WHO WE ARE:
We’re a small business operating out of the ahupuaa of Kaneohe, in the district of Koolaupoko, on the island of Oahu. With the Koolau mountain range at our backs and the Pacific at our noses, we believe in the power, the mana, of our aina and its ability to continue to feed us and our keiki. We provide consumers with a healthy, sustainable alternative, called paiai, to gluten, soy, dairy, and GMO products. Paiai is taro pounded using the least amount of water that can then be mixed into poi – the purple paste synonymous with Hawaiian luau. By purchasing paiai, you are supporting local and Hawaiian farmers, putting your dollars behind sustainable food sovereignty, and taking greater ownership of where your food comes from. We support local farmers practicing sustainable agriculture. Fund community and educational kui clubs. And steward and maintain several dry-land taro patches in Koolaupoko. Now that you know who we are, here’s a play-by-play description of our workflow so that you know precisely where your paiai comes from.
The process begins with farmers from Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and moku o Keawe. All of these family farms have been under operation and cultivation for at least three generations, many stretching back to the ancient times. The large taro mills purchase taro from farmers for an average of $0.67 per pound. Our farmers work hard. And we think they deserve to be paid a fair price for their product. So, we purchase premium taro – that is, taro containing the highest starch content, which simply tastes better than overripe taro – for no less than $2.00 per pound, often paying up to $3.50 for higher quality or novelty varieties. After a short trip to Oahu, we load up the burlap sacks of taro and bring them home to Kaneohe.
Once here, the taro is immediately placed in a commercial refrigerator to maintain product quality. When you place an order, we place your taro in a pressure cooker and steam for two to three hours, depending on taro variety. We then prep your taro for pounding: first, we pohole, removing the outer skin; then, two stages of ihi, scraping off any remaining outer layer down to the starchy core. Once prepped we begin pounding with a board and stone: we crush the starch molecules into a glutinous, mochi-like starch that complements and takes on the flavor of whatever else is on your plate. Our company has over 20 years of experience pounding taro and in fact resurrected the commercial sale of hand-pounded poi and paiai in 2011 after almost a 100-year absence of the product. Paiai, pounded taro, can be mixed into poi, sliced and fried, mixed with flour into a dough for pizza or cinnamon rolls, or doloped into a stew. The possibilities are limited only by your creativity. In case you’re just starting out, though, here are a few recipes we use in our household.
There you have it. Family farmers. A board and stone. From farmer to us and then us to you. Simple. Fresh. Local. And ‘ono. If you’ve been away from home or have been searching for a GMO-, soy-, gluten-, and dairy-free product, we’re here to help you bring a little bit of Hawaii into your home.