Being surrounded by an ocean, it’s no wonder sushi has become a huge part of Hawaii’s cuisine. Fresh fish get filleted, or sashimied, into thin slivers and packed into a handheld chunk of rice wrapped in nori. But in Hawaii, the Japanese delight has become a hybrid of its own.

Unagi sushi, or sushi with fried eel, is popular in the islands.

Sushi with spam or Portuguese sausage or hot dog may not be the typical sushi classics, but they’re a blend of Hawaii’s favorite flavors. The most out-of-the-box ones I’ve seen included sushi made with corned beef and hash or bacon/lettuce/tomato (BLT). Sounds weird, but they’re actually not a bad combo. Hawaii will eat these together even if they weren’t in sushi form. There’s no denying that a common dinner dish in some local households include rice with furikake, scrambled eggs, Portuguese sausage and spam. Sushi is just a condensed version of all of that.

Many believe that the California Roll has fueled the creation of popular rolls that suit the Western palate. Meaning, the sushi will typically be found in North America and Europe and not in Japan. California Roll consists of avocado, imitation cab and cucumber. While the Hawaiian Roll is stuffed with shoyu tuna, fishcake, tamago (grilled egg) and shrimp powder. The Hawaiian Roll is next on my list of sushi to try.

You can get sushi in several different ways. The most common would be the to-go type places, like Sushi Man, Aloha Sushi or Ninja Sushi. This is where you order at the register and wait patiently for the cook in the back to whip it up. Such take-out orders are easy to pack and perfect for outdoor picnics. The second way you’ll most likely eat sushi would be from izakayas (Japanese food taverns). These are the sit-down restaurants that serve a wide range of small plates. This is the best way try a little bit of everything. Lastly, if you go to places like Genki Sushi, then you’ll choose your dish from a sushi train, or conveyor belt. Plates are usually color coded by prices, from which customers choose as they please.

At Genki, sushi dishes ride on a conveyor belt.

My favorite sushi, which I just found out is a Hawaiian specialty, would have to be the cone sushi. It’s a simple combination of rice stuffed into a “cone” of fried tofu. The tofu wrapping is actually quite sweet and taste best when served cold. You’ll find these in bento boxes or okazu-yas (Japanese deli).

And as the Japanese would say before each meal, “Itadakimasu!” Or “thank you for this food!”


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