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Luau's in Hawaii

Maui, Kauai, Oahu and the Big Island of Hawaii

A true luau in Hawaii (in Hawaiian, luau) is actually a Hawaiian feast. It usually features food, such as kalua pig, poi, poke, lomi salmon, haupia, and beverages. The festivities also include entertainment, such as Hawaiian music and hula dancing. Among the people of Hawaii, the concepts of "luau" and "party" are often combined, resulting in a variety of luau celebrations. Everything from parades and birthday luaus to wedding luaus are common.

The name "luau" goes back, "at least to 1856, when so used by the Pacific Commercial Advertiser." Earlier, such a feast was called a "paina" or ahaaina. The newer name comes from a specific dish always served at a luau: young taro tops baked with coconut milk and chicken or octopus.

Below are just a few of the menu items you might find at a luau.

"The Hawaiian staff of life, made from cooked taro corms, or rarely breadfruit, pounded and thinned with water". It can be thick or thin, and can be new and sweet, or old and tangy (fermented). Hawaiians also had poi mai‘a "mashed ripe bananas and water" before 1778, and thereafter, poi palaoa "flour poi, made by stirring flour in hot water, eaten alone or mixed with taro poi". Breadfruit poi is called poi ‘ulu. Another of the various pois is poi ‘uala, or pa‘i ‘uala, "cooked and compressed sweet potatoes allowed to ferment slightly and used as a substitute for poi when poi was scarce". Mashing is a common characteristic of Hawaiian food preparation.

The traditional Hawaiian poke was raw fish, gutted and sliced across the backbone. The slices still had skin and bones, which were spit out after all the flesh had been eaten. Poke was eaten with condiments such as salt, seaweed, and crushed roasted kukui nuts (inamona). Modern poke is made with skinned, de-boned, and carefully filleted fish, and takes a variety of dressings and condiments. Poke means "slice" in Hawaiian.

Lomilomi salmon
Raw salmon "worked with the fingers and mixed with diced tomatoes, onions and seasoned with sea salt". Lomi means "mash".

"Packages of ti leaves or banana leaves containing pork, beef, salted fish, or taro tops, baked in the ground oven, steamed or broiled".

Kalua pig
Pork cooked in a pit oven (imu). A whole dressed pig (pua‘a) is salted, wrapped, lowered into the ground oven, and covered. Kalua is the earth-oven cooking method.

Raw limpet meat. Three species are called koele, alinalina, and makaiauli.

Chicken long rice
Cellophane noodles (also known as "long rice"), simmered in chicken broth and served hot with pieces of chicken.

Common rice.

Coconut-arrowroot pudding. Cornstarch is substituted for the arrowroot.

Coconut-taro pudding.

At many modern luaus, drinks may include beer, mixed-drinks, soda-pop, juice, etc. Many 19th century public luaus would have been "teetotal". At the lavish private luaus hosted by 19th century figures like the genial King Kalakaua, imported wine and liquor were prominent items on the menu.

Hawaiian feasts before 1778 would have featured pig, chicken, seafood, bananas, coconuts, sweet potatoes, taro and more. None of those, except seafood, were indigenous to the Hawaiian islands, but were introduced by Polynesian settlers. Many of the foods now considered "traditional" at luaus were introduced by Europeans, Americans, or Asians.

Before the breaking of the Kapus in 1819, Hawaiian men and women ate separately, and specific foods, such as pork and most species of bananas, were forbidden to women.

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