Top Five Hawaii Luau Favorites
#1. KALUA PIG
No Kauai luau experience would be complete without a big helping of tender Kalua pork. The preparation of the Kalua pig is a major part of every Kauai luau. Many Hawaii luau guests report that their favorite part of the entire evening is the imu ceremony, the moment when the fully cooked luau pig is unearthed from the traditional underground oven. “Kalua” actually means “the hole”, and this Kauai luau dish gains its unique flavor and tenderness from cooking all day in a traditionally built imu oven. Don’t be concerned if there is no imu ceremony at your Kauai luau, modern luau chefs have developed recipes for cooking an incredible Kalua pig in a modern oven using liquid smoke for flavor. Of course, this also means you can recreate this part of your Kauai luau evening for friends back home by serving them some mouth-watering Kalua pork right out of your own oven! The Grand Hyatt Kauai luau, the Smiths luau, and the Kalamaku luau on Kauai have some of the best dishes the island has to offer.
Poi may be the most traditional Hawaiian food included on the modern Kauai luau menu. Poi is mashed taro root of varying thickness served in bowls placed along the luau table. Whether or not you enjoy the unique taste and changing consistency, no Kauai luau dining experience can be called complete without a taste of this classic Hawaii luau cuisine. If you want to seem in-the-know about the poi bowl at your Kauai luau, check the consistency by seeing how many fingers you need to sample a bite. Depending on the amount of water added to the mashed root, Kauai luau diners will need one, two, or three fingers to try the poi, and this is how it can be referred to – as one-finger, two-finger, or three-finger poi. Another interesting tidbit to share with your fellow Kauai luau guests is that ancient Hawaiians believed Haloa, or the god form of taro, was the elder brother of all mankind. Because ancient Hawaiians had a strong prohibition against fighting in front of an elder, no disputes were settled by violence at a Hawaii luau when the poi bowl was on the table. Just like there is a modernized version of Kalua pork that does not require an imu, today you can purchase powdered taro and add water to make poi. It is a great way to share a piece of your Kauai luau dining experience with your own dinner guests.
#3. LOMI-LOMI SALMON
One of the most popular side dishes on the menu at luaus in Kauai are lomi-lomi salmon. Lomi-lomi is Hawaiian for “to massage”, and this Hawaii luau dish takes its name from the method of preparing the salmon by massaging it with other ingredients by hand. Lomi-lomi salmon is a salad of fresh diced tomato, sweet Maui onion, and specially prepared salmon always served cold. This contribution to Kauai luau cuisine first arrived in the islands with western sailors. It is considered a perfect compliment to traditional Kauai luau dishes like Kalua pork and ahi poke. If you want to be the resident Hawaii cuisine expert at your Kauai luau table, encourage your fellow diners to try poi with their lomi-lomi salmon. They taste great together.
#4. LUAU CHICKEN
Believe it or not, luau chicken did not get its name from the Hawaii luau. The dish of taro leaves and chicken baked in coconut milk actually existed long before the Hawaii luau, and gave the feast its name rather than the other way around. Luau chicken is the dish at the heart of the Hawaii luau, and every time you sample this dish at a Kauai luau today you taste a piece of history. The purpose of the first luau was to abolish the elaborate code of conduct surrounding eating in ancient Hawaii, and many foods were forbidden to women before the first luau in 1819. Two of the main ingredients in luau chicken, taro leaf and coconut, were considered off-limits to females. So when female guests sample luau chicken at a Kauai luau buffet, they are truly experiencing the legacy of the luau. The Grand Hyatt Kauai luau has some of the best luau chicken around. You can trust me from personal experience! The Kalamaku luau on Kauai also has some of the best chicken that is a must have.
Haupia is the traditional Hawaii luau desert, and can be enjoyed at any Kauai luau. Haupia is made from coconut milk and arrowroot starch, and although it is referred to as a pudding it actually has a consistency closer to gelatin. Some modern recipes will substitute gelatin for arrowroot starch, but no authentic Kauai luau chef will ever do this! Look for authentic haupia to be served on the Kauai luau buffet resting on a taro leaf.
We hope you have enjoyed this brief introduction to some of the most popular dishes found on the menu at a Kauai luau. Food is at the heart of the Hawaii luau tradition, so when you attend a Kauai luau don’t be afraid to try new things. You won’t regret it! The Smiths luau has great desserts and don’t be afraid to try them all.