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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Sweetbread aroma sparks childhood memories at Punalu’u Bake Shop in Na’alehu, Hawaii

The menu items in this post were provided by Punalu’u Bake Shop but the opinions expressed here are my own. 

The aroma of baked goods like breads, pastries, cookies, cakes, etc. evoke memories of being in the kitchen as a child while your mom and/or grandma baked sweet delicious delights. Punalu’u Sweetbread brings back memories of my grandpa. He would load up the kitchen with my favorite foods to welcome me back home every summer – pupu rockets, Meadow Gold Guava Nectar, and Punalu’u sweetbread.

As history goes, Hawaiian sweetbread originated from sweetbread recipes of Portuguese sugar plantation workers in the 19th century. Punalu’u Bake Shop’s recipe is an adapted family recipe once prepared at a resort in Punalu’u (Ka’u District on the Big Island of Hawaii). In the 1970s, it became an instant hit with visitors and kama’aina. The Punalu’u Bake Shop opened in 1991 with on-site bakery and visitor center. Perfect stop to/from Volcanoes National Park and just down the road from the Punalu’u Black Sand Beach where you can view the Honu (Hawaii Green Sea Turtle)! You can also find their sweetbreads at most local markets like KTA Super Stores and Sack N’ Save (Foodland).

  • Fun fact: Punalu’u Bake Shop is the southernmost bakery in the United States.


My mom had never been to Punalu’u Bake Shop before. She was so impressed by the facilities and variety of baked goods made on-site. We got a tour of the bakery and see how the sweetbread is baked and fresh malasadas coming out of the hot oil. You can get a total “foodie sweet high” just from the aroma of the freshly baked sweetbreads and malasadas. So ono!

Inside the visitor center, you can grab freshly baked malasadas and a hot cup of Ka’u coffee. You can also purchase “omiyage” or gifts for your friends/family back home ranging from souvenirs to packaged baked goods. Too many choices! I wanted to take everything home. You can also grab some freshly baked items from the display case like malasadas, pastries, and desserts.

Here is a taste of some of Punalu’u Bake Shop’s tasty delights:

Haupia Filled Malasadas ($1.69) are malasadas (Portuguese donut) filled with soft cubes haupia (Hawaiian coconut pudding). If you love haupia as much as I do, it is just to die for! It is not a creamy filling like a custard but more like a cross between a pudding and gelatin. It has a creamy flavor from the coconut and is just sweet enough. The malasadas are spongy texture with a beautiful golden-brown exterior. Rating: 5/5

Bread Pudding ($1.89) is made with their traditional Hawaiian sweetbread and raisins. It is not too sweet and has a custardy texture with coconut and raisin flavor. Great way of using up extra bread at the bakery! Rating: 5/5

Taro Malasadas ($1.19) has a spongy texture with a beautiful lavender color from the taro. The purple contrasts nicely with the golden-brown exterior. The malasadas have a mild taro flavor. Rating: 5/5

Lilikoi Glazed Malasadas ($1.39) are just amazing! The glaze is sweet and tart and full of lilikoi flavor. It works great with malasadas like the perfect glazed donut. This beats out maple as my favorite glaze! The lilikoi is very fragrant and unmistakable. Rating: 5/5

Pineapple Filled Malasadas ($1.69) are light and not too sweet. This is a great choice if you are looking for tropical flavor that is not overly sweet. Hawaii’s version of the jelly-filled donut but with flavors of aloha! Rating: 5/5

If you are on the Big Island as a visitor or kama’aina, Punalu’u Bake Shop is a great place to stop and relax with the sweetness of aloha!

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars

For more information:
Punalu’u Bake Shop
Route 11
Na’alehu, HI 96772
+1.866.366.3501 or +1.808.929.7343
Hours: Daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day
Parking: Free parking in lot
Seating: Exterior

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Punalu'U Bake Shop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review of From Kau Kau to Cuisine: An Island Cookbook, Then and Now by Arnold Hiura + Recipe


The cookbook in this post was provided by Derek Kurisu and produce in this post was provided by Melissa’s Produce but the opinions expressed here are my own.

Credit: Watermark Publishing
I am very proud of my heritage, born in Hilo and growing up on the cuisine that is now known as Hawai’i Regional Cuisine (HRC). HRC is a melting pot of cuisines from the different ethnic groups that settled in Hawaii (Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, etc.), along with the sustainable Hawaiian ways of life and cooking, and historic events that changed the face of the cuisine (World War II and Spam). When most haoles think of Hawaii, they think of young women in grass skirts and leis, tropical trees and flowers, and beaches. But it’s much more than that… It is a way life. It is a way of being. It is ohana. What better way to celebrate each day, than with food! The food can be fast like spam musubi or it can be slow like kalua pig cooking for hours in an imu. The time it takes is inconsequential, as it is the love that goes into each dish that makes it so onolicious.


On my last trip to Hilo, Derek gave me a tour of KTA Puainako - talking about the local vendors and farmers on the Big Island, and gave me this cookbook, From Kau Kau to Cuisine: An Island Cookbook, Then and Now. He collaborated with Jason Takemura (Executive Chef, Pagoda Floating Restaurant in Honolulu) and Arnold Hiura on this “evolutionary” look at Hawai’i Regional Cuisine. Just like my dad, Derek experienced the plantation life on the Big Island. My dad grew up on a farm in Kurtistown (20-minutes outside of Hilo). His grandfather rode a horse to work and to run errands, tending to their livestock, and had a sugar cane field in the backyard. His grandmother also had a beautiful anthurium field in the side yard that had tall trees to provide a “natural” canopy while they grew in the volcanic soil. The whole “farm-to-table” culture has been happening long before it became “chic” in recent years along with preserving foods by fermentation, drying, and salting from fish and seafood to fruits and vegetables. This cookbook has a LOT of great recipes and delves into the history of these generational family favorite dishes.


In the Part Three: Island Cooking Then and Now – Meats chapter, Derek talks about making Korean Chicken on a TV show while cooking with a Korean chef. The funny thing, on the mainland, Korean Fried Chicken (KFC) is a huge craze right now. And these “KFC” stores are popping up all over South Korea. Derek is right, this is driving up the cost of the chicken wings. This recipe is super easy to make. Most of the time is taken up by frying the chicken. The flour coating on the outside provides a crispy exterior as well as nooks and crannies for the sauce to soak into. If you are making this for a party, you might want to double or even quadruple the recipe, because it will be gone before you know it. So ono! Rating: 5/5


In the Part Three: Island Cooking Then and Now – Seafood chapter, Jason talks about the love of head-on shrimp. I know exactly what he’s talking about. The best flavor of any crustacean is in the head! The Garlic Salt-and-Pepper Shrimp is a dish where you can eat the entire shrimp from head to tail. It is fried and coated with a seasoning that will have you licking your fingers too. So addictive! See the recipe below so you can make it too! Rating: 5/5

Garlic Salt-and-Pepper Shrimp 
by Chef Jason Takemura, From Kau Kau to Cuisine: An Island Cookbook, Then and Now

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ cup chopped garlic
2 red jalapeño peppers, seeds removed and julienned (optional)
¼ cup sliced green onion 
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 pound fresh Kaua‘i head-on shrimp
2 tablespoons of Garlic Seasoning (recipe follows)

Garlic Seasoning
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon white pepper

Preheat fryer to 360˚F. In a wok or large sauté pan, over medium-high heat, add vegetable oil. Add garlic and sauté until golden-brown and it begins to slightly crisp. Add the red jalapeños and green onion. Sauté for about another 30 seconds. 

Combine flour and cornstarch in a bowl. Dredge the shrimp in the flour mixture. Shake off all the excess flour and deep-fry for about 2 minutes until crispy and golden-brown. Immediately after removing the shrimp from the fryer, add the shrimp to the pan with the garlic–jalapeño mix and season with 2 tablespoons of Garlic Seasoning. Toss everything together. It may seem like you are adding a lot of seasoning to the shrimp, but the mix is well-balanced and you shouldn’t find it too salty.


In the Part Three: Island Cooking Then and Now – Sides and Specialties chapter, Derek talks about the love/hate relationship of natto, fermented soy beans. Derek developed a Natto Fried Rice recipe to pay homage to the natto sushi that you can find at sushi bars in Japan (and sometimes in Hawaii and the mainland). It uses raw egg so most steer clear of it. I personally love it on top of hot rice with green onions and shoyu. The fried rice cooks the natto and egg together and makes a beautifully rich flavor. I personally think this recipe needs more shoyu but you can add more/less for your taste. The sunny side egg on top seals the deal with a luxurious golden yolk. The fried rice cuts down on the natto flavor and aroma so this is good for a first-timer and very easy to make. Rating: 4.5/5

If you want to learn more about Hawai’i Regional Cuisine or miss the flavor of home, this cookbook is a must for your collection.

For more information:
From Kau Kau to Cuisine: An Island Cookbook, Then and Now by Arnold Hiura

On the search for an ingredient that you can’t find in the store, check out Melissa’s Produce.

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