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Poi: A Hawaiian Staple

Once you arrive in Hawaii, you’ll start to see it and hear about it anytime you are ready to sit down to eat. The purple dish that is served at every luau and has long been a staple of Hawaiian cuisine. You may be hesitant to try it, and you may not like it, but this dish has been around as long as people have been in Hawaii, and there may not be a more important dish. This is Poi, and this is everything you need to know about it.

Poi is the most traditional item in Hawaii, dating all the way back to the ancient Hawaiians, who have long prepared the dish for every meal. Made from the taro plant, the dish is sacred to Hawaiians, and is prepared by pounding the steamed root of the taro plant. The taro plant is pounded using a Poi Pounder, mixing in water during the process to achieve the desired consistency, mashing on a log using only the pounder and the ancient technique to create the dish.

Once the poi begins to take its fluid state, the question of “how many fingers?” is asked, referencing the desired consistency of the dish. Ranging from nearly liquid to more of a dough, poi is measured either as  one finger, two fingers, or three fingers, alluding to the number of fingers that are to be used when scooping the poi to eat. This was the traditional method for consumption hundreds of years ago, and today we have more mainstream methods for eating, like a spoon.

As the years have gone by, more and more uses for poi have been created. Traditionally, poi is a mildly sweet dish, and is very high in carbohydrates, making its importance to the ancient Hawaiians very high. Often this was one of the only dishes that were available, and with the abundance of Taro in Hawaii, it was widely available.

Today, poi has been sweetened to be enjoyed as part of a dessert, or left in its natural state to be enjoyed as part of a main dish. Many locals love to mix rice with poi, or just enjoy a “three finger” poi alongside Kahlua Pork or a fresh caught fish.

Poi is always on the menu at a luau, and even if you don’t find it appealing at first, just give it a taste. There is something very special about dining on Kahlua Pork and Poi at an authentic Hawaiian Luau, paying homage to the ancient Hawaiians that created the important dish.

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