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Video: Chasing The Manapua Man: The Hawaii Icon

Manapua is the Hawaiian version of the Chinese pork filled steamed bun called cha siu bao or char siu bao. The name “manapua” comes from the shortened version of the Hawaiian term used to describe the Chinese dim sum food item, mea’ono pua’a, which translates to “delicious pork thing.”

Back when sugar and pineapple plantations thrived in Hawaii immigrant workers would carry their freshly prepared ethnic foods from camp to camp selling it to supplement their income. As the demand grew they started using push carts. Eventually, push carts gave way to motorized vehicles; vans and delivery trucks. The “manapua man” was born, as we know of today.

Deriving from the plantation days of old, “Manapua Man” is a general term commonly used to describe the restaurant and convenience store on wheels; the truck.

Long before today’s uniquely painted pop culture food truck craze serving gourmet and mixed fusion style foods, a masterpiece of its own, the manapua man rolled down the streets of Hawaii’s neighborhoods serving up multi-cultured (dim sum styled) fast foods and hot plate lunches. In essence, you could say Hawaii’s manapua man (truck) is the forefather of the food truck craze around the mainland.

Hawaii’s manapua man’s truck not only serves food, it’s somewhat of a mobile convenience store; a general store, so to speak. An adequately stocked truck can supply everything from candy, gum, ice cream, small toys, and even small personal and household items.

Just about every neighborhood, especially in rural areas of Hawaii has a manapua man truck or two. Each had their own unique way of letting everyone know they were coming. From loud blaring horns, catchy gingles, even playing traditional music of their ethnic background, you knew when to grab your money and run down the street. Manapua man, manapua man, we all have our favorites.

Manapua man (truck), another Hawaii tradition deriving from plantation migration. Truly a Hawaii icon.

Related: Hawaiian Manapua
Credit: Manapua Man – Hawaii Icon