Ugly delicious: 8 Dishes You Need to Devour in Hawai’i
“Ugly delicious” is one way to describe Hawaiian food. I use it here in the most loving way possible. The term is borrowed from David Chang’s Netflix series of the same name. I loved steaming the series because it used food as a platform to tackle misconceptions—misconceptions of growing up as a minority, and the misconception that food has to look good to taste good. Sure, there are glamour shots of shave ice and acai bowls, but there are just as many “ugly delicious” specialties in Hawaiian cuisine. This list, like the Netflix series, are bingeworthy.
Haupia is a coconut pudding typically served in pies or as cubes. The plain white cubes may not be much to look at but the flavor is tropical paradise in a bite. I recall reading a review about a Haupia Shave Ice looking like mashed potatoes but tasting out-of-this-world.
Laulau is traditionally prepared by steaming pork and fish wrapped in taro leaves. While the end result is delicious, the presentation is not. It looks more like a mushy pile of beige and dark green.
3. Loco Moco
Loco moco is probably my favorite Hawaiian dish. Steamed white rice topped with hamburger patties and a fried egg smothered in brown gravy isn’t going to win any beauty contests. However, it tastes amazing. Perhaps Loco Moco wins the Miss Congeniality award in the Plate Lunch Pageant.
4. Hawaiian Mac Salad
Hawaiian mac salad is not complicated. It consists of elbow macaroni, mayonnaise, a dash of vinegar, salt, pepper, and other fixings of your choice. Some like to add a combination of tuna, peas, onion, sugar, and much more. Hawaiian mac salad is the perfect side to a plate lunch or loco moco, but doesn’t photograph particularly well. Remarkably, unremarkable.
5. Kalua Pork
Kalua pork is the Hawaiian equivalent of pulled pork. The salty, smoky flavor is perfect with a heap of hot steaming rice. Lacking color from the sauce of a bbq pulled pork, Kalua pork isn’t very bright or vibrant. The taste, however, that’s what’ll get you!
6. Oxtail Soup
A porterhouse is sexy…oxtail isn’t. Oxtail soup doesn’t look very exciting. Sometimes you can’t see much past all the green floating on the top. For the record, it’s a dish that sells out fast! If it’s a specialty at any spot in Hawai’i, a word of advice: get there early!
The recent explosion of Poke spots outside of Hawaii don’t make up for the fact that this dish consists of cubes of raw fish in a bowl. Poke is no frills and not very elegant.
8. Zippy’s Chili
Zippy’s chili is delicious, but unique because of the inclusion of Portuguese sausage with the ground beef. To be fair, is there really any way to make a bowl of chili look good? The chili can be enjoyed over rice, on hot dogs, or even with spaghetti. Not photogenic, yet still crave-worthy.
Upon completing my list my wife felt compelled to argue that malasadas should be included.
Me: Malasadas aren’t particularly ugly, they’re just donuts.
My wife; That’s exactly why! They don’t look pretty, they don’t photograph well, but they’re delicious. They are unremarkable, but sometimes there’s haupia or some other amazing filling inside.
While I still think it doesn’t make sense, I can’t argue with how delicious malasadas are.