What Makes Hawaiian Hot Dogs Unique?

Hawaiian cuisine is hard to define because it is so wildly diverse. In fact, the 2020 Census found that Hawaii had the highest Diversity Index of any state, with a 76% chance that two citizens pulled at random will represent different races. Consequently, you can find a mix of global foods in virtually any town. There are Native Hawaiian dishes, such as poi and kalua pork, but European explorers, American missionaries, and an influx of plantation workers from Portugal, the Philippines, China, Korea, and Japan have also left a stamp on local cuisine (via First We Feast).

These days, when you think of Hawaiian food, the first thing that comes to your mind is probably poke, which gained enormous popularity on the mainland in the late 2010s, particularly around Los Angeles, according to Eater. But poke barely scratches the surface of Hawaiian food. Each island has its own local specialties, and few embody the state's broad cultural influences better than Kauai's Puka Dogs.

There's nothing like a Puka Dog

A Puka Dog is a local specialty, and we really mean local. There's only one place in the world that makes them, a little shop aptly named Puka Dog. It opened in 2000, occupying a tiny blue hut in Kekaha, Kauai. The location has changed twice since then, and the shop can now be found at Poipu Beach Park, a hotspot for vacationers. What makes their hot dogs unique? It's right there in the name. If your Native Hawaiian is a bit rusty, 'puka' means 'hole' and refers to the unique bun these hot dogs come in (via Taste Atlas).

Actually, 'hot dog' isn't really the right term, as Puka Dog's menu gives customers the choice of Polish sausage or veggie sausage; no frankfurters here. The buns are not split in half, as you're probably used to. Instead, Taste Atlas reveals that they poke a big hole in the middle of the bread and stick the sausage inside. The hole is made by a heated rod that also toasts the inside of the bun. Condiments are another thing that makes the Puka Dog stand out. Going far beyond the boundaries of ketchup, The Takeout notes that you can pack the bun with an array of sauces made from local fruit, including banana relish and passionfruit mustard. And don't forget to top things off with their signature lemon-garlic sauce.