Leonard’s: that Heavenly Pouf called the Malasada
933 Kapahulu Ave., Honolulu, HI
Leonard’s makes these impossibly fluffy poufs of heaven called malasadas. Malasadas are Portuguese doughnuts, deep fried and covered in sugar. The pastries were likely woven into Hawaiian cuisine in the 1800s when Portuguese immigrants moved to Hawaii to work on the islands’ plantations. Malasadas are almost as ubiquitous as spam musubi in Hawaii but I had read about Leonard’s in Lucky Peach and made it a goal to try the place. There’s a recipe for the donuts in Lucky Peach but I can’t imagine duplicating this deep fried goodness at home.
Leonard’s is located near a residential area so we just parked down the block and walked to the shop. I’ll never get used to the tiny geckos scurrying across the sidewalk in and around the concrete cracks.
As soon as we walked into Leonard’s, we were hit in the face by a waft of rich, buttery aroma. I scanned the bakery display cases for malasadas and was disappointed not to see them in the display cases. I was afraid we got to the bakery too late and the donuts were sold out. Then I saw a small menu sign near the entrance and I realized the malasadas were freshly fried to order. So we ordered four donuts to share along with some other pastries.
We sat on the bench outside and gobbled up our other pastries while we waited for our malasadas to be fried up.
We picked the Portuguese sausage bun because it reminded us so much of the hot dog buns we buy from Chinese bakeries back in Canada. We’ve noticed a heavy Portuguese influence on the food in Hawaii, in fact the Portuguese sausage is a staple in traditional Hawaii breakfast plates, they even serve it at McDonald’s. The Portuguese sausage meat is not as fatty as a hot dog, the meat is firmer than the soft canned meat of spam but it’s equally salty with a slight kick of spice.
We also ordered a pineapple and cream cheese strudel that was flaky and light and filled with the sweetest pineapple filling. I’ve never had cream cheese with pineapple and was surprised that the two flavours go so well together.
Finally, our malasadas were ready and I couldn’t wait to dig in! We ordered four donuts: original, cinnamon, li hing and a malasada puff which was a filled donut, I chose haupia filling.
Malasadas are made of the fluffiest, most eggy dough, the freshly fried doughnut is so soft and pillowy when it was served to us, that I was afraid I was going to crush it with my hand. The inside of the donut was light as air, filled with a web of this light, feathery eggy texture, it is sort of like the inside of a French cruller but even lighter. The outside of the donut was coated in so much sugar that I got it all over my mouth and some on the tip of my nose as I greedily gobbled up malasada after malasada.
The cinnamon sprinkled malasada was just as delicious as the original. The li hing topped malasada had a bit of a salty kick to it. Li hing is a Chinese salted plum. My grandma always had a bag of the stuff in her purse when we were little. They’re little salty snacks that make your lips pucker. The li hing powder sprinkled on the malasadas was sweet as well as salty though. I have noticed that li hing is very popular in Hawaii, many pastries, ice creams and desserts feature the flavour. The fact that li hing powder is being mixed in with a Portuguese pastry is just another example of Hawaii’s diverse culinary landscape.
For our filled malasada, I picked the haupia filled malasada. Haupia is a coconut milk pudding. There was so much filling in the soft pastry that some of it squirted right out and onto the floor when I bit in. The sweet coconut was delicious, not too sweet and a great compliment to the sugary doughnut. The malasadas are just as scrumptious on their own though. I can probably eat a dozen in one sitting.
I’m not sure how I can go back to eating regular doughnuts!