Dining

3 Desserts That Let You Experience Hawaii's Local Flavors

Taste your way through the islands with pastry chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka's
Best Hawaiian Desserts at MW Restaurant, Honolulu
Photos: Jenn Rice

Go to Oahu for the picturesque beaches and vitamin D, but don't leave before you seek out pastry chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka's rightly hyped desserts. A Honolulu native, Karr-Ueoka tells stories of Hawaii through each sweet, tempting morsel served at MW Restaurant in Honolulu. There, dessert is more than just a satisfying end to a meal: It's her way of sharing an authentic taste of the islands and her heritage with whoever's visiting.

Here are three coveted desserts that shouldn't be missed when you're in the area, plus the thoughtful stories behind them. 

Tropical Fruit Creamsicle Brûlée

Crème brûlée never disappoints, especially when you add lilikoi (passion fruit) into the equation. "Growing up, the only part of the brûlée I would eat was the top because it was crispy," she says, and to this day creates desserts with lots of texture. Her version at MW Restaurant has tapioca on the bottom, tropical island fruits, lilikoi kanten (similar to a gummy bear), lilikoi sorbet and lilikoi custard topped with a thin, caramelized sugar tuile wafer. "Every bite is different, and you get creamy, sweet, frozen and warm," talking about the different textures and temperatures." It's as Hawaii as it gets.

Strawberry Shave Ice

You can't visit Hawaii without digging into a shave ice or two, but don't be fooled: there are a lot of less-than-palatable, neon-colored versions out there. Shave ice is normally crafted with frozen water and sweetened syrups, and Karr-Ueoka goes the extra mile to ensure hers provide an authentic taste of Hawaii. "We use 100 percent fruit that we compress to bring out the natural sweetness and then turn it into a shave ice," she says. "We serve it with haupia tapioca, which is a play on halo-halo (a mix of shave ice and evaporated milk), mochi ice cream, sorbet and freshly-shaved strawberry hibiscus. When it's mango season we offer a mango shave ice, but we also add kaffir lime panna cotta to the bottom."

MW Grandma's Cookies

"My favorite time of the year was making holiday cookies with my Grandma," Karr-Ueoka says of the nostalgic oatmeal raisin cookies she enjoyed as a child. "I wanted a way to pay tribute to my grandma at MW, so I took her recipe and adapted it a bit. She liked raisins and I liked chocolate so we created a cookie in honor of her." They're best devoured warm, with a side of Karr-Ueoka's out-of-this-world banana cream pie made with local Waialua chocolate pudding, kinako banana ice cream and graham crackers.

Jenn Rice is a food and travel writer constantly traveling for cheese, tacos and kouign-amann pastries. Follow her on Instagram at @jennricewrites.

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