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Kau Kau Kitchen


    Just what are all those strange foods, anyway?  Help Leilehua to build the Kau Kau Kitchen™ Glossary. Post your "What the heck is THAT?" questions at the Kau Kau Kitchen Forum. I will periodically upload the terms, foods, and ingredients here, along with their definitions.

Can you find the food in this photo?


`ai pa`a lit. hard food. Taro pounded into a hard mass. It stores well. Water is added to make poi.


haupia - a sweet dessert made from coconut milk and arrowroot starch. It is cooked slowly over a low fire, and then cooled. It is traditionally served cut into small blocks and placed on small squares of la`i. for a recipe, go to my Oceanic column.


kahi - to scrape, as in cleaning poi off the rim of the bowl by scraping with the thumb. Also to scrape a food to pulverize it, as in to kahi fish to make fishcake.

kalo - taro, a plant originally introduced to these islands by the early Polynesian settlers. The starchy corm is a staple throughout Polynesia and much of Asia. The leaves and shoots are boiled and eaten as a green vegetable. After European contact, many Asian varieties of taro were imported for commercial agriculture.

kulolo - a dessert made from baked grated taro root mixed with coconut milk and honey or sugar.


limu seaweed


nīoi chili pepper


`ohana family

`ono tasty, delicious, savory; to crave

`ōpleu mackerel scad. Often salted and dried.


pa`a kai - sea salt, Hawaiian salt. Pa`a - firm, kai - sea.

pa`a kai `alaea - red sea salt. Usually from Kaua`i, `alaea is made by mixing a water-soluble red earth ocher with sea salt. While all salt is precious, `alaea is especially prized for its red color, symbolizing life and royalty, and for its healthful benefits. With little soluble iron in the Hawaiian soil, the oxides in `alaea were useful in treating iron-deficiency diseases.

pa`i  mai`a / poi  mai`a - The Hawaiian mai`a, actually more like a plantain, was and is pounded into a kind of poi. The bananas should be ripe, but still firm. A fork works well for small quantities. For larger amounts, a potato masher works well. Just add a little water at a time until the desired consistency is reached. For pa`i mai`a you can also use coconut milk instead of water, but poi mai`a uses only water.

pa`i `uala / poi `uala - A poi-like pounded food made from sweet potatoes. Boil, bake, or steam the `uala and pound with a little water or coconut milk.

pipi kaula jerked beef

poi pudding-like complex carbohydrate, usually made from taro.

poi `ili part of the corm between the skin and the center

poi hē center of the corm

poi palaoa poi made from flour or stretched with flour. It is is made by mixing boiled water, which has been allowed to become tepid, with flour. Water is slowly added and the blend is stirred until it approximates the consistency of poi. Sometimes, it is allowed to ferment into something like a sourdough sponge. This is then eaten with the other ersatz Hawaiian foods.

poi `ulu - Breadfruit poi. Bake, boil or steam a solid but ripe `ulu until it is tender. Peel and cut into chunks. Pound as for poi, adding water as needed.



poke to cut into chunks across the grain, a dish made of raw fish cut this way

pūlehu broil, cook by placing on hot embers




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