Best Ethnic Cuisine in Hawaii

February 1, 2022
Food & Drink
jason wolfe
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People travel to Hawaii to sample the flavors of the islands — but, as it turns out, they can taste many more cuisines here than they initially imagined. Hawaii is home to some of the finest ethnic restaurants in the United States, with dishes based in Japanese, Chinese, Peruvian, Thai, Korean, and many more cuisines. Frankly, a foodie could sample flavors from around the world here, if they know where to go.

To make the job simpler, we’ve put together a list of some of the most popular spots to visit for lunch or dinner when you’re in the mood to broaden your palate. And if you really want to be prepared, be sure to load your debit cards with GiftYa electronic e-gift cards to each and every one of these eateries. GiftYa e-gift cards can also be used at shops, attractions, and restaurants in Hawaii and all across the United States. There’s really no better gift to offer a fellow traveler, so be sure to see where these gift cards can take you today!

Ichiriki Nabe

Your go-to place for wonderful Japanese nabe, shabu shabu, and more

Excellent Japanese cuisine made from the freshest of ingredients. Image courtesy of Yelp.

510 Pikoi St. | Ala Moana/ ichirikinabe.com

There are many Japanese restaurants in Hawaii, but Ichiriki Nabe is known for its amazing hot pot, nabe, shabu shabu, and sukiyaki. Stop in to try their kobe beef, mushroom medley, and ahi tuna wraps. The menu also comes complete with vegan options and you can visit their full bar for all your favorite alcoholic beverages.

A popular spot for lovers of Japanese cuisine, Ichiriki Nabe can offer long wait times, so be sure to secure a reservation before coming, especially if you have a large group. Rest assured, though, your party will enjoy excellent service and even better food!

“Ichiriki is a must go place while on the island! Broths are fantastic! Most of the meat quality is exceptional! I know every time I’m here, the meat quality will be the same and not so thinly sliced that I can’t get the texture of the meat.” — Yelp Review

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Haili’s Hawaiian Foods

Serving authentic Hawaiian food for over 60 years

Tasty Hawaiian-style Ahi Lumu Poke. Image courtesy of Yelp.

760 Palani Ave. | Honolulu/ hailishawaiianfood.com

Family owned and operated since the 1950s, Haili’s Hawaiian Food has been serving amazing dishes from the islands for over 60 years. Visitors wanting to taste the flavors of authentic Hawaiian food definitely need to come here. From delicious poi and poke to chicken long rice and Lomi salmon, you’ll experience the full variety of Hawaiian cuisine.

Recommendations include the Big Kahuna, a popular combination of laulau, kalua, and chicken long rice. Larger parties will want to order the Ohana Meal Pack with Kalua pig & cabbage, chicken long rice, beef stew (or Pastele steew or tripe stew), pork adobo, shoyu chicken, laulau and more. And be sure to save room for some haupia, a traditional Hawaiian dessert offered in coconut or mango flavors.

Maybe you could find some of these dishes elsewhere in Hawaii, but there’s something special about dining at an establishment that’s been serving locals and tourists for generations. Come experience the great food and service and learn for yourself why Haili’s Hawaiian Food has been delighting customers for decades.

“If you are a local or just visiting, Haili’s was a great experience with impeccable authentic Hawaiian food! If you have never had Hawaiian cuisine before and want a little bit of everything, get the Kahuna Plate.” — Yelp Review

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Mimi’s Peruvian Cuisine

Taste the flavors of Peru at Mimi’s Peruvian Cuisine

Enjoy the taste of Peruvian food. Image courtesy of Yelp.

661 Keeaumoku St. | Honolulu/ mimisperuviancuisine.com

If you’ve ever been curious about the cuisine served in Peru, have we got a restaurant for you. Mimi’s Peruvian Cuisine has been offering authentic Peruvian dishes in a home-style atmosphere since 2008. Come order some lomo saltrado beef or Ceviche de mahi mahi while Latin music plays in the background. Although this venue is small with only 8 tables, that just adds to the cozy atmosphere where servers will accommodate you should you have any meal preferences or dietary restrictions.

If you love supporting local businesses while indulging in exotic foods, come to Mimi’s Peruvian Cuisine. From their delectable ceviche seafood dishes (raw cubes of fish marinated in citrus sauces) to their Seco de Crane (slow cooked beef with cilantro Peruvian spices), you’ll always find something unique and delicious at this popular local establishment.

“Tiny restaurant but nice and cozy, fitting 8 tables while Latin music playing got my sister chair dancing along with friendly staff willing to answer questions when you just aren’t familiar with the cuisine.” — Yelp Review

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Red Elephant Thai Cuisine

Expand your palate with the curries of Thailand

Thai fish cake from Red Elephant. Image courtesy of Yelp.

3196 Waialae Ave. | Honolulu/ redelephantthatcuisine.com

Curry lovers will have a wide selection of dishes to choose from at Red Elephant Thai Cuisine. Try the Pa-nang (Peanut Curry) with coconut milk, green bean, bell peppers and shredded cabbage. Duck curry contains boneless roasted duck in red curry with coconut milk, pineapple, and Thai Basil. And the aptly named “Evil Jungle Curry” is a red curry paste with coconut milk, onion, carrot, bell pepper, shredded cabbage, and Thai Basil.

Of course, it’s not just exotic curries here at Red Elephant. Many customers also enjoy their stir-fry dishes (the Eggplant Stir Fry with Thai Basil and your choice of chicken, beef, pork, or tofu is a particular favorite). Salad lovers can also choose from a variety of Thai salads, including the Yum Woon Sen (Cellophane Noodle Salad), Yum Ta-lay (Seafood Salad), and Yum Kao Pode (House Corn Salad). If you’re in the mood for something delicious, nutritious, and very different from your usual fare, spend a night out at Red Elephant Thai Cuisine.

“Ordered several curries and all were delicious. Favorite was the evil jungle curry with chicken (just a bit spicy, but not too much), panang curry with chicken, and yellow chicken curry (yes, we like chicken), and vegetarian panang curry.” — Yelp Review

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Eat on Time

Classic Chinese dishes get a modernized twist

Sample both the half spicy, half house bone broth. Image courtesy of Yelp.

1296 S. Beretania St. | Honolulu/ eat-on-time.business.site

Come to Times Arcade in Honolulu and order some tasty hot pot Chinese dishes. Eat on Time offers authentic Chinese cuisine that takes Hawaii’s famous fresh seafood and transforms them into modernized versions of classic Chinese favorites. Sample the delectable fish dumplings, Hong Kong style fish head pot, and fish fillet with vegetables.

Of course, if you prefer beef or chicken, Eat on Time offers classic favorites like Mongolian beef, cold chicken with ginger and onion sauce, and a nice black pepper beef. You’ll also want to try their minced chicken & cream corn soup and famous roast duck. Orders are available for both dine in and take out, so come in when you’re hungry for good Chinese food.

“The menu is extensive and fairly priced. The restaurant is owned by a wholesale fish market in Chinatown which explains the Live King Crab, Austrian Lobster, and many other delicacies.” — Yelp Review

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Himalayan Kitchen

Spice your dishes to your liking at Himalayan Kitchen

Amazing Indian, Himalayan/Nepalese, and Pakistani cuisine. Image courtesy of Yelp.

1137 11th Ave. | Kaimuki/ himalayankitchenhawaii.com

Himalayan/Nepalese cuisine probably isn’t the first thing you think about when you come to Hawaii, but at Himalayan Kitchen, you can order a variety of Indian, Pakistaini, and Nepalese dishes. Hand crafted from fresh ingredients the dishes here can be customized for every palate. Want to start with a mild serving? All dishes are prepared with a light but flavorful seasoning. In the mood for something hotter? The chefs here can use a wide variety of herbs and spices to heat things up to your liking. The menu even includes daily specials for vegetarians and meat lovers.

So, what are some popular dishes here? How about an order of lamb curry with basmati rice along with some tandoori chicken and Himalayan spring rolls? You can also order goan shrimp, madras fish, and the always-popular chicken tikka madras — spiced to your liking. You’ll also find multiple flavors of gelato for a refreshing desert.

“What a neat place! Located in the heart of Kaimuki, is this restaurant that takes you to a different place than Hawaii… The entrée cooked perfectly and flavored with the right amount of savory, smokiness, and spice. Unfortunately, I couldn’t finish all of the food because the appetizers were super filling!” — Yelp Review

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Kim Chee III

Korean BBQ and seafood dishes cooked to perfection

Best meat jun dishes you can find! Image courtesy of Yelp.

2239 S. King St. | Mo’ili’ili/ kimchee3.net

The third in a line of popular Korean restaurants, Kim Chee III specializes in barbeque and seafood. You’ll find some very flavorful meat jun here, along with chicken katsu and fried mandoo. Also make sure to try their fish jun and dried daikon kimchi.

If you’re a fan of Korean barbeque, you won’t want to miss their Korean BBQ plate and BBQ beef. Then there’s their delicious selection of soups, including the Spicy Oxtail Soup and Seaweed Soup. Folks in the mood for home-style Korean cuisine would do well to pay Kim Chee III a visit.

“The best meat jun, hands down!!! I would recommend this place to anyone. Family owned and friendly service, thanks.” — Yelp Review

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