Farmers Market Finds: Miniature Vegan Pancakes at Lōkahi Kailua Market
These little plant-based Pan Keikis are your new favorite bite-sized comfort treat.
Farmers markets are breeding grounds for food innovation and some of Hawai‘i’s most successful restaurants. Frolic’s series spotlights some of these ‘ono finds.
What: Vegan poffertjes (miniature pancakes)
How much: $6 to $10, toppings are $1 to $2 each
What markets: Lōkahi Kailua Market, 340 Uluniu Street, Kailua
Vendor schedule: Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Food prepared on a miniature scale always intrigues me. Mostly because I wonder if it can be better than its full-size counterpart. So, upon discovering these mini vegan pancakes at Lōkahi Kailua Market, not only am I curious, I am hopeful.
Mini vegan pancakes or poffertjes are the specialty of Tree Popoki Cakes, run and owned by Karina Jaramillo and George Holapa who met working at restaurants in Waikīkī. Poffertjes are a Dutch street food usually made with yeast and buckwheat flour and are often served with custard. They’ve appropriately dubbed theirs “Pan Keikis” and finish each tray off with decadent vegan toppings. These include a few of my favorite flavors: a house-made peanut butter drizzle, sliced apple banana, chocolate chips and coconut whipped cream ($1 each). But it doesn’t stop there. For $2 each, you can add fresh sliced strawberries and drizzles of their cookie butter and chocolate-hazelnut sauces.
Pan Keikis are made to order and come in trays of 10 ($6), 15 ($8) or 25 ($10). Stay close to the griddle to watch Jaramillo flip each fluffy silver dollar revealing perfectly golden brown bottoms. The smell of sweet pancakes envelopes the whole tent as the Pan Keikis puff up.
This is where it gets fun because the topping-to-Pan Keiki ratio looks really solid. I top my first tray of 10 with one of my favorite crêpe vibe combos: hazelnut drizzle, fresh strawberries and coconut whipped cream. For the second tray of 10, I go for peanut butter drizzle and apple banana slices. In hindsight, I should have had added chocolate chips on top of the second one for texture and well, chocolate.
The Pan Keikis are everything I’d hoped they’d be: super light and fluffy. I worried they wouldn’t be; using plant-based milk can sometimes toughen leavened creations. Their texture is best hot off the griddle. You get a variance in textures that full-size pancakes often lack—lots of toasty brown crust with a steamy center. The combination of bright, crunchy strawberries and the chocolatey hazelnut drizzle is spot on. You can taste the deep chocolate flavor from raw cocoa powder carried by a thick syrupy texture. The coconut whipped cream is also so good. A final dusting of powdered sugar seals the deal.
The peanut butter drizzle is scrumptious. I love peanut butter in sweets but only if there’s a nice balance of salty roasted nut flavor and sweetness. The creaminess of the drizzle with the sweet apple bananas is a moment of comfort, giving me banana pancakes by Jack Johnson breakfast-in-bed feelings, fitting for a Sunday morning. Next time I plan to get a hybrid combo of everything I ordered to try the peanut butter and hazelnut drizzles together.
Pancakes are never my go-to brunch order. They’re usually giant and take up a lot of real estate both on the table and in my stomach while offering at most just a few varying textures and flavors. I like to have a bit of everything, which leaves me bored by the time I’ve hit the second layer of plate-sized slabs of cake. Pan Keikis, thankfully, are the polar opposite and confirm that mini is the way to go when it comes to food.
If mini foods are your thing, or if you’re already familiar with this fluffy snack, just follow the wafting scent of pancakes. Tree Popoki Cakes will be cooking up their light yet indulgent pan keikis, and I might just see you there.
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