Saturday, April 23, 2011
You can not visit Hawaii and not sample traditional foods like Kalua pig and poi. Food holds a significant place in Hawaiian culture and if you haven't tasted any traditional dishes, then you haven't really been to Hawaii. All luaus or feasts, will supply lots of both of these staples. At the Kaua'i Grand Hyatt Resort, I witnessed an 185-pound pig being carried out for the traditional ceremony, above. The pig was covered in ti leaves and then wrapped in chicken wire before being buried in an imu or pit. Then it was roasted over hot coals for eight hours.
The meat is so tender and moist that it doesn't really need to be cut so the hosts simply pull it off the bone. They offered me a quick taste but since I don't eat meat, I couldn't venture into hog territory but I made up for it with my poi consumption.
Poi is pounded taro root that looks like a lovely lavender pudding, above. The lavender roll was also made with taro. The taro plant is so sacred to Hawaiian culture that it's considered an affront to argue once poi is served. According to Hawaiian custom, it's disrespectful to argue in front of an elder and as the living embodiment of Haloa, the ancient ancestor of the Hawaiian people, taro is technically the elder brother of all Hawaiians. With this kind of significance, I was determined to like poi. However, it is definitely an acquired taste. Average poi tastes sour and the consistency is like paste. The first few times I tried it, I concentrated on the wonderful color (I've never disliked anything purple) and ignored the taste. And then I discovered the revelation of Hanalei Poi. Hanalei Poi is made fresh on Kaua'i and is widely considered the best poi you can eat. I spooned it up and there was no sour taste, just slightly sweet, smooth goodness. I grabbed another bowl and absorbed the deliciousness all over again. My dinner mates smiled with approval but all I could think about was how I could get a tub through security to take home.