While plate lunch joints like L&L or I Love Country Cafe serve up hybrid eats, Ono's in Honolulu serves traditional Hawaiian native foods. The menu is simple - order from a handful of traditional dishes either a la carte or as a set dinner. They also have this thing about having you wait on the bench right outside the front door until they call you in... We followed the instructions on the door, but we actually saw people get sent back outside!
Redneckhunter and I both ordered full dinners -- which all came with little dishes of lomi salmon (tomato and salmon salad), pipikaula (beef jerky), and haupia (coconut jelly). Then you got your choice of rice or poi. I ordered poi and was given the option of fresh poi or day-0ld. I had to ask her what the difference was -- fresh poi is sweet, and day-old poi is sour. I had never actually had fresh poi, I think, it's always been a bit sour when I've had it, so I ordered the fresh. Apparently, the stuff really doesn't last more than 5 days!
Now, you can see how big a bowl of poi they brought. Not in my wildest dreams could I imagine eating an entire bowl this big of starchy, gluey mashed taro! Not sure how the Hawaiians eat it, but I used my poi kind of like a dipping sauce of my meat - the starchiness of the poi cuts the saltiness of the meat. But I watched the woman at the table next to us eat her entire bowl up with a spoon - guess it just has to be something you've grown up with...
Redneckhunter's main dish was a combination of lau lau and kalua pork. The lau lau is pictured above - the pork is wrapped in both taro and ti leaves and steamed. The pork inside was absolutely melt-in-your-mouth with the fat melding so much flavor into the leaves. The kalua pork (right) was shredded from pig that's roasted in underground firepits, like they do at luaus.
My main dish was chicken long rice (below), which is such a great pidgin name for a dish. It was basically soup with chicken and feng si (clear rice noodles) that have been slow-cooked for a long long time - definitely descended from the Chinese.
Ono Hawaiian Foods
726 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816 (808) 737-2275
I dip my kalua pig in poi too! haha -- the traditional way to eat poi is actually by scooping it with your fingers (your index and middle finger together). It's a gooey but very down-to-earth way to eat it. Even to make poi is very hands-on -- you pound it with an implement like a pestle but the rest of it is all hands ... no way around getting sticky. You can also mix in some sugar, which is what I often do, but real poi eaters think that's a wimpy watered-down way to eat it. xo, L
I just got back from a quick trip to both Kaua'i and O'ahu and had dinner at Ono the night before I left for home. The bowl of poi made the dinner perfect, and really reminded me how much I miss Hawai'i.
Normally, haoles aren't that big on poi, so good for you for trying it again. But next time don't dip your pork. :)
Ha ha - I'm from the mainland, but not a haole! Don't be fooled by the skin color of the person in the picture across the table from me.
And like the motto of our blog says, try everything twice - even poi!
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