Manapua: A Local Icon

Manapua: A Local Icon

If you ever try to order a Manapua at a Chinese restaurant outside of Hawaii, you’ll get a funny look and a quizzical expression. Manapua are uniquely local and have a fascinating history.

Char Siu Bao (or meaty buns when translated from Chinese) were sold by food peddlers in the 19th Century on the streets of Honolulu. Hawaiians renamed them Mea Ono Pua’a, which means "tasty pork thing." In time, that changed to Manapua. Char Siu Bao are usually about the size of a tangerine. Three bites and they're gone! The late owner of Char Hung Sut was the genius who supersized them into the larger tasty buns we all know and love.

Today, Manapua come with a variety of fillings such as pork, chicken, lup cheong, Portuguese sausage, custard, and even sweet potato. They also come baked, steamed, deep fried or decorated with special logos or pictures. You can get them in Chinatown, your local 7-11, or from the Manapua man if you’re fortunate enough to live in an area that still has one. No matter your source, whether it comes in a pink box, a white box, or a paper wrapper, Manapua are a local staple.

 

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Comments

Jackie - August 27, 2017

You should try to make your own . I too have tried to find a good one here on the mainland. One day I decided to try to make them . They turned out so good . I made them again for cousins from Hawaii and they loved them .. Try it you will surprised .

Jay Iukika Bremer - July 20, 2017

How do I place an order for manapua? I live in California.

Charlene White - June 26, 2017

How do we order Manapuana. I live in Texas and we get terrible versions of it in our oriental stores. Thanks for any help

Joanie Rador - June 20, 2017

I used to live in Hawaii, mostly on Oahu, I went to Kailua High School. Anyway, I really miss eating Manapua, can it be shipped? I would love to order some but didn’t know if it would ship well or not. Let me know.

Mahalo,
Joanie Rador

Kainoa - June 20, 2017

Miss this delicacy sooo much now that I reside in Florida. Yes, many Chinese food places look at me weird asking for Managua, pepe’ao, half moon, pork hash, lup Chong nap, ka yut, they look at me like I’m speaking another Chinese dialect.

Kel Peleras - June 20, 2017

A wonderful video and history of a local icon.
Only in Hawaii you going find a “chop suey” story
like this. Hawaii is the “melting pot” of ethnicity
kau kau fusion.

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