Pāpaʻi

1. General name for crabs. (PPN papa, probably PCP paapaka.)

2. Small temporary hut or shelter.

Pāpaʻi is the general term for crabs in Hawaiʻi, one of my favorite foods. There are many types of crabs, however, each having their own names. I know some of you are thinking of your favorite pāpaʻi right now. There is nothing like Alaskan king crab legs but I will take raw white crab any day!

Remember catching the small white sand crabs during the day? Those are called ʻōhiki.  Then you grab your flashlights and catch the bamboocha ones at night? So fun! Although they are edible we didn’t eat them (though there was always a cousin or dad who would fake it). It was fun just catching them, watching them in the bottom of the bucket and eventually letting them go.

Then there is the ʻaʻama, black delicacies scurrying on the black rocks. Now this is a pāpaʻi that is coveted. Catching them, Hawaiian style, means tying two nīʻau (coconut midribs) in a special way to a bamboo poles, so there is a “v” formation, tying a line across, then snagging the eye of the ʻaʻama. It took skill. Once in a while nowadays you can find people using this method. Otherwise, catching by hand in the night is the way many catch ʻaʻama. Too dangerous for me!

Another ʻono pāpaʻi is the ʻalamihi, another black pāpaʻi (though smaller than the ʻaʻama) and not as easy to find.

The claws of the pāpaʻi are called niho. Yes, niho, the word for tooth or teeth. The claws of the pāpaʻi act as the teeth of the pāpaʻi.

ʻOno ka pāpaʻi – Crab is delicious.

Ka iʻa lamalama i ke one – The fish caught in the sand by torching (the ʻōhiki).

Piʻi mai nei i ka pali me he ʻaʻama lā – Climbs the cliff like an ʻaʻama (said of one who goes beyond his limi).

Hou hewa i ka lua o ka ʻōhiki – [He] poked by mistake into the hole of a sand crab (an expression of derision for a man who marries a very young woman and later realizes it would be better to have a more settled, mature wife).

Copyright: 2016 – Liana Iaea Honda. All rights reserved. All versions of “He Momi e Lei ai”, in its entirety, past and present, is the property of L. K. I. Honda. Reproduction and use of any kind other than the sharing of this website is prohibited. Alteration to the original content in any form is prohibited in every and any instance, and use in any other variant is prohibited without written consent of the author. Adress inquiries to: hemomi [at] gmail.com. Definitions and wise sayings are from: Hawaiian Dictionary by Pukui and Elbert, 1986. ʻŌlelo Noʻeau – Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings by Mary Kawena Pukui, 1983.

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