When the Doughnut Plant, a New York City temple to fried dough opened in 1994, doubled its size this past spring, locals took notice of the crowds. The drawing power of the circle of life was never more obvious than in that crowded story.
Behold, the power of the doughnut.
From Malaysia to Montego Bay, global expressions of deep-fried dough transcend trends, defy political borders and provide an oddly insightful look at local history and culture.
This guide to the world's top fritters will keep you well apace the circle of life. Pack your bags (and maybe throw in some workout gear?). We're heading around the world in eight doughnuts.
1. Chile: Berlines
In the mid-19th Century, waves of German immigrants arrived on South American shores. To Chile, the Teutonic invasion brought small, round morsels of fried dough, henceforth called berlines. Chilean chef Camila Moreno, who heads up the kitchen at New York's Puro Chile, also makes berlines to order at her Santiago pastry shop, Santa Clara. Request yours with manjar, the Chilean term for dulce de leche, and prepare yourself for the sweet life.
2. Japan: Curry Bread
A snack so popular it makes regular anime appearances and even has its own superhero, Kare pan man (Curry Bread Man), this savory okazu is made by deep-frying sweet, panko-encrusted dough with a small scoop of Japanese curry inside. Joel Rubuchon sells a Michelin-starred curry bread at his eponymous Tokyo atelier, but the savory snack is available at convenience stores throughout the city.
3. Jamaica: Festival
A cross between a savory cruller and a Southern hushpuppy, festival is a long, thin Jamaican doughnut typically served alongside bold island fare like jerk chicken, fish or pork that's been encrusted with local scotch bonnets. Popular jerk stand Scotchies has locations in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, where festival provides antidotal relief to the spicy main for brave locals and heat-seeking travelers alike.
4. Italy: Bombolone
From Venetian Carnivale fritters to Rome's carciofi alla Giudia, Italy knows fried food. Bomboloni, doughy masterpieces coated in sugar and filled with cream, are a Tuscan treat that, like their American counterparts, can be served as a dessert, snack or indefensibly unhealthy breakfast. At Florence's Cucciolo Bar & Pasticceria, freshly baked bomboloni appear continuously throughout the day like so many pilgrims to the Church of San Marco. Go in peace.
5. Hawaii: Malasada
Originally a Portuguese Lenten confection, these round fritters first came to the Pacific in the late 1800s with Azorean sugar plantation workers. Malasadas have since been embraced throughout the islands, where they are given the tropical treatment with chunky fruit fillings made from local taro, pineapple, mango or passion fruit. Honolulu bakery Leonard's has been family-run since 1952, and today also operates roving malasadamobiles throughout Oahu, and a second storefront in Tokyo.
6. India (and Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka): Jalebi
A spiral-shaped enigma coated in simple syrup, jalebi's uncertain origins can be traced back to 16th Century Persian traders, and/or 13th Century Mesopotamia. Today, the chewy, addictive sweet is served at food stalls and chat shops across South Asia. Local favorite Old and Famous Jalebi Wala, in Delhi's Chandni Chowk neighborhood, has upheld the promise of its name since 1884.
7. Los Angeles: Vegan Doughnuts
Downtown Los Angeles, where locals shoot wheatgrass like whisky, is home to one of the world's most innovative doughnuts. The most successful New York export since Scarlett Johannsen, the vegan-baked goods at LA's two BabyCakes locations are predictably popular with health-conscious locals. Shockingly, they're also delicious. Babycakes' baked-not-fried, salted caramel doughnut oozes sweet, gooey goodness with every soy-, gluten- and guilt-free bite.
8. Malaysia: Kuih Keria
While most kuih, or Malay tea snacks, are steamed, these round sweets provide the full doughnut experience. Pureed sweet potatoes are rolled into dough with white or tapioca flour, deep-fried and coated with crystalized sugar. Hawker stalls throughout Malaysia sell the handheld sweet, but head to KL's "eat street" Jalan Alor to sample kuih keria alongside hundreds of other snacks. Choose wisely, friends.