We attended a pop-up pa’i'ai event tonight at The Whole Ox deli with our pop-up friends, Helen C. and Doug. Pa’i'ai is Hawaiian for hand pounded poi, which is the traditional method of processing kalo (aka taro) into poi. Up until recently, pa’i'ai was illegal. There was a movement to change that and it gained so much traction and support in Hawaii that the state government decided to legalize it and the governor signed a law protecting it.
The event tonight was to celebrate the different uses of pa’i'ai by several talented chefs. All the dishes were delicious and the way the chefs incorporated into the dishes with other local flavors really made the dishes incredible.
The fried croquette and the tostada were probably my favorite dishes of the night. Since it was a luau style feast, we helped ourselves to a few rounds.
One of the dishes had poi and smoked dried fish. This is a great combination. The fish was delicious and the poi complemented the saltiness of the fish.
The pig was roasted in a La Caja China roasting box. I’ve never seen something like this before so it was a nice treat. A whole pig was roasting inside for hours and hours.
The entire pig was taken out when it was ready and Chinese buns were topped with thick juicy pieces of the pork with a slice of pineapple.
The roasted pig bao had a nice smokey flavor and they came around with freshly pounded pa’i'ai to top our sandwiches with.
For dessert, we had a small poi filled pastry. It had a coconut-y flavor and it was warm. It was nice to have a little sweet treat at the end of the meal. It was bite-size and just right.
The talented chefs really pulled this off in a short period of time. There was live music, free beer and wine, outdoor seating, good food, great company and all for a good cause.
Lee Anne Wong of the Cooking Channel was one of the chefs who spearheaded the event and made it happen. Daniel Anthony of Mana Ai and one of the pioneers of the movement to legalize pa’i'ai sat down and talked to us about how this event all came together. He met Lee Anne here in Hawaii and told her his story and the plithe of pa’i'ai. They met up in NYC where he was hosting a pa’i'ai workshop and threw out this crazy idea about having a pop-up event in Hawaii to support the cause. Daniel just got a non-profit organization started and after speaking to some local chefs, they all collaborated to make it happen. And it happened tonight with over 150 people attending!
We had such a good time tonight stuffing our bellies with good food, listening to great Hawaiian music, talking story, and learning about pa’i'ai. We donated some money before we left to help it grow and to provide support where needed. The first photo is of Kaleo Ho who is a 15 year-old from Waianae High School. He’s starting a pa’i'ai club out there to help bring together the community. Hopefully the event was able to provide him with some of the equipment he needs to get his club going. To donate to the cause, visit Mana Ai‘s website for more information.