Fried rice has become a staple in Hawaii cuisine, as evident in almost every local household and by menus across a savory spectrum of edible eats. But no matter where you go, no fried rice tastes the same. That’s because there are dozens of variations, each with an ethnic twist, so it’s often a never-ending journey to find a favorite.
Some, like Sanoya’s, spice up fried rice with kim chee and garnish it with furikake.
Before I get into the different kinds you’ll likely come across in Hawaii, I should probably first describe the basic formula of this popular Asian dish. Using a wok, fried rice is made with finely chopped vegetables, meats, egg and, of course, rice. The choice of meat and sauce are what really define the fried rice and give it its personality.
Japanese-style fried rice uses a teriyaki sauce, while the Korean kind adds a kick with kim chee. Hawaiian fried rice, on the other hand, includes a realm of local flavors – from laulau to Portuguese sausage to spam. As for the egg, some chop it up while others scramble it before laying it over the rice. You’ll soon discover that there is no right way to whipping up this rice dish. Some might joke that it’s simply rice mixed with whatever leftover ingredients are laying around. A zero-waste Hawaii!
To me, the best fried rice never skimps on ingredients. You should be able to shovel through a fully-loaded plate of goodies rather than prod it in search of something that looks like meat or eggs. My taste buds usually yearn for the sweeter version of fried rice, particularly the one from Times Coffee Shop in Kailua (!!). But sometimes I crave something spicier. Sanoya Ramen, 10 minutes from Waikiki, has the best kim chee fried rice I’ve tasted. They’re not only generous with their portion size but with the goodies inside as well.
Here’s my top pick of places to begin your quest for the best fried rice in Hawaii:
TIMES COFFEE SHOP / 153 Hamakua Dr., #A, Kailua, HI 96734 • 808-262-0300 • Sweet teriyaki or salty fried rice options (with spam and char siu)
SANOYA RAMEN • 1785 S. King St., #4, Honolulu, HI 96826 • 808-947-6065 • Kim chee fried rice (with spam, char siu and fish cake)
SIDE STREET INN • 614 Kapahulu Ave., Honolulu, HI 96815 • 808-739-3939 • Chinese-style fried rice (with vegetables and char siu)
BIG CITY DINER • 1060 Auahi St., #4, Honolulu, HI 96814 • 808-591-8891 • Kim chee fried rice (with vegetables and spam)
KAKAAKO KITCHEN • 1200 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu, HI 96814 • 808-596-7488 • Chinese-style fried rice (with Chinese vegetables and char siu)