Hoi Polloi Poi?
We will visit Hilo, Honolulu, Kauai & Lahaina on a cruise in January. My wife wants to try poi. I understand that it's grated taro root and has all of the gustatory joy of school paste, but hey, I'll try it too. Maybe we will be surprised? Any opinions?
Can poi be purchased outside of the tourist luaus? Where would you suggest we search for it? Maybe there's a chain of "Poi Huts" or "House o' Taro". Does it come with Spam?
As you can see, my ignorance is quite impressive. Your charitable recommendations will be most appreciated.
Poi can be purchased in one pound bags at supermarkets all over the state, supplies permitting, and at many other smaller shops as well.
It would be served with plate lunches or as a side in Hawaiian-themed restaurants...not talking about any place featuring tiki glasses with mini umbrellas...but places like Ono Hawaiian Foods on Kapahulu near Waikiki.
It is quite bland when fresh; as it ages a day or two it ferments slightly, becoming more tangy, a taste often preferred by locals. As production is limited, and many people with limited incomes cannot afford as much poi as they would like, please don't waste any.
Poi is not generally eaten as a stand alone item, but as the starch accompaniment to Hawaiian or other local foods, such as kalua pork, lau lau, curry beef stew, squid luau. Thus, for the best tasting experience, you should seek it out as part of a meal, rather than buying it in a store to try. Poi is now fairly expensive. Since you are on a cruise, one thing you might want to try is to ask the maitre d' early on whether the ship could accommodate poi you purchase on shore at a dinner or lunch in which teriyaki anything (chicken or steak, for example) would be served.
for the most part poi is an acquired taste. i think for a beginner it is best to think of it as a thick gravy or condiment, that you eat with other foods, especially meat or other protein. using your hands or your utensils, depending on the situation, dip your protein into the poi, or put some poi on the protein as you eat, one bite at a time.
I agree with the other posters. Yes, it is most expensive and not to be treated lightly nor wasted. It would be best as others say to try to find a Hawaiian restaurant to taste it in the correct "pairings" if you will regarding foods. If you are lucky enough to find anyone serving Pa'i'ai you might find this more to your liking as it is often fried or grilled and accepts the other flavors cooked with it very well. I recently went to an event that featured this preparation and it was an amazing night (at the Whole Ox Deli.)
In Honolulu, at the Pineapple Room in Macy's Ala Moana, they have one of my favorite appetizers, Da Poi Cup, which is probably as easy a way as any try it. Its a ramekin of poi, topped with kalua pig and lomi tomato. If you split it, you can both check it out in an optimum presentation, without too much waste, if you decide you don't like it.
In Lahaina, Aloha Mixed Plate includes a small dish of poi with some of their meals. It's a long walk from where the cruise ships dock. The poi I've had there varied a lot, sometimes almost sweet, sometimes sour.