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Ono, You Know

Getting to the Root of Taro

By Alana Folen Photos By Leah Friel
July 29, 2012

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Happy Sunday, Ono readers! I hope last week’s column on bizarre foods took you out of your comfort zone to explore an array of unique cuisines, but this week, I promise to keep things safe and simple, yet utterly delicious.

While recently devouring a bowl of poi — that starchy, pasty staple served at every Hawaiian luau — it got me thinking: “What is it about taro, the corms and tubers of several plants, that makes it so tasty?” For many Hawaiians, taro represents the staff of life as taro is deeply rooted in Hawaii’s diverse culture. In fact, for early Hawaiians, taro — as in poi — was an essential part of their daily diet.

Yet, I know there’s much more to taro than just onolicious poi. So, this week, I took my trusty taste buds and ventured off into the vast world of taro. You’ll be surprised at the many ono options, some of which I bet you never knew existed. Ready?

Let’s satisfy our appetites at the following Ono, You Know hot spots and take on a taste for taro!

Yogurstory

The story began in November 2010, when Yogurstory opened its doors on Keeaumoku Street. What started as a brunch cafe that focused on yogurt quickly evolved into a full-service restaurant serving up brunch, dinner, pupus and cocktails.

Recently, I kicked off my workday with a visit to his highly acclaimed, award-winning establishment. It was a refreshing experience no doubt, and head barista Josh Anguay was more than happy to fill my cup of happiness with a Taro Latte.

A specialty drink off of the eatery’s espresso bar menu, Taro Latte ($4.50) can be served hot or iced, depending on your preference.

“A lot of people like the hot version more, but iced is also very good — they’re both pretty popular,” Anguay shares.

Being that it’s summer, I went straight for the iced Taro Latte, comprised of taro powder, steamed milk and white chocolate. It may sound unusual, but I fell in love with the very first sip!

“Taro Latte is something unique to us,” Anguay says. “A lot of people don’t realize that we have it until they see it on the menu, and then when they try it, a lot of people actually end up coming back just for the Taro Latte.”

Perfect for me as I hardly ever drink coffee, Taro Latte is caffeine-free, however you can request to add shots of chai to your drink for 60 cents per shot.

Also, a visit to Yogurstory isn’t complete without feasting on its Red Velvet Waffle ($9.95), which is in fact topped with taro cream cheese, in addition to chocolate drizzle and red velvet croutons.

Yogurstory is the place to start a story together over tantalizing Taro Lattes and Red Velvet Waffles. Yum!

Yogurstory
815 Keeaumoku St. #105
942.0505

Nice Day Chinese Seafood Restaurant

It’s been nothing but a nice day ever since Nice Day Chinese Seafood Restaurant opened shop in Liliha Square Shopping Center in 2008. And as early as 8 a.m., you’ll find folks lining up at the takeout window to get their hands on morsels of Chinese dumplings, including baked manapua stuffed with char siu, pork hash and winter melon dim sum, to name a few. Ono for taro? Well, you’re in luck, Nice Day Chinese Seafood Restaurant has a handful of dishes which finely showcase a Chinese take on taro.

“We have Taro Gok and Pan-Fried Taro — both popular dim sum dishes,” says manager Shirley Cheng. Dim sum is available from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily, and Taro Gok (my personal favorite) is one that sells out quickly. Priced at $2.50, diners receive three pieces of this delicious dim sum, which consists of pork, mushrooms and taro, deep-fried with a flaky exterior. According to Cheng, Pan-Fried Taro dim sum ($2.50 for three pieces) is a close second on the list of dim sum diners’ top picks as it features dense taro combined with pieces of minced lup cheong (Chinese sausage) and dried shrimp.

Taro Kao Yuk ($9.95) is a heartier option on the menu. This entree wins over patrons with its savory pieces of pork belly and taro doused in a brown gravy.

“You might be surprised, but we use a lot of taro in our dishes here,” Cheng explains with a smile.

So whether you choose to dine-in or takeout, Nice Day Chinese Seafood Restaurant is at your service when it comes to fulfilling all of your dim sum and taro cravings.

Nice Day Restaurant
1425 Liliha St.
524.1628

Anytime Cafe

All this talk about taro finally led me to Anytime Cafe in Market City Shopping Center, where I know I’ll be treated to some of the best cuisine anytime of the day and night. While I have tried an abundance of items on the menu, setting my taste buds on the restaurant’s Taro Cakes and Taro Snow Ice was a first, but definitely not a last. Taro Cakes ($3.75 for three pieces) are commonly ordered as an appetizer or with soup. Owner Cindy Wong says it’s made with rice flour, Chinese sausage, black mushrooms and diced taro. Pan-fried to perfection, this one takes the cake! Then, of course, who could forget about dessert? Everyone knows sweets are my weakness, so when Wong presented me with Taro Snow Ice ($6.50), I was in complete bliss.

“The concept for snow ice originated in Taiwan and then became really popular in Hong Kong,” she explains. Taro Snow Ice features a mound of the softest, smoothest snow ice ever — you won’t find chunks of ice here. Instead, the texture is similar to ice cream and flavored with condensed milk. It’s then garnished with coconut, passion fruit and green apple jelly toppings. Mango diced jelly and yogurt flavored popping boba balls also accompany this sinful masterpiece. Of course, diced sweet taro tops off this decadent dessert making it the treat of all treats. Believe me, I had my mind set on only sampling a bite or two, but finished it off in no time and found myself mourning the fact that it was gone. Yes, Taro Snow Ice is that good!

Anytime Cafe
Market City Shopping Center
2919 Kapiolani Blvd. #218
735.3888