Friday | July 22, 2016
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Let’s Talk Food: The politics behind pa‘i‘ai

In 2009, the Hawaii Department of Health shut down independent pa‘i‘ai makers. The boards, the inspectors claimed, were not sterile and were not cleaned with sanitizers and on top of that, the pounders were very porous and could easily house bacteria. This tradition of many generations was about to end due to the rules and regulations of our modern-day society.

But something had to done about this old tradition, so folks started to rally to make changes in the rules and laws of our state.

Thanks to a movement by Daniel Anthony, who decided to fight the government and had several petitions out to exempt the state to exempt pa‘i‘ai from certain food safety laws, SB101 or called the Poi Bill, was unanimously passed by both the Senate and House. Governor Neil Abercrombie signed the bill and this bill changed the status quo of pa‘i‘ai forever in June 2011.

The Department of Health requires that the board be sun-dried to sanitize the board. Since the law, Daniel Anthony has developed a non-chemical ozone system to sanitize his pa‘i‘ai boards and currently sells to Whole Foods on Oahu and a number of restaurants, including Town, who now is too busy to pound his own pa‘i‘ai.

Many restaurants now serve pa‘i‘ai as either the center of the plate or the platform or stage to place a piece of steak or fish. Sliced, pa‘i‘ai is either grilled or fried to change the texture of the outside yet still keeping the mochi-like texture inside.

I pounded pa‘i‘ai for visiting Rotarians from Kyoto recently and every one of them thought pa‘i‘ai was absolutely wonderful! It could be because it has a very familiar texture for them.

Pa‘i‘ai has a mild sweetness and works wonderfully with all types of foods.

Once you have pounded the pa‘i‘ai, it needs to be wrapped in either ti leaves or parchment paper, never in plastic wrap because the pa‘i‘ai needs to breathe. Shape it into the shape you wish, then it can be sliced. After a couple of days, the sliced pieces can be fried or grilled, placed in the center of the plate and a 6 ounce pieces of fish, or slices of lamb or beef can be placed on top of the pa‘i‘ai for a beautiful presentation.

It is very interesting to note that only certain woods are suitable for the board. I have a beautiful mango with yellow and orange colors in the wood. Koi is not an acceptable wood as it has resins that are not good for taro.

So did you buy a board and pounder at last week’s Merrie Monarch Festival craft fair?

Foodie Bites

Hawaii Community College’s Bamboo Hale will be featuring the foods of Hawaii this week through Friday. This is the last week for the Bamboo Hale as the second-year students get ready to graduate and conquer the world with their culinary skills! Please call the college at 934-2591 for reservations.

The Rotary Club of South Hilo’s Hilo Huli is next Sunday, May 4, at Coconut Island. With more than 20 vendors and Mark Yamanaka entertaining for only $45, it is not to be missed! This year new vendors include Maona Restaurant and Grill located in the Hilo Shopping Center, which makes great burgers and is serving sliders; and Liko Lehua Café, located on Waianuenue Avenue in the former Luci’s Okazu-ya location, which is serving macaroni and cheese with smoked pork. Restaurants who have been participating in Hilo Huli from the beginning include Café Pesto, serving Hamakua Mushrooms carbonaro; Seaside Restaurant, serving ahi ceviche with wonton; Hilo Yacht Club, serving Moroccan lamb with curry jasmine rice; AlohaMondays, serving potstickers; and AJ &Sons Catering, serving barbecue chicken, green salad with lilikoi dressing. Hilo Rice Noodles is making its house chicken in bun, Sombat’s Fresh Thai Cuisine is serving pad Thai, red and yellow chicken curry with rice; Sweet Thunder Products Sushi is serving chirashi “poke bowl”; The Spoonful Café is serving chicken satays and pad Thai; and Le Magic Pan will be there making French crepes. In addition, Hawaii Island Gourmet Products/Atebara will be serving chocolates, Higa’s Gourmet Specialties will be making shaved ice, Soontaree will have coconut macaroons; Hilo Bake Co. will have their bacon maple doughnuts as well as other treats and Pepsi and Coca-Cola will be serving their soft drinks. The wines from Young’s Market and Southern Wine and Spirits, beer from Mehana, Kona Brewing and Anheuser Busch, margarita and martinis are not to be missed!

Hilo Meishoin Mission, located at 97 Olona St., will be have a bazaar from 7-11 a.m. on Saturday, May 10. Be the early bird and get your fill of baked goods, sekihan, oshizushi, cone and maki-sushi, sweet bread, smoke pork, pork laulau, andagi, pickles and preserves, fresh fish, as well as cookbooks and cinders.

Please feel free to email me at if you have a question. Bon appetit until next week.


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