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Mixing Poi

The popular Taro Brand Poi seems to be getting thinner and thinner right off the shelf these days. Yet it still requires the addition of water to bring it to serving consistency. Or at least to a consistency that will stretch it farther than the current $14 per 3-1/2 pound bag price paid for it.

When it’s time to do that, how do you mix poi? With your hands? A spoon? A whisk? Electric Cake Mixer?! Blender?! Food Processor?! Ahh!

Ask the kupuna (grandparents), and most (if not all) will insist you mix poi by hand.

Personally I prefer using a large, sturdy plastic or metal spoon, as I think it’s more sanitary than using bare hands that are submerged in it. Of course, if you wash your hands thoroughly, including cleaning under the fingernails, I don’t have a problem with the bare hands method.

If using a spoon, I apply a sort of folding and whisking technique that eventually fully incorporates the water. Of course a spoon would be very difficult to use if the poi were any thicker than the current shelf product is.

In this demonstration we’ll go with the hand mixing method.

Let’s start with the bowl: Because I usually buy the 3.5 lb. “membership club size” bag, I use a medium to large size bowl, either metal or plastic, that has a tight-sealing cover for it. I don’t have a “dedicated” poi bowl like some may have, such as those that have them passed down from their kupuna. I use whatever is available at the moment as described above.

Then we have the place to mix it: In the (very clean) kitchen sink, under a light stream of cold tap water. I suppose if you were REALLY concerned about sanitation, you could use bottled water instead. I’m quite confident in the potability of our tap water though.

First of all, we must get all that precious and expensive poi out of the bag. Something impossible if you were to attempt to just squeeze it out. The best way to get every single ounce out is by turning the bag inside out…

When doing this (and handling poi in general), I always work with very wet hands to prevent the poi from sticking. So above, the poi is for the most part, all in the bowl. Yet there are still some left on the bag, that’s now inside out. So I squeeze on the bag tightly, wrapping my fingers around it to get every last drop…

As you can see, there’s still poi stuck to the bag, so I keep running my hands tightly down the bag with wet hands to get all of it, and I mean ALL of it!

You might be concerned about my hairy arms, but don’t worry, not one strand fell off into the bowl. lol

After it’s all in there, time to get down to mixing with them hands. I place the bowl near the stream of running cold tap water and slowly incorporate it into the poi, using a kneading motion…

You can see how the water is still separated from the still-thick poi. Keep working it in..

Slowly, I’m still working it, adding more water, which you can see dripping from above into the bowl. Usually I’ll add about 1/8th of a cup at a time – sometimes less than that.

I must admit, doing this by hand is actually quite therapeutic, almost sensual, but most of all very relaxing.

Finally when it’s all smooth, the water is completely incorporated and it’s to the consistency of just sticking to your hand or a spoon with a little “drip” to it, all pau mix.

Sorry I couldn’t show every stage, as I was holding my camera in one hand while trying to get these shots, eventually needing both hands to do the job of mixing.

One thing we always do after mixing AND serving is to “Kahi” the bowl, which has already been done to the bowl above. This is the practice of scraping the excess poi off the inside rim of the bowl to clean it up. Usually with wet hands, but also with the spoon. Using the term “Kahi”, I take this would loosely mean to “bring together as one”. Please correct me on that in comment if otherwise.

Well, it’s time to kaukau!


Hawaiian Luau Plate


Big Island Smoked Meat

To store the mixed poi, we float a thin layer of fresh cold water over the top, which keeps it from crusting. We then keep the covered, sealed bowl in the refrigerator until next use (usually the next day), then pour off most of the water, incorporating some of it back into the poi to keep it thinned properly, since it naturally thickens as it sits over time.

I like both fresh and one, two, or even five day old poi, which is still at its best flavor and texture, albeit a bit more sour. I’ll still eat it up to almost 2 weeks old if kept refrigerated, depending how well it was kept and maintained. There are methods for freezing poi, but fortunately I’ve never had to deal with that living here in the islands where it’s (just about) always been available.

While there are many here who know how and have their own way of doing it, there’s also many readers who may have never bought and mixed poi, let alone tasted it, so surely there must be some interest out there in the subject.

Now if we can only work on the supply of taro to meet the high demand of Poi, which is still struggling to keep up.

18 thoughts on “Mixing Poi

  • February 1, 2008 at 10:06 am
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    Even with one hand in the poi and one hand gripping the camera, I think those are pretty swell pics regardless! But the clincher was/were the two images at the end. (I wasn’t expecting those) — The luau plate brings me one step closer to clicking the *purchase* button on a BA flight to Hawaii, but the Big island smoke meat? OH mannnnnnnnnnnnnnn!

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  • February 1, 2008 at 5:16 pm
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    “You might be concerned about my hairy arms, but don’t worry, not one strand fell off into the bowl. lol”

    Heh. You caught me! :P

    I’m with rowena…those photos are killing me! I haven’t eaten breakfast yet, and now I’m craving Hawaiian food reeeeal baaaaad.

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  • February 1, 2008 at 10:56 pm
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    Can’t wait to eat some poi with squid luau. Or lomi salmon. Or beef stew. Or Maui onions. Or…

    You know what I’m feeling!

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  • February 2, 2008 at 5:49 am
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    I just bought some poi… is frozen, cuz sometimes that’s the only kind I can get here on da mainland. And nomo da huge bags you can get! But beggars no can be choosers, yeah?

    Love da photos…now going make some lomi salmon to go with da poi!

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  • February 2, 2008 at 11:20 pm
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    I knew those pictures of the Hawaiian food would get you folks. Made me get da’ “ono’s” too, just writing about it!

    I see Spotty was also suspect of my hairy arms in that poi bowl. lol

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  • February 15, 2008 at 8:47 pm
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    Fresh poi or 3 days old? Stop teasing me. I’m in Texas so I’ve had to resort to dehydrated poi. Like Mokihana said, beggers can’t be choosers. Not bad in a pinch. That’s O.K. for now, I’m coming to Honolulu in August. All I ask is that you save some poke and poi for when I get there. Aloha

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  • February 17, 2008 at 11:46 pm
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    Wow, I hope that mall is on a direct bus route, because I’d love to try the BEST laulau in the state on my next trip!

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  • July 11, 2011 at 3:21 pm
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    Wow, you guys do things the hard way lol. Seriously guys come on. You can thoroughly mix poi without getting your hand or a spoon dirty.

    Just open the bag of poi, pour a little water at a time in, twist bag closed again, mix with your hand through the bag. If it needs more water, add a little more, twist closed and mix through the bag again repeating the process until its a good consistancy. once good just turn bag upside down over a bowl and squeeze poi out. pau.. time for grind.

    BTW, I’ve never heard someone say that mixing poi by hand is sensual before. All sorts of “american pie”esque thoughts hit me so yeah, mahalo for that lol. Maybe it’s a guy thing?

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  • July 11, 2011 at 6:07 pm
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    Ku’ualoha, so at what point in that bag-mixing poi method do I add the sugar? lol Jus’ kidding.

    I just mix it the way my Hawaiian grandmother taught me. What I’d like to experience one day is pounding poi from scratch the real old Hawaiian way. IIRC, they do this in one of the UH Hawaiian studies classes.

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  • July 12, 2011 at 7:50 am
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    I’m glad this thread came up again… reminds me to do a batch of the Smoke Meat before the summer’s gone!

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  • August 24, 2013 at 7:15 am
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    Using your hands would get beneficial bacteria into the poi, which is the whole point, I think.
    You could probably let this bagged poi sit for a few day on the counter to make it ferment. you could also make your own because it would be cheaper. Asian stores sell taro.
    looks great!

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    • August 24, 2013 at 8:17 am
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      lisa,

      Well, growing up, both my grandmother and mother always mixed poi by hand. And so far, so good. However, I can’t say the same if my Portuguese father had done it. After all, like me, he was a “grease monkey”, always with his hands under the hood of the family car. In fact, my ex-girlfriend used to always scold me about dirty fingernails after I got off work from “wrenching” marine equipment. No mixing poi after that!

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  • November 11, 2013 at 1:18 pm
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    This is a great website. Too bad the poi companies have sold out. The product is inferior nowadays.

    Just bought Taro brand poi because my local brand was out. Sooo disappointed. The consistency out of the bag is such that no water is needed. It’s already diluted. What a rip-off! Additionally, there were small hard pieces of the corm in the poi.

    I will not be buying this brand again. Auwe!

    Whatever happened to honest companies? I can remember when store-bought poi was actually thick, and needed to be mixed.

    Best to get your own kalo and do it yourself.

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    • November 11, 2013 at 4:50 pm
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      DisapPOInted,

      “Punny” spin on the word!

      I bought a bag of Taro Brand Poi several weeks ago (the smaller 1 lb. bag), and found the consistency decently thick enough where I had to add around a cup of water (probably less than that; I don’t measure, but just drizzle water in from the tap) to make it 2-finger consistency. Unless you like your Poi SUPAH TICK, where it’s like spackle. I never did buy a tub, but it looks like the Hanalei brand from Kauai is really thick (and more expensive).

      I remember going to one of them “touristy” luaus here one time, and I swear the poi was mixed down like SOUP. The mixture seemed more water than poi! Talk about “auwe”!

      One thing I notice is the Taro Brand Poi doesn’t get sour. Do they add something to make it more shelf-stable now?

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      • November 11, 2013 at 8:13 pm
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        Well, frankly it can be easy to screw up. (and i must say that I always found the picture of Pomai’s poi dip to be lumpy, lol). That being said, my mother swore by Hanalei Poi. No mix, ready to go. We, of course know the owners, but she told me that is not the reason. She said was perfect for the modern family and LASTED, even if expensive. She is right. It is a sweet poi, of course. And will not sour properly like Makaweli poi. But only my father liked sour anyway. heh heh
        BTW, this is Kauai Lehua. Even the old timers on Oahu and Maui swore by Kauai Lehua, an old Kalo, continuously grown.

        Reply
  • August 1, 2015 at 1:03 pm
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    Thanks for the info.  I have been hurrying up to eat it all for about 40 years. Usually within about 2-3 days due to thickening.  Now I know how to stretch it out…and yes I like it a bit tart

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    • August 2, 2015 at 11:38 am
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      Mike, you know what’s weird is, Poi doesn’t get sour like it used to. Before, after three days, it was already kind of “sour”, but now it doesn’t do that. No sure what’s the deal there. GMOs in the Taro, perhaps?

      Reply

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