Haupia is a coconut-flavored custard popular in Hawaii and a staple at luaus, where it is often served as a small square perched atop a ti leaf. It looks like a mix between cheese cake and pudding.

A more contemporary presentation is the McDonalds haupa pie – like the apple or cherry confections served on the mainland. My mother enjoyed her taste of Hawaii at a Waikiki McDonalds. I tried it recently to recall how to describe the taste. Even this fairly low-budget haupia pie was really tasty – one dollar for the standard crust filled with coconut-flavored custard.

While I do not dislike coconut flavor, it is not something I went out of my way to experience before moving to Hawaii. But haupia is generally a delicate sensation – not overpowering like the dried flakes sold in bags to add to cookies or other baked goods, or buried inside chocolates. No, this is a hint of coconut in a light cream, far more subtle than anything I tasted on the mainland. This is a low-texture, high-flavor coconut sensation.

If you have the opportunity to taste haupia in Hawaii, take it. Even at McDonalds, even as a luau mini-dessert – it is coconut as it should be experienced, a taste of Hawaii you’ll remember fondly.


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