Hawaii Luau History

The History of the Luau

The origin of the luau is ancient and rooted in the nature of Hawaiian royalty and religion. The modern Maui luau began its formation in 1819 by King Kamehameha II. Before this famous feast, women and men did not share their meals together. Social and religious taboos had forbidden this along with certain items to be eaten by women or men, not of royalty. At this feast, King Kamehameha II symbolically banished these ancient customs by eating with women and his common subjects. The name “Luau” came from the most popular dish at these feasts. Chicken and young tender leaves of taro were baked with coconut milk, which is still enjoyed today.

Luau ChanterAs time went on, these feasts continued to flourish with many of the traditional Hawaiian customs still intact. All of the dishes were enjoyed with one’s fingers. Sitting on lauhala mats on the floor, large groups surrounded ti leaf covered tables adorned with large centerpieces decorated with flowers and other attractive and fragrant native flora. These tables would hold fish, meat, vegetables, fruits, and bowls of poi for the consumption of the Ali’i and their subjects. Throughout the generations, Maui luaus became a part of life everyone looked forward to. The hula dance became a regular spectacle of entertainment as well as the introduction of Polynesian fire knife dancing.. On the 50th birthday of the Merry Monarch, King Kalakaua, one of the biggest luaus to date took place with over 1500 guests. King Kamehameha III may have beaten him in 1847 with an astounding number of guests and food. Serving 271 roasted pigs, 3,125 salted fish, 2,245 coconuts, and 4,000 taro plants, he knew how to throw a party.

Today, the modern luau continues to delight those who participate. Local residents enjoy the luau on two occasions in particular. The most common reason for a luau is the 1st birthday of a child. Another is for graduation from High School. Visitors participate in luaus as well with more extravagant productions by the large resorts, which combine the traditional feast and hula with the dances of Polynesia.

The Feast

Luau FeastToday’s Luau feasts are served with most of the authentic Hawaiian cuisine below as well as vegetable medleys, pasta’s and other non-native dishes.

Roasted pulled pork from an imu oven. This pork has a smoky-flavor and can be salty.

Imu – a pit in the earth where the pig and trimmings are cooked. In this pit, wood and kindling are combined with apple-sized stones and set ablaze. Once the stones are hot, the prepared pig is stuffed with the smoldering hot stones. The stones that are still in the pit lay under ti and banana leaves. The pig is lowered into the pit with the rest of the food and then covered with more leaves and a thick cloth. Once everything is covered properly, the earth is shoveled back into the hole covering everything and causing the food to bake underground. This is the traditional Hawaiian way of cooking for a luau.

Lu’au – a mix of meat, coconut milk or cream, and taro leaves that is steamed of baked.

Poi – cooked root from the taro plant pounded into a smooth paste and thinned with water. This is a Hawaiian staple and used to cleanse the palette between tastes of each type of food. Traditionally allowed to ferment, the finished product is a greyish-purple mixture with the consistency of a runny pudding. The flavor is bland with a tangy aftertaste. This controversial dish comes in different consistencies, which are often measured by how many fingers are needed to eat it. Consistencies range from “one-finger poi to three-finger poi.

Old Lahaina Luaulaulau – tender and young taro leaf tips and fish or chicken wrapped in ti leaves, then steamed or baked.

Lomi salmon – salted fish that is marinated in lemon juice, tomatoes, and onions. This dish came from the sailors that arrived throughout the early days of Hawaiian trade.

Ahi Poki – a mixture of ahi tuna, or other seafood, marinated in seaweed, chilies, and nut oils. This contribution from early Asian influences during the sugarcane plantation times is a difficult dish to make same each time.

The trimmings – plantain bananas, yams, breadfruit, and sweet potatoes

Opihi – limpet

Limu – seaweed

Inamona – nut relish

If you’re looking for the most authentic traditional Hawaiian Luau, go to Old Lahaina Luau. They observe the history of the Hawaiian people with great pride and detail. Book the Old Lahaina Luau now.