What is the Hawaiian Food Poi?

Are you Poi curious? Have you ever wondered what is that Polynesian purple side dish served at luaus and what does it taste like? It is called poi and it is made from taro.

The Hawaiian word for taro is kalo. Taro is a highly nutritional starch root vegetable that was, and still is, an important food in the Hawaiian culture. Poi is made by mashing the boiled root of a taro plant until it has a smooth consistency. It is relatively bland in taste and can be served as a side dish with meats and fish similar to mashed potatoes. Poi can also be added to enhance other foods like baked goods and drinks.

The making of poi is simple, but it is a labor intensive process. The traditional Hawaiian way to make poi is by pounding the boiled taro root. Poi pounding requires a wooden board to pound the taro on and a stone poi pounder hand carved from lava rock. The first stage of making poi is called naha and it is when the poi pounder is angled on it’s edge to break up the taro into smaller bits.

The poi pounder is then be angled to use the rounded bottom to continue to break down the pieces of taro creating the mokumoku stage of poi making. Any remaining bits are then smoothed out by sparingly adding water and using the rounded bottom of the poi pounder. Lumps that can not be smoothed are removed, traditionally using an opihi shell. This forms the pili stage of poi which is continued to be worked to form the thickest stage of poi, paiai.

Once the poi is in the paiai stage it is thick enough to wrap in ti leaves to transport and store. In this stage the poi can go unrefrigerated and not spoil for up to a month if left in a water covered bowl.

How thick to make the poi is a personal preference. When the poi is to be eaten it is taken from the paiai stage and water is added sparingly until it is the desired consistency. Some people prefer poi thick like mashed potatoes and others prefer it thin like yogurt. Poi was traditional eaten with the fingers in early Hawaii and the consistency of the poi is described by how many fingers it takes to eat it; one finger, two finger, or three finger poi! Poi can be eaten when fresh for a sweet flavor or poi can be left for several hours to several days to ferment which adds a twang to the flavor.

Scientific studies have found poi has high nutritional value and it is no wonder that the ancient Hawaiians thrived as a healthy society using poi as their staple food. Poi is a hypoallergenic food and is easily digested by people even with the most severe allergies to things like animal milk and soy milk. For those with severe milk allergies the poi can be watered down to a liquid and used as a milk substitute.

Poi is high in vitamins, minerals and enzymes. The nutrition in poi is better utilized than other foods due to fermentation (similar to yogurt) and small starch granules. High amounts of alkaline-forming elements in poi reduce gastrointestinal problems and poi is found to provide valuable nutritional support for individuals who suffer from indigestion, malnourishment, special health problems and those recovering from illnesses. Poi has also been found to prevent dental decay.

If the making of fresh poi seems too labor intensive for you there is Hawaiian Powdered Poi which is made from ground cooked 100% all natural taro from Hawaii and makes having poi very easy! All you do is add water, heat, and eat. Hawaiian Powdered Poi can be mixed with water to make poi and eaten as a side dish (like mashed potatoes) with pork, steak, chicken, or fish. The Hawaiian powdered poi can also be mixed in to enhance recipes to create tasty treats like taro pancakes, taro rolls, taro muffins, taro cookies, taro pudding, taro smoothies, taro milkshakes, taro bubble drinks etc!

Poi is a must have side dish for a Luau and Hawaiian Powdered Poi can be easily incorporated into everyday life, no matter where you are, to easily take advantage of  poi‘s probiotic, gastrointestinal, and dental health benefits.

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