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Poi is staple of Hawaiian cuisine. It's an acquired taste.

• General: Educational • General: Guide • General: History

You've probably heard of poi or possibly even tried it at a Hawaiian luau. If not, the best way to describe it is as a sort of paste like consistency with a sort of paste like taste. Some people love it, others hate, but it's long been a staple of Hawaiian culture.

Poi comes from the taro plant, or kalo as it's called in Hawaiian. Hawaii is filled with taro fields that grow large numbers of taro plants. The plants are easy to identify by their very large and unique leaves. Taro itself is a root vegetable so the edible part grows underground.

The taro plant has long been a highly regarded plant by ancient Hawaiian people. They believed that the taro plant was their original ancestor. Poi was so important and sacred to their daily lives that Hawaiians believed that the spirit of Haloa, the legendary ancestor of the Hawaiian people, was present when a bowl of poi was uncovered at meal times. That belief was so powerful that any conflict between family members was required to come to an immediate halt. Today we're just happy to get through a family meal with everyone at the table without text messages beeping constantly. Seems like the Hawaiians were on to something!

When harvested, the root is cut off and cleaned up and then cooked for hours much like potato. The taro root is mashed up and water is added to get a consistency that will range from a dough-like material to one that is more paste like (thinner, runny). The amount of water simply changes the texture of the poi, known as one- two- or three-finger poi which alludes to how many fingers are required to scoop it up and eat it (the traditional method for consuming poi). The taste is pretty much the same regardless of the consistency.

So what does poi taste like? It's often quite bland and slightly sweet. Many love to say how it tastes like wallpaper glue or kindergarten paste. It has a similar consistency for sure, and the taste probably isn't far off. Plenty of Hawaiian cuisine restaurants will serve poi and it's an essential at any good, toursity luau. It's worth trying if you never have, and who knows, maybe you'll love it! If so try it again the next day without the all of the luau mai tais and still see if you do!