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Besides being a surfer’s paradise, Oahu also offers many unexpected tasty treats. There’s definitely a local food culture. If you’re a foodie traveler (or just like a good bar of chocolate . . .and really, who doesnt???), check out these spots. Here’s our food lover’s guide to Oahu with some of our favorites.
Click here for Food Tours of Oahu.
Garlic Shrimp Food Trucks of Oahu
The north coast of Oahu is festooned with trucks serving a local favorite: garlic shrimp. Visitors driving along the Kamehameha Highway to watch a surfing competition on the pounding waves of the North Shore will be hard-pressed not to stop once the heady aroma of sauteed garlic fills their car.
The shrimp are sauteed in a lemon/olive oil/butter/garlic sauce with chunks of caramelized garlic and are quite simply, outstanding. Success breeds competition and there now several other shrimp trucks in the area, several of which we also tried, but we enjoyed Giovanni’s Original White Shrimp Truck the most. If you’re not in the mood for shrimp try their hot dogs, which may be the best we’ve ever tasted. Or read our full review of Giovanni’s hot dogs.
Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. where cacao beans thrive. Nat Bletter is a co-founder and “Chocolate Flavormeister” of Madre Chocolate, Oahu’s first bean-to-bar chocolate maker. He says, “We’re trying to turn the windward coast of Oahu into the Napa Valley of chocolate.”
In the historic Chinatown section of Honolulu, Madre offers classes and chocolate tastings that would be right at home in any popular winery. The comparison is apt; the first thing a visitor notices upon stepping into the shop is the musty, vinegary aroma of cacao beans permeating the air, similar to that encountered in wine caves.
Nat teaches how to extract raw chocolate’s unique qualities. We sipped raw cacao pulp, which was milky and tangy, evocative of crushed lychees. During the one-hour class visitors savor beans from various regions and follow their evolution from a fruit to the beloved superfood that it’s become today.
Take a Chocolate making class in Oahu.
Butter mochi is baked custard with a twist that is a popular dessert in Hawaii. Checking out the ingredients–Mochiko sweet rice flour, sugar, coconut milk, Carnation cream, vanilla butter and eggs–it’s easy to see why.
Leonard’s Bakery Malasadas, Honolulu
Hawaii boasts two spots that made our list of best dozen donuts in America for the Huffington Post. Perhaps we should move there. Malasadas are fried balls of dough that originate from Portugal, just like the original owners of Leonard’s Bakery in Honolulu. Here they fill them with your choice of custard, chocolate or coconut cream then coat them with sugar, cinnamon sugar or li hing, a sweet and sour dried plum powder. You’ll wait about 10 minutes for your donuts since they are made to order. The wait is most definitely worth it.
Spam Musubi (Spam sushi)
Well, we couldn’t write about foods of Hawaii without mentioning Spam, could we? The popular canned meat was introduced to Hawaii during World War II and has never left. One of Barrack Obama’s favorite treats from growing up in Hawaii is Spam musubi. (Proof alone that he’s from there.) Take a slice of Spam, place a chunk of seasoned rice on it wrap it all up with a noir seaweed bow and there you have it. It’s irresistibly salty and fatty, the two prerequisites for any popular snack food.
Dole Pineapple Whip
Yeah it’s touristy, but when driving back from the North Shore of Oahu with all that garlic shrimp flavor rolling around your taste buds it’s hard to resist the siren call of the Dole Plantation signs for its favorite treat, Dole Whip. It’s basically a cone of soft-serve “ice cream” with pineapple sherbet but hits the spot on a hot day.
Interested in booking your own food tour? Check out these Oahu Food Tours with Viator!
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We stayed at the VIVE Hotel at Waikiki in Honolulu.
Here’s our story on foods on the Big Island of Hawaii.
We’re Larissa and Michael, your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive updates and valuable travel tips subscribe to our free travel newsletter here.