The History of Hawaiian Plate Lunch
The Hawaiian Plate Lunch, which is a mainstay of Hawaiian food culture, first appeared in Hawaii in it’s current form back in the 1880s. At the time laborers were in high demand by the fruit and sugar companies on the islands. As the demand grew, laborers were brought in from around the world, including China, Japan, Portugal and the Philippines. The workers didn’t eat sandwiches or things of that nature, instead they ate leftover rice and mixed it with things like canned meat, teriyaki, cold meat, scrambled eggs or pickles, with almost no salad or vegetable. At some point macaroni salad was added to the plates, not only because it was a good bridge for national taste, but also it mixed well with most of the meats used in the plate lunches.
Once the plantations came to an end, plate lunches began being served on-site by lunch wagons to construction workers and day laborers. Eventually it started showing up in local hole in the wall restaurants before the first “plate lunch” restaurants began popping up. Before long there were even a few plate lunch franchises and they made the jump to the US, where the craze spread into California. (Click link above for more)