No lūʻau in Hawai‘i is complete without a big, juicy, steaming laulau. The translation of the word laulau in a food context literally means “wrapped package," and is truly a little gift of ‘ono (oh-NO; delicious). Today, salted pork or beef is the usual meat source for laulau. In ancient times, Hawaiians used dog as the main source because pigs were reserved for ceremonial purposes and not consumed as often.
Over the years, technology has allowed laulau to become more accessible. It can be found pre-made and sold in the refrigerated or frozen sections of any grocery store in Hawai‘i (just microwave and enjoy!). And instead of selling cookies for fundraising ventures, many Hawai‘i schools, church groups, sports teams and hula groups often sell laulau.
During your visit to Hawai‘i, try laulau at any lu‘āu or stop by one of the Hawaiian food shops that serve it. You can also make it yourself in the comfort of your hotel room.
Here is a recipe with the ingredients and tools used for making laulau. It is good to remember that every island and ʻohana (family) does things a little differently, and I am only sharing what has been taught to me. I altered this a bit so that you should be able to find all of the ingredients in a local grocery store.
Pork Laulau (Makes about 10)
- 1lb. Pork Shoulder
- 2 Packages Fresh Lūʻau:
Lūʻau can be the festivity you attend while in Hawai‘i, but it also refers to the leaves of the taro plant. When cooked, it tastes a bit like spinach. Lūʻau must be cooked as the heat breaks down and neutralizes the calcium carbonate crystals (druses and raphides for you sciencey folk) in the lūʻau, thus making it edible. You can tell if a laulau hasn’t been cooked all the way if your throat becomes itchy!
- Hawaiian Salt:
These chunky salt crystals are a kitchen staple in any Hawaiian home. Look for the “Old Time” brand at any grocery store.
Small pieces of fish such as mahimahi or butterfish can be an optional addition to your laulau.
- 10 Tī leaves:
The tī plant (Cordyline fruticosa) is an extremely useful plant in pre-contact and present Hawaiʻi. It can be used for medicine, clothing, cooking and has even been made into liquor! In this case, the tī leaf is used to wrap up the laulau in order to seal in all the flavor and juices. *Note: If tī leaves are not accessible, you can wrap your laulau in foil instead.
- 1 Large Steamer:
Traditionally, laulau was cooked in an imu (underground earth oven). Though imu are still used today, many also choose to cook their laulaus in modern stovetop steamers.
- Lightly salt beef and fish (if available).
- Rinse lūʻau leaf under cool water. Place 2-3 leaves on top of each other, holding it like a plate.
- Place 2-3 pieces of beef in the middle of the lūʻau and one piece of fish if available.
- Wrap meat in the lūʻau (like a present), making sure that the contents will not fall out. Continue to wrap the laulau in tī leaf and then aluminum foil, or just the foil if tī leaf is not available.
- Steam for 2- 2 ½ hours. Once the laulau is done cooking, unwrap it from the tī leaf and dig in! The fat and juices from the meat will have soaked into the lūʻau, creating a succulent and ʻono meal! Aloha.
Laulau can be bought at the store. It's a popular fundraising item for schools and sports clubs.
Posted by Serena Kaldi Follow me on Twitter Serena_Divina
October 23rd, 2011