Last Saturday morning, YaYu came home from her service project and handed Brett and I a bag: “I brought these for you.” Inside the bag were two still-warm and fluffy malasada, or as they are sometimes called, “Hawaiian doughnuts.”
I avoid most carbs and can say no to a doughnuts, but I will not say no to a malasada. First of all, they are delicious. Second, we don’t see them very often because they sell out very quickly here.
Traditional egg-shaped and sugar-coated malasada may look like a regular doughnut on the outside, but their appearance hides the deliciousness inside. They’re way more rich and flavorful than a regular doughnut. Yeast-raised and fried, malasada dough contains egg, usually one egg to every cup of flour, and they’re also made with either evaporated milk or cream.
Malasada came to Hawai’i with the Portuguese workers who were brought to work on the sugar plantations. The Portuguese were mostly hired from Madeira and the Azores, considered highly desirable because they were skilled from working on sugar plantations there. Like other plantation workers they brought recipes from their home country with them, including malasada.
The most famous place to buy malasada in Hawai’i is Leonard’s in Honolulu. Leonard’s claims to be the original malasada bakery in Hawai’i and they are well-worth a stop. While a traditional malasada is plain, they can also be filled with custard or coconut-flavored haupia, and Leonard’s carries a wide variety of filled malasada as well as plain. They make the doughnuts all day long so fresh ones are always available. That’s a good thing – allowed to cool for too long, a malasada becomes dense and more like a fat bomb than a doughnut.
Here on Kaua’i, malasada can be somewhat tricky to find. You have to know where to go and be willing to get up early to get them because they sell out quickly. Malasada are traditionally associated with Mardi Gras and the Lenten season, so a few more places around town recently had them available, although we abstained then. They are definitely worth searching out though if you are visiting, and nothing goes better with a hot cup of coffee!