Hawaiian Nougat Company in Kaimuki churns out its version of the sticky-sweet indulgence.

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This is really a Hawaiian product,” says Liz Anderson. and no, she isn’t talking about lau lau, poke bowls or spam musubi. She’s talking about nougat—the centuries-old confectionary that established a name for itself right here in Honolulu thanks to Liz and husband Peter’s business, Hawaiian Nougat Company.

The husband and wife’s nougat business, located in the east Honolulu neighborhood of Kaimuki, keeps the pair quite busy. their mission? To redefine what you’ve come to know as nougat. Unlike the usual sticky treat you’re used to finding in American candy bars, this homemade nougat is light and smooth— almost like a heavier marshmallow. It’s sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. the most common type of nougat (and the type that Hawaiian nougat co. makes) is white nougat, made with beaten egg whites and honey. There’s also brown nougat, which is made without egg whites and has a firmer, crunchier texture, and viennese nougat, which is essentially a chocolate and nut praline. With roots in Italy, Spain and France, nougat is fairly easy to find on the streets of Paris or Florence. Here in Hawai‘i, not so much.

For the past nine years, Liz and Peter have dished out their nougat with an emphasis on local flavors and ingredients. “I was going through the list [of ingredients] and I realize that everything on the list was from Hawai‘i,” Liz says. After becoming a classically trained confectioner at Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris, Liz returned to California where she cooked in the kitchen for culinary heavyweights like Wolfgang Puck and the Ritz-Carlton. When she moved to Hawai‘i and became a special education teacher (which she still continues to do), the idea to use the classic recipe for nougat with Hawaiian ingredients soon became a reality. “This is a true Hawaiian product—we have our Maui sugar, maui vanilla and our own special honey,” Liz says. Instead of the traditional pistachios or almonds used in french nougat, they’re swapped for macadamia nuts. As for the eggs, they’re sourced from cage free chickens in Wai‘anae.

Aside from the local spin on the confectionary, the nougat—or “newgah,” as Liz pronounces it—still follows the recipe of the authentic european confection. “This candy is centuries old and it’s being made the same way they did it centuries ago: hot sugar and egg whites,” Liz says. It starts with a bowl of whisked egg whites that gets combined with a scorching hot mixture of melted sugar, glucose and honey. Next comes the rest of the ingredients (dehydrated pineapple, macadamia nuts, etc.) before the final mixture is laid out into trays to rest overnight. The soft, chewy concoction is ready to cut and wrap by the next day.

And even though Peter is in charge of the distribution logistics while Liz takes creative control of all things nougat, he still lends a hand with dehydrating the liliko‘i and pineapple alongside fellow kitchen helpers brutus and pauline. Don’t be mistaken—brutus and pauline aren’t kitchen staff. They’re Hawaiian Nougat co.’s industrial nougat wrapping and cutting machines from France: brutus cuts the nougat into bars and Pauline wraps them. But to the Andersons, they’re practically children—Liz even describes brutus as wonderful but “temperamental” at times.

But Brutus and Pauline aren’t Liz’s only European influences. Nougat vital, the historic nougat makers based in Belgium, are Hawaiian nougat co.’s “godfathers.” “They’re my mentors who sent me a three-page email with tips, dos, don’ts and advice,” Liz says. and with nougat vital’s initial guidance and mentor-ship, Hawaiian nougat co. flourished into the award-winning company it is today. (The company recently won the good food merchants guild award for its national confectionary category.)

Yes, the nation’s top confectionary finds its home right here in Honolulu. In flavors like chocolate, pineapple, liliko‘i, vanilla and coffee, Liz and Peter’s nougat is equal parts European tradition and the Hawaiian palate. New flavors are in the works, too. “We’re ready to go with mango, and I’d like to try coconut,” Peter says. it’s all happening on Wai‘alae avenue. So the next time someone asks you what your favorite Hawaiian food is, think twice.