According to transcripts from an interview on the Team Lally AM Hawaii real estate radio talk show, the long story short about Pomai Kulolo and its founder Keanue Kekaula goes as follows.
Keanuenue Kekaula, a Kalihi boy and graduate of McKinley High School, had returned from a two year Mormon mission on the mainland completely broke. This was when he was in his early 20s. At the time, his cousin was a fire knife dancer, so they decided to try making fire knives to sell. On his way to the Sheraton Waikiki to try out their first fire knife, he got into a freak accident with his brother Pomai’s landscaping business truck he had borrowed. While he wasn’t injured, Keanue knew he had to pay his brother back for the truck damage.
In need of money, his brother Pomai mentioned how their uncle used to make around $30,000 a month selling stuff as a roadside vendor. Ironically, Pomai had just made a big batch of Kulolo from their family recipe, so Keanue asked his brother if he could try selling some on the roadside. So he did just that, and it was such a hit, that he continued doing that until moving on to selling at the local farmers markets, to where it is today in full production for retail.
Onto the review, I bought Pomai Kulolo delivered fresh on Saturday at Times Supermarket on South King Street, where it’s located on the prepared foods deli counter right as you walk into the store. The 8 oz. serving of Pomai Kulolo was $6.29 not including tax, breaking down to $12.58 per pound, making it pretty pricey, especially considering it’s manufactured here on Oahu.
This, in comparison to the fresh Kulolo shipped from Kauai, which runs $9.99 per pound here on Oahu.
Notice both the Kauai Kulolo and Pomai Kulolo have the same ingredients, being taro, coconut milk, sugar and potassium sorbate (preservative). That last ingredient key to helping the shelf life extend past more than a few days, otherwise it would spoil and/or get sour quickly, just as fresh poi would otherwise.
When you look at Pomai Kulolo’s packaging from the front, it looks like it was done on mass production equipment. However a look at the back makes it clear this was hand-packaged in commercial grade plastic wrap. If it were vacuum sealed, it surely would have an even longer shelf life. And no, I won’t call you Shirley. lol
Unwrapping it, you can see how dense it appears, being essentially the Hawaiian version of Japanese Mochi. The exact measurement being 3¼” square x 1-5/8″ thickness. And again, 8 ounces (1/2 pound).
It was nice and hefty like a sticky baseball (watching the Dodgers take on the Astros!), where I was seriously tempted to whip it at the wall to see if it’d stick. But nah, don’t want to waste Kulolo like that! lol
Kulolo is made by grating raw Hawaiian wetland taro (Kalo), then mixing it with coconut milk and brown sugar (and in this case Potassium Sulfate), then steaming it for a long time. The difference with Pomai Kulolo is how fine they grate the taro, which is clearly much finer than the typical Kauai style Kulolo. More on that shortly.
Yep, the texture is quite a bit finer than the Kauai style, where it’s super pasty. Enough that you can use it like a spread vs. being thick like say Haupia.
Pomai Kulolo “Haulolo” (Haupia layered on Kulolo)
Which they do have another product called “Haulolo”, being as it sounds, a layered combination of Haupia and Kulolo.
And? OMG. OMG. OMG! Yes! Yes! Yes! lol No, but seriously, and I’m not saying this just because this bears my name. This, folks, is freaking AWESOME Kulolo! That finer grating of the taro really sets this Kulolo apart from all others, where it simply melts on your warm tongue as you embrace it on your palate. Wow, that was a fancy way to describe it! lol
If there’s only one complaint (other than its relatively high cost), I’d say it’s missing that authentic earthy-accented flavor of it being steamed in Ti leaves in an imu (Hawaiian underground earthen oven). Other than that, for the win for sure!
Not stopping there, since I had a bunch of treats from handouts at this past Saturday’s Honolulu Pride™ Parade, I decided to try pairing Kulolo with a couple of them. Namely, Delta Airlines inflight Biscoff Cookies, as well as Kellogg’s Original Rice Krispies Treats. Who would have thought, right?!
First let’s try the buttery-soft Kulolo, spread on top of a Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Treat.
And? Not bad. The marshmallow-sweetened crispy rice treat offered an interesting contrast to the poi-like brown sugar-sweetened kulolo. I wouldn’t say it was a match made in heaven, but it works.
Next let’s try Pomai Kulolo spread on top of a Delta Airlines inflight Biscoff cookie.
And? Oh yeah! That cinnamon “edge” and baked crispy goodness of the Biscoff cookie was a GREAT match with the sweetened Poi-like flavor of the Kulolo. She go cuz! If that Biscoff cookie had been baked fresh ‘n warm right out the oven, and Kulolo as well? This would have been total money!
The world’s first: Salmon Namasu Poke Kulolo Bowl™, by Pomai with Pomai Kulolo
OK, now you wanna’ talk money? Well feast your eyes above on my own new creation, the Salmon Namasu Poke Kulolo Bowl! Boom! Basically I took some of that buttery-soft Pomai Kulolo and formed it into a cup in a semi-orb-shaped tablespoon-sized measuring spoon, popped it out, then filled and topped it with Namasu (Japanese style pickled cucumber and carrot from Ige’s Catering), smoked salmon, a small drizzle of Aloha Shoyu and green onion garnish.
So imagine eating Lomi Salmon and Poi together. You know how that tastes right? So ono, right? You get that salty salmon, plus the crunch of onions and acidity from the tomato. Whereas in this case, it’s pickled cucumber and carrot, contrasted by the starchy neutralizing goodness of poi. Then there’s the sweetness from the brown sugar in the Kulolo that further enhances and contrasts the bold flavor of the smoked salmon and robust shoyu drizzle. Brah! WIN-NAHZ! MONEY!
Next time I’m gonna’ do a Ahi Poke Kulolo Bowl, which I KNOW going stay even mo’ah winnahz, going stay, laddat! And you watch, after everyone on the web hears about this, you’re gonna’ see Kulolo Bowls popping up all over the place. Just like it did when I first published my review of the original Poke Bowl takeout shop that was in Tropics Seafood and Vegetable Market in Ward Farmers Market (Now Pa’ina Cafe). I KNOW that was a catalyst for the whole Poke Bowl craze. Well, coming soon, the Kulolo Bowl™ craze!
OK, well I admit I’m too old to be modeling, however since this product is Pomai Kulolo, I had to get one of me with it, being that’s my name and all (Pomaka’i means “blessings” or “fortunate” in Hawaiian). Actually, I’ll be 50 next year. Dang! Time is flying by, man! Anyway, come to find out, Pomai Kulolo was named after Keanue Kekaula’s brother Pomai. So there you go. My legacy is this blog. So there you go, too.
Pomai Kololo can be found at the following locations:
1. The Taro Leaf (daily)
933 N. King Street
Honolulu, HI 96817
Open: M-F 6:30AM-1:30 PM
2. Times Super Markets:
Delivered Fresh Tuesdays and Fridays
– Liliha (Fridays Only)
– Kamehameha Shopping Center
Delivered Fresh Wednesdays and Saturdays
– Temple Valley
– Waiminalo (Shima’s)
– King St (Saturdays Only)
3. Tamura’s Waianae (Saturdays and Kulolo Only)
4. Farmers Markets: Pomai Kulolo can also be found at various Farmers Markets around Oahu. See the complete Farmers Market schedule here.
What? Pomai Kulolo
Where did you get it and how much was it? Times Supermarket, delivered fresh on Saturdays. $6.29/8 oz. size
Big shaka to: Buttery-soft fine grated taro texture. Tastes as fresh and authentic as Kulolo can get (next to da’ kine you make yourself in da’ imu). Salmon Namasu Poke Kulolo Bowl for the MAJOR WIN! Pretty awesome with the cinnamon flavored Biscoff Cookies. Food brand named Pomai (my name!). Made in Hawaii (Oahu).
No shaka to: Relatively high price.
Tasty Island rating: 5 SPAM Musubi (No ka oi!)