What Is Kalo (Taro) Corm/Root and How Do You Cook It?
Updated: Sep 25
What is Kalo (Taro)?
Kalo (kah-low) or Taro, also known as Colocasia Esculenta by its scientific name, originated in Asia and was brought to New Zealand, (Aotearoa), where the early Polynesians adopted it and brought it along on their ocean voyages. The plant was thriving in the tropical Polynesian Islands near rivers and streams. It was also used as medicine and as a vital food source as well. Kalo requires a large amount of water to grow, and because of this, Hawaiians established their living areas near the lo'i (pond fields), where kalo could be grown easily. While its corms are primarily used for cooking, its leaves are also edible. The leaves are known as "lū'au" (LOO-ow) leaves in Hawai'i and used to make luau stew, laulau (pork wrapped in the leaf), and so much more.
As many may not know, the legend of Hāloa also originates from Kalo. Hawaiian legends say kalo was born/sprouted from the stillborn child of the sky god, Wākea (WAH-keh-uh), and the keeper of the stars, Ho’ohōkūkalani (hoh-oh-HOH-COO-kuh-lah-nee). When these gods of the heavens saw that their child did not survive birth, they were heartbroken, and they buried the child in the earth. From the child’s body grew a kalo plant, named Hāloanakalaukapalili (HUH-low-uh-nuh-kuh-lao-kuh-pah-lee-lee) (long stem, quivering leaf).
Wākea and Ho'ohōkūkalani’s second try at producing offspring resulted in the birth of a mortal human child named Hāloa (everlasting breath - also named after his older brother). Hāloanakalaukapalili, Hāloa’s sibling in plant form, helped Hāloa survive by providing him nourishment. Hāloa grew up to become the first ancestor of the Hawaiian people, and Hāloanakalauakapalili became the Hawaiian people’s sustenance. Knowing the legend provides a deeper understanding of why kalo is such an important part of Hawaiian culture.
How to Cook Kalo:
There are many ways that someone can prepare kalo. You can either steam it, boil it, or fry it! Whatever your preference may be, it will always come out delicious! Below are instructions on how you can prepare your kalo to your desire.
Prep Time : 15minutes mins
Cook Time : 20minutes mins
Total Time : 35minutes mins
Wash the kalo: if your kalo has a lot of soil around it, run it under cold water to wash it. Drain well and pat it dry using kitchen paper towels.
Slice the kalo: You can start by slicing the kalo crosswise into 1-inch wedges. Then, peel the skin using a sharp knife or potato peeler. The skin comes off easier if cooked first. You can now cut the peeled kalo into cubes or fries.
Soaking: Once your kalo is peeled and cut into the desired shape, soak it in salted water for about 15 minutes and then drain. This step will help remove some of the starch.
Different Ways to Cook Your Kalo:
To steam your kalo, place the kalo in a steamer basket (the ones that can fit into a pot) or a regular steamer. Steam it for about 15 minutes or until it is easy enough for a fork to glide through.
When boiling your kalo, put the kalo in a large pot and cover it with water to fully submerge it. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the kalo is soft. Keep an eye on it as you don't want to overcook it as it will become too soft and watery.
Heat a sufficient amount of cooking oil in a deep pan. Once the oil is hot, put the kalo into the hot oil and fry on medium heat. If the oil is too hot, your fries or chips might burn before the inside is fully cooked.
When the kalo fries are golden brown on all sides, remove from the oil using a skimmer spoon, if you have one, or a slotted frying spoon and place them on a plate lined with kitchen paper towels to soak up the oil from the fries.
Let it cool down for 5-10 minutes before you enjoy it with your favorite sauce!
When making kalo chips, be sure to cut them into thin slices using a mandolin slicer or a knife.
Heat a sufficient amount of cooking oil or coconut oil into a pan or a pot.
Once the oil is hot, slowly put your kalo slices into the pot and fry on medium heat.
When the kalo chips are crispy around the edges, remove from the oil using a skimmer spoon, if you have one, or a slotted frying spoon and place them on a plate lined with kitchen paper towels to soak up the oil from the chips.
Be sure to add kosher salt or any other seasoning you may prefer soon after it has been removed from the pan.
Let it cool down for 5-10 minutes before you enjoy it!
How to Store Kalo:
For Whole Kalo: The best way to store whole kalo root, is to keep them in a cool and dry place. Do not put whole kalo in the refrigerator, or it will soften and quickly rot because of the humidity.
For Peeled and Diced Kalo: Transfer diced kalo into an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator. Kalo will keep for 3-4 days in the refrigerator, but can also be placed into the freezer as well, and will last up to 10 days.
"Elements of a Luau – Taro in Hawaiian Culture" Elements of a Luau – Taro in Hawaiian Culture - Hawaii Luaus™ n.d.
Pagot, Thomas. "What is Taro and How to Cook It" What is Taro (And How to Cook It) - Full of Plants (Published 06/13/2022 & Edited 11/16/2022).