Around O’ahu with a Sweet Tooth

Dessert is my favorite meal, as if that were not quite obvious already. O’ahu was good to me in this respect; the variety of sugary tasty goodness comes in many forms and is widely available. Here’s my recommendations for a sugar fix on O’ahu.

1. Shave Ice

Shimazu Grocery Store

I talk a lot about shave ice and firmly stand behind my claim that Shimazu cannot be beaten

What it is: Finely shaved ice soaked with syrups (preferably home-made) and topped and filled with your choice of mochi balls, azuki bean or haupia cream. Just don’t call it “shaved ice.”

For a different (even sweeter) take on the traditional Hawaiian-style ice, try a Taiwanese shave ice that makes use of brown sugar and condensed milk. I recommend City Cafe on Makaloa Street.

Where to eat it: Hands-down Shimazu has, in my opinion, the best shave ice on the island. The servings are huge; the consistency strikes just the right balance between fluff and crunch, and the syrups are home-made and inventive — think mojito, crème brûlée, red velvet, even durian.

2. Mochi Ice Cream

Mochi Ice Cream at Shirokiya

What it is: Japanese pounded rice cake filled with ice cream. Traditional flavors include matcha (green tea) and strawberry.

Where to eat it: Bubbies is probably the most famous purveyor of mochi ice cream in Honolulu. I am going to admit, however, that I preferred Shirokiya. Maybe it is just the ambiance of the Japanese grocery store, or maybe it was the delicate handling of each mochi ball by the counter staff, but selecting a piece or two at Shirokiya, wandering around the store just long enough for it to melt just enough, was one of my favorite food-related rituals in Honolulu.

3. Cake

What it is: Yes, cake. But not any old cake; cake that makes use of those distinctly Hawaiian flavors: lilikoi, haupia and, if you go to Otto Cake, “Big Island Honey Cheesecake.”

Where to eat it: The afore mentioned Otto Cake specializes in cheesecakes; (more that 80 flavors) Ted’s Bakery on the North Shore is home of the famous Haupia Pie, and Hokulani Bake Shop has cupcakes in flavors like strawberry-guava. Little Oven supposedly makes the most amazing cakes in Honolulu but is this place ever open? If you manage to eat here, you are luckier than me.

4. Malasadas

What it is: Mmmmm mmmmalasadas; originating from Portugal and traditionally eaten on Fat Tuesday, these little deep-fried balls of goodness most closely resemble the humble donut — a Portuguese donut, if you will. Malasadas arrived on Hawaii alongside the 19th century laborers that came to work the sugar plantations.

Where to eat it: Leonard’s Bakery; crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside and available in a multitude of seasonal flavors — mango, pineapple, coconut, chocolate… And they have the best retro-neon sign.

5. Cream Puffs

What it is: A choux pastry ball filled with cream. That’s it.

(Empty) Box of Liliha Cream Puffs

Where to eat it: Liliha’s Bakery sells around 5,000 of these things a day — for a good reason. Liliha’s fills the pastries with chocolate pudding and tops it off with chantilly frosting. They start baking at 2am every morning.

6. Halo-Halo

What it is: Halo-Halo is a a Fillipino dish that features shave ice, condensed milk, and various toppings that can include fruit, kidney beans, rice, flan and yam.

Where to eat it: Shimazu makes a good halo-halo but, I think, only on certain days. Try Mabuhay Cafe and Restaurant in Chinatown.

7. Drinkables

What it is: In a place with year-round high temperatures, sometimes your thirst needs more quenching than your sweet tooth. You don’t need to compromise though, O’ahu offers some delicious frozen slurpable treats that will satisfy all cravings.

Where to drink it: Rainbow Drive-In‘s strawberry slush float is the perfect blend of sweet and refreshing: a blended strawberry juice topped with a huge heap of vanilla ice cream. Yum.