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Cultural Cuisine Handouts

Traditional Hawaiian foods combine the plants and animals that Polynesian voyagers brought with them to these shores with those that are indigenous, including the bounty of the ocean that surrounds us. Staples of old Hawai'i include taro, sweet potato, bananas, breadfruit, seaweed, fish, pig, dog, and jungle fowl (ancestor to the domesticated chicken). The methods used to cook traditional Hawaiian food are very healthy. Bananas, breadfruit, and sweet potatoes are placed on hot ashes and broiled in their skins (pulehu). During broiling of meat or fish (ko'ala), the flesh is wrapped in leaves of ti or banana to retain its juices. Fish and leafy greens of sweet potato or taro are sealed in a calabash with water and hot rocks to steam (hakui, puholo). An underground oven (imu) is used to cook leaf-wrapped meats and tubers (kalua). In the imu, wood coals and red-hot rocks are covered in successive layers with banana plant trunks, ti leaves, the food to be cooked, and kapa or coconut cloth.

Korean cuisines are generally low in fat and rich in nutrients. Foods are seasoned with red chilli pepper, garlic, green onions, sesame seeds, ginger, kang jang (flavored soy sauce) and kochu jang (fiery hot soybean paste). Korean foods are usually boiled, blanched, broiled, charcoal-grilled, stir-fried, steamed, or pan-fried. Meals are often served family-style, where food is placed in the middle of the table and each diner takes from the dishes. A typical family meal starts with panchan (several vegetable side dishes, lightly cooked or seasoned), followed by a soup of vegetables with meat or fish, then moves onto pan-broiled fish or meat, rice, and kim chee (spicy, salty, fermented pickled vegetables). Almost all vegetables can be pickled, but the most common are won bok (chinese cabbage), turnip, and cucumber.

Filipino cuisine is reflective of its Spanish, Chinese, and Malay influences. Shaped by more than three centuries of Spanish rule, the Tagalog cooking of Manila includes dishes such as leche flan and paella and features tomatoes, garlic, onions, garbanzo beans, and mixed meats. In the North, Chinese traders helped define Ilocano foods, which include lumpia, noodles, vegetables, and sweets made from glutinous rice flour. Malaysian traders contributed to the South's Visayan cooking, with its heavy use of coconut and coconut milk. While absorbing these influences, Filipino cooking has retained its own distinct flavors, especially tartness from vinegar, green mango, kalamansi, or tamarind, and saltiness from bagoong (fish paste) and patis (Filipino fish sauce). As with many other cuisines in Hawai'i, no Filipino meal is complete without steamed white rice.

Thai cuisine is a combination of flavors that reflects the neighboring countries of China and India and echoes culinary influences from the Portugese, Dutch, French, and Japanese. Thailand shares a peninsula with Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam; therefore, it is influenced by these regions as well. Thai food is recognized for its hot and spicy flavor characteristics; however, the food varies from region to region. For instance, in the North, food is milk, salty, and sour. In the South, food is generally very hot, salty, and sour. Stewing, stir-frying, and grilling ar typical ways of preparing food throughout Thailand. Harmony is the guiding principle behind each dish served. Thai cuisine does not have courses because food is served all at once. This results in harmonious combinations of different tastes for diners. For example, spicy dishes can be balanced by more bland dishes or ones containing coconut milk. A typical Thai meal will include soups, curries, fried vegetables and steamed or fried dish, a salad, and desert. Thai foods showcase the flavors of lemongrass, ginger, lime juice, sugar, coriander, mint, chili peppers, garlic, shallots, peanuts, yellow curry, and coconut milk.

Vietnamese cuisine reflects many cultures due to its location close to China, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, as well as to foreign occupations from China, France, Japan, and the United States. The Southern reigon has a strong French influence, including seafood and sandwiches. The Northern reigon of Vietnam features meats and stir-fried dishes influenced by China. A typical meal includes three courses: a soup, a salad or a sautéed dish, and a salty main course that includes meat or seafood, served with rice and hot tea. Vietnamese dishes are usually served with rice, which is the staple. Rice is also milled to make noodles and other food items. Fresh, uncooked vegetables, herbs, and spices are key ingredients used for their texture and flavor in many dishes. Nuoc mam, a pungent fish sauce, is used often to balance the flavors of a meal. Vietnamese cooking features lightly prepared foods, using grilling, steaming, stewing, sautéing, and stir-frying techniques to accompany the flavors of spices and seasonings, which include lime juice, basil, cilantro, mint, shallots, garlic, ginger, curry, star anise, and five spice. Dishes are meant to be served famiy-style. Sharing food is essential to the culture of Vietnamese cooking.

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