Of all the unexpectedly-good taste combinations on Planet Earth, “Hawaiian” stands above. It is the culinary equivalent of a four-way intersection: sweet vs. salty, savory vs. sweet, all meet at the crossroads of fresh pineapple and smoky grilled ham. Opposites attract, and with the “Hawaiian” food genera, that attraction is squared.

The flavor points are as much sensory overload as tour de force, and the end effect is nothing short of sublime. Refuting this is not just close-minded – it is objectively wrong. Dense cured meats and earthy vegetables evoke a palette rooted in soil; fruit and fish are Castaway survival stakes, not full meal. The righteous compromise is lightly-cured pork and flesh sweet fruit. None other would do.

On a platter, Hawaiian is fruit, vegetable, and meat presented as art. On pizza, it is supreme.

In other words: I am the friend who advocates for the “extra pizza” to be Hawaiian. And I will not apologize.

(Sorry for the soapbox.)

If you couldn’t tell, I love the “Hawaiian” flavor profile – namely, pork, pineapples, and some sort of carbohydrate to balance. I’ve offset “Hawaiian” in air quotes because while this combination may be attributed to the Hawaiian Islands, it is far from traditional Hawaiian fare. Authentic Hawaiian food is every bit as fresh as its cultural mimic, but much more aquatic in nature. Since, you know, Hawaii is an island. Surrounded by millions of square miles of ocean. And with few native pigs.

But I digress.

Just like how the fortune cookie was invented in San Francisco but became “Chinese”, Hawaiian pizza was actually invented in Canada. In 1962, an Ontario pizzeria called the Satellie Restaurant became the first to serve up slices of “Hawaiian Pizza”, a traditional cheese pie differentiated solely through the addition of pineapples and ham.

Pictured: Hawaii(?)

Pictured: Hawaii(?)

Crowds literally ate it up: in the early 60’s, surf music was at an all-time high and teens all over North America became fixated on island culture. Combine cultural obsession with an accessible (and familiar) cuisine, and by the end of the decade, you had a phenomenon. Hawaiian pizza is today a standard menu option in pizzerias all over the world. As a result, perhaps the most widely-recognized definition of “Hawaiian” flavors today is “pork and pineapple.” But that’s not all the islands have to offer.

In fact, through adding some earthy vegetables (and even some mainland fix-ins), you can amplify those original flavors to create something even better. For today’s recipe (adapted from Cooking Light's original), we’ll be riffing on the traditional pork and pineapple by adding in sauces, grains, and a whole lot more.

The result: a wave of taste straight from the islands. (Sorry.)

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Recipe: Grilled Hawaiian Bowl

Ingredients

BOWL (Serving size: 1 person)

  • /3 cup cooked rice
  • 2 slices (1/4-inch-thick) grilled fresh pineapple
  • 2/3 cup chopped bell peppers
  • 3 ounces grilled pork tenderloin

HONEY SOY SAUCE

  • 1 tbsp lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1.5 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper

Directions

  1. Prepare rice according to directions on box. For this recipe, I used a store-brand Wild Rice blend that took ~20 minutes to cook. I boiled the water, added rice, and covered before preparing the rest of this recipe so the rice would be fresh after I did the rest.

  2. Preheat the grill (or pan) you will use to cook the pork. Add the tenderloin and let cook 8-10 minutes. If cooking alone, set a 6" timer to check the pork before you think it's ready. Undercooked pork is succulent; overcooked is irrecoverable. 

  3. While the pork cooks, chop the peppers into 1" sections. Store the peppers temporarily - you'll need the cutting board open for Step 4.

  4. Core the pineapple. Cut carefully and away from your body. The best way to core the fruit is to cut off the fronds to form a barrel shape, then cut 1/8" inch in from the skin on each side of the barrel in 8 shallow sections. This will, in effect, turn a spiny circular fruit into a skinless octagon. From there, cut directly down along the octagon lines to make 8 pineapple "spears" - the core (the white thick part at the center) should fall out naturally.

  5. Check the pork. It should be just about done, with a tender inside and crispy skin. If it's done, remove the pork from the grill and let sit for 5 minutes.

  6. Place the pineapple spears and pepper slices into a wire-mesh grill basket. Grill or 2-3 minutes. Ideally, the pineapple should appear golden but juicy. 

  7. Remove the basket from the grill. After the pork has sat 5 minutes, cut it into thin slices. The rice should be done by this point.

  8. Assemble your Grilled Hawaiian bowl, and enjoy! 

 

AS RAKESTRAW | The personal site of Alex Rakestraw.