Category Archives: Food

31 Days of Life in my Hawaii Day 24:: Food: Malasadas

One of the great things about living here is that Hawaii’s rich history as an ethnic and racial melting pot has brought us so many wonderful and delicious kinds of foods.

One of my favorites from the Portuguese culture is malasadas.

photo credit: tastyislandhawaii.com

Malasadas are basically doughnuts: fried balls of sweet yeast dough coated in sugar. Customarily they differ from doughnuts in that there’s no hole, which might make it more of a fritter, but whatever. They are delicious; that’s all you need to know.

One caveat, though: malasadas are best enjoyed fresh, hot out of the fryer; they generally don’t keep well. So don’t wait too long between the time of purchase and consumption — you’ll be missing out on the optimal malasada eating experience.

Way back when, members of the Portuguese community in Hawaii introduced the tradition of eating these sweet treats on Shrove Tuesday. Before long, Leonard’s Bakery, the family business behind this idea, knew it had a hit on its hands and were cranking out thousands of malasadas a day.

Leonard’s is probably at the top of the list of bakeries contending for title of yummiest malasada, but there are others, such as Champion and Agnes’ Portuguese Bake Shop. And malasadas are one of the most — perhaps the most — popular food booths at the annual Punahou School Carnival. No one leaves the Carnival without eating a malasada!

This is the twenty-fourth post in my series, 31 Days of Life in my Hawaii. Click here to get the links to the other posts in the series.

31 Days of Life in my Hawaii Day 17:: Food: Rice

In Hawaii homes, there is one staple that is the sine qua non of every kitchen: rice.

Also, your rice cooker.

My rice cookers. The little one is for everyday, when it’s just The Coach and me, and the big one is for when we have more mouths to feed.

The custom of rice with meals — in some homes, every meal — originated about 150 years ago, with plantation workers who came to Hawaii from Asia. Eventually pretty much everyone, regardless of ethnic background, came to expect that rice is the go-to side dish in Island homes.

We buy our rice by the 20-pound bag. And will go through 20 pounds a lot faster than you might think.

I used to give bags of rice as gifts during the Christmas season to my children’s teachers, school bus drivers, and other service providers.

Speaking of bags of rice, the last time I brought one home from the store, it had this recipe on the back:

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think of cabbage rolls as something to fantasize about.

Anyway, because as I’m writing this after just returning home from a four-day trip to the mainland and I’m just a bit jet-lagged, I’m going to refer you to an essay I read some years ago by a Hawaii author who summed the whole rice thing up rather perfectly.

Rice is more than food; rice is love.

This is the seventeenth post in my series, 31 Days of Life in my Hawaii. Click here to get the links to the other posts in the series.

31 Days of Life in my Hawaii Day 10:: Food: Strawberry Guava

Since this series is about life in my Hawaii, I might be including elements of island life that are kind of a big deal for me, but to which another islander might say, “Huh?”  One such thing in the food category is the strawberry guava, known here as waiawī.

This little fruit often gets a bum rap because it isn’t actually native to Hawaii, and in fact is considered an invasive species where it grows wild up in the rainforests.

We have four trees in our yard, one in the front and three in the back, and they are pretty productive most years. This year we had a bit of a bumper crop, so that meant a couple of things for The Coach and me: raking, and jelly.

Nice to have a “helper” when you’re raking

Our backyard trees. If you click on the image you’ll see there is a lot of fruit on the trees to be picked, and even more on the ground to be raked.

When we first moved into this house, we watched the trees blossom, then the little green fruits appear, then ripen, then finally fall to the ground. So every day we’d rake them up by the dozens of pounds and toss them; this went on for several years before it occurred to us that maybe we should actually do something with all that fruitiness. Thus began our adventures in strawberry guava jelly.

My mother-in-law had some experience in that department, but the first time we attempted to make jelly, she was away on a trip, so we had to kind of find our way on our own. The Coach’s aunt, her sister, was some help, but mostly we learned our jelly-making through trial and error.

The process goes something like this: you need five pounds of fruit to make a case of jelly. So first you pick the fruit — five pounds comes out to about a gallon container of guavas — then you make juice. The juice making involves mashing and boiling the guavas with some water and lemon juice, then straining it through fabric bags, so that you end up with about 7 cups of juice.

When the juice is cooked with sugar and pectin, it’s a beautiful deep pink

Now you’re ready to make the jelly, half a case at a time. This requires two boxes of pectin per case, to help it set up, and lots and lots of sugar. I’m not going to tell you how much, because it’s enough to send you into a diabetic coma just thinking about it. Anyway. You boil the juice with the pectin, then add the sugar and bring it back to a boil, which you let it do for about two minutes.

Then you pour it into jars and that’s about it. The first year we did this we made two or three cases, the next year, maybe five. Which seemed like a lot, until last year we set a record: twelve cases.

Friends have suggested we should sell our jelly at farmers markets and such, but we just don’t want to work that hard. So mostly what we do is give it away for Christmas gifts and as thank-yous. And, of course, enjoy it on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The year we made eight cases

This is the tenth post in my series, 31 Days of Life in my Hawaii. Click here to get the links to the other posts in the series.

31 Days of Life in my Hawaii Day 3:: Food: Papaya

Almost ripe enough to eat

The Coach and I are breakfast eaters — we just can’t manage without a morning meal — and for us it always includes a piece of fruit.

Just as with rice at dinner, I can’t not have fruit with breakfast. (This got to be a bit of a problem a couple years ago when I went on the South Beach Diet and you can’t have ANY FRUIT AT ALL for the first two weeks. I didn’t like that).

A lot of the time, the fruit we have is the same stuff you have with your breakfast on the mainland: half a grapefruit, cantaloupe, berries. But our favorite, and one we have at least half the time, is papaya.

There is nothing like fresh, chilled, island grown papaya, but I have to admit it’s probably an acquired taste. One of my earliest memories is of sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen while she made breakfast for my grandfather, and of her giving me a taste of his papaya. It has a luscious, silky sweetness — which might be countered with a little squeeze of lemon or lime — but which as a toddler kind of made me gag.

So I don’t know exactly when it was that I started liking it, and my kids never had the same problem; its soft flesh makes it the perfect baby food when you are starting them on solid foods. In fact papaya and poi were two of the first solid foods I gave my babies right after the introductory rice cereal.

Breakfast isn’t the same without it

Apparently it’s full of good things, like vitamin C and lycopene. One of my girlfriends ate a ton of it during her pregnancies because she said it helped alleviate gas. I, um, don’t know about that, but I do know papaya is one of the best ways to start the day!

This is the third post in my series, 31 Days of Life in my Hawaii. Click here to get the links to the other posts in the series.