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Pancakes Hawaii-Style

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Kauai , Hawaii Island , Maui , Oahu
Feb 24, 2010

Are pancakes classified as “sweets”?

Last week, after my malasada feast on Fat Tuesday, I decided to participate in the Lenten practice of abstintence and give up sweets.  A few days later, I remembered my birthday fell within the Lenten season, running this year from February 17th to April 3rd. Now, I am not a big chocolate person, but I do believe in birthday cake, a tradition started and reinforced throughout my childhood by my grandmother, whose birthday is one day after mine. My birthday cake of choice is angel food with seven-minute frosting, and, like the good man he is, my husband usually placates me with either a home-made or Foodland-baked version.

“You gave up sweets,” he asked. “But your birthday….”

“I know. I know,” I said. “What was I thinking?” Like a few other decisions I’ve made in life, I hadn’t give this one much thought. On the other hand, if we think through life's choices for too long, we would probably never get out of bed in the morning. We would never say yes to a marriage proposal from a man who has made almost two dozen angel food cakes over the years, never go to Hawaii on a honeymoon—and never actually move to Hawaii. (Not that I made these decisions lightly, I can tell you.)

For some reason, I decided to follow through with my resolution—no sweets for 40 days.

Last week, after dinner at Kohnotori on S. King Street in Honolulu, I said no to a dessert stop at Bubbies—my favorite purveyor of mochi ice cream. Over the weekend, I said no to pastries from Kauai Bakery (Kukui Grove Shopping Center/Kauai).  Yesterday—birthday morning—instead of cake, my husband gave me a package of sugar-free Nips Caramels. “I can’t eat these,” I said. “Can I eat these,” I asked.

“There is no sugar,” he said. Good point.

Last night, I said no to key lime pie at California Pizza Kitchen in Waikiki, even after my waiter said my birthday would qualify as a free pass.

Right now, I am sitting in Keoni by Keo’s restaurant at the corner of Kuhio and Kanekapolei Streets in Waikiki. It’s late morning. My meeting has just ended, and I am hungry for scrambled eggs. Luckily, the restaurant serves breakfast until 1:00 p.m. I order scrambled eggs, a side of hash-browned potatoes. And a short stack of banana-macadamia-nut pancakes.

Are pancakes sweets?

I missed National Pancake Day yesterday and, for some reason, I feel like I missed out on something. Pancakes—particularly pancakes topped with bananas and macadamia nuts—are steeped in the food culture of Hawaii. Especially topped with coconut syrup.

So maybe the real question isn’t whether pancakes are sweets and outside my meal plan for the next 38 days, but whether coconut syrup is. Of course, you’re thinking, coconut syrup is laden with sugar—probably in the guise of high-fructose corn syrup. But you can’t eat pancakes in Hawaii with coconut syrup, can you?

Can you?

I can’t.

And I don’t. I pour it all over my half-stack of pancakes—two round discs, each as big as my face.

Happy belated birthday to me.

They’re delicious—maybe it’s the sugar deprivation—and I start thinking of my other favorite pancake destinations, like Ono Family Restaurant in Kapaa, also on Kauai.

But what about other places on Oahu—besides Keoni’s? And Maui? And Big Island? Do you have recommendations for me? That way, once Lent—and my birthday—is over, I can put pancakes to the taste test. I can discover the myriad ways that something as simple as pancakes can be transformed into taste sensations. I’ll try to go easy on the coconut syrup.

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