I was first introduced to the concept of poi on a Top Chef episode, when a finale was held in Hawaii. When I saw the taro root, out of which poi is made, I couldn’t believe they were talking about my beloved malanga lila.
When researching poi for this Hawaiian Festival, I learned it is mashed taro root, and can be eaten as thick or loose as you want it to be. One-finger poi means you only need 1 finger to scoop it out and eat it with your hands, just like three-finger poi is looser and needs 3 fingers to be able to scoop it out using your hand.
My Hawaiian friend, Kenny, told me his favorite way to eat taro root is steamed with coconut milk. And even though poi is traditionally mashed with just with water, I thought it would be interesting to mash it using coconut milk and meld two Hawaiian traditions into one dish.
This might not be traditional poi recipe… but it is my interpretation. Hope all you Hawaiian people approve.
2 large taro roots, peeled and cut into large chunks
About 1 cup to 2 cups of coconut milk
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
½ bunch of Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 small red onion, sliced thinly
Butter or dairy-free spread, like Earth Balance
Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to taste
- In a large pot, boil the taro root pieces in salted water. Cook them until they’re soft and can be easily pierced with a fork. This will take about 30 minutes. I usually turn off the stove at 30 minutes and let the taro or any other root vegetable to finish cooking in the hot boiling water for about 10 extra minutes.
- While the taro root cooks, take a large skillet over medium heat and drizzle some olive oil. Add the onions, peppers and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened for about 10 minutes. Set aside.
- In another skillet over medium heat also, drizzle some olive oil and sauté the sliced red onions and the flat leaf parsley. Season with salt and pepper. The idea is to soften the onions and cook them a bit, but you still want them to look “purpley”… we’ll use this to garnish the mash in the end. Set aside.
- When the taro is cooked, drain the taro root pieces and return to the pot you boiled them in.
- Using a potato masher, mash the taro root pieces while they’re still warm. Doing this immediately after draining will be much easier than if you let them dry out. Drizzle some olive oil and butter or vegan butter substitute and mash away. Add the cooked onions, pepper and garlic mixture and mix it all in well.
- Slowly add the coconut milk and continue mashing until you get a smooth consistency, just like mashed potatoes. Add as much coconut milk as you need to reach your desired mashed consistency. Season one last time with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer to a serving plate. Garnish with the sautéed red onions and parsley mixture