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Malasadas and Manapuas and Musubis, oh my! Three more local grinds that are Hawaiʻi favorites.

Malasadas are Portuguese doughnuts that are usually round in shape and without a hole in the center. Traditional malasadas are deep-fried until golden brown on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside, and then rolled in sugar. However, Leonard’s Bakery, Hawaiʻi’s original malasada bakery, also coats their malasadas in other coatings such as cinnamon sugar and li hing mui (salty, dried plum) powder sugar, and even fills their malasadas with cream fillings such as custard, dobash (chocolate), and haupia (coconut pudding). Malasadas are believed to have been introduced to Hawaiʻi in 1878 when the plantation laborers who originated in the Portugal archipelagos of Madeira and Azores arrived.


Manapuas are filled, baked or steamed bao (buns). Traditional manapuas are filled with char siu (Chinese barbecue pork). However, manapuas can also be found to be filled with a variety of fillings such as azuki (Japanese vine) beans, chicken, coconut, curry, hot dog, kālua (to cook in an imu, or underground oven) pig, lup cheong (Chinese sausage), Portuguese sausage, sweet potato, vegetables, and so much more. Manapuas are believed to have been introduced to Hawaiʻi in the mid to late 19th century when the plantation laborers who originated in China arrived. Because manapuas originated from China, the original Chinese name is char siu bao, meaning “barbecue pork buns.” But since Hawaiʻi adopted the char siu bao into their food culture, char siu bao is more commonly referred to as manapua, a shortened form of the Hawaiian phrases mauna puaʻa, meaning “mountain of pork,” and mea ʻono puaʻa, meaning “pork pastry.”


Musubis are filled and/or seasoned rice balls that are usually rectangular or triangular in shape and often wrapped in nori (seaweed). One of the most popular types of musubis in Hawaiʻi is a Spam musubi. Traditional Spam musubis are a slice of Spam layered perfectly on top of or in-between a block of rice and then wrapped in nori. However, Spam musubis can also be made with Spam that has been soaked in a shoyu (soy sauce) sugar sauce, rice that has been seasoned with furikake (Japanese rice seasoning), or paired with a layer of a scrambled egg. Spam musubis are believed to have been introduced to Hawaiʻi between 1942-1945 when Japanese-Americans were imprisoned in internment camps throughout the duration of America’s involvement in World War II after Japan launched a surprise attack on the American military base stationed at Pearl Harbor located in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi on December 7, 1941.


When in Hawaiʻi, eat as the locals eat and indulge in these yuMMMy local grinds!