I don’t recall eating hoʻiʻo growing up on Kauaʻi, but since discovering it here on Hawaiʻi Island, it’s been a welcome addition to meals. Hoʻiʻo bunches begin making appearances at the local farmers’ markets during the wet season and go for about $2 a hefty bunch.
Hoʻiʻo are fern shoots that grow and are gathered in wet areas here. They are made into salads or added to stir-fry. Hoʻiʻo is a regional term used here on Hawai’i Island. It’s Pohole in Maui. You’ll also hear the term warabi, which is derived from Japan.
Despite not growing up with this yummy vegetable, over the past several years I’ve learned how to cook it. Friends and loved ones request my hoʻiʻo salad for parties and casual get-togethers. People wonder how I get the hoʻiʻo cooked, but still crunchy. The trick is blanching. Here are the steps to get your hoʻiʻo just right:
- In a big pot, bring water to a rolling boil.
- After cleaning and cutting the hoʻiʻo into bite-sized pieces, separate the thicker stems from the thinner tips. If stems are REALLY thick, discard them. They’re too old and will likely end up hard and woody, despite being cooked.
- Add the thicker stems into the water, wait about 10 seconds, then add in the thinner tips. The brief lag allows the stems to cook a little longer without overcooking the tips. Give the hoʻiʻo a quick stir so all pieces are submerged.
- The water stops rolling when you put the hoʻiʻo in, but when you begin seeing a bunch of stems rising to the surface, it’s time to drain.
- Transfer the hoʻiʻo into a collander and drain. Immediately throw in ice cubes, and run cold water to stop the cooking. Keep running the water until all the hoʻiʻo is cool. You can also opt to drain the hoʻiʻo, then transfer into a bowl of cold water filled with ice cube and draining when all is cool.
Assembling your salad is easy. If you ask people what they like, you’ll hear them mention tomatoes, onions, cuttlefish, fishcake, sesame oil, vegetable oil, shoyu. Find the combination that works for you, toss it, and enjoy. Just don’t drown your salad with too much sauce.
Until next time, happy healthy local eating!