I spent Memorial Day weekend last month up on Maui attending a few family parties. At the baby’s first birthday luau (a Hawaii tradition!) at Kanaha Beach in Kahului (behind the airport), one of the dishes served was Ulu Poi. Ulu Poi? Hah? What kine ‘dat?
As you know, Ulu is the Samoan (and Hawaiian name as ‘Ulu) name for Breadfruit, a staple food (starch) in Polynesian culture, where at least I’m aware of more popular in Samoa than it has been in Hawaii, at least in more modern times. A common way Samoans prepare Ulu is by either steaming or boiling it, then simmering it in coconut milk, onions and sea salt. Very simple and healthy dish.
Breadfruit, a.k.a. Ulu
There’s no doubt – at least in my opinion – Kalo, the Hawaiian wet land taro has much more flavor and character than Ulu. And it’s also much more difficult to cultivate, due to the nature that it needs to grow in wetland soil, requiring a lot of water and manual labor. Hence obviously Hawaiian taro is relatively expensive, as is the poi that comes from it. So when I was told this “Poi” was made with Ulu, I was admittedly skeptical it would even remotely pass as a substitute for Poi made with Kalo.
Kalo (Hawaiian Wetland Taro root) – Photo courtesy of Leslie Lang
I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, “Brah, you grew up in Hawaii, and you nevah’ went try Ulu Poi before? What ‘kine local boy you?” Well, sorry, I guess I haven’t been around enough Samoan culture and people here to have been introduced to it. Nothing personal, just the fact.
Well here I go trying Ulu Poi for the first time…
And? Well I’ll be a Lomi Lomi Lomi Lomi Salmon. It’s FANTASTIC! It tastes strikingly similar to Taro Poi! Seriously! The texture is also spot-on! Exactly the same as Taro Poi. I’d say 2 finger consistency. Very clean and neutral flavor like really fresh Poi, also being quite starchy and filling.
This, some Laulau, Squid Luau, Poke and Lomi Salmon, and you’re set! If you eat meat, hit da’ Kalua Pig, Chicken Long Rice and Pipikaula for da’ complete Ulu Poi Luau spread. Guaranz winnahz!
I’m not sure what the shelf life and stability is of it, however if its feasible, HPC Poi Factory (Taro brand Poi) should consider packaging and selling Ulu Poi alongside their regular Poi. If they could sell it for half or maybe 2/3rd the price of Taro Poi, guaranteed Ulu Poi would sell well.
Next time someone offers you Ulu Poi, as long as they did it right, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how good and close it tastes to what you’re used to with Taro Poi. Ono!
Aloha Poi Factory Poi served at Seabury Hall graduation luau up in Makawao, Maui
While we’re on the subject of Poi and Maui, the brand sold on the valley isle is Aloha Poi Factory, which tastes pretty much like HPC’s Taro Brand Poi here on Oahu. I think the best tasting Poi is the Hanalei brand from Kauai, while it’s also the most expensive, ounce for ounce.
As you can see, the going price for a 1 pound bag of Aloha Poi on Maui is $5.79, while a 4 pound bag is $21.99. In comparison, the current market price as of this writing at Costco for a 3 pound bag of Taro Brand Poi is $13.99.
A luau plate served at Seabury Hall graduation celebration up in Makawao, Maui: Poi, Kalua Pig, Teriyaki Chicken, Rice, Mahimahi with Lemon Caper Butter Sauce, Steamed Broccoli and Lomi Salmon… geeve ’em on da’ Lomi Salmon, ‘das how!
Have you ever tried Ulu Poi? Do you eat Ulu regularly? If so, how do you prepare it?
P.S. I’ll once again be one of the judges at today’s “Hogs Gone Wild” Up in Smoke Cook Off. It will be from 11:30am to 3:30pm at Cycle City on Nimitz Highway and Puuloa Road, adjacent to the Honolulu International Airport and Mapunapuna. Poi and pen in hand, of course! See you there!
P.P.S. Here’s a photo of the judging panel at today’s “Hogs Gone Wild” event at Cycle City….
Yours Truly is third from the right (near the center), wearing the blue long sleeve dress shirt with too many pens in the pocket (Don’t ask. I always dress like that for any place other than the beach. lol). I’ll name everyone later when I blog my coverage of this event.