One of the most popular “snacks” in Hawaii bears testimony to the heavy Chinese influence the islands are under. Manapua—or meat filled buns—can be found in bakeries, restaurants, and convenience stores all over the islands. Just like the Chinese Dim Sum dish Char Sui Bao, each sweet bun is traditionally filled with a scoop of char sui pork or other barbequed meat. There are even bakeries that thrive by producing this one specialty. It is thought the name comes from the Hawaiian words for cake (mea’ono) and pork (pua’a).
In addition to the pork, you can also find chicken curry, vegetable, red bean, and other filling options. They are prepared both steamed and baked. The convenience and flavor have made these a favorite and they are perfect as an alternative to a sandwich in your lunch or as a fun appetizer for a luau. I like to make these with the sweet dough recipe below, but if you are in a hurry, you can use frozen dinner roll dough or canned rolls from the refrigerator section.