Don’t Think You Like Poi? You Will!

June 7, 2017, 12:14 PM HST (Updated June 7, 2017, 12:22 PM)


    Let’s talk about poi.

    If you are from Hawai‘i, odds are you’ve grown up eating poi at least occasionally. Most people I know here like it. Made from the root of the taro plant, it is revered both spiritually and as a source of sustenance.

    And then we have our visitors, who most often taste poi for the first time at a lūʻau. While most try it, I’m betting there is a fair number who, well, don’t think much of it. I have been to several lūʻau and it’s usually a source of merriment to watch people try it. It’s an acquired taste, like many regional foods.

    But I didn’t like the poi at the lūʻau, you say. Forget that.

    I’d like to direct you all—locals and visitors alike—to a bright yellow food trailer parked in front of the S. Tokunaga fishing store (619 Manono St.) in Hilo. Inside the trailer, you’ll find Justin Yamashiro, as well as his girlfriend, Jeanette. They make poi balls and other delicious items, which I’ll describe below.

    Try these. Trust me. The outside is super-crispy. Inside, the poi is lightly sweet and chewy.

    Yamashiro’s poi comes from Jim Cain’s farm in beautiful Waipio Valley.


    (If you’re interested in the nutritional value of poi, it contains vitamin B, phosphorous and calcium.)

    Yamashiro is also cranking out haupia balls. Like buttery coconut flavors? You’ll love haupia balls. Again, crispy on the outside, lightly chewy on the inside. At three for $2, they’re an inexpensive, delicious snack.

    It doesn’t end there, though. What caught my eye the other day was a new sign for Fish Dip. Fish Dip? This I had to try.

    “I made it as a special for Super Bowl,” Yamashiro told me, “but people kept asking for it afterward.”

    I could completely see why, after sampling the creamy smoked marlin spread on a cracker.

    On Saturdays only, swing by early. Why? Yamashiro makes chocolate-dipped strawberry mochi and it doesn’t last long.

    He and Jeanette are also frying up ulu chips, taro chips and sweet potato chips, and they’re fabulous.

    I took some back to the car, and the husband and I devoured them before we had pulled out of the parking lot.

    Lastly, Yamashirio is selling smoked marlin and dried aku, but call first to make sure he has it in stock.

    Need a treat to take to a gathering? Call Justin first, and he’ll make you an order to go.  He can be reached at (808) 339-8528.

    Look for the Poi Balls food trailer in front of S. Tokunaga’s fishing store, 619 Manono St., on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. (or until sold out).; (808) 339-8528. Ample parking close to Liliu‘okalani Park.

    Poi Balls. Photo credit: Marla Walters.

    Justin and Jeanette. Photo credit: Marla Walters

    Price list/Lei for sale. Photo credit: Marla Walters

    Ulu chips, taro chips, and sweet potato chips. Photo credit: Marla Walters

    Left: Poi Ball. Right: Haupia Ball.

    Marla Walters
    Marla Walters is a transplant from Humboldt County, California. She has a multitude of writing experience as a Wise Bread staff writer, cookbook editor, and blogger. She has also written for The Purple Fig and Molly Green.


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