Kau Kau Kitchen - Table of ContentsKau Kau Kitchen
by Leilehua Yuen         


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Pa`ina / Lu`au

   To be strictly proper, a Hawaiian feast is a pa`ina or an `aha`aina. But in 1856, the Pacific Commercial Advertiser used the slang term "lu`au," and it has been in the common parlance ever since.  In the old days, lu`au, taro leaf, was the mainstay at a pa`ina, hence the modern name. Lu`au is especially `ono (delicious) boiled or baked with coconut cream and octopus or chicken.   

   When I was a little girl, lu`au tables were long picnic tables or saw horses with planks across them. They were covered with paper and decorated with ferns, ti leaves, and fresh fruit - pineapples and bananas - arranged all the way down the center. Every foot or so a different color bottle of soda pop from the Hilo Soda Works was set, tucked into the other decorations. They were arranged so that the colors made a pretty pattern along with the other decorations.
     We children would make trades along and across tables to get our favorite pops. Mine were the creme soda and orange pop. The adults would sing and play their ukuleles and guitars, and we children would dance hula. Once, I remember, Miss Aloha Hawai`i was a guest. Watching her dance was a real treat for those of us who dreamed of someday following in her footsteps.
     I don't really remember the lu`au ever ending. I just got happier and happier and and tireder and tireder, until I woke up in my own bed.

     This page provides the basic instructions for your to create your own pa`ina wherever you are. While many of the ingredients are non-traditional, the flavors are very close to the lu`au of my childhood.











     Luau, or pa`ina, conjure up visions of - Lu`au Torches! Above, a Bird-of-Paradise torch hand-crafted by Leilehua and her husband, Manu. Click image to learn more about their art.

     The entire pa`ina serves about 20-25. Individual recipes serve about 6 as part of a smaller meal. For those do not eat pork, simply substitute mutton or veal.


Oven Kalua Pork

Kalua Chicken

Lau Lau

Chicken Lu`au

Lomi Salmon

`Uhi Piele

(Sweet Potatoes)

Fruit Salad

Papaya Seed Dressing

`Aki`Aki Salad

Lu`au Punch

Links will be added as I have time


Oven Kalua Pork

     The star of a lu`au is the kalua pig. Although it is now the most famous of Hawaiian foods, and the most spectacular, the kalua pig was not an everyday menu item. Some pigs were kept in enclosures and fattened. However, a more common practice was to toss extra breadfruit, and other items favored by pigs, into the forest edge, encouraging them to feed within a comfortable hunting range. Still, to acquire a boar for a feast required hunting the wily animal through tropical forest.
     Once found, the hunter must face the razor-tusked beast and dispatch it with a wooden spear. With neither pack animals nor carts the hunter must then carry his catch home.
     Because the Hawaiian pua`a (pig) and other wild animals tend to be lean, as in many subsistence cultures, fat was a delicacy to the ancient Hawaiians. The custom of offering the fat to a favored guest is still practiced by some of the older kama`aina (born in the islands). If you are so fortunate as to be invited to a family lu`au, and an elderly Hawaiian selects the fattiest piece of meat from the kalua and puts it on your plate, it is an honor. Here is a simple recipe for kalua pig that does NOT require an imu (oven dug into the earth).


1 pork butt (you may substitute any meat such as: mutton, goat, chicken, or turkey)
liquid smoke flavored seasoning
Hawaiian salt or rock salt

     Trim the fat from the pork butt. Stab the butt all over with a sharp knife. Pour the smoke flavoring into the palm of your hand and rub it all over the butt, being sure to work it thoroughly into the cuts. How much to use depends on personal taste. I like a good smoky flavor, so I generally use at least three tablespoonsful. Repeat the process using rock salt. Wrap the butt in la`i (ti leaf) or banana leaf. If there is none available, you can use baker's parchment paper. Wrap the package in aluminum foil with the fattiest side up. The foil should form a sealed package to hold in the juices and the steam. The plastic oven bags also work. Place in a large pan in a 250 degree oven for 6 to 8 hours. The kalua is ready when the meat falls apart easily.
     While it is still hot, use a pair of forks to shred the meat into pieces about double bite size. Stir in the juices. Serve hot.

     Kalua pig is good substituted for corned beef in corned beef and cabbage and other recipes.


     A real pa`ina is a combination of fellowship, food, good cheer, fun, laughter, music, dance, and aloha. If it dosen't have these, it;s not a lu`au, it's just dinner with Hawaiian food.

     To help you get into to mood, you may wish to check out the resources on the music page.

     Of course, it's even more fun to provide the music yourself. Many Hawaiian songs use only three or four simple chords. The `ukulele is probably the most famous of the Hawaiian musical instruments, but the guitar is used at least as much. The steel guitar and bass are other instruments prominent in Hawaiian music. Other instruments significant in Hawaiian music are the banjo, violin, and piano.

Playing for Hula

     Hula music is usually played with a 4/4 beat. A simple Hawaiian-style strum you might want to try is: one one-count upward strum with the thumb, then two one-count downward strums with the other four fingers, followed by a one-count rest. This is most effective on the `ukulele, although it also is nice on the guitar and banjo. The basic bass beat is one/three. Steel guitar, violin, guitar, and piano play melody and harmony.

Click for Discussion of Pork and Other Traditional Foods