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Tropical flours add gourmet flair to Mother’s Day breakfast at home

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    Voyaging Foods’ mix is sold at SoHa Living stores and at A 5-ounce bag that yields two dozencakes has a debut price of $11.99 that will run for several months.

Ask a bunch of moms what their heart’s desire is on Mother’s Day, and it’s fair to guess many will simply want to sleep in. If that’s your mom, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Make breakfast.

It’s easy to deliver a special morning meal without worrying over elaborate recipes. Present Mom with new, delicious, localized versions of a mainstay breakfast dish, the pancake.

Innovative local entrepreneurs are making it easy for home cooks to whip up pancakes made of flours from traditional Hawaii plants. These rival their wheat counterparts in flavor and outshine them nutritionally, not to mention that they’re gluten-free.

Hawaiian ‘Ulu Co.’s ‘Ulu Pancrepe Mix is sold at Kapiolani Community College farmers markets Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings, the Waimanalo Market Co-op, and Hyatt Regency Waikiki’s Tuesday and Thursday afternoon farmers markets. The 6.7-ounce bag sells for $12 to $15.

Roberta Ruddle is milling dehydrated breadfruit from her Kona farm to make ‘Ulu Pancrepe Mix for her Hawaiian ‘Ulu Co. She came to the process in 2013 when trying to figure out what to do with all the ulu on her farm, equipped only with the knowledge that ulu has long been made into flour in other parts of the world, including Haiti, Jamaica, Samoa and Tonga.

Execution was based solely on research, and trial and error. Ruddle started out at home hand-shred­ding the ulu, dehydrating it and then blending and sifting repeatedly in her home blender. Today she stockpiles shredded, dehydrated ulu and grinds it using a motorized flour mill in a commercial kitchen. It takes 3 pounds of ulu to make 1 pound of flour, she said. Ruddle adds a personal touch to each pancrepe bag, upon which she hand-draws the ulu plant with colored pens.

Supplemented simply with baking powder for lift and a bit of sugar and sea salt to serve as natural preservatives, the versatile flour can be thinned out for crepes and as a coating for tempura, or even as a thickener for soups. (The Hokule‘a took 4 pounds of it on a voyage last year for just that purpose.) But it also works as pizza dough, in baked goods such as scones or muffins, and as flatbread. Not to mention pancakes.

A necessary step, says Ruddle, is reconstituting the dry flour and letting it sit a bit. Warm water is best for this.

One thing to note: “You don’t have to stay with it constantly, but walk away from it for any length of time and it gets really thick,” she said.

This makes the batter especially vulnerable to burning, so she advises cooking pancakes on a lower heat.

The mix calls for an egg and some milk, plus water for reconstituting. It is tasty without syrup; the sugar already in the mix likely contributes to its appeal. Those familiar with the taste of ulu will recognize the flavor, a pleasant note.

Brynn Foster wanted to find a way to spotlight the hard work of farmers that often goes unrecognized. She found a way in Voyaging Foods, her artisan line of dry mixes using locally produced organic kalo (taro), ulu, sweet potato and coconut. Among the products are a cookie mix, taro powder starch and, now, taro pancake mix.

The Honolulu company exclusively uses kalo varieties native to Hawaii; that is referenced in the name Foster gave the milled kalo, “Ancestral Taro Powder.”

She notes that kalo is rich in fiber and contains folic acid, potassium, iron and vitamins E and B6. Plus, it’s hypoallergenic. In fact, Foster was introduced to kalo flour when she created a hypo­allergenic teething biscuit for her own child.

For the breakfast plate, the company’s Taro-Cake Pancake Mix is combined with an egg and a few tablespoons of oil and milk to produce dense patties rather than thinner, fluffier rounds reminiscent of wheat pancakes.

The mix does not create a pourable batter, and there is no bubbling on the surface to indicate that it’s time to flip them. Rather, the batter is thick and pasty, and because the cakes brown rather rapidly, it’s best to cook them at a lower heat to ensure the center is thoroughly cooked.

Thanks to the inclusion of coconut flour, purple sweet potato flour and some Hawaiian salt, the taro cake is lightly sweet and flavorful enough to do with just a light drizzle of syrup, if that. Taste testers enjoyed the cakes plain, with fresh fruit and some whipped cream.

Ulu Pancakes

Let’s say that you can’t get access to either mix. There’s still no need to give up on a fabulous yet simply executed breakfast for Mom. The keys here are an overripe breadfruit, a generous amount of eggs and a food processor (an electric mixer would probably work as well).

Farmers market operator Pamela Boyar provided the following quickie pancake recipe that utilizes the fresh fruit, chock full of fiber, complex carbohydrates, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, thiamine and niacin.

Boyar’s pancakes are fluffier than either of the mixes, although she doesn’t add any baking powder. She attributes that to the processor, which she says probably adds a lot of air to the batter. For variety, Boyar gives options for sweet and savory cakes, depending on add-in ingredients.

Either way, this is such a friendly recipe it’s already been published a couple of times — and worth including here.


  • 1 medium to large overripe ulu (skin should be brown)
  • 6 eggs (for small ulu, use 3 eggs; for very large, use 8)
  • 2 pinches salt
  • Coconut oil, for frying (substitute with any other oil)

Slice ulu in half and remove seeds. Peel skin or scoop flesh and place in food processor bowl. Flesh should be soft like marshmallow creme. Crack eggs into bowl and add salt. Process until well incorporated, about 30 seconds; the mixture should resemble dough.

Heat griddle and add oil. Ladle batter onto hot griddle. Turn when brown on 1 side, cooking about 2 minutes per side.

Garnish with any topping, such as butter, maple syrup, chocolate ganache, whipped cream or nuts. Makes about 15 pancakes.

Approximate nutritional information, per pancake (assumes 1 tablespoon oil for frying and does not include toppings): 170 calories, 16 g fat, 12 g saturated fat, 75 mg cholesterol, 50 mg sodium, 7 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 3 g protein

Variations: Replace salt with herbs for a savory version, or cinnamon for sweet.


If you can spend a few more minutes in the kitchen, try Jenn Hee’s version of kalo pancakes. Hee, one-half of the sister duo that runs Juicy Brew, says making your own kalo flour takes some time and effort, so it’s best to buy it pre-milled. Check out Whole Foods, she said, which usually has a couple of options on its shelves (call ahead). To the kalo flour, Hee recommends adding a gluten-free flour mix. (Try Bisquick Gluten Free, Bob’s Red Mill, Pamela’s or Cup 4 Cup.) Hee mixes 1/4-cup kalo flour to every cup of gluten-free flour.

She uses two dry ingredients to turn this pancake from ono to over-the-top: kinako, a Japanese roasted soybean flour, and macadamia nuts, toasted and ground in a blender or food processor to a fine, flourlike consistency.

Chia seeds add fiber, Omega-3s and help bind the batter.


  • 1 cup gluten free flour mix (Hee used Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Flour)
  • 1/4 cup taro flour
  • 1/4 cup toasted macadamia nuts
  • 2 tablespoons kinako
  • 2 tablespoons organic coconut sugar (available at Costco)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1-1/2 cups nondairy milk (such as rice or soy milk)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (liquid measure), plus more for cooking
  • 1 teaspoon chia seed

Toast macadamia nuts and pulverize in a blender.

Add all other ingredients to blender and blend batter until smooth.

In nonstick pan over medium, heat a small amount of coconut oil.

Batter should be thick. Scoop large spoonfuls into pan, and cook approximately 5 minutes on each side.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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