The next stop on the food tour was Liliha Bakery. Located in Kalihi, which is one of the older and distinctly less touristy parts of town, Liliha is one of those places known for three things in particular: coco puffs (no, not the cereal, we’ll get back to that), great pancakes, and being open 24 hours a day (except for Mondays, when they take a day off). Indeed, when I was getting recommendations for places to check out for “local eats” in Honolulu, several people all gave me the suggestion “Get some coco puffs from Liliha Bakery”. So when our Hawaii Food Tours van pulled up and stopped at Liliha, I had an inkling as to why we were there.
Walking into Liliha at 10am on a Friday, the place was packed: every seat at the lunch counter was full, with a line extending out the door. And so many people were there trying to order various cakes, breads, and, of course, Coco Puffs (looking at the various boxes going out the door, it was clear that half the people were getting… Coco Puffs). So, I’ll have to get right down to it: what’s a Coco Puff?
Quite frankly, it’s what happens when you take a nice, classic French-style cream puff made with choux pastry (much like the fine products of Beard Papa Cream Puffs, who actually have a location in Honolulu, putting them on the short list for a future Death March), and instead of the whipped cream filling, having a deep, rich chocolate filling (much like a pudding), and being topped with a nice, light chantilly frosting.
Indeed, biting into one, you can see that a Coco Puff isn’t some sort of pastry that’s got a little bit of filling in it… no, each Coco Puff is filled to the point that it’s basically a thin pastry shell around a core of rich chocolate. And indeed, it’s a good chocolate filling, and a great frosting. I can easily see why these are so popular, and why so many people stop here on the way to the airport. About the only downside is that at least with my coco puff, the pastry isn’t very crisp. I’m guessing that’s an unfortunately unavoidable consequence of the very humid climate.
Overall, this was a great stop, and the Coco Puff was everything it was hyped up to be. That said, I’ll be back, since the various breakfasts (particularly the pancakes) that the folks were eating at the counter also looked incredible.