Friday, August 28, 2009

Introduction to Hawai'i: Odds and Ends

I wrap up my Intro to Hawai'i series with some odds and ends. Things that one should recognize if one should run across them in Hawai'i. Things that haven't fit into the previous categories.

Assorted foods:

shave ice
Elsewhere in the U.S. you can find snow-cones, grainy chunks of ice with sweet but flavorless syrups. In Hawai'i, we have shave ice. It varies in quality from shop to shop, but the best places (my favorite is Waiola Shave Ice) shave the block of ice into a fine, smooth snow. The fine shavings not only feel soft on the tongue but also absorb the syrups better than grainy ice would. And at a good shave ice place, the flavors are heavenly. I tend to go for the tropical fruit flavors: lychee, mango, lilikoi, etc. On a hot Hawai'i day, nothing hits the spot like a nice shave ice.
Look who likes shave ice

Hawai'i may be the only place in the world where spam is not a joke. The locals here really love it. I do not know why. Keep an eye out especially for spam musubi. (Musubi, by the way, is a Japanese food where rice with some sort of filling is formed into a triangular or oval shape and wrapped in seaweed.)
Photo courtesy of my little brother

These are best described as Portugese doughnuts, deep fried dough rolled in sugar. They are very popular here; one good place to buy them is Leonard's. You can also find different flavored malasadas: cinnamon sugar, chocolate filled, or lilikoi filled, to name a few.

This is a Japanese food, but it's popular here in Hawai'i. Steamed rice is mashed into a chewy moldable mass and then shaped into a little round pouch around something. That something is most often a sweet red bean paste, but can also be ice cream. I looove mochi ice cream, especially the lychee flavor from Bubbies.
Mmm, mochi ice cream.

Shame on me, I should have mentioned this in the Hawaiian language post. Haupia is a Hawaiian coconut pudding. But you can also find haupia-flavored things: shave ice, ice cream, and malasadas, to name a few.

li hing
Li hing is a distinctive mix of spices that are sweet, sour, and salty. I think the classic thing to find it on is dried plums (li hing mui), but you can find it on other dried fruits such as cherries and mangoes, on gummy candies, and more! (When I get shave ice I tend to select some tropical fruit and li hing mui as flavors). I think it's delicious, but some people find it way too strong. As with poi, you can earn a lot of respect from the locals if you like li hing.

Random other things:

So I talked all about the Hawaiian language, but what you may actually hear some locals speaking is Hawai'i Creole English, aka "Pidgin". It originated as a dialect used between English speakers and non-English speakers and is still used today as a kind of slang dialect by some locals to varying degrees. I couldn't really do it justice (there are plenty of websites on the subject), but here are a few things to know:
brah - "brother" (used for male friends, not just actual family).
da kine - from "the kind", it's often used as a placeholder ("that thing/person/place that I can't be bothered to think of the name right now but you know what I'm talking about anyway").
Howzit? - "How's it going?" Even people who don't speak Pidgin can be heard using this as a greeting.
stink eye - a dirty look.
Like beef? - The answer is no, even for hungry meat eaters. This means "Do you want to fight with me?" And if it's spoken by a huge, angry local, you'd best be stepping out of there.

Make a fist, and hold it up so that the back of your hand is facing away from you. Now stick out just your thumb and pinky finger to the sides. You've made a shaka. Rotate your wrist back and forth a little for emphasis. It's kind of hard to say what it means exactly, but it's a friendly gesture: "cool", "thanks", "hi", etc. If you're driving and someone lets you turn, give them a quick shaka. This is an important part of the friendly, easy-going, aloha spirit culture of the islands.
Sorry, gotta have our world's most famous Hawai'i local boy model this one as well.

Um, so I've kind of fizzled out now, but after this whole week I'm run dry. I'll probably think of all sorts of things later that I meant to include in my guide, but this is probably plenty to get you started on. I hope you've enjoyed my brief introduction to what I know about Hawai'i. Now if you ever visit, you can impress all the locals with your kama'aina knowledge. Oh! There's one Hawaiian word I forgot to put in Wednesday's post, so I'll sign off with one final lesson:

kama'aina - from the Hawaiian words for "child" and "land", a kama'aina is someone who has lived in Hawai'i for a long time.

Mahalo and aloha!


Hezabelle said...

I think I had mochi once and was very weirded out by it... hahaha.

Now I feel like I need to visit Hawaii.

Sebastian said...

We're ALL invited now, Hez, didn't you hear? Now that we have somewhere to stay, woo!

I had no idea the shaka was Hawaiian. I think I just associated it with Jamaicans and other cool homeboys. I do it fairly often too...

Eleni said...

You need to try Bubbies' ice cream mochi! The red bean paste mochi is a little odd if you're not used to it, and if you ever run across mochi with natto (fermented beans), I would not recommend it.

You should totally come visit Hawaii! It's a long trip, but the rates aren't bad if you get them at the right time. I could put you up in my living room; you'd have a great view. Just something to think about :)

Eleni said...

Oh hi Seb (that's what I get for not refreshing)--

I'm not sure where the shaka sign originated, but it is definitely popular here. Hmm, Wikipedia says it's "often associated with Hawaii", and has some story of its possible origin in Hawaii. In any case, if you use it, you'll fit right in here when you come!