Breadfruit is a staple of the traditional Polynesian diet, but it doesn’t make it into many Hawaiian dishes nowadays. The most clever way we’ve tasted it is as a thickener in custard pie. When combined with tropical fruit, almond milk, and local honey, breadfruit makes a creamy custard that is denser than an egg-based one, but more stable and durable. These are Pono Pies (pono meaning good and righteous): some of the best ice-box pies we’ve found on the road, vegan or not.
The crust is a crumb style, made with powdered coconut, macadamia nuts, and a dash of local pink salt. It sticks to the custard, adding more crunch than flavor. This is a good thing because the custard is delicious on its own. Mango tastes just like sweet, ripe mango. Chocolate is a deep dark, but not bitter, tastefully topped with a few cacao nibs. We especially enjoy lilikoi (passion fruit), which has enough acidity to give the pie a key lime sort of tang.
These pies are available at several locations around Maui, but for the freshest product and a full selection of the flavors available, it’s best to pay a visit to the tiny factory kitchen in Kahalui. Pies here are stored frozen. They are very refreshing this way, and can be enjoyed like a frozen treat after about twenty minutes of thawing. We prefer a longer thaw, and recommend eating them after about 45 minutes. They’re still cool, but the custard is loosened. This gives them a proper ice-box pie texture.
Also available at the Pono Pies kitchen is breadfruit hummus. It has a stiffer, starchier texture than most chickpea spreads, but is otherwise quite the same: creamy and richly flavored with garlic and Near Eastern spices. It’s great with taro chips, but those will have to be procured elsewhere.
For best results, buy Pono Pies in the morning and take them with you on your Maui adventures. They are especially appropriate for trips on the Hana Highway, where you can eat them among the breadfruit trees.