Prior to the arrival of the white man to the Hawaiian Islands, the food was similar to that found on other Polynesian islands, particularly Samoa, Tonga and Tahiti, and included native fruits and other plant life and fish.
With the arrival of other cultures, Hawaiian food changed drastically, fusing together the cooking styles of cultures from all over the world. Modern island cuisine now incorporates Polynesian, Asian and European cultures, their cooking techniques, and flavors. If you’ve ever been to a luau, you can see the whole spectrum of foods that blend these cooking styles and cultures. Even a typical dinner in Hawaii easily draws from each of these and might consist of teriyaki chicken, steamed or fried rice, chilled bean sprout or green salad, and fresh sweet pineapple.
The Hawaiian Luau
The Hawaiian luau was a traditional feast where accomplishments were celebrated, people were honored, and great events were remembered. Along with the large amounts of food, people sang and danced, typically for days.
One of the most important features of a luau is the imu (an underground oven—a shallow pit lined with stones). On the day of the luau, a pit is dug in the sand in the early morning. Once the pit is lined with rocks, a whole pig (and laulau—side dishes) covered in ti and banana leaves is lowered into the pit filled with hot coals and rocks. After a whole day of cooking (about 6 to 8 hours), the pig is retrieved and the luau begins.
Beverages at a modern non-commercial luau are typically soft drinks, beer, fruit juices and kona coffee. For the adults, Blue Hawaiians, Mai Tais and other tropical drinks are served to further enhance the luau experience.
No luau would be complete without a pupu platter. This is basically a platter of hors d’oeuvres designed to whet the appetite for the forthcoming feast. It is the Hawaiian way to say, “He mai (welcome)!” For example, a pupu platter might contain sliced vegetables and fruit, lomi-lomi salmon cherries, lumpia, kim chee, and butterfly shrimp.
Hosting Your Own Luau?
You don’t have to be on the Islands to share in the spirit of Aloha. All you need is a warm summer day, a yard or lanai (patio) decorated with greenery and flowers, delicious food, delightful Hawaiian music and the laughter of those around you. (By the way, don’t fret if it rains…just move the party inside!)