Some of the best ways to experience local Hawaii foods and culture happen at school campuses. After all, schools are hubs of the community. There’s the Punahou Carnival in February, the Kamehameha Hoolaulea in March and in April, the Iolani Fair. These three major Honolulu private schools invite locals and visitors from the community to join in on the fun and provide off-the-beaten path activities for visitors.

Malasadas sell quickly at the Iolani Fair.

One thing to keep in mind: the unspoken rivalry between Punahou and Iolani over who has the best malasadas! You can be the judge next time you’re in Hawaii. The answer was pretty clear for Iolani junior Austin Chikamoto. When I asked him this question at their past fair, Austin instantly raised an eyebrow in disgust and blurted out, “Oh! Iolani. Iolani, of course!” Maybe there’s a little bias there, but after trying their li hing mui malasada this year, I’d have to say that they rolled to a sugary favorite for me.

“It’s not li hing with the malasada but rather, li hing with the sugar,” he said matter-of-factly. Austin was the school’s malasada chairperson. “We got the proportions correct this time, but it’s a…different kind of taste. Really unique and really good.”

The before and after of li hing malasadas, a sweet-n-salty twist to the local favorite.

I was lucky enough to get a “behind-the-scenes tour,” as he called it, of what closely resembled a mini-malasada factory. Each table under the big white tent at the fair had a specific role in the process; from mixing the dough to rolling them into puffy shapes to deep frying them, the malasada has become a hot item at the Iolani Fair, with the li hing mui flavor the talk of the night.

“Global Getaway” was this year’s theme and welcomed people from near and far. Everything had some ties to a country, even the malasadas on their t-shirts. Each little ball of dough dressed in a cultural costume and were positioned into a circular shape representing the globe. Fair coordinator Carissa Leonida reassured us that tourists would definitely find something at the fair to relate to, no matter where they come from. In addition, they could try some of the local dishes, like okonomiyaki and waffle dogs, and hear local music throughout the day.

VIDEO: See what’s in store for you at the Iolani School Fair.

No matter which island you go to, be sure to ask around about upcoming school functions opened to the public. They’re a great way to discover the unique sub-cultures within each community.

IOLANI SCHOOL FAIR • Happens every April on Oahu •


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