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What’s So Special About Poi?

Helen Wong knew that she had one chance to get this right. She had done her research, and bought all the necessary ingredients. As long as she followed the recipe carefully, she knew that all she had to do was smile confidently and serve a dish she hoped would knock her mother-in-law out.

They hadn’t always seen eye to eye, but the one thing they had in common was their love of the same man, her husband (and her mother-in-law’s only son) Peter. At a quarter past five, their mini-van pulled on to the carport. Peter had just retrieved his mother from the airport for her month-long stay in Oahu. Helen smoothed her dress, checked her lipstick, and turned to her eight year old boy, who was already opening the front door for his grandmother.

“William, go to the cooler and grab the Poi,Son.”

Now, now, hold your horses. This wasn’t going to be a Dateline story. Helen wanted her “son” to retrieve the “poi” dish that she had made especially for her mother-in-law. Sheesh, you guys are so suspicious!

Common Hawaiian food, taro bread

Years after relocating to Chicago, Helen’s mother-in-law, Lani, was returning to her homeland for a month long visit. Helen herself (who wasn’t a native Hawaiian) still hadn’t acquired a love of poi. After multiple internet searches and questioning many of the locals, Helen found that poi can be prepared in amazing ways that will make you declare that poi is absolutely poi(fect)!

She opened the door, hugged her mother-in-law, and spooned a freshly made scoop of poi into her mouth. Lani’s expression changed from surprised, to impressed. Aloha, Lani! And … Mahalo, Helen!

1. The Traditional Poi Recipe: It can be thick, or it can be thin. You can drizzle it over meat, or spoon it in. It’s quite flexible that way. Eaten fresh, it’s sweet. Less fresh, it acquires a sour taste. So, it’s a fairly versatile dish.

It is made from cooked and mashed tarot root, and mixed with water until it reaches your desired consistency. It’s beautiful purple color and yogurt(y) appearance, grab your interest and invite you to sample. Here is Emeril’s recipe for traditional poi. Bam!

2. Poi Pancakes: Rachel Ray has shared a poi pancake recipe that has been given high marks from her testers. Serve it up with other Hawaiian favorites, like fresh pineapple and Spam. You can bet that’s a short stack, that’ll keep them coming back.

Hawaiian taro pancakes

3. Poi Doughnuts: Dieting? Having a bad day? Thinking about grabbing your sugar rush? Well, if you’re caving to the craving, why blow your diet on a boring glazed doughnut? Kick it up a notch, and shout “Yeah bitch, I ate a flippin’ poi doughnut!” Here’s an easy peasy way to make yours at home.

4. Poi Baby Food: So many new moms today are making fresh baby food. But, how many of them are making homemade poi baby food? I’d love to be at the new moms playdate when Annie from Nebraska pulls out her BPA free container of homemade poi. “Oh, aren’t you guys making your baby poi? Haven’t you heard? It’s supposed to be ideal?” Score one for Annie from Nebraska, she gets the Hippest New Mom Award!

5. Unconventional and Goofy Uses of Poi: These YouTubers have recommended some fun alternatives for using poi. Hey, if you have a rainy weekend, and an abundance of poi, why not test them out for yourself? I’m guessing that poi as glue “might” be the most legit. The made me smile, so check them out.

If you’re curious and adventurous, you really can foster a love of poi. If you don’t know your way around your kitchen, don’t worry. You can easily find ready-made poi, and poi dishes on the island. Don’t let poi make you think of poi(son)! Give it an honest try, because I think you will declare that poi is poi(fect)!

What about you?  Do you have any Poi recipes?  Let us know!!!




  • Elizabeth L

    Aloha! I’m Elizabeth L. At LiveYourAloha, I am responsible for writing about sightseeing tours and Hawaiian culture. For the last 12 years, I’ve been working as a tour guide in Hawaii. It’s been a great way to see the world and learn about new cultures. I love nature and the outdoors, and have even climbed two of the world’s highest peaks! Making connections and showing my visitors the incredible beauty of these beautiful islands is a passion of mine. When I’m not out giving tours, you’ll likely find me on an invigorating hike or enjoying local cuisine on the beach.