Sherbet’s prominence has risen and fallen in a rainbow-like arch. Indeed, rainbow sherbet was once nearly as popular as chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla ice cream. Now, we can’t even think of where we’d get some.
The three-flavor swirl was invented in the 1950’s amidst buzz of Hawaiian statehood and at the height of mainlanders’ fascination with pineapple. At the beginning of the rainbow are the tropically-flavored Hawaiian sherbet-like treats that predate rainbow sherbet by decades, but which look and taste much the same. Maui’s most enduring is “guri-guri,” made by the Tasaka family for over a century. The dish was originally conceived in Japan before it became popular on Maui. Its name comes from a joke about saying “goodie goodie” with a Japanese accent.
The current location has been at the Maui Mall in Kahului since 1973. The scoop shop feels as much a museum as a ice cream parlor. It offers some bags of chips and sodas, but pretty much everyone comes for scoops of the famous guri-guri.
Gur-guri’s composition remains a secret. It has dairy creaminess, which most believe is due to condensed milk in the mix. Whatever does constitute guri-guri makes it creamy and textured, with a whipped cream airiness that you don’t find in most fruit-based frozen desserts. Perhaps the sparkly lightness is owed to the other speculated secret ingredient: lemon-lime soda.
Guri-guri comes in two flavors: island pineapple and pink strawberry. The difference between the two is striking. The chemically pink, bubble-gum tasting strawberry will appeal only to the young and the young at heart. Pineapple, however, tastes like the real thing and is one of the most essential bites on Maui. The scoops get stacked into Dixie cups and served with old-fashioned paddle-shaped wooden spoons. Five scoops of pineapple may seem a tall order, but it will only cost a few dollars, and the light and creamy sweet goes down even quicker than it melts.
Aficionados of American ice cream should consider a trip to Maui … not that most people need much arm-twisting to go there! Tasaka’s sells pre-packed, insulated buckets for folks headed to the airport. They keep for 2 1/2 hours before melting. That is good enough to last the duration of a trip to Oahu, but, tragically, insufficient for us mainlanders.