By Estefania Magdalena | Staff Writer

It’s been a while since I have been wanting to spend a whole day eating something that I probably wouldn’t eat, so I had the idea to challenge myself for 24 hours: For a whole day, I was going to eat only Hawaiian food.

As I am a very selective person when it comes to eating (Food Quirks: The Challenge Of Eating Differently), I decided to commit myself in those 24 hours to try everything on my plate, even if internally I did not want to eat it, and the results were pleasantly surprising.

I started Saturday afternoon with Haili’s Hawaiian Foods located at 760 Palani Ave., in the Kapahulu area, in a hurry since I knew that the place closed at 2 p.mTo my surprise, it was not possible to sit down to eat as I would have liked, but it was still possible to order to go or delivery so I had to change my plans. 

Haili’s is a restaurant located in Kapahulu neighborhood and its speciality is Hawaiian food. (Photo by Estefania Magdalena)

I am a pescatarian trying to avoid beef, chicken or pork. It was really difficult to choose what to order because so many of the Hawaiian dishes have pork.

Of all the dishes on the menu, I decided to order some foods that I didn’t even know what they were. As I am from Argentina, sometimes I do not understand all the ingredients of the foods of this country because they are in English, and the names are extremely different. But I knew which foods I was going to order no matter what, for example, the famous purple poi that I always resisted trying because I never found it appealing to the eye.

So I ordered three take-out dishes so I could eat for lunch, after a surfing session, and for dinner. My choices were the grilled ʻahi plate with tossed salad and rice, the ʻahi wrap filled with carrots and cabbage, a side of poi, a side of squid lūʻau, and a haupia dessert.

They brought the bag full of food to the car and when I saw the size of the plates I was thankful I had not ordered more because the portions were very large. On the other hand, the price of the dishes seemed to me quite economically friendly for the amount of food they give you (I paid $41 dollars for all) and the people who attended were very kind to me. 

My lunch during the 24 hours only eating Hawaiian food was a grilled ‘ahi steak, tossed salad, rice, a side of poi, and a side of squid lūʻau. (Photo by Estefania Magdalena)

I decided to have the grilled ʻahi plate for lunch, accompanied with the poi and squid lūʻau.

The fish was super fresh, and the vegetables and rice were delicious. Inside the plate came a sauce to mix with the salad and to give it more flavor. I was feeling a little nervous because it was finally time to taste the poi, and I was completely sure I was not going to like it, so I did not throw it on the plate yet.

I decided to cut a small piece of fish with rice and put some poi on top, so in case I didn’t like it I would be able to swallow it because it was going to be mixed with the meat and the rice. I didn’t have much faith in the poi because its texture is also slightly gelatinous, and I don’t like that at all.

When I finally put it in my mouth I thought it wasn’t that bad, but as soon as I kept eating, I started adding more and more poi to each bite of meat and rice. At some point I told myself “now I understand why Hawaiians really love taro,” and I couldn’t believe that I almost ate all the side of poi. I really liked it. I found it ridiculous to have spent so much time of my life missing the tasteful poi all because of something as silly as the color purple. And I had no idea how delicious it could be with fish or other foods.

When tried the squid lū‘au of lomi salmon, I didn’t have a good first impression either. It was a strange dark green color that didn’t attract me at all, but after I smelled it, I knew it was going to taste very good. In the end I finished mixing it with the rice and the salad, and it tasted really magnificent.

When I finally felt satisfied, I made sure to save some poi and squid lūʻau for dinner. I was not going to waste another minute of my life without eating poi.

After I finished surfing and felt like eating something else, I decided to eat a square of huapia: a Hawaiian dessert that is made from coconut. It surprised me that the dessert came with a piece of purple sweet potato and a reddish sweet called fried mochi. When I tried everything together, it seemed weird to be eating something sweet with a piece of sweet potato, but it was still very decent. 

In Argentina sweet potatoes are eaten only in the main dishes, so I have never seen a sweet potato in a dessert in my life. The taste of the fried mochi seemed similar to the taste of a sweet called quince jelly.

I couldn’t believe that I had liked all the unknown foods that I tried. I’ve spent so many years always ordering the same types of food, and in general at the same restaurants, when there are so many places to try foods from different cultures. I realized I have more resistance to trying Asian foods, compared to European foods, but after this experience I admit that I was wrong and it is a matter of perspective.

At dinner time I was much more excited to try the cabbage, carrot and ʻahi fish wrap. I was wondering if I was going to like the poi mixed with this food in the same way as with the previous one. When I opened the box I was not at all disappointed, the food looked really appetizing. I cut up the wrap to see what it looked like on the inside and it looked like a pretty healthy dish. Inside it had many colors as it had vegetables and ʻahi cubes.

I was happy with the fact that the plate included another portion of haupia with purple sweet potato, but this time without the fried mochi. Inside the box also came a side of chips and a kind of yellow and red sauce. I set aside another serving of poi and squid lū‘au lomi salmon to go with the wrap, and the result was a heaveanly flavor: I really love the way food tastes with the poi everywhere and the squid lū‘au. 

My dinner was bomb: an ahi, carrot and cabbage wrap, chips, poi, squid lomi lū‘au, and a sauce that had mango. (Photo by Estefania Magdalena)

I ate the wrap too fast because the poi was falling through my fingers, and I felt a lot of pleasure when eating it. I tried the chips accompanied by the sauce that I didn’t know what it was, and to my surprise the yellow parts were pieces of mango. I had never eaten chips with a sauce that had mango in my life, but I did eat it anyway and I liked it.

At the end of the day, I realized how important it is for our own well to get out of our comfort zone and challenge ourselves doing something we normally don’t do. The experience of eating only Hawaiian food for a day was so much fun and delicious. Now I look back and I realize how wrong I am in front of some fixed ideas that I put in my head about food that I have never tried before. Without a doubt I would like to repeat the experience with another type of food that is from another culture and from today the poi will be my best friend in everything I eat.