Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On the second day of Hawaii, my true love gave to me... malasadas!

On the second day of Hawaii, my true love gave to me... malasadas!
My family and I had traveled to Hawaii for years before discovering the magical breakfast item known as the malasada. If you haven't heard of it, then you're in for a real treat (and a new love in your life). A malasada is essentially a Portuguese donut. Not to be confused with the ubiquitous Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Kremes (which don't get me wrong, I love those donuts too... I mean, we specifically drove to Portland from Hood River to eat at Voodoo Donut... but that's a story for another time), malasadas are served piping hot and somehow manage to be airy and doughy at the same time.

Malasadas were first made by inhabitants of Sao Miguel Island in the Azores. Deep-fried in oil and coated with sugar, they were traditionally made to use up all the "bad stuff" (fat and sugar!) in the house before Lent. They're often eaten on Mardi Gras -- Mardi Gras is also "Malasada Day" in Hawaii.

I don't even recall exactly how we came across the malasada, but all I do know is that every time we are in Oahu now, we find ourselves promptly on the doorstep of Leonard's Bakery at 933 Kapahulu Avenue. The lines are often long, but they move quickly...and are worth it. Step up to the counter, contemplate to yourself -- sugared or cinnamon? Filling or no filling? Everyone has a personal favorite. My dad loves the traditional, plain sugared malasada. My mom could go for the cinnamon. Me, I love the fillings... I'm not a jelly-donut person, but there's something about those tropical cream fillings that Leonard's pipes into their malasadas that makes me want to come back every month to try a different filling. When last there, I had the mango filled malasada... I am awaiting to try the lilikoi (one of my favorite tropical fruits!) malasada. (I just heard from my parents who just came back from Hawaii that this month's "fillings" are strawberry and pumpkin... mmm, pumpkin).

We've tried other malasada bakeries around Oahu, but none of them quite live up to Leonard's. I'm sure it is just a personal preference, but all the other places were too doughy or too cakey or too yeasty. We've also tried to seek out malasadas elsewhere, widely doing google searches for malasada offerings nearby or in places we've visited. My dad eventually found a place in Los Angeles that occasionally will sell them (you have to call to make sure), but he was rather disappointed with the results. My parents tried to find them in Macau, thinking that these Portuguese donuts may be found in a former Portuguese colony. No luck. We tried to find them in Brazil, thinking again about the Portuguese history... although no "malasadas" were found, we did learn on the last day of a pastry called the "solhnos" (my spelling is probably quite off...).

In any case, I suppose I'll just have to go back to Hawaii. Darn.

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