When Luana Mahi and Kau‘i Kahaiali‘i, co-originators of the Maui Sunday Market, were brainstorming the concept of a weekly family-friendly event in Kahului, their mission was to create an experience where locals and visitors alike could gather each week, engage with one another, share stories, and partake in the diversity of Hawai‘i and the aloha spirit.

In addition, Mahi, who is president of the Maui Food Technology Center, and Kahaiali‘i, who serves as the event’s MC/host, were looking to help stimulate and revitalize the community of Kahului.

They realized events take place all around the island, but in Kahului, weekly community gatherings are a rarity, especially in the evening. The Maui Sunday Market debuted in July of 2018, and has been gaining in popularity ever since. Held every Sunday from 4 to 8pm at the Kahului Shopping Center, the event features free parking and admission, local foods, live entertainment, and vendors displaying a wide variety of products ranging from Hawaiian mamaki tea, to plants and succulents, to jewelry.

Event organizers say the Market draws visitors from the NCL cruise ship that docks in Kahului Harbor earlier in the day, as well as from nearby hotels. Visitors crave an authentic island experience, and the Market’s offering of local foods, entertainment, and vendor products really resonates with this audience. Locals, too, are attracted to the weekly festivities, with many making Sunday their “Maui Sunday Market Night.” What better way to kick off your new week!

With this summer having been so beastly hot, the last thing Janet and I want to do is heat up the kitchen even more by cooking dinner. So we head to the Maui Sunday Market to check things out and indulge in the ‘ono grindz being offered up by a myriad of food vendors. When we step out of the car at approximately 5:30pm, joyful strains from the recorded song “Africa” by Toto fill the late-afternoon air, putting us in a festive mood.

Food trucks and vendor booths are set up in four rows, and there’s a covered community picnic table area for chowing down, along with a live-performance venue. The Market features a wide array of local talent—the uber-popular reggae singer Marty Dread entertained the crowd at the first anniversary celebration in July—including local favorite George Kahumoku, who is notorious for inviting friends and family to join him on an impromptu basis. Tonight’s live music is being provided by Leo Kane, whose musical talents transcend generations as he performs genre-crossing classics from Hawaiian to Oldies.

The first booth Janet and I encounter is offering lupulu and vaifala drink, neither of which we’re familiar with. We learn lupulu is a Tongan favorite made with coconut milk, corned beef, onions, and taro leaves served over rice; and that vaifala originates from Samoa, and is a blend of pineapple, mango, sweetened condensed milk, and water.

The Corn Project’s booth offers four different versions of corn on the cob: Local (Hawaiian lava salt and special spices), Mexican (crema, lime, and cotija cheese), American (mayo, cheddar cheese, and bacon), and Italian (pesto mayo, sundried tomatoes, basil, and Parmesan); JB’s Kitchen has cooked up BBQ specialties like pork, beef, and chicken wings; and 3 Angels Farm has shoyu chicken, chow fun, and lumpia.

The lumpia has attracted Janet’s attention, so we begin our culinary adventure at 3 Angels Farm’s booth by purchasing veggie lumpia ($4 for 3 pieces). Being a bona fide Francophile, the Crepes d’Amour food truck beckons to me. I happily hand over $13 for a savory crepe filled with spinach, chicken, and brie.

Janet and I share our culinary treasures and compare notes. The lumpia are crisp, tasty, and nicely enhanced by a sweet chili dipping sauce. The crepe itself has a lovely texture, and the filling is delightfully gooey and seductive. An accompanying pesto is deliciously herbaceous, and so addictive it should be bottled and sold on its own. Janet likes the pesto so much she goes back for seconds!

One lumpia and half a crepe has left me wanting more, so I sidle up to the very popular, bright blue Shorebreak Grindz truck and order their garlic noodles with teriyaki chicken ($7). It’s a generous portion of savory noodles nicely complemented by the lightly sweet teri chicken. Okay I’m full.

Janet finishes her Market meal with a half dozen mochi balls from Dee’s Poi Mochi ($5). She’s chosen three varieties: original poi, coconut, and chocolate brownie. She declares the mochi balls to have a nice texture, and the white chocolate dipping sauce highly recommended by Dee herself is the icing on the cake, so to speak. Although they’re all yummy, Janet declares the original poi to be her favorite.

Maui Sunday Market is presented by the Maui Food Technology Center, which encourages, trains, and incubates a wide range of local residents, students, entrepreneurs, and emerging agribusinesses seeking to earn a meaningful living from agriculture and value-added food production, including culinary arts, food science, and food technology. Located at UH Maui College, the MFTC provides both technical and business consultations for existing and emerging food-related businesses. Maui Sunday Market is also sponsored by the County of Maui Mayor’s Office of Economic Development.

–heidi pool

AT A GLANCE…

WHAT •

Maui Sunday Market, a weekly event featuring ‘ono grindz, live entertainment, product booths, and a whole lot of community and aloha spirit.

WHERE •

Kahului Shopping Center on Ka‘ahumanu Ave.

WHEN •

Every Sunday from 4 to 8pm.

HOW •

Parking and admission are free. You just need to show up with an appetite, sense of community, and willingness to have some fun, local style!



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