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What is Poi?

Of all of the great activities when you travel, it seems that most of us look forward to eating more than anything. This is the chance to kind of pig out and taste the food of the locals, eat too much, and really enjoy your time in the your destination. We've all taken a page out of travelers like Anthony Bourdain’s book and branched out to try something new, talk to new people, and immerse ourselves in the culture over a good meal. Hawaii is no exception to this, and there are many incredible dishes that you will want to try while you are on vacation.

Hawaiian cuisine features favorites like Poke, Malasada, a variety of chicken dishes, and locally sourced fish that is directly from the ocean. One of the oldest dishes, and a longtime favorite of locals is Poi, a traditional dish that has been a staple of the islands since the very early in the settlement of the islands. Most are put off by the texture or the uncertainty of what it is, but when you are visiting Hawaii, you have to at least give it a taste.

Of all of the foods that you will come across in Hawaii, Poi is the most traditional. It is made from the root taro plant and is prepared by first steaming the bulb, then pounded out into a liquid paste, mixing in water during the process to achieve the desired consistency, mashing on a log using only the pounder and an ancient technique to create the dish.

The question to be asked during the process is “how many fingers?” While this might seem like an odd question, it is posed in reference to the consistency, and the number of fingers used to scoop up the paste. Some prefer Poi to be nearly liquid, while others prefer more of a pudding consistency.

In the days of ancient Hawaii, Poi was served at every meal and was the main source of starch for the settlers of the islands. Back then, food was a bit scarce, so with few options, Poi became the go to meal. Today, Poi continues to be a staple, though it is not as necessary due to the abundance of dishes and food that we are fortunate to enjoy. As the years have gone by and as cooking has evolved, more and more uses for poi have been created. In its most traditional form, poi is a mildly sweet dish. Today, it can be found in desserts, highly sweetened to fit into the post-dinner dish or left in its natural state to compliment the fresh fish or chicken that it is served alongside.

Poi is on every luau menu, and many visitors mix it with rice, or eat it by itself. While visiting, it is important to give it a try and honor the earliest days of Hawaii. There is nothing that is as traditional as a Hawaiian luau with a plate filled with traditional favorites like Kalua Pork, Poi, and locally grown vegetables. A couple of bits of Poi, and we’re sure you’ll become a fan.

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