanaʻi, and Molokaʻi, threatening the finite resources and fragile ecosystem of the islands. Maui Nui Venison presents one piece of the solution: utilizing Axis deer as a high-quality food source. Maui Nui humanely harvests the wild deer in a field operation, holding themselves accountable to the landowners and communities that are impacted by the species and the harvesting of it. Maui Nui in turn contributes to greater food security within the islands. Their venison jerky is the first truly wild venison available for sale and USDA stamped and most notably, are stress-free sourced, a difference you can taste. 

These farmers, curators, chefs, hand-crafters, and hunters are changing the way the world looks at Hawaiʻi’s food scene. Together, they are creating a movement of more environmentally conscientious, higher-quality, and innovative food products across the islands, and it's just the beginning. 
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