Chasing The Manapua Man: The Hawaii Icon

If you grew up in Hawaii, then chances are that you have very fond memories of the manapua man. Every neighborhood had its own manapua man. They were ubiquitous when I was a kid. My manapua man would drive through my neighborhood at least five times a day, from morning until late into the evening. I can still remember the manapua man that drove his white van through my neighborhood in Ewa. He was an old Chinese man, with a full head of white hair. He always wore a button up shirt.

I would look forward to the sound of the manapua man’s van. It wasn’t always for the food, either. My manapua man would also sell baseball cards, pogs, and even fireworks. The majority of my Topps baseball card collection probably originated from my manapua man.

I’d scrounge around for a buck or two, and that would always be enough to get whatever it was that I wanted. Two bucks would be enough to buy a bag of fried noodles, a side of pork hash, and a Coke. And if I had change, I’d get a pack of Nerds or Haw Flakes. Everything, at least from my memory, was 50 cents or cheaper.

Eventually, the manapua man that I knew so well stopped driving through our neighborhood. To this day, though, whenever I bite into a hot manapua bun, or order fried noodles, I can’t help but think of my hanabata days and growing up with the manapua man. What can you get for two bucks nowadays? A can of Coke, if you’re lucky.

Note: Congratulations to Austin Zavala, Moanalua High School broadcast journalism teacher, and his students for producing such an awesome short documentary. It brought back a lot of memories!

About Coty

Founder of Exploration: Hawaii. Adventure, Minimalism, Vinyl, Typography, and Coffee + Matcha. A single space after a period, please.