The Hawaiian Plate Explained

Helena's Hawaiian Food menu, circa 1950.

Lots of stuff in this month's dining feature: The Hawaiian Plate Explained in which we answer the questions, just how old is the Hawaiian plate lunch anyway, and what's really Hawaiian about it? Plus, take a video tour of Keoki's Lau Lau Factory, which makes 7,000 to 8,000 laulau a day.

We explored the origins of some of our favorite Hawaiian food institutions, including Helena's Hawaiian Food, where the menu hasn't changed much since it started. Above is a menu that Elaine Katsuyoshi, whose mother started Helena's, dug up— she thinks it's from the ’50s. (Don't get too excited about the 1950's 40-cent laulau—in today's dollars, that's $3.86, very nearly Helena's current laulau price of $4.)

We also talked to Monica Toguchi of Highway Inn, and good news for townies who love Highway Inn but don't want to make the Waipahu-trek. Sometime in February or March, Toguchi plans on opening a second location in Kakaako, in a space leased by Kamehameha Schools. She says, "[Our] partnership with Kamehameha Schools [is] neat because many of our customers are native Hawaiian and in turn, we purchase product from farmers who are farming on KS land … we pay rent back to KS so it can fund its schools and other outreach programs. It feels 'full circle,' so to speak, given what we do."

Check out The Hawaiian Plate Explained for stories on laulau factories, luau leaf farmers and poi pounders.