East Oahu Sights
Authentic Hawaiian Foods & Arts and Crafts
The Waiahole Poi Factory, located in beautiful Waiahole on the windward coast of Oahu, provides a traditional Hawaiian taste experience.
Poi is a staple food in Hawaii made from the stem of the taro plant (known in Hawaiian as kalo), a root vegetable that is highly regarded by the Hawaiian people. The people believed that the spirit of Haloa– who legend says was the ancestor of the Hawaiian people– would be present when a bowl of poi was served at the family dinner table. Taro is also said to be the first plant "brother" of the first humans. There are hundreds of varieties of taro.
Traditionally, poi is made by baking or steaming the corm (plant stem) for hours in an underground oven called an imu. The starchy, potato-like vegetable is then mashed until it becomes a smooth, thick, syrupy fluid. Water is usually added to achieve the desired consistency. Poi is often named according to its viscosity; indicating the number of fingers required to eat it. There is three-finger, two-finger, and one-finger poi; one-finger being the thickest.
The root of the taro is a purple color and the poi becomes a pale pinkish purple color when produced. The taro root is said to be more nutritious than any potato, as it is low in fat and high in vitamin A and complex carbohydrates.
Traditionally, poi became the ideal food for traveling Native Hawaiian people as it stays good for days, fermenting and souring gradually each day. Fresh poi tends to be sweet and edible by itself. Many Hawaiian children grew up on poi with milk and sugar. The natural fermentation process of souring poi involves gut-friendly lactobacillus bacteria, making it the ideal natural probiotic. Traditionally, the sour poi is enjoyed with salted fish.
One Traveller's Experience at Waiahole Poi Factory
Poi has a distinct, delicate, and utterly unique flavor. At Waiahole Poi Factory, the poi is made on site and it so very fresh – perhaps one of the best places in Hawaii to savor this traditional Hawaiian staple. Waiahole Poi Factory offers a simple side of poi, but the best way to try it is with one of the traditional plates such as combinations of kalua pig, squid lu’au, or beef lu’au. The menu includes combo plates, plates (one dish), mini plates, and sides. Combos and plates come with rice or poi, lomi salmon, and haupia. Across the board, prices are very reasonable.
Being a poi newbie, I decided I simply had to experience this famous dish. The first bite was really unlike anything I had ever tasted. If I could compare it to anything I would say it tasted like slightly soured mashed sweet potato. The strange taste took a bit of getting used to and was little bland on its own. After a few bites, I really started to enjoy it. The unique flavor would indeed accompany a meat dish quite well. My advice is that if you've never tasted it before, please don't jump to conclusions after the first bite, as it might take you a minute or two to realize how tasty it is!
The Waiahole Poi Factory is a family-owned business that has been in existence since 1905. It was originally owned by Chinese, and then Japanese immigrants. In 1971 Liko Hoe’s parents took over the lease. His father is Hawaiian-Chinese and his mother is from Minnesota. They turned it into a Native Hawaiian art space and rented out the kitchen. Eventually, Liko took over the kitchen and began selling Hawaiian food daily. He produces machine-milled poi as well as the traditional hand-pounded variety. In addition to creating ‘ono Hawaiian food they also make traditional Hawaiian arts and musical instruments, offering workshops in ‘ohe hano ihu (bamboo nose flutes) and ipu.
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