Pa‘i‘ai Pa‘ina: Celebrate pa‘i‘ai at this fundraiser to promote kalo culture
Daniel Anthony pounding poi
Photo by Monte Costa
"Ninety-nine percent of pa‘i‘ai has been public image," says Daniel Anthony of Mana ‘Ai, which sells hand-pounded pa‘i‘ai, the thick, mochi-like precursor to poi. "Before, it was 'oh, that's radical food, it's terrorist food.' It's really been embraced."
Terrorist food? Perhaps the only thing terrifying about pa‘i‘ai is its relation to poi, which guidebooks liken to wallpaper paste to warn tourists against.
But Anthony is (a touch hysterically, as he is wont to do) referring to his struggles with the Department of Health. It is true, though, that much of the fervor around pa‘i‘ai these days has been public image—especially when its ambassador, Daniel Anthony is outspoken and charismatic, not to mention handsome and muscular (someone should really promote pa‘i‘ai pounding as the next CrossFit).
But pa‘i‘ai is more than Daniel Anthony. It represents the continuing Hawaiian renaissance, a return to the traditional practices of poi pounding and lo‘i farming. To further this, Anthony has started a non-profit arm of Mana ‘Ai—Hui Aloha ‘Aina Momona. Anthony explains its literal meaning as "when a group who loves what they're doing gets together, the result is abundant land. It can be translated as either 'the group that loves the abundant land,' or 'the group that manifests the abundant land.'"
Hui Aloha Aina Momona is dedicated the acquisition of land and water for lo‘i—without which pa‘i‘ai cannot exist—as well as kalo culture education. Its first fundraiser is this Sunday, with the following chefs providing food (Note: the actual dishes are subject to change):
- Ed Kenney of Town: roast pig
- Andrew Le of The Pig and the Lady: kalo tostones, griddled and marinated pa‘i‘ai and taro stem ceviche; eggplant and pa‘i‘ai Parmesan
- Bob McGee of The Whole Ox Deli: A chilled salad of pa‘i‘ai, mango, smoked fish and kaffir
- Mark Noguchi of He‘eia Kea Pier General Store: pa‘i‘ai croquettes, braised beef and lychee marmalade, lime and lemongrass
- Lee Anne Wong of Unique Eats on the Cooking Channel
$45 pre-purchase online/$50 at the door, 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday, July 1, buy tickets online at eatpoi.eventbrite.com