Luaus are best enjoyed as barbeque fare in the backyard or beach on a summer day. If the daytime is too hot, make it a sundown or night feast. The best way for everyone, including the host, to enjoy it is to keep food preparation as simple and quick as possible.
Traditional Hawaiian luaus included roasting entire pigs on spits or grills over roaring fires. This takes hours, and was appropriate when everyone spent the time dancing and singing around the roaring campfire. Today, guests come to luaus expecting to be fed quickly without being required to sing or do hulas for their supper. However, just to honor the old tradition, the first simple recipe includes the pig, but only small, select parts.
HulaHam: Buy good-quality sliced ham steaks, each weighing about six ounces and one-half inch thick. Buy fresh ham steaks with the lowest salt content. If frozen, let them thaw and soak for 24 hours in a mixture of orange juice, pineapple juice, mustard and honey. Save the liquid for cooking.
On a fully fired-up grill, broil the ham steaks for five minutes on each side. As they sizzle, add the leftover liquid to enhance the flavor. If you want to serve vegetables with the ham, for the last two minutes on the grill, add inch-wide strips of raw red peppers, celery, green onions and/or asparagus. Pour the juice over them as they cook to al dente taste.
LeilaniHen or HawaiiGobbler: Cut bird into single-portion pieces. Similar to the ham preparation, soak the pieces overnight in a pan of sauce made up of mustard, pineapple juice, orange juice and honey. For more ambitious preparation, add one or more raw eggs to the sauce, making it into a batter consistency.
When the pieces are ready for the grill, roll them in flour or finely-ground bread crumbs, put them on a foil sheet, and broil for five or more minutes on each side. If you want to add some al dente vegetables, slice them thin and place them on the grill for a minute or two before serving the meat.
AlohaYam: In the amount of one per guest, peel medium-sized yams or sweet potatoes. Simmer them in salted water for five minutes. Drain, put them in a mixing bowl and stir to mashed potato softness. As you’re mixing, add a tablespoon of butter or olive oil, nutmeg and paprika. For the Hawaiian touch, also stir in small cubes of pineapple and mango. Store in the refrigerator until ready for the next step.
Just before putting the main-dish meat on the grill, put the AlohaYam mash in a baking pan, and sprinkle some graham cracker or bread crumbs over the top. Broil in a 450-degree oven for 15 minutes and serve steaming hot with the ham or fowl.
Luaus in ancient Hawaiian times actually went on for hours or days. There were always long, intricate ceremonies involved in preparing the food and all that dancing. However, if you’re planning a backyard Hawaiian luau, you and your guests will enjoy it best if you just keep it simple and delicious.