The origin of the Hawaiian Mixed Plate is as charming as it is interesting.
When the sugar plantations and pineapple plantations were being developed in Hawaii towards the end of the 19th century, large numbers of foreign laborers were imported to do the back breaking work. Chinese , Japanese, Filipino and Korean workers toiled side by side in the fields alongside the native Hawaiians. At lunch time they would all repair to the nearest shade and out would come the bento boxes, the lunch baskets and tin boxes. The food was hearty, it was plain and plentiful and it was varied. The Chinese might dine on shoyu chicken, and rice; or perhaps chow fun or chow mein. The Japanese might dig into chicken teriyaki, the Koreans into kalbi ( ribs).The Filipinos might favor chicken adobo while the Hawaiians would tuck into kalua pig or lomi lomi salmon. Naturally, they would give each other a taste of their lunch ….. and thus was born the Hawaiian Mixed Plate. It’s a charming scene, isn’t it ? The tired laborers taking a brief respite, sitting down to lunch in the shade of a tree and exchanging tastes of their box lunches.
Today in Hawaii there are many restaurants that serve a Hawaiian Mixed Plate or, as it is sometimes called , A Hawaiian Plate Lunch. You can have a choice of beef/chicken/pork entrees or you can have the salmon/fish.Each platter consists of portions of two entrees and always two scoops of rice or macaroni salad. The workers needed their carbs and rice and macaroni filled them up and were cheap.
When we were in Maui five years ago we dined at the Aloha Mixed Plate on Front Street near Lahaina. It was a charming place and the weather was perfect ( as it usually is in Hawaii) as we sat on the deck sipping our drinks and watching the sun set. Alas, the meal itself was disappointing. The service was disinterested, the food was served on plastic plates and it was very, very ordinary. At least the view was good….
One of these days I’m going to have some friends over and offer them a Hawaiian Mixed Plate.We’ll start out with mai-tais. Then there will be CharSui Chicken and Kalbi and Salmon Teriyaki and Sauteed Mixed Vegetables and a mound of Yangchow Fried Rice. And no, it will not be served on plastic plates…..