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One of the most festive experiences to be had on a visit to the Hawaiian Islands is a lūʻau – a Hawaiian feast featuring lively music and vibrant cultural performances from Hawaiʻi and greater Polynesia.
History of the Lūʻau
The first feast in Hawaiʻi resembling a modern-day lūʻau was probably held in 1819. Before then, the kapu system of restrictions, religion and resource management separated men and women at mealtimes, even in times of celebration. Other names for these feasts are ʻahaʻaina or pāʻina, but over the course of time, the nickname lūʻau – a reference to the taro leaves at the core of many popular dishes – stuck.
Two centuries later, lūʻau are still being celebrated. But it is important to note that despite the name and its Hawaiian roots, not all food or entertainment at a lūʻau today is Hawaiian. A contemporary lūʻau in Hawaiʻi reflects our multi-cultural society. Food at a family lūʻau is as diverse as the various branches of the family tree. Entertainment at a visitor lūʻau often includes dances and music from other Polynesian cultures.
Popular Lūʻau Dishes
- Poi: Pounded taro plant root; a starch meant to be eaten with everything.
- Kālua Pig: Pork prepared in an imu (underground oven) and shredded.
- Laulau: Meat wrapped in lūʻau (taro) leaves and steamed, traditionally prepared in an imu.
- Haupia: Coconut pudding.
- Poke: A term that literally means to cut into pieces, this newly global delicacy is traditionally prepared with raw fish, shoyu (soy sauce), green onions, kukui nut (candlenut), and limu (seaweed).