If you’re familiar with Hawaiian cuisine, you must have heard of Poi before. But, few people have tried this unique creamy delicacy. Therefore, one of the commonly asked questions is, “Is poi sweet or savory?”
Poi is a purple pudding, made from taro roots and is a staple in Hawaiian cuisine; it’s both nutritious and filling. To answer the question above, you can have Poi sweet or sour, depending on your preference.
If you haven’t tried it, you most certainly must be curious about what Poi is, what it tastes like, and its cooking process. If you’re wondering about its flavor and texture, we’re here to describe it for you! We will also answer other relevant questions you may have about the traditional Hawaiian staple.
What is Poi?
Poi is made from corms of taro (taro root), also known as Kalo in Hawaiian. These are starch-rich, underground stems, which contain a somewhat sweet taste. The tropical plant grows underwater, in paddy fields.
Several people confuse Hawaiian Poi with Tahitian Po’e, a fruity pudding, and the Samoan Poi, which is a coconut cream. The Hawaiian Poi differs from the two; it’s a purple-colored creamy pudding with a sweet, and sometimes sour, flavor.
In terms of texture, Poi has a sticky and starchy texture, which can be compared to that of potatoes. Those that aren’t native compare the texture to glue. When diluted with water, it has a relatively smooth and thin consistency.
Compared to other similar plants, taro has a higher fiber content. Moreover, it’s a rich source of essential nutrients, which makes it a healthy treat.
What does Poi taste like?
To explain what Poi tastes like, imagine this: take a scoop of this creamy delight, and you’ll notice a sweet flavor with a tangy-sour hint. To understand it better, when you consume fresh Poi, the taste is on a sweeter side. But when you allow it to ferment, it develops a tangy flavor. The sour taste is actually quite nutritious because it contains plenty of probiotics. When left to ferment, Poi doubles in size and gets laced with air holes just like any fermented bread dough.
Scoop a mouthful of fresh Poi and you’ll instantly feel a creamy, pudding-esque texture with a slightly sweet flavor. Some people describe Poi as having a faint scent of grapes, while others compare it to non-dairy yogurt.
You can find several variations of it; homemade Poi may taste different from what you find in stores. That’s because of there are several varieties of Taro, and the type of Taro used can make a lot of difference to the taste.
Since Poi is an “acquired taste”, it depends on one’s preference for how they like their pudding. Some people like their Poi sweet, while others prefer the tangy taste.
To summarize, Poi has a sweet, earthy flavor, with hints of a nutty flavor, and has a somewhat starchy texture. On the other hand, fermented Poi has a sour taste compared to the sweetness of fresh Poi.
How to make Poi?
We bet you’re drooling, reading about the taste and texture of Poi. The good news is that you don’t need to travel to Hawaii to eat this sweet pudding. Today, this purple goodness is available globally! Check out your local neighborhood or restaurant to see if they’re selling packaged or fresh Poi.
Because of its simple recipe, you can also try making Poi at home, as long as you have access to a taro plant. It’s quite cost-effective and easy to make. Cook some taro roots by steaming or baking them (Colocasia Esculenta). Once done, mash them using a mortar and pestle. Depending on your liking, you can add water (or skip it) to get the desired consistency and texture. Mashed taro, without water, has a dough-like, starchy consistency and is known as pa‘i ‘ai. Adding water to it turns it into Poi.
Most people prefer their Poi tangy by fermenting taro roots. To make this, mash the corms of taro and add water to the top. Next, leave it to ferment; however, don’t over ferment it because it can get very sour and acidic. Typically, it takes 12 hours to ferment Poi.
How are you supposed to eat poi?
The consistency of Poi varies from thick and creamy to watery and is classified into three categories:
- One finger
- Two finger
- Three finger
This “number of fingers” simply refers to how thick or watery the purple pudding is. Traditionally, Hawaiians eat Poi by scooping the pudding with their fingers. Therefore, these categories simply mean the number of fingers needed to scoop a mouthful of this sweet cream.
There are several traditional ways to eat this staple starch. Some people eat Poi with a side of salted delicacies, such as vegetables and meat. A Hawaiian lunch plate could include a generous serving of this purple pudding along with some Huli Huli chicken, kalua pork, or chicken long rice. Others serve Poi with a sprinkle of sugar on top and eat it as is.
Certain Hawaiian restaurants like to serve Poi with Hawaiian salt and Maui onion to elevate the taste and to add some texture to this starchy delight.
By now, you must have learned what Poi tastes like. The tropical plant, taro, is a rich source of fiber, digestive enzymes, potassium, vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and several other essential nutrients. Therefore, consuming Poi does a lot for your health. It is great for weight loss. It also helps maintain blood sugar levels, enhances heart health, and keeps your gut health in check.
You can find different varieties of Poi, depending on where it’s come from and how long it’s been sitting. Fresh Poi has a creamy and sticky consistency and tastes on the sweeter side. On the other hand, Poi that has been left to ferment may taste sour and is a rich source of probiotics.
You can make this Hawaiian delicacy at home by mashing taro roots, or you can also find pre-made Poi at grocery stores or restaurants.