It was time. Malasada time.
What are malasadas? Short answer: Portuguese yeast doughnuts. Longer answer: Portuguese yeast doughnuts that make Kathy squeal with joy when she talks about them. If she were a cartoon character, the act of describing malasadas would cause her eyes to grow all saucer-sized and shimmery and her head would be surrounded by daggers of excitement. Like this:
...in fat bunny creature-form.
She's repeatedly told me that the ones from the Punahou Carnival are the best, but since we didn't have a time machine to go back to February when the carnival took place, she brought me to Leonard's Bakery for my first taste of malasada-derived happiness.
Leonards has been popping out fresh malasadas for over 50 years. They have a wide selection of pastries to choose from, but malasadas are the main draw, and my eyes went straight for the malasada menu. Unfilled malasadas dusted with white sugar, cinnamon, or li hing sugar are just 70 cents each. For just 30 cents more you can them filled with custard, dobash (chocolate), haupia (coconut), or the Flavor of the Month, which for May was mango.
After a short wait, we received hot golden blobs of sugar-dusted dough. The plain malasada had a pillowy, slightly chewy texture, and was only a touch sweet. Hell yes, it was good stuff. It's a doughnut at its peak—just pulled from the fryer. I'm sure even a doughnut from Dunkin Donuts would taste good if it were so fresh. I wouldn't want to eat a malasada any other way.
I liked the mango cream-filled malasada more than the plain because, if you hadn't noticed, it's full of mango-flavored cream. Mango-flavored cream. While filled doughnuts aren't usually my favorite due to imbalance between the filling and the pastry, this doughnut was just right: There wasn't too much nor too little cream, and the mildly flavored, not too sweet cream melded well with its bready covering.
But the most important thing was that it was hot and hadn't been sitting on a shelf for hours before I ate it. If I want that experience in New York City, I'd have to go to a restaurant that fries them to order or make sure to visit a doughnut shop whenever "fresh doughnut liberation" takes place. And if that involves waking up at some ungodly hour, I ain't doing it. (I've never had a fresh Krispy Kreme doughnut before, but I'm going to assume that fresh malasadas are better.)
After our malasada breakfast, Kathy drove us to the Ala Moana Center to eat at Shirokiya, a Japanese department store with an awesome food court on the second floor. First, she showed me Saint-Germain on the first floor, a bakery she worked at during high school mostly so she could eat lots of pastries for free. That's a hell of a lot better than when I worked at Stop & Shop during high school with no freebies in sight. I wanted a cream-filled doughnut. And a red bean bun. And a slice of strawberry shortcake. And everything else.
But then I got to the second floor and the seconds-old memories of Saint Germain went poof, to be replaced by rows of tonkatsu, and sushi, and musubi, and things with rice, and bentos, and noodles, and poke, and taiyaki, and fried chicken, and more. Each stand had its own specialty (I was particularly happy to see a stand for unagi; grilled Japanese eel has been one of my favorite dishes since childhood, and I will continue to love it posthumously, because unlike my corporal body, my love JUST WON'T DIE) and I wanted to eat at every single one.
But I couldn't eat at every single one. Because I am just a weak human, and that weakness entails limited stomach space, and sensitive emotions, and other things.
So Kathy and I only shared a few things, starting with a butterflake from Saint Germain. It lived up to its name quite well, that is, it was made of a gazillion paper-thin layers separated by butter. Or fused together by butter. The top exposed part had some crustiness, while the rest was soft and a bit chewy. It's good for fulfilling those cravings for something carby, buttery, and a little more sweet than savory, but not a dessert.
We also shared two custard-filled obanyaki, sort of like a puck-shaped pancake with custard in the middle (red bean is the other common filling). I'm under the impression that the fish-shaped taiyaki is more popular, but I prefer the round/ovoid shape of obanyaki. We unfortunately got ones that had been pre-made and wrapped in plastic, but they were still appealingly soft and spongy, just lacking the outer crust you get with fresh ones.
I never understood why fresh obanyaki/taiyaki aren't more popular in New York City. They seem easy enough to make; you just need the right mold. Damn it, I'll just buy a lil' mold for myself. I could fill them with butter and maple syrup. Oh man. Oh. Man.
For the savory part of the meal, we shared some fancier-than-average Spam musubi featuring sliced Spam (lightly seasoned from the looks of it) on a seaweed and sesame seed-coated patty of rice, topped with a smaller slice of tamagoyaki, wrapped in a band of nori. It's a nice variation on the basic Spam musubi Kathy taught me how to make; instead of just rice and Spam, you get egg, rice, and Spam. That's more balanced. Right? Maybe.
Before leaving Shirokiya, I bought some pretty candies. Because I like rainbows just as much as the next five-year-old. Not the one above; I went for an assorted fruit pack where each piece featured an intricate fruit design, sort of like Papabubble but not ridiculously expensive.
Actually, the last thing I did before leaving the store was hug this giant hamster. I don't need real love; I just need obese plush toys. Like the next five-year-old.
A short walk away from Shirokiya is Panya. Japanese bakeries galore = happy Robyn.
Kathy told me to try their most famous offering, Hokkaido bread, "A Delicious and Memorable Experience" according to the packaging. I'm sold. I didn't go for the beach ball-sized "Big Top" version though, just the single-serving bun. The slightly sweet, light and fluffy milk bread is enhanced by a sweeter, mostly soft crust that envelopes the top of the bun. Like the butterflake, it's another pleasant, sort of neutral carb-based snack (although more on the dessert side than the butterflake).
I'm planning to write one or two more parts to Day 1. It was a long day. Yeup..
Also in the Ala Moana Center