Malasadas - Gastro Obscura
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Sweets

Malasadas

These Portuguese doughnuts have a fervent fanbase in Hawaii.

Hawaiians are enamored with the hole-less doughnuts known as malasadas. Locals so adore these fluffy treats that, instead of referring to the day before Lent as Fat Tuesday (a time when Catholics use up sugar and fat in the house by frying dough in various formats), islanders refer to it as “Malasada Day.” Traditionally, bakers tossed the eggy, cream-rich batter in a deep fryer, then rolled it in sugar, and that was the end of it. Today, malasadas come in an array of flavors, filled with everything from passionfruit custard to haupia (a gelatinous, coconut-flavored pudding).

The phrase mal assada means “undercooked” in Portuguese, which refers to the fried sweet’s golden-brown exterior that gives way to a soft, doughy inside. As the name might imply, immigrants from Portugal popularized the treat. Thousands of skilled laborers from the country’s archipelagos flocked to Hawaiian plantations after being offered work near the end of the 19th century. Madeira, which was known for sugarcane production (as well as its namesake wine), and the Azores, famed for pineapples, both provided seasoned laborers, well-versed in island agriculture.

The largely Catholic immigrant population continued baking their doughnuts every Fat Tuesday before Lent. Initially a homemade specialty, masaladas went mainstream when Leonard’s Bakery in Oahu put them on their menu in 1953. Since then, they’ve become intrinsically linked to their new Hawaiian home.

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