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Wednesday
Jun242009

Malasada Madness: The Portuguese Doughnut That Took Over Hawaii

Malasadas!
Recently, a new espresso stand opened up very close to the CakeSpy headquarters in Seattle, a little outpost of North Shore Hawaiian BBQ. Now, this is one of those places that looks like it might be awful or awesome, but probably not in-between.


North Shore BBQ Espresso StandMalasadas on the menu!
Admittedly, most of their bakery offerings--prepackaged muffins, biscotti and cookies--didn't appeal too much. But upon noticing that they fry up malasadas (little rounds of sweet, yeasty fried dough topped with granulated sugar) to order, a visit was definitely necessary.


While waiting for the malasadas to fry up, however, I noticed something unusual: they were listed on the menu as Portuguese Doughnuts. Now, this seemed a big incongruous on a Hawaiian menu. Naturally, I ran home to Wikipedia the *&^% out of this.

 

As Wikipedia tells me, it was a development borne of immigration patterns: "In 1878, Portuguese laborers from the Azores came to Hawaii to work in the plantations. These immigrants brought their traditional foods with them, including a fried dough pastry called the 'malasada.' Today there are numerous bakeries in the Hawaiian islands specializing in malasadas."


The article references one of the most famous malasada vendors in Hawaii, Leonard's Bakery, which may not have been the first place to sell them, but it certainly sounds like it's the place that made them popular; their story further illuminates the phenomenon of the Portuguese doughnut in Hawaii:

 

In June 1882 the British sailing ship 'Monarch' brought Arecnion & Amelia DoRego from San Miguel Island, Portugal to Maui under contract to work the sugar cane fields.

Some 33 years later, their grandson Leonard was born. In 1946 Leonard and his wife Margaret moved to Honolulu with their daughter Diane, age 8. Leonard worked at Snowflake Bakery until he founded Leonard's Bakery in 1952

Leonard and Margaret were no strangers to hard work, both coming from very large families. The bakery prospered. Not long after opening, Leonard's mother suggested making malasadas for Shrove Tuesday - a Portuguese tradition.

Although thinking it may be too ethnic, Leonard's bakers complied. Malasadas were a huge hit. And, the appetite for malasadas in Hawaii was born.

Due to Leonard's popularity Leonard required a larger, more modern facility, moving into their present location at 933 Kapahulu Avenue in 1957.


These days, malasadas are closely associated with Hawaii. They're seen dressed up at fancy restaurants, they're sold out of mobile trucks, and they're naturally a delicious breakfast.

 

(CakeSpy Note: Strangely enough, according to Wikipedia, Hawaii is not the only place where malasadas are readily available: "Malasadas are also very popular in the New Bedford and Fall River, Massachusetts region, which has a large Portuguese population. Malasadas are also popular in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where they are called 'flippers'." So perhaps there is a hidden malasada belt in New England?)
Inside of the Malasada
Which brings us back to Seattle and North Shore Hawaiian BBQ. Remember how I said that this place was going to be either awesome or awful? Well, I can't speak to the savory fare there, but these malasadas were pretty awesome. They charmingly misshapen rounds, served unpretentiously in a plastic container and they were still hot and slightly dripping with the oil in which they had just been fried. The first irresistible bite, taken while they were still way too hot, was yeasty, sweet, pleasingly greasy, and, well, pretty perfect.

Of course if you're not in Hawaii or Seattle or Portugal, no need to panic. Here's a recipe (discovered via TastyIsland) for malasadas which are said to taste similar to the legendary ones at Leonard's!
Places mentioned:
North Shore Hawaiian Barbecue, 101 Boren Ave. S, Seattle (206)621-1121; online at northshoreseattle.com.

Leonard's Hawaii, multiple locations; online at leonardshawaii.com.

 

Reader Comments (26)

This looks wonderful. Thanks for the tid-bit.

June 24 | Unregistered CommenterEliana

I'm coming to the Seattle-area next week. I can't wait to track this place down and try it out.

Yes, they are so scrumptious!!! I have been to Leonard's in Honolulu and can confirm how good they are. If you can get your hands on some, I strongly suggest you do so. :)

June 24 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie

I absolutely adore that you are my cornucopia of sweet history and knowledge. My hubs is Portugese, now I'll have to make some! Maine will be the new malasada capitol!

June 24 | Unregistered CommenterC.L.

these look awesome

June 24 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

I lived on the Big Island for a few years...Tex Drive-Inn in Honokaa has THE BEST MALASADAS EVER!!! *wipes drool from chin*

June 24 | Unregistered Commenterholly

I grew up eating Portuguese doughnuts and love them, but we called them Fillozes. My parents are from island of Terceira in the Azores, so maybe they have different names for them depending on what island you are from. Either way, they are yummy!

June 24 | Unregistered CommenterMonica

Malasada's are amazing. Thee is a woman who sells them fresh made on the island of Kauai'i in front of Kmart.

June 24 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

How curious, these are totally new to me. Looks great though!

June 24 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

I've never heard of these or seen them and I'm quite surprised, growing up in Southeastern Mass. I am so looking for these now!! I guess I'll have to look under both names.

June 24 | Unregistered CommenterAnali

and the sign says Manapua too! can we get the address?

June 24 | Unregistered Commenterdana

Eliana: They ARE wonderful!

Teresa: It's definitely a hole in the wall, but these were great street food in my opinion! you've got to visit some of our other great bakeries too...Trophy, Macrina, Cupcake Royale, Three Girls...oh so many!

Melanie: I am so jealous!

CL: OMG, you MUST! Can't wait to hear how they turn out.

Justin: you are correct!

Holly: Oh man, wish I could have some now!

Monica: ooh, a new one! Thanks for the sweet tidbit. I think most cultures have a variation on fried dough..it's so interesting to hear about new ones! But you said it best: "either way, they are yummy"

Heather: OMG that is awesome!

Hannah: They were new to me too! Today was the first time I ever tried them. Like, yum!

Anali: Hope you'll be able to find one. That bit about them being popular in MA was a surprise to me...interested to hear if you can find them! Are there any places that have Hawaiian cuisine? they might have them?

Dana: The address is in the post--it's on Boren and 12th ave. in the area that straddles the ID and the central district.

June 24 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

mmm malasadas. im from hawaii, in seattle now.... and now i WANT a malasada. some places sell malasadas with cream inside... mmmmmmm

June 24 | Unregistered Commenterbrooke

These are not something I would necessarily be interested in if I just saw them on a menu, but your description makes them sound irresistible.

These look amazing. Do they taste like a zeppole?

June 25 | Unregistered CommenterNutmeg Nanny

We Portuguese are everywhere! I alreday knew malassadas were very popular in Hawai and always thought that was quite awesome! Here in continental Portugal they're called filhoses and eaten mainly during christmas time.

Hey,

I discovered you lil' cupcake art in Tacoma the other day and hunted down your blog. So cute! I tired to find an e-mail address to tell you so but searched in vain and so I have to comment. Cute art!

Also thanks for the Seattle info, I'm new to town so it's good to get the scoop on places.

June 25 | Unregistered Commenternatasha

Heh, if you think you were surprised by the Portuguese connection. Imagine being a portuguese person from the azores very familiar with the malasada concept, and then showing up in Hawaii to find malasadas everywhere!

June 26 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I am originally from Fall River, MA, now living in San Diego, and I miss having malasadas whenever I want! Thanks for the post on it!

June 27 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

Yeah! a place to head to for fried sugary things and I love the link to the recipe you provided, thanks. Bookmarked already!

June 27 | Unregistered CommenterLady P

I'm so glad that everyone has been enjoying discovering--or rediscovering--this delicious little fried treat. Interesting to hear the Portuguese point of view too, Anonymous--I hadn't even thought of that! I think I really need to try one of the Fillozes too. You know, for comparison :-)

June 27 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

Yay! I'm originally from Hawaii too, and these are awesome...many places will sell them custard-filled, chocolate-filled, coated with cinnamon-sugar or white sugar...I want some now. I will need to track this place down!

July 1 | Unregistered Commenterlarie

(sorry my english)

I live in Madeira island, where the Portugueses live ther´s home to make a travel of +- 200 days...a "cruiser" to Strait of Magellan...can you imagine this?
Its amazing, after so much time our culture still strong allover the world...Malassadas, in Hawai, must say this to my mother!
Hum...

David

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