50 Gourmet Comfort Food Dishes in Hawai‘i That’ll Warm Your Heart and Soul
Comfort food might be indulgent, but it connects us to family, traditions, cultures. Here are some of our favorites, elevated, but still reminding us of when life was simpler and calories didn’t exist.
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Classic vs. New School
Fort Ruger Market
You cannot go wrong with a Fort Ruger Market musubi, but you can arrive too late. At 12:02 p.m. one recent weekday, the hot rack was mostly empty except for the basic Spam ($1.90), a Spam on furikake rice ($1.90) and the boiled hot dog musubi ($1.90). We opted for Spam + furikake because of the way it rides a double helping of furikake-flecked rice—like a Sandy Beach bodyboard.
$1.90, 3585 Alohea St., 96816, 737-4531.
Hōkū’s at The Kāhala
PHOTO: AARON YOSHINO
The menu around it may change, but the ‘ahi poke musubi has remained a fixture at Hōkū’s. It’s an elevated take on the modest musubi, with ‘ahi poke stuffed into a crisp-fried sushi rice ball and served with crab namasu and soy ginger. The rice ball is quartered to share, though only if you want to.
$20, 5000 Kāhala Ave.,739-8760, kahalaresort.com/dining.
Pigs’ feet soup
The soup is simple: carrots, cabbage and bok choy, simmering in pork stock—plus generous pieces of pigs’ feet with meat soft enough to pull off the bone with just a pair of chopsticks. Ethel’s Grill’s menu is full of local favorites, but nothing beats this; served in a big bowl, it tastes like what your grandmother might’ve prepared when you got sick as a kid. We almost want to be under the weather more often.
$10, 232 Kalihi St., 847-6467.
Okinawan soba with pigs’ feet
Mud Hen Water
Chef/owner Ed Kenney uses traditional Okinawan soba noodles by locally owned Sun Noodle with a bone broth to reflect the flavors of classic Okinawan-style soki soba. Then he really ramps up the culture by adding pigs’ feet and creating a version of ashitibichi, a hearty Okinawan soup flavored by the slow release of gelatin cooked out of the feet.
$15, 3452 Wai‘alae Ave., 737-6000, mudhenwater.com.
One of the oldest, most beloved of saimin stands, Hamura’s on Kaua‘i is known for its house-made noodles and secret-recipe broth. The James Beard Foundation even recognized it as an American classic in 2006. Serious fans get the Special Saimin, which comes fully loaded with won ton, roast pork, fishcake, chopped ham, veggies, green onions and a boiled egg.
$8.50 medium, $9.60 X-large, 2956 Kress St., Līhu‘e, (808) 245-3271.
Innovative Hot Mess
PHOTO: AARON YOSHINO
Yes, the Innovative Hot Mess is $20. But when the bowl arrives in front of you, full of a mind-blowing combination of four types of garlic, house-made char siu, aji tamago, menma, onion, sesame seeds and, most intriguing, fresh-shaved Parmesan cheese piled on top of the ramen, it’ll clearly be worth it. You can’t untaste this. But you won’t want to.
$20, multiple locations, aguramen.com.