In the mid-1800s, as Maui's sugar industry flourished, it became apparent that more laborers would be needed to meet the demand for sugar. To solve the shortage, thousands of immigrants from across the Pacific were brought to work in the fields.
When these field hands from Japan, Korea, China, and the Philippines all descended on Hawaii, they also brought with them their traditional customs and various types of food.
Even though plantation camps were separated by ethnicity, workers in the field would often trade food with workers from other camps. A Japanese worker might offer some mochi, while a Korean worker might offer kalbi ribs.
What emerged from this system of swapping foods was a combination of ethnic cuisines that eventually morphed into the "mixed plate" lunch that's so popular in the islands today.
For the best plate lunch on the West Side of the island, Aloha Mixed Plate is a local favorite set right on the water in Lahaina.
Located across from the Lahaina Cannery, Aloha Mixed Plate serves heaping portions at prices that won't break the bank. Sure, the plates are made of paper, but they're topped with filling cuisine and served on the Lahaina waterfront. They're also connected to the history of Maui.
Most plates are accompanied by macaroni salad and two scoops of sticky white rice and include a meat dish such as chicken katsu or tasty teriyaki beef.
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The Best Local Food in Maui
When in paradise, it is easy to get lulled into the resort experience, but this has never been my thing. My last trip to Maui I was lucky enough to be there at the same time as a good friend, a Maui native. Aloha Mixed Plate, a little off the beaten path in Lahaina (next to the Lahaina Lu'au), is where he took me for authentic Hawaii food. A standard mixed plate comes with two scoops of white rice, a scoop of potato-mac salad, plus your main entree. I suggest the Kahlua pork. The local favorite is the Loco Moco, two hamburger patties topped with an egg over easy and brown gravy. They also serve great drinks, which is a given if you are in paradise. Enjoy!