Poi Malasadas from Kamehameha Bakery
Get to Kamehameha Bakery early in the mornings to score poi malasadas, just out of the fryer and liberally glazed. Malasadas are a local obsession, and these folks take it a step further by incorporating poi (pounded taro root) into the dough. The result is ridiculously fluffy, akin to an eggy brioche doughnut.
Kamehameha Bakery; 1339 North School Street, Honolulu, HI 96817 (map); 808-845-5831
Rare Hawaiian Honey
Everyone seems to have their favorite honey brand, and I love the Big Island-based Rare Hawaiian Honey. The classic White Kiawe Honey is the bestseller, but don't overlook the ones infused with fresh local ginger and lilikoi (passionfruit). All the honeys are thick, creamy and spreadable. Paired with hot toast and a bit of butter, there's no better breakfast treat in my book.
Rare Hawaiian Honey; rarehawaiianhoney.com
Okazu Bento Boxes from Mitsu-Ken
Mitusu-Ken is popular for garlic chicken (deep fried chicken dipped in a shoyu-sugar garlic sauce), and these mini-bento sets can withstand even a 10-hour flight from Hawaii to NYC. Take home a bunch of mini bento boxes to share with friends. The bed of rice is topped with plenty of furikake, tamago with green onion, fishcake, shoyu hot dog, pickled ginger, and three crunchy chunks of garlic chicken—dark meat only!
Mitsu Ken; 2300 North King Street, Honolulu Hawaii 96819 (map); 808-848-5573
Chocolate Mochi from Hilton Hawaiian Village
The Hawaii version of mochi is very different from traditional Japanese mochi. We take many liberties, with creations like peanut butter-stuffed mochi, butter mochi, and this chocolate mochi from the pastry chef at Hilton Hawaiian Village (and sold at Pronto Pickle). It's baked by the square and packed so that it's easy to take back to the mainland. It's got the chew of classic mochi and the texture of cake, with plenty of dark chocolate to go around.
Roast Duck from Nam Fong
The easiest type of omiyage to take home are pre-packed goods like mochi, chocolates, and sweets. But you'll have to make an exception for the roast duck from Nam Fong in Chinatown—all crisp skin and sweet, tender meat. Upon demand by relatives, I've hand-carried up to three whole ducks on the plane. Chop it up at home or just go at it whole with both hands. A hot bowl of white rice on the side is mandatory.
Nam Fong; 1029 Maunakea Street, Honolulu, HI 96817 (map); 808-599-5244
Chocolate Truffles from Choco le'a
These are, without a doubt, the best chocolates on the island. Run by Collins and Erin, an uncle-and-niece team, each delicate chocolate truffle is handmade to order. They've created custom truffles for everyone from Larry Ellison to Hawaii's top hotels (and maybe even your cousin's baby shower). I love the fresh mochi chocolate made with chichi dango from Nisshoho, though really you can't go wrong with any of their flavors.
Choco le'a; chocolea.com
Fresh Dumpling Skins and Noodles from Yat Tung Chow
Yat Tung Chow makes the best fresh noodle and wonton/dumpling skins in Hawai'i. From thick egg noodles to supple, paper thin wonton skins, a stop here enroute to the airport is a must. A 50-piece package of wonton skins for $1.50 is a bargain. Bring back a dozen orders and share among friends. Hot oil wonton party, anyone?
Yat Tung Chow; 150 N King Street, Honolulu, HI 96817 (map); 808-531-7982
Li Hing Mui from OnoPops
Li hing mui is a tangy, salty dried plum powder that we dust on nearly everything from sliced apples to fresh pineapple—it just makes everything taste better. Visit Hawaii and you'll find li hing mui shave ice, li hing mui cocktails, and even li hing mui on savory restaurant dishes. You can find it by the gallon container at Costco, and smaller packs at local crack seed stores. But for omiyage, we prefer the all-natural version made by OnoPops.
Hot Sauce from Adoboloco
I don't consider myself a hot sauce addict, but the bottled sauces that Tim Parsons and his family is turn out at Maui's Adoboloco is remarkable. Tim raised funds via Kickstarter and grows all the peppers on his farm...think Hawaiian chili peppers, Trinidad Moruga Scorpion peppers, and much more. Excellent with kalua pig, pastele stew, or pork adobo (check out his website for recipes).
Chili from Zippy's
Last but not least are Zippy's chilies. Most big cities boast fancy chili with locally sourced meats and hard-to-find ingredients; in Hawai'i, we've got Zippy's. Hearty and ridiculously satisfying, the chilie's packed with ground beef and beans (some claim Zippy's "secret" ingredient is mayo). You can order it online to ship frozen, and it's shown up in more than one care package from friends visiting me on the East Coast. Like most savory dishes in Hawaii, it's best paired with a bowl of hot rice.