About Contact Sponsor Volunteer
Info Grafik Inc.
Home Ancient Hawaii Hawaii Timeline articles photos Contribute
Sign InRegister
You're here: Home » Ancient Hawai`i » Hawaiian Culture » Food Preparation & Cooking Methods

« Return to Hawaiian Culture

Food preparation & cooking methods
Prepared foods
Implements and utensils
Food Preparation Sources

Talk Story
Timeline Guest!
Find something to talk about on this page? Share your story here.

Add to the Timeline
Add an event or photo.
Add an article on a specific topic, person or detailed event.

Enlarge Image
Prepared foods

Taro was the backbone of the ancient diet. Hawaiians ate taro in several forms, but the most common way was as poi, a thick starchy paste eaten with the fingers. To prepare poi, the taro was first washed and cooked in an imu. This cooked taro, or `ai pa`a, was peeled or scraped using shell scrapers or stone flakes. It could be eaten at this stage or sliced and dried in the sun and preserved. To continue the process of making poi, the freshly cooked taro was next pounded into a stiff dough consistency called pa`i `ai. As with all food preparation, men did the pounding. Sitting on the ground at one end of a pounding board, kneeling over or with legs straddling either side of the board, the pounder began with a pile of cooked taro on his right and a bowl of water on his left. Handfuls of water kept the board and stone pounder moist as taro was added to the board and pounded into a paste with short, quick strokes. If the pa`i `ai was to be stored or transported elsewhere, it was made with very little water. The stiff paste was stored in large covered bowls or tied up in ti leaf bundles.

When it was time to eat the pa`i `ai, a small quantity was mixed up into poi. More water was added and mixed in with the hands until the paste was smooth and consistent. Poi was served in bowls and eaten with one or two fingers. Hawaiians preferred the sour taste of aging poi left sitting a day or two.

Poi was made from breadfruit, sweet potato or banana as well as taro. Ripe bananas or cooked breadfruit were soft enough to mash with the fingers. Sweet potato poi was made by mashing cooked sweet potato with the fingers, then a wooden spatula was used to mix in water to achieve a smooth paste. Sweet potato poi soured quickly and the sweet potato paste could not be stored long term as taro pa`i `ai could.

Hawaiians cooked a variety of foods in a pudding form, including kulolo and haupia. Most of these dishes used coconut cream, a thick sweet liquid squeezed from grated coconut meat and strained; it is a common ingredient throughout Polynesia. Kulolo combined grated raw taro and coconut cream and/or shredded coconut meat. The mixture was wrapped in ti leaves and cooked in an imu.

Piele was another pudding-type food made with sweet potato or breadfruit. Cooked sweet potato or ripe breadfruit was mixed with coconut cream and/or shredded coconut meat, wrapped in ti leaves and cooked in an imu. Pepeie`e was similar to piele `ulu, or breadfruit piele, but the proportion of coconut cream was much higher. After cooking, the pepeie`e was cooled and cut into slices that were then dried in the sun. In this dried state, pepeie`e remained preserved and edible for a whole season. Haupia was a sweeter dessert-like pudding made of arrowroot starch mixed with coconut cream. Like other puddings, it was wrapped in ti leaves and cooked in an imu.

A constant element of all ancient meals was salt. Salt accompanied everything as a flavor enhancer and helped preserve food. Hawaiians were the only Polynesians who made their salt from sea water using specially constructed pans. They built clay-lined earth pans, six to eight feet square and eight inches deep. They also used natural rocks as salt pans, filling the depressions with sea water and letting the sun evaporate the water. For household use, Hawaiians ground the coarse sea salt with a mortar and pestle. In some areas, particularly Kaua`i, red earth was mixed with the salt to add other elements like iron.

Hawaiians added relishes to their basic food dishes. A favorite was `inamona, a kukui nut relish. Kukui nuts were roasted on embers or hot stones, the nuts were cracked and the kernels were ground in a stone mortar. It was salted to taste and eaten in small pinches with other food.

Many types of seaweed were eaten in ancient times. Limu kohu was used as a relish. It was washed and pounded to break down the larger parts, then eaten in small quantities alongside other dishes. It was not cooked with heat.

For beverages, Hawaiians drank fresh water and coconut water. They also drank `awa – known as kava elsewhere in Polynesia – a slightly narcotic drink made from the `awa root. `Awa was drunk by ali`i as well as farmers and fishermen and was used as a medicine and as an offering to the gods. The plant was brought to Hawai`i by Polynesian settlers. To produce the drink, the roots of a three to five-year-old plant were dug up, washed, scraped and dried. The roots were pounded into small pieces with a stone then given to men and women with strong teeth who chewed them to further break down the wood fibers. Two lumps of chewed root were mixed with water to produce a cup of `awa; the solid remains were strained out before serving. A drink of `awa was usually followed by a large dose of water as well as something to eat. The food prepared to accompany `awa was called pupu.

 Sites for further information

There are no links available. Please help us by adding a relevant link to this page.

Report a broken link.

© Info Grafik Inc.     Privacy Policy & Terms of Use.     About the Hawaiian Language on this site.