The art of having big potlucks and hosting the entire family over for special events and holidays is the most traditional way of embracing the aloha spirit. Food is a big part of those gatherings on the islands, even down to the tiniest of dishes. “Pupus”, or bite-sized appetizers, draw inspiration from a diverse range of ethnic dishes seen in daily life, and locals pile them high around the holidays. In true kama’aina fashion, everyone brings their favorite pupus to share with their loved ones, gather around the table to “talk story” and share memories while making new ones.
With New Year's Eve approaching, we've compiled a list of our favorite Hawaii-style hors d'oeuvres to get the paina (party) started.
The holy grail of to-go pupu dishes, poke is a crowd favorite any time of the year, but especially on big holiday events. Known most popularly as the perfect quick lunch from a local Foodland or Safeway, nothing brings people together like poke on NYE. The best way to eat like a local is to try Tamura’s fresh and ready poke to go. Made with fresh and ono sashimi grade ahi picked up every morning.It’s a delicious local delicacy of raw seafood, rice, furikake, and toppings. Try local favorites like spicy, ahi, tuna, or shoyu. Best served with Hawaiian Sun, 2 scoops of rice, and your favorite cousin sitting beside you!
For those who don’t like seafood but still enjoy some delicious sushi rice inside a sleeve of tofu, cone sushi is the best quick pick up for right before any big holiday. You can find this at Miyako Sushi in Wailuku or any Mini Stop on the island.
It’s not a Maui festivity unless you are stopping at Minit Stop or 7-Eleven for a delicious shoyu flavored spam musubi. I mean, only in Hawai’i can you get quality food at a gas station for everyone, am I right?
Welcome to Hawai’i, where we have the “Hawaiian Burger” aka Manapua. Mouthwatering gigantic barbecue pork buns made fresh daily from local bakeries like Home Maid Bakery, Four Sisters, or Manapua Creations. The perfect grab and go when you want to light up a sparkler but want to grab a snack on the way!
As well as Moana and Maui go together, Mac salad goes with any local Hawaiian meal just as well. This side dish has a reserved spot at any luau, plate lunch, or local potluck. Delicious and creamy, you’ll never have a local dish that you won’t want mac salad with. Our favorite place to pick up a party size of mac salad is Tin Roof. In addition to the elbow macaroni, this version also has steamed and diced ‘ulu (breadfruit), eggs, celery, carrots, garlic salt, and pepper.
For those of us who can't cook, the Hawaii version of this famous snack, which is said to have Chinese roots, is a terrific low-maintenance choice. It entails soaking raw peanuts and cooking them with star anise in a boiling saucepan of salty water (use Hawaiian sea salt). They're perfect for snacking well into midnight with your family while waiting for the clock to strike midnight!
With a dish of ono soybeans, you can't go wrong. Whether you serve them with a sweet and sour dipping sauce or some plain shoyu, this is perfect for the family member who always puts off cooking till an hour before the paina (party)!
Dry Mein from Sam Sato’s
If you’re into picking up a local favorite instead of cooking, nothing makes the ohana cheer like ono dry mein from Sam Sato’s in Wailuku. Everyone knows no year is complete without at least 43729 bowls of Sam Sato’s famous dry mein. A combination of al dente noodles, bits of char siu pork, bean sprouts and cut green onions, nothing screams kanack attack quite like this.
Poi is a delicious traditional Hawaiian meal that is as simple as it is nutritious. Whether you like your Poi a watery texture or a thicker paste, the flavor remains rich and smooth. The most popular way to eat this at a New Year’s Eve party is with some kalua pork or lomi salmon on the side!
Lomi Lomi Salmon
Salmon lomi lomi is a classic Hawaiian side dish that is quite popular at a lot of Hawaiian parties and luaus. It's created by combining salted salmon, tomatoes, onions, and green onions in a bowl. All of the ingredients are cut into little bits, and the meal may be eaten with a spoon. Consider it a light salmon and tomato salad or a Hawaiian pico de gallo.
Hawaiian Smoked Meat
Smoked meat prepared in the Hawaiian way is a must-try. Bite-sized slices of marinated pork, smoked to perfection and pan-fried with sliced onions and guava jam, create a delicious appetizer, plate lunch, or main dish. In Hawai'i, smoked meat is a popular meal, and everyone and their tutu (grandma) has their own recipe for it. From sweet to salty, spicy to mild, and everything in between, there's something for everyone. In Hawai'i, this is the pupu that keeps everyone coming back to the table!