Can Hawaii Local Food be Vegan?

Full disclaimer: I’m not vegan by any means. I just enjoy eating plant-based most of the time, but am for the most part pescatarian.

When you think about food in Hawaii, do the words plant-based or vegan come to mind? Probably not. When I think about food in Hawaii, I think of seafood, specifically fish or beef. In my opinion, Hawaii is a hard place to be vegan. Everywhere you go, you see some sort of plate lunch filled with either fish or other types of meat. If I didn’t actively seek out vegetables in my food in Hawaii, I think I’d probably be able to go days without seeing a leafy green.

However, looking past fast foods, we do have a decent amount of plant-based and vegan options–they just aren’t labeled as such. For example, a lot of Chinese stir-fry, Japanese nimono, or Vietnamese soups can be plant-based. In addition, several places have popped up in recent years that make vegan versions of local foods. A go-to of mine is Juicy Brew in Kaimuki.

Because of my appreciation for plant-based and vegan food, I was very happy to see Lillian Cumic at the Kakaako Farmer’s Market selling her book, Hawaii: A Vegan Paradise.

Lillian Cumic with her book at the Farmer’s Market

Lillian is a vegan chef, cooking instructor, Youtuber, and show host. She was very warm and welcoming when I spoke with her about the recipes she developed for her first book. The recipes include things that someone who loves Hawaii local food would not be able to find vegan-ized otherwise. For example, there are recipes for a loco moco with vegan eggs or Portuguese bean soup.

What I love about the book is that she includes foundational recipes and pantry staples that are useful for people trying to make the switch to a plant-based lifestyle, or just trying to add more recipes under the belt. My friend is currently making the switch to plant-based so I bought the book for him as a graduation gift. I’m sure it’ll be useful to him for years to come!

If you’re interested in buying Lillian’s book, it is available to purchase through Amazon.

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