Local Kine Grinds: Loco Moco
By Christian Razukas from Honolulu, Hawaii - Loco Moco at Nico's in Honolulu.
Loco moco is a meal in the contemporary cuisine of Hawaii. There are many variations, but the traditional loco moco consists of white rice, topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg, and brown gravy. Variations may include chili, bacon, ham, Spam, kalua pork, linguiça, teriyaki beef, teriyaki chicken, mahi-mahi, shrimp, oysters, and other meats. Loco Moco is also the name of a Hawaiian-based restaurant chain that serves Hawaiian rice bowl dishes.
History and origin
The dish was reportedly created at the Lincoln Grill restaurants in Hilo, Hawaii, in 1949 by its proprietors, Richard Inouye and his wife Nancy, at the request of teenagers from the Lincoln Wreckers Sports club seeking something that differed from a sandwich, was inexpensive yet quickly prepared and served. They asked Nancy to put some rice in a bowl, a hamburger patty over the rice and then topped with brown gravy. The egg came later. The teenagers named the dish Loco Moco after one of their members, George Okimoto, whose nickname was "Crazy". George Takahashi, who was studying Spanish at Hilo High School, suggested using Loco, which is Spanish for crazy. They tacked on "moco" which "rhymed with loco and sounded good". However, to Spanish-speakers, this may sound odd, considering that moco means "booger" in Spanish.
The dish is widely popular in Hawaii and now on the menu at many Hawaiian restaurants in the mainland United States. In keeping with the standards of Japanese cuisine, rice is used as a staple starch, finished off with the hamburger, gravy, and fried eggs to create a dish that does not require the preparation time of bento. Loco moco can be found in various forms on many Pacific islands from Hawaii to Samoa to Guam and Saipan, and is also popular in Japan.
This dish was featured on the "Taste of Hawai'i" episode of Girl Meets Hawai'i, a Travel Channel show hosted by Samantha Brown. The episode features the dish being served at the popular restaurant, Hawaiian Style Cafe, in Waimea together with the plate lunch, another Hawaiian specialty dish.
The loco moco was also featured on a Honolulu-based episode of the Travel Channel show Man v. Food (this episode aired in the show's second season). The host, Adam Richman, tried this dish at the Hukilau Café, located in nearby Laie. Richman also tried an off-the-menu loco moco at a San Francisco eatery called Namu Gaji on his 2014 show, Man Finds Food.