Ultimate Hawaii Guide

The Plate Lunch Breakdown

It's Hawaii in a single comfort-food dish.

By Ethan Chung December 20, 2016 Published in the January 2017 issue of Seattle Met

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The plate lunch anatomy: Two scoops of white rice, one scoop of macaroni salad, and a protein.

Image: Kevin Whipple

The modern plate lunch isn’t Native Hawaiian—though in the Aloha State it’s known as “local food.” Its amalgamation of cuisines comes from immigrants to Hawaii from Japan, China, Korea, Portugal, and the Philippines to labor in sugar and pineapple plantations.

Here's the plate lunch anatomy: One scoop of macaroni salad, two scoops of white rice, and a protein, which could be anything from Japanese chicken katsu to Korean kalbi short ribs, hamburger and eggs topped with gravy, fried fish like mahimahi or ahi, and yes, Spam. Traditional Native Hawaiian food can make an appearance, like kalua pork or haupia, a sweet pudding made with coconut milk. Plate lunches are fast, filling, and cheap, usually coming in well under $10.

Where to get it in Seattle? Kauai Family Restaurant in Georgetown offers up a hearty combination plate with lau lau, kalua pork, and lomi salmon. Don’t leave without stopping next door at Cakes of Paradise bakery for a slice of haupia cake. Hawaii BBQ Restaurant in the U District is home to a huge menu of plate lunches, with a list of Sumo Plates, protein-laced calorie bombs that come topped with an egg—ideal for those seeking a competitive sumo physique.

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