Plate lunch

The plate lunch is a quintessentially Hawaiian meal, roughly analogous to Southern U.S. meat-and-threes. However, the pan-Asian influence on Hawaiian cuisine, and its roots in the Japanese bento, make the plate lunch unique to Hawaii.

Standard plate lunches consist of two scoops of white rice, macaroni salad, and an entrée.[1] A plate lunch with more than one entrée is often called a mixed plate.

A plate lunch


Although the exact origin of the Hawaiian plate lunch is disputed,[1] according to Professor Jon Okamura of the University of Hawai'i, the plate lunch likely grew out of the Japanese bento, because "bentos were take away kinds of eating and certainly the plate lunch continues that tradition".[1] Its appearance in Hawaii in recognizable form goes back to the 1880s when plantation workers were in high demand by the fruit and sugar companies on the islands.[2] Laborers were brought to Hawaii from around the world, including from China, Japan, Portugal, and the Philippines. Kaui Philpotts, former food editor of the Honolulu Advertiser, notes that the laborers "didn’t eat sandwiches or things like that; it was leftover rice and a lot of things like canned meat or teriyaki or cold meat or maybe scrambled eggs or pickles, and almost no salad or vegetable."[2] Later on, macaroni salad was added to the plates, as it seemed to bridge national tastes and also mixed well with gravy-covered slabs of meat.[2] Some locations also include the traditional Korean side dish kimchi.

As the days of the plantations came to an end, plate lunches began to be served on-site by lunch wagons to construction workers and day laborers. Later, local hole-in-the-wall restaurants and other stand-alone plate lunch restaurants began popping up,[2] then plate lunch franchises. Eventually these made their way to the U.S. mainland such as the L&L Drive-Inn chain in California in 1999.[3] L&L founder Eddie Flores rebranded it "L&L Hawaiian Barbecue", explaining that "When we went to the mainland, the name 'Hawaiian' is a draw, because everyone just fantasized, everyone wants to come to Hawaii."[3]

Popular entrées

Overwhelmingly popular plate lunch entrées reflect Asian influence. Of Japanese origin is chicken katsu, fried boneless chicken breaded with Japanese bread crumbs, and beef teriyaki (often shortened to "teri beef"). A common side-dish with plate lunches is fried noodles, often either chow mein, chow fun or saimin noodles.

Entrées of Hawaiian origin include kalua pork (also called "kalua pig") and lau lau (pork or other meat or fish wrapped in a taro leaf). Some side dishes are lomi salmon (also called "lomi-lomi salmon") and haupia (a coconut dessert).

Korean entrées include kalbi and meat jun. Some side dishes are taegu, a dish made of shredded codfish, and kongnamul muchim, a dish made of seasoned soybean sprouts.

Other Asian ethnic contributions include the Okinawan shoyu pork (Okinawan: rafute), the Chinese-influenced Char siu Pork, and Filipino Chicken Adobo and Longanisa. From Western Europe come dishes with Linguiça, a traditional Portuguese sausage.

A notably American element is the hamburger steak, a ground beef patty smothered with brown gravy served atop rice. Adding a sunny side up egg makes it a Loco Moco.


Traditional plate lunch of ahi poke, lomi lomi salmon, kalua pork, pork lau lau, two scoops rice, and haupia

Shrimp plate lunch

A shrimp plate lunch

Lukoki Hawaiian BBQ, Mt. View seafood & kalua pork combo

Kalua pork combo plate lunch from a Hawaiian BBQ restaurant in Mountain View, California

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Origins of Plate Lunch". Honolulu, Hawaii: KHNL. 2002-11-27. Retrieved 2008-11-12.
  2. ^ a b c d Steinhauer, Jennifer (November 12, 2008), "Carbo-Loading, Hawaiian Style", The New York Times, New York, NY, p. D1 New York edition, retrieved 2009-11-01
  3. ^ a b "L&L Hawaiian Barbecue · L&L Drive-Inn - About Us". Honolulu, HI. Archived from the original on 2004-08-07. Retrieved 2009-11-01.

External links

Chicken katsu

Chicken katsu (chicken cutlet (Japanese: チキンカツ, Hepburn: chikinkatsu)), also known as panko chicken, or tori katsu (torikatsu (鶏カツ)) is a Japanese dish which is also popular in Australia, Hawaii, London, California, Aylesford and other areas of the world.Chicken katsu is generally served with tonkatsu sauce (とんかつソース), a thick Japanese vegetarian pureed fruit-based brown sauce, or a well-seasoned ketchup, as a Hawaiian mixed plate lunch meal. It is generally served with shredded cabbage, rice and/or miso soup as part of a two or three item combo, or as a dinner with rice and vegetables.

In Hawaii, chicken katsu is as common as tonkatsu (pork cutlets). It is also served in place of tonkatsu in katsu curry and katsudon in local plate-lunch restaurants and in fine-dining Japanese establishments alike.


L (named el ) is the twelfth letter of the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet, used in words such as lagoon, lantern, and less.

Meat and three

In the cuisine of the Southern United States, a meat and three restaurant is one where the customer picks one meat from a daily selection of three to six choices (such as fried chicken, country ham, beef, country-fried steak, meatloaf, or pork chop) and three side dishes from a list that may include up to a dozen other options (usually vegetables, potatoes, corn, green or lima beans, but also other selections such as gelatin, creamed corn, macaroni and cheese, and spaghetti).A meat-and-three meal is often served with cornbread and sweet tea. Meat and three is popular throughout the United States, but its roots can be traced to Tennessee and its capital of Nashville. The phrase has been described as implying "glorious vittles served with utmost informality." It is also associated with soul food.Similar concepts include the Hawaiian plate lunch, which features a variety of entrée choices but typically has standardized side items, and the southern Louisiana plate lunch, which features menu options that change daily. It is somewhat similar to a blue-plate special but with a more fixed menu. The Boston Market chain of restaurants offers a similar style of food selection.

Rice and gravy

Rice and gravy is a staple of Louisiana Creole and Cajun cuisine and is usually a brown gravy based on pan drippings, which are deglazed and simmered with extra seasonings and served over steamed or boiled rice.


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