Hawaii Food Tours – The Tastiest Tours on Oahu!

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of taking one of the tastiest tours in Hawaii. Anyone who has been on one of my tours, knows how much fun it is to get to sample the different treats from all over Oahu – but it’s not often that I get the chance to go out and discover hidden gems here on my own turf! This was one of those opportunities.

My new friend, Chef Matthew Gray picked me up at the Ala Moana Hotel with his fun team of foodies and a couple of other guests. There were nine of us all together. Now, just a heads up – Matthew, Gio, and Krystal took me to some incredible places – I’d been to a few of them – but mostly – they took me to hole in the wall places that after seventeen years of callling Oahu home and more than a decade as a guide – I had never been to! You might be waiting for me to spill the beans about where they took me – but I’m not going to. I’ll give you the gist of it, share a few pictures, and describe some of the foods we ate and a few of the secrets I learned – but to get the rest – you are going to have to take this awesome tour.

Heres’s the info to Book a Tour – Tell the Chef that Vagobond sent you:

For Information & Reservations
Call 808-926-FOOD (3663)
or Email Hawaii Food Tours

First off – I love that this wasn’t an all day tour. If you’re here on vacation you can take this tour and still have plenty of time to go out and enjoy the beach, play some golf, or even take another tour – personally though – after this tour was done, I just wanted to relax with a Mai Tai. They’ll give you some recommendations at the end for where you can do that – or you can figure it out. The tour lasted from roughly 9am to 2pm. I was the last pickup so 9:30am and the last dropoff at 2pm. We were a small group so if you are with more or less folks at different hotels than your tour time may vary a bit.

From Ala Moana we headed into Honolulu where we sampled a little bit of everything. We had baked maunapua for breakfast and from there we took a trip into Chinatown where we visited a rice noodle factory, explored the shops and stalls, and then had a delightful walking tour that ended with a wonderful urban picnic right next to a busy marketplace. The colors, smells, sounds, and tastes were overwhelming. Gio and Christina brought tasty treat after savory delight for us to sample. I’d love to spill the beans here and tell you where and what – but that wouldn’t be any fun at all.


Of course we had the rice noodles we’d just watched being made and a variety of fresh tropical fruits as well as Chinese and Korean meats and other treats with Chef Matthew’s yummy sauces (he’ll share the recipe after the tour). Finally, we went to one of the most famous bakeries in Hawaii and ended with a sugar overload before falling into food comas on the way back home.

Through the day we were entertained with history, stories, culture, and recipes. This was a lot of fun and I recommend it highly. Thanks for the great day Chef Matthew! A hui ho!

Matsumoto Shave Ice – Matsumoto General Store on Oahu’s North Shore

If you ask any child in Hawai’i what they want for dessert or a treat – chances are you are going to hear most of them say the same thing- shave ice.

That’s shave ice, not shaved ice because Hawaiian language doesn’t have a ‘D’ in it and our local language ‘pidgin’ officially known as Hawaiian Creole – also tends to leave the ‘d’s off words. It just flows better to say “Like get shave ice?” Instead of the mainland haole version of “Would you like to have some shaved ice?” Right?

The number one shave ice place in Hawaii is up in the little surf town of Hale’iwa. Matsumoto General Store. Back in the 1950s, Hale’iwa was more about sugar cane production than surfing and while there was a hotel (the upscale Hale’iwa Hotel) where people could come to see the ‘country’ of Oahu, mostly it was a place where people worked, went to church, went to school, and just lived. The Matsumoto General Store was a local Japanese owned place where residents could buy grocieries, toiletries, gas, and whatever else they might need.

In 1956, Momoru and Helen Matsumoto made a decision that would change the store forever. They bought a little hand cranked shave-ice maker from Japan. The Japanese had been shaving snow-fine ice to provide treats for nearly a thousand years. Momoru figured it would be a nice treat on hot days. Stanley, the son of Momoru and Helen, was five-years-old when it arrived. According to him it was the first shave ice machine in Hawai’i. The Matsumotos decided to create a different shave-ice experience than that of the Japanese.

For starters, they decided to take tropical Hawaiian flavors and mix them with sweet sugar cane syrup as well as going with the more traditional berry flavors. Soon there were pineapple, lilikoi, coconut, and mango shave ice syrups. Later they put ice cream on the bottom (which might be the most genius decision ever made in regards to shave ice). The ice cream keeps the ice from melting as quickly and absorbs the syrups as the ice above is eaten. Later still they decided to bind the flavors with a ‘snow cap’ topping of sweetened condensed milk. Other innovations included the addition of sweet azuki beans, mochi, and fresh fruit. The classic Matsumoto Shave Ice is vanilla ice cream, ice, three flavors, and the snow cap. Pick your favorite flavors or just go for the rainbow – strawberry, banana, pineapple.

Little Stanley grew up and took over the operation in 1976. At the time the North Shore was booming with surfers, tourists, and development. Matsumotos moved out of the grocery business and became almost 100% shave ice. It continued this way until the early 2000s when the building was remodeled and they brought back t-shirts, souvenirs, and country store items.

The Matsumoto Shave Ice is famous all over the world. When you get there, the line will probably be long – but don’t worry – Stanley has streamlined the process and local teens will make your shave ice with expert precision in a very short time. While you are standing in line, don’t be surprised if Stanley (usually wearing a t-shirt with a cartoon version of himself on it) comes over and starts talking story with you. He’s seen his family store and the entire North Shore change over time – but the shave ice – it’s still as good as it ever was. Maybe even better. Definitely ono.

Mike’s Huli Huli Chicken on Oahu’s Windward Side

There are few places as beautiful as Windward Oahu (East side of Oahu in Hawai’i). The Windward side offers sweeping mountain vistas, lush tropical rainforest, both rugged and serene coastline with fifty different shades of blue water, and much more. It also offers some amazing food choices…and if you have a taste of BBQ rotissarie chicken…you are in luck.

Mike’s Huli Chicken in Kahalu’u started out as a shrimp truck but has grown into much more. From Garlic Shrimp and Kiawe smoked huli-huli (turn-turn) chicken it has grown to one of the most sought after meals on Oahu. Mike Fuse is a locally grown North Shore chef who took two local ingredients – kiawe wood and Hawaiian sea salt and turned it into something that locals and visitors can’t get enough of. Trust me – make the trip to Kahalu’u on the windward side – just north of Kaneohe on the Kamehameha Hwy. It’s been featured on Diners, Dives, and Drive ins and most importantly for me – my tastebuds are always pleased with a visit there. This is a plate lunch place with the usual scoop of rice and scoop of mac salad…do not forget to get the sauce…it makes the chicken taste even better.

Huli means turn and Huli-huli means rotissarie. Plenty of celebrities, tourists, and locals have gushed about the delicious taste of Mike’s chicken and one thing they all agree on. The sauce is da best! Sometimes, Chef Mike Fuse is there handing out samples or trying out new sauce recipes which these lucky guests got to try!

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