I visited Honolulu from May 9 to 16 with fellow Serious Eats contributor and Honolulu native Kathy YL Chan. Here's a food-related snapshot from my vacation.
In addition to shave ice, one of my "must eat" desserts in Honolulu were malasadas, Portuguese yeast doughnuts. Kathy said the best ones are served during the annual Punahou Carnival in February, but since I couldn't try those, she brought me to the over 50-year-old Leonard's Bakery for malasada-devirginization.
Leonard's makes a wide variety of baked goods, but masaladas are the main thing—they even sell malasada-shaped plush toys. They make unfilled malasadas for 70¢ each topped with white sugar, cinnamon, or li hing (salty dried plum) sugar, and filled malasadas for $1 each with custard, dobash (chocolate), haupia (coconut), or the Flavor of the Month.
I went with a plain, white sugared original and one filled with the Flavor of the Month, in this case mango. The fried-to-order malasadas were hot, soft, light, slightly chewy balls of sugar-dusted joy. Freshly fried is the key to deliciousness—I wish more bakeries did that.
I preferred the mango cream-filled malasada over the plain because...well, I really like mangoes and creamy fillings. While the mango flavor could've been stronger, I thought the low sweetness level was just right.