On one of my first days here, I was afforded the opportunity to sample a rare and special treat of fresh, hand-pounded pa’i’ai, the super thick taro paste that is the base of poi…….just add water!
Like all outsiders, my familiarity with poi was only in passing. Although I may have tried some when I visited here with my family years ago, I have no recollection beyond an understanding that poi was fermented, an acquired taste, and that it was considered (at least by non-Hawai’ians) to be rather unpleasant due to its sourness. So I was surprised to learn that the sourness of this ancient and traditional food is purely a matter of personal taste! One can have it as sour or as fresh as one likes. It would seem that poi, which is a superfood to boot, gets an undeserved bad rap.
A lost art, there is a growing movement celebrating the traditional making of pa’i’ai, its connection to land and Hawai’ian values. Daniel Anthony of Mana ‘Ai has been leading the way, sharing the practice and teaching interested keiki and adults, the art of the kalo (taro) and its’ role in preserving and perpetuating sustainable living in these islands. There is a deeper meaning attached to this plant – its’ future is intertwined with Native Hawaiian identity and heritage.
With a package this size quite difficult to come by, and very expensive, with the growing interest in the pa’i’ai movement, hopefully it will become more widely available. With some pipi kaula (smoked meat) – what a special and delicious treat!!
If you want to know more, check out the following videos:
I’m Lelaine and I just moved to Hawai’i. Hawai’i Seen is a photojournal and blog of my first impressions and experiences. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.