Poi Pounding with Ranger Keoni

Poi Pounding with Ranger Keoni

Beautifully prepared poi. Photo by A Taste of Hawaii.

If you’ve ever been to Hawai‘i, you’ve probably heard about poi. Poi is a thick paste of pounded taro root, a traditional staple of Hawaiian cuisine. Traditional poi is produced by mashing the cooked corm (baked or steamed) on a papa ku‘i ‘ai, a wooden pounding board, with a pōhaku ku‘i ‘ai, a carved basalt pestle. Water is added to the mixture during mashing, and again just before eating, to achieve the desired consistency, which can range from highly viscous to liquid. As such, poi can be classified as “one-finger”, “two-finger”, or “three-finger” depending on the consistency, alluding to how many fingers are required to scoop it up (the thicker the poi, the fewer fingers required to scoop a sufficient mouthful).Poi can be eaten immediately, when fresh and sweet, or left a bit longer to ferment and become more sour – it then develops a smell reminiscent of plain yogurt. A layer of water on top can prevent fermenting poi from developing a crust.

Ranger Keoni guiding a visitor as she pounds poi. Photo by MyLynn Phan.

At Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, Ranger Keoni Kaholoaa will oftentimes lead a cultural program or demonstration to the public. On July 10th, a lovely Wednesday morning, Ranger Keoni demonstrated the process of making poi in a three hour program. Visitors were able to enjoy both a visual and hands-on experience, with the opportunity to taste the poi at various stages (very delicious!) or even sit down and pound it themselves.

Ranger Keoni explaining the traditional tools used to make poi. Photo by MyLynn Phan.
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