The Joy of Cookie Dough in DIY Acai Bowls at HI Cravings
Homemade cookie dough is one of 25 toppings at the roaming acai bowl trucks on O‘ahu.
I came across HI Cravings the other day at ‘Ono Grindz and Mākeke at Kapolei, and it quite literally changed my acai life. I had no idea how bland life had been.
HI Cravings serves up DIY acai bowls from multiple acai bowl trucks that traverse the island. Some days you’ll find them in parking lots, other days at a farmers market or food event. I had heard of HI Cravings because of the hype around cookie dough on top of acai. So I walk up to the truck and find six base flavors and 25 toppings to choose from. Bases include acai and five sorbets (acai, coconut, mango, dragonfruit lychee and strawberry guava) and toppings range from chia, hemp and pumpkin seeds to almond butter, li hing mui and Nutella (75 cents to $1.75; $2 for specialty honey). Faced with so many choices, I have a hard time narrowing down what I want. But I am a Virgo, meaning I love my routines and my regulars, so I go with the original acai base. My sweet tooth leads me to toppings of cookie dough, M&M’s and goji berries with a drizzle of condensed milk. The best part: Every bowl comes with granola, honey and strawberries, grapes, pineapple, blueberries and watermelon.
Despite that sweet tooth, even my snack size bowl looks overwhelming. At 10 ounces it’s the smallest ($6 without add-on toppings; there are also 16- and 32-ounce bowls starting at $12 and $15) and it comes with three scoops of the cookie dough and generous amounts of condensed milk and M&M’s. I take an everything bite, grabbing all the different toppings in one spoonful, and am surprised at how mild the flavors are. The acai is an icy blend that does not melt quickly, with a flavor that’s less sweet and more tart than others. All the flavors go well together.
My favorite part is the cookie dough. I can feel its granules of salt and sugar being crushed between my teeth. The prominence of salt not only balances, but enhances the vanilla flavor. I tell my mother that this was the best-tasting cookie dough I have ever had. Even better than my own homemade cookie dough. If you are even more of a sweet tooth, Other cookie dough options at HI Cravings have milk chocolate chips or white chocolate chips inside.
The profusion of choices atop acai not only changes my life, it makes me curious. Who came up with the genius idea of spicing up your average acai bowl with fun toppings? I ask Jessica Kamana‘o, who with her husband Kalani co-founded HI Cravings. She tells me she started with her own acai bowl recipe that she made for family and church members. “To me it was fun to eat something colorful, healthy and beautiful,” Kamana‘o says. Her friends and family loved that her acai wasn’t too watery or icy. And that in a 10-ounce bowl, the acai base has only 90 calories. So like many masterminds whose ideas start in a garage, the Kamana‘o’s started selling the acai bowls in their garage.
Now on any given day you can find HI Cravings at up to five places across O‘ahu, mostly on the leeward side (check the weekly schedule on their website. Warning: They close on Mondays). They even did a pop-up in Vancouver, Washington in July. Many of their toppings, including bee pollen and local fruits, are sourced from other locally owned businesses. But the most popular is cookie dough. This is also Kamana‘o’s recipe, born out of her own craving for it, and it is egg-free and made to be eaten raw. After she started putting her cookie dough on top of acai, she started experimenting with other toppings, and customizable, DIY acai bowls were born, originally as Jess Da Bess Acai Bowls. That was all the way back in 2013.
On hot days or any day you can expect to see a line at HI Cravings trucks. You might even spot celebrity customers like Auli‘i Cravalho, Bretman Rock or Manti Te‘o. Now that I’ve discovered the cookie dough on acai, chances are I’ll be in line, too.