Back to the Kitchen: All You Need for a Backyard Hawaiian Luau

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Break out the leis and grass skirts because it’s hula time! Every summer I get to create at least a couple of luaus. I have so much fun playing with traditional recipes and adding my own spin to them. Play with all of these recipes and get as creative as you want.

In old Hawaii a luau meant a lavish food extravaganza to honor royalty, foreign dignitaries, powerful chieftains, or hundreds of guests at important weddings, christenings or birthdays. Luaus often lasted for days and required an incredible amount of preparation. Guests sat on mats on the ground, with food piled high in calabash bowls! They ate a lot, danced a lot, drank a lot and sang a lot.

Here are some music ideas so you can get your “hele mei hoohiwahiwa” groove on!

• Hawaii Five-O The Ventures

• The Hukilau Song Don Ho

• Somewhere Over the Rainbow Facing Future

• Can’t Help Falling in Love With You Elvis Presley

• Surfin’ Luau Annette Funicello

• Luau Lei The Surfers

• Blue Hawaii Elvis Presley

• Aloha Hula Hits Unlimited

• To You, Sweetheart, Aloha The Waikikis

• Beach in Hawaii Ziggy Marley

• Anything by “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole

Most party stores have lots of luau supplies from leis to tiki torches or you can order online at the Oriental Trading Co.

To find fresh Hawaiian Leis starting at around $7, order online : Hawaiian Tropical Flowers

Enjoy this feast of ALOHA!

Laulau (Taro Leaf Bundles)

1 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into cubes

1 1/2 pounds beef brisket , cut into cubes

1 1/2 pounds salted cod, cut into cubes

3 to 4 large taro leaves (or fresh spinach)

Lay 2 taro or spinach leaves crosswise to each other.

Place meat and fish on leaves. Gather the corners and tie in a bundle. Steam for 3 hours in a steamer.

Cold Ginger Chicken

6 boneless chicken breasts

2 cups chicken stock

1 Maui onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 inch ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

Place all ingredients in a soup pot. Add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and then cover and remove from heat and let cool. Remove chicken and refrigerate to cool. Arrange on platter and cover with sauce.

Ginger Sauce

1/2-cup canola or macadamia nut oil

1/2 cup ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

3 scallions, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Heat oil to a smoking point and add ginger (watch out for splattering) Let cool and whish together remaining ingredients.

Curried Mahi-Mahi

1-pound Mahi-Mahi

3 tablespoons curry powder

3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons soy sauce.

Whisk together curry, rice wine vinegar and soy sauce. Marinate Mahi-mahi for 1 hour. Bake in a 350 oven until cooked through about 12 minutes. Or you can grill over med-low heat about 6 minutes per side. Serve at once.

Chicken Long Rice

2 1/2 lbs. chicken thighs

3 quarts chicken stock

2 tablespoons salt

6 cloves garlic minced fine

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/4-cup fresh ginger root sliced

8 oz long rice (cellophane noodles)

½ cup shiitake mushrooms (optional)

1/2 cup green onions

In a large put heat oil. Add garlic and sauté until light brown.

Add chicken and sauté until brown. Add chicken stock and the fresh ginger. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Shred chicken and return to stock. Add long rice cooking for another 5-10 minutes until long rice is clear in color. Add mushrooms and turn off heat and let sit for 10 minutes.

Top off with chopped green onions.

Tiki Tiki Chicken

2 cups pineapple juice

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed

6 chicken thighs, excess skin and fat trimmed

2 teaspoons cornstarch

3 cups hot cooked brown or white rice

Combine pineapple juice, vinegar, garlic and rosemary in large measuring cup. Set aside 2-cup marinade for sauce. Pour remaining marinade in large, shallow, non-metallic dish. Add chicken; turn to coat all sides. Cover and marinate for 15 minutes in refrigerate.

Grill or broil chicken, brushing with remaining marinade, 9 to 12 minutes on each side or until chicken is no longer pink in center. Discard any remaining marinade.

Combine reserved 1-cup marinade and cornstarch in small saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Serve sauce with chicken and hot rice.

Sweet Potato Salad


1/4-cup canola oil or macadamia nut oil

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Juice of one lemon

2 inches ginger, peeled and minced

1/2-teaspoon cinnamon

1/4-teaspoon nutmeg

Whisk all ingredients to blend in small bowl. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.


6 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), peeled, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

1 cup chopped green onions

1 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 cup Macadamia nuts

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup brown raisins

Steam sweet potatoes in batches until potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes per batch. Transfer sweet potatoes to large bowl. Cool to room temperature. Add green onions, parsley, macadamia nuts, and all raisins. Pour dressing over; toss gently to blend. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper.

Hawaiian Potato Salad

4-5 large potatoes

1-cup shell macaroni-dry

1-2 carrots chopped

2 celery stalks-chopped

2-3 pickles to taste-chopped

1-cup peas

2 stalks green onion-chopped

Salt and pepper to taste dressing

1-cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup zesty Italian dressing

2 tsp. pickle juice (or less)

Boil potatoes until tender. Cool and cut into cubes.

Cook macaroni per package directions. Toss with remaining ingredients. Add dressing. Refrigerate 2 hours before serving.

Coconut Pound Cake

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

3 cups sugar

1/4-teaspoon salt

6 eggs

1-teaspoon vanilla

3 cups flour

1-cup coconut milk

1 cup flaked coconut

Pre-heat oven to 325. Cream butter, sugar and shortening until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla, flour and milk. Fold in coconut. Pour batter into a loaf pan sprayed with bakers joy. Bake until toothpick comes out clean about 1 1/2 hours. Sprinkle with powder sugar mixed with coconut flakes. (I also like to sprinkle with edible flowers for a pretty presentation.

Mango Sticky Rice

1 cup Thai Sweet Rice (also called “sticky rice”, available at Asian food stores)

1 3/4 cups water

2 ripe mangos cut into bite-size pieces

1/4 cup + 1 tbsp. brown sugar

1 can coconut milk

Pinch of salt

1-teaspoon vanilla

2-teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water

In a pot soak the sweet rice in 1-cup water for 30 minutes. Do not drain and add 3/4-cup water to the rice, plus 1/4 can coconut milk, 1/4-teaspoon salt, and 1 tbsp. brown sugar. Stir this into the rice, lifting any rice grains that have stuck to the bottom of the pot. Bring to a gentle boil, and then partially cover with a lid (leaving some room for steam to escape). Turn the heat down to medium-low. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed by the rice. Remove the pot from the heat, place the lid on tight, and leave to steam for 20 minutes minutes.

To make the sauce, warm the rest of the can of coconut milk together with 1/4-cup sugar, a pinch of salt and 1 tsp. vanilla over medium heat (5 minutes).

Add cornstarch to the sauce and stir to thicken it slightly. As it thickens, turn down heat to low. When thickened, remove from heat. Do not to boil the sauce, or you will lose that wonderful coconut flavor.

Place scoops of the sticky rice in bowls. The sticky rice can be served cold, warm, or at room temperature. Ladle a generous amount of warm coconut sauce over the rice (creating an “island” of sticky rice). Add slices of fresh mango.

Haleakala Ice Tea

1-gallon water

12 black tea bags

1-cup sugar

4 sprigs mint

3 cups pineapple juice

2 cups lemon Juice

In a large pot bring water to a boil. Steep teabags and mint until very dark. Remove mint and teabags Add sugar and juices. Stir to dissolve sugar pour into containers and refrigerate. Serve with ice and fresh sprigs of mint and pineapple spears.

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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