Monday, April 28, 2008

Luaus 101

With warmer weather hopefully on the way (we had hail today, I am so disappointed) many of you may be planning out your summer fun. And just in case your summer fun will include a luau in one form or another, let me give you a few luau etiquette tips. I give you these tips with in mind that I am not Polynesian by blood although I was born on a Polynesian island, I have danced the dances, and have helped throw a handful of luaus myself so I would like to think I have some idea of what I'm doing...
You won't let me down right?

Aedan, 2 months, in his hawaiian boy outfit (a gift from Jackie's auntie D)

1) Bring food. If you are in charge of food, make lots. Quality is always good at any party. In addition, though, you need to go for quantity at a luau.
2) Unless you are going to be doing Tahitian dance, do not think that wearing a coconut bra to a luau is acceptable/humorous. I and many others find it offensive, especially when a guy wears one.
3) Feel free to cheer, make some noise when watching a show. Ok within reason. No inappropriate comments. But the last thing you want to do is just sit and watch. Participate.
4) When someone says "Aloha!" or "Talofa", shout back the same thing in response. The louder the better.
5) If you are served SPAM, do not be offended. SPAM is all the rage.
6) No lei jokes.
7) Wear a lei, it is very becoming. If you are given one, don't be afraid to do the fake kiss on both cheeks because it is as common as a handshake but much more friendly.
8) It is more traditional that the guys do the main course cooking, the pig for example. So, gentlemen, fulfill your manly role and give the ladies a break...
9) Feed those who provide entertainment. Please.
10) If the gentlemen folk from the audience are asked to join in either the Samoan Slap dance or the Maori Haka, you are somewhat expected to take your shirt off, even if you are pastey white, have a pot belly, or have a farmers tan. It is just a cultural thing.
11) Ladies, the flower goes on your right ear if you are single, left ear if you are married/taken. Just remember which side you wear your wedding ring or which side your heart is.

Neal and Jackie at a church luau, 2004

Phew! Now that that is over, lets take a look at the menu... The basics consists of pork, sticky rice, macaroni salad, fruit, sweet bread, and cake.

Just like I am surprised at how many people don't know how to cut a mango, I am starting to realize the same goes for pineapples. There are many ways to cut both I am sure, and all said and done it tastes the same. But if you want to learn how to cut pineapples the "right" way like an island local, you cut them to look like this beautiful spiral sculpted fruit masterpiece.

Pani Popo is a Samoan dish that literally means “buns in coconut milk.” It is slightly sweet but not too overpowering. I love the gooeyness on the bottom.

Kalua Pork, or something close to it. From Wikipedia: the word kālua literally means "to cook in an underground oven" and also describes the flavor of food cooked in this manner. I don't have a pit to cook it in nor do I have the patience for it so I use a slow cooker.

Guava Cake is a must for luaus and for some reason every guava cake I've ever seen is pink. I think this is to imitate the pink flesh found in certain types of guava fruit. It is kind of strange but it is cute in its own way and who am I to break tradition...

Since a luau feast is a lot of work for a lot of food, certain shortcuts have been taken here - if, for example, you are opposed to using box mixes or frozen dough, feel free to make it from scratch but that will just add to the time spent in the kitchen...

Pani Popo

1 pkg Frozen rolls
1 12-14 oz can Coconut milk (Thai brand, can use lite version)
2-4 Tbsp Sugar

Spray 9 x 13" cake pan with cooking spray. Put frozen rolls in pan (leave 1 in. space in-between for raising). Cover rolls and thaw for 2-3 hours. When rolls have risen about 1/2 way add the prepared coconut milk.
To prepare coconut milk: Add 2-4 tbsp. sugar (more or less to your own taste) to coconut milk, mix together, and pour over rolls. Let rolls rise the rest of the way (should be even with top of cake pan).
Bake at 350 degrees until tops of rolls are golden brown (approx. 25-30 min). Take out and cool to room temperature (coconut milk with thicken as it bakes and bottoms of buns will be sticky.) Best eaten when warm and sticky!

Kalua Pork
serves 6

approx. 3 lb pork loin roast or shoulder roast
coarse sea salt
1/4 cup liquid smoke
1/4 cup water
1 9oz package of baby spinach

Wash pork in water. Rub sea salt over entire surface of pork.
In a medium sized slow cooker, pour the liquid smoke and water into the bottom. Place the salted pork in the liquids. Place the entire bag of spinach on top of the pork. Put the lid on or if the lid does not provide a good seal, place aluminum foil over the slow cooker and then place lid on top.
Cook on med-high or high setting for 6 hours.
Transfer pork and spinach from the slow cooker to serving dish. With two forks, remove the fat and bones (if any) and discard. Shred the pork and spinach together and mix well.
You can make a gravy using the remaining liquid - just make sure you water it down quite a bit as it will be very salty. Thicken with corn starch. Serve both atop some hot sticky rice.

Guava Cake
modified from
serves 20

1 pkg White Cake Mix
1 1/3 C Guava nectar
3 Eggs
1/3 C Vegetable oil
red food coloring
White layer:
1 8-ounce Package cream cheese, softened
1/3 C Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
1 small pkg Cool Whip, thawed
2 C Guava nectar
1/2 C Sugar
1/4 C Cornstarch
red food coloring

Bake cake according to package directions, substituting guava juice for water and adding a few drops of red food coloring to make the batter pink.
In a medium mixing bowl, beat cream cheese with hand mixer until fluffy. Add sugar and vanilla and beat in. Slowly fold in the Cool Whip and refrigerate until ready to use.
In a medium sauce pan, whisk the guava juice, sugar, and cornstarch together making sure to get out any lumps. Add a couple drops of red food coloring to make the glaze pink. Bring mixture to a boil and boil for a couple minutes until it has thickened. Cool in refrigerator.
To assemble cooled cake: Thickly ice the cake with all of the cream cheese mixture. Glaze the top of the cake with guava gel. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


  1. yummmmm kalua Pork.....*drool* I like luaus but I really think I'm just there for the pork. :) I will have to try that recipe.

  2. Now I am hungary and wanting to go to a luau and particulalry a real one would be nice.

  3. I doubt I will ever throw a luau, but I'm grateful to have learned how to cut a pineapple the correct way. I love pineapple, but always feel like I waste so much trying to cut the eye spots off. The rest of the food looks yummy too, thanks for the recipes.

  4. A thoroughly fantastic post, Jackie! I am definitely going to try the pork and the pineapple-prep method. I am always so intimated by getting a fresh pineapple. I hope it works!

  5. Guava cake & kalua pork? What are you trying to do me??? Make me gain another 19 pounds? Haha! You are so good at throwing parties! Hey...I made your snails for my enrichment tonight. They're not done yet, but so far so good! :)

  6. Few people on planet earth love pineapple like I do ... and I now know how to cut one! Yes!! I actually have one in the fridge, so I'll give it a shot tonight. BTW, we've got to spruce up our blog. Your blog looks too good!

  7. So - I tried the method for pineapple choosing and cutting on Sunday. It was fantastic! It took a few minutes, but was easy and created beautiful, brown-spot-free pineapple chunks for our fruit salad. Thanks again for such an informative post!


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