- Tropical Fruit: The mangosteen, the queen of fruit in Indonesia, is the sensation at the Hilo Farmers Market on the Big Island. Mangosteen's elegant purple skin and soft, white, floral-flavored flesh (like litchi, but more custardlike) make this fruit a sure winner.
The mango is always a much-anticipated feature of late spring and summer. Hayden mangoes are universally loved for their plump, juicy flesh and brilliant skins. White Pirie mangoes, with their resinous flavor and fine, fiberless flesh, are even better; this rare and ambrosial variety can be found in Honolulu's Chinatown or at roadside fruit stands in rural Oahu. Watch for the Rapoza mango, a new large, sweet, fiberless fruit introduced to Hawaii several years ago.
Kahuku papayas -- firm, fleshy, dark orange, and so juicy they sometimes squirt -- are the ones to watch for on menus and in markets; check out the roadside stands in Kahuku on Oahu, and at supermarkets. Sunrise papayas from Kapoho and Kauai are also top-notch.
White, acid-free, extra-sweet, and grown on Kauai and the Big Island, Sugarloaf pineapples are the new rage. Hilo is the town for litchis (also known as lychees) in summer, but Honolulu's Chinatown markets carry them, too. Ka'u oranges, grown in the volcanic soil of the southern Big Island, are available in supermarkets and health-food stores. Don't be fooled by their brown, ugly skin -- they're juicy, thin-skinned, and sweet as honey.
- Noodles: Ramen, udon, saimin, pho, pasta, chow mein -- Hawaii is the epicenter of ethnic noodle stands and houses, with many recommendable and inexpensive choices. Jimbo's Restaurant (Oahu; tel. 808/947-2211), a neighborhood staple, is tops for freshly made udon with generous toppings and a homemade broth. On the neighbor islands, Nori's Saimin & Snacks (Big Island; tel. 808/935-9133) is the place in charming Hilo for consummate saimin of every stripe. And noodle-mania prevails at Hamura's Saimin Stand (Kauai; tel. 808/245-3271), where saimin and teriyaki sticks have replaced hamburgers and pizza as the late-night comfort-food tradition.
- Plate Lunches: Zippy's (21 locations throughout Oahu; call tel. 808/973-0880 for the one nearest you) is a household word in Hawaii. Other favorite plate-lunch spots on Oahu include Kakaako Kitchen (tel. 808/596-7488), which serves dinner at indoor and outdoor tables at the Ward Centre; I [heart symbol] Country Café (tel. 808/596-8108), at Ala Moana Plaza; and Yama's Fish Market (tel. 808/941-9994), where the chocolate/macadamia-nut cookies and chocolate biscotti have legions of fans. On Maui, Aloha Mixed Plate (tel. 808/661-3322) lets you nosh on fabulous shoyu chicken at ocean's edge -- and with a mai tai, too. On Kauai, Pono Market (tel. 808/822-4581), Fish Express (tel. 808/245-9918), and Koloa Fish Market (tel. 808/742-6199) are at the top of the plate-lunch pyramid.
- Shave Ice: Like surfing, shave ice is synonymous with Haleiwa, the North Shore Oahu town where Matsumoto Shave Ice (tel. 808/637-4827) serves mounds of the icy treat. Shave ice is even better over ice cream and adzuki beans.
- Other Mighty Morsels: Poi biscotti from the Poi Company, available at supermarkets and gourmet outlets, is the consummate accompaniment to another island phenomenon, Kona coffee. Coffee growers of highest esteem (all based on the Big Island, of course), include: Rooster Farms (tel. 808/328-9173), which sells and ships only organic coffees; Bong Brothers (tel. 808/328-9289); Kona Blue Sky Coffee Company (tel. 808/322-1700); and Holualoa Kona Coffee Company (tel. 800/334-0348).
The buttery, chocolate-dipped shortbread cookies of Big Island Candies (Big Island; tel. 808/935-8890) are worth every calorie and every dollar. From Kauai, Hanapepe town's venerable Taro Ko Chips Factory (tel. 808/335-5586) makes taro chips that neighbor islanders drive miles to find.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.