Contrary to what you may have heard about coconuts and Spam galore, Hawaii actually has a lot to offer in the way of cultural foods. Sure, fresh fruits and seafood are plentiful here, but they pale in comparison to the endless foods the diverse population has brought here. For a state that is ranked with the 6th highest foreign-born population and the most diverse, it’s understandable that it would have a melting pot of cultural foods for the larger melting pot.
One of the state’s roots comes from immigration of Portuguese in the late 1800s. With their transplant and adaptions to the Hawaiian islands, one thing did not change – their food. A favorite local dish from the Portuguese now, the malasada, found its roots in another ocean chain – the Madeira islands.
Their popularity has been maintained for the last couple centuries, and we sought out a local malasada shop near Kapahulu, in Honolulu, Leonard’s Bakery.
A malasada is similar to a donut, made of yeast dough and fried with a sugar coating. Leonard’s had several varieties of the pastry, including some with flavored fillings (we tried a pineapple and custard!).
As you travel around Honolulu, you’ll also notice all of the Japanese influence across the town. As almost half of the population here is Asian (around 39%), the reach of their culture stretches widely around their food.
We stopped at Don Quijote, a Japanese grocery store, looking to experience some authentic local food. One of the first things that caught our eye was a fresh pancake station, or imagawayaki, as the Japanese word goes. The ones we ordered had green tea and red beans pressed together in them, and coated in a sweet pancake wrap.
And after seeing my Chinese roommate come home with a package of them one day, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I had to buy some myself – green tea Oreos. If you know me, you know that practically any new flavor of Oreo usually flies straight off the shelf into my cart, and that seeing these were no exception.
The difference in these Oreos is that they are not made for the United States; they’re sold and marketed for Japan, but Don Quijote directly imports them into Hawaii, since it’s closer than the mainland even. The Oreos were actually soft cookies, and were all individually wrapped!
The green tea cream was not too light or strong, and was the perfect size for its package. With the rising popularity of green tea in the United States, however, it’s surprising Oreo hasn’t marketed it to the English consumer base. In the meantime, I’ll be trying to figure out if (and how much) I can pack for my flight back to Iowa.
Are there Japanese-Iowa imports already going on? Asking for a friend.