Sushi is a big part of Hawaii cuisine. A lot of this is thanks to the islands’ proximity to the ocean and their Japanese influences. Plus, people in Hawaii love rice.
But Hawaii sushi has a personality all its own. And while most won’t be the “authentic” sushi many foodies revere, it’s a unique experience that may become a surprise favorite.
Hawaii Sushi: The Classics & Unique Spins
Many Hawaii restaurants will serve American and fusion sushi favorites, like ahi (fresh tuna) rolls, California rolls, or shrimp tempura rolls. But you may need to search beyond the tourist spots to find real Hawaii sushi (or at least, what feels real to us!).
SPAM, Portuguese Sausage, and Egg
Sushi with SPAM, 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 families often eat these food combinations even when they’re not in sushi form. A common dinner dish in some local households includes rice with furikake, scrambled eggs, Portuguese sausage, and spam. Hawaii Sushi is just a condensed version of all of that.
Just like Western countries have adopted the California Roll, there’s also a beloved (though less famous) Hawaiian Roll. This local food contains canned tuna, fishcake, Tamago (grilled egg), and shrimp powder.
My favorite sushi, which is a Hawaiian specialty, is cone sushi. It’s a simple combination of rice stuffed into a “cone” of fried tofu. The tofu wrapping is actually quite sweet and tastes best when served cold.
Where to Find Hawaii Sushi
You can get sushi in several different ways. The most common would be to-go places, like SushiMan, 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 to try a little bit of everything.
And, if you go to places like Genki Sushi, and wait for it to come out on a conveyor belt – this is a fun place for kids to eat.
But one of the most surprising things about Hawaii sushi is that you can find it almost anywhere. Rolls with canned tuna are often available at gas stations and 7-11.
Whether you get a unique roll from a convenience store or a fresh-caught specialty from a fine dining restaurant, you must try some Hawaii sushi during your vacation to the islands.