Hawaiian food: salad with pasta, ham, pineapple, onion, cheddar cheese with mayonnaise close-up in a bowl on the table. Vertical top view from above
Food - Drink
What Makes Hawaiian Macaroni Salad Unique
With countless noodle shapes and sauce options, there’s no bad combination when it comes to pasta and Hawaiian macaroni salad is no exception. Despite breaking a few traditional pasta-making rules and creating a few new rules of its own, Hawaiian macaroni salad is a dish as unique as it is delicious.
The origins of Hawaiian mac salad are still debated, but it is believed to have originated with either hotel chefs or plantation managers who brought potato salad recipes to the island. The potatoes were later swapped for cheaper and less perishable macaroni noodles, and Hawaiian mac salad eventually morphed into a delicious part of the Hawaiian plate lunch.
While many pasta chefs are fans of an al dente noodle, Hawaiian macaroni salad throws this rule out. According to Onolicious Hawaii, the noodles used in this dish are meant to be "ideally overcooked," making the mushy noodles the perfect vessel for the star ingredient of this recipe– mayonnaise.
In the continental United States, mayo is typically used as an optional addition to macaroni salads, whereas Hawaiian macaroni salads are essentially made of the condiment. Hawaiian Chef Mark Noguchi describes it as an "Obscene, guaranteed-going-to-make-you-raise-your-eyebrow kind of a lot," and not just any mayo, ideally Hellmann’s or Best Foods brand mayo.
Not only that, but Hawaiian macaroni salad does not have the mustard, sugar, and MSG found in continental macaroni salads, but the jury is still out on whether vinegar should be involved. Cookbook author Alana Kysar is a fan of adding vinegar, saying "Where’s the tang? It’s so flat if you don’t put vinegar in."