39th Birthday Party: Hawaiian Luau

For the last few years, I have been celebrating my birthday with a Free Form Games murder mystery role-playing game. This year I chose their newest addition, Lei’d to Rest, which takes place during a luau in a Hawaiian beach. There was no question that I’d have to make Hawaiian food for dinner, and fortunately there is no lack of online resources as to what to cook for a home-made luau. The menu consisted of the following – recipes and comments are below:

Kalua Pig
The most essential course for any luau, of course, is pork. I was not going to make a whole roasted pork, as good as that sounded, so I decided instead to make this recipe for Kalua Pig in a slow cooker. I loved the recipe because using the slow cooker meant that I could do it all well in advance, that I wouldn’t have to cook more than one thing at the time in the oven and that I had a way of keeping the food warm. The recipe had also gotten raves, but alas, it didn’t work for me. The pork was too dry and not very flavorful. It was very tender, however. I wouldn’t make it again, but if you do, I’d recommend cooking it for no more than 16 hours (I cooked it for 19) and using more liquid smoke than the recipe asks for. If you don’t need it to be Hawaiian, I’d make this recipe for slow-cooker carnitas instead. It’s almost as easy, but more flavorful.

Teriyaki Chicken Kebabs
The Teriyaki Chicken Kebabs, on the other hand, were wonderful. The homemade teriyaki sauce was very easy to make, and the combination with the chicken was a winner. I should have made more, they went like hot cakes. Still, this was a very time consuming dish to make because I like removing the excess fat from the chicken thighs, and that takes a long time. Threading them is also time consuming. I made the chicken as kebabs because I wanted food people could eat with only a fork, but if you don’t have that need, baking the chicken thighs whole would be easier. In any case, I will make this dish again and again. Next time I make it, though, I will increase the sauce recipe by 50%. I’m sure this sauce would be just as good with beef and other meats.
The recipe below is what I made by doubling the ingredients in the original recipe, it should serve 8 people well – it was not enough for 12. Half it again if you want to make dinner for four.
One warning, the sauce caramelizes and burns into the pans while cooking. To save yourself from untold hours of dishwashing, line your pans with aluminum foil before cooking. I didn’t and Mike is paying the price.

Teriyaki Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp. cold water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, and remove from the heat.

Teriyaki Chicken

  • 18 bamboo skewers
  • 24 chicken thighs
  • teriyaki sauce

Soak bamboo skewers in water for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425 F
Remove excess fat from chicken thighs and cut into large bite-size pieces.
Thread chicken into skewers.
Line a relatively deep pan with aluminum foil. Spread part of the sauce on the bottom of the pan. Place each kebab on the teriyaki sauce, turning so all sides get coated with the sauce. Bake for 40 minutes.

Macaroni Salad
Macaroni Salad is a staple of all Hawaiian BBQs and I made it in lieu of vegetables – I couldn’t find any served at luaus. Then I forgot to serve it! At least it was very easy to make and Mike ate it the next day. Healthy, this thing is not.

  • 1 package macaroni
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • mayo
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook macaroni according to package instructions. Rinse with cold water. Mix with carrot, milk and enough mayo to hold it together. Season with salt and pepper.
Adapted from Recipe Zaar

Pineapple Upside Down Cake
I don’t think this is a Hawaiian cake, per se, but anything pineapple is so associated with Hawaii, that it’s the first thing that came to mind when I was thinking of what to make for my luau. I found many versions of this cake, but chose this one, from the Food Network, because it was both easy and had gotten good reviews. I thought it was really good.
I got myself a pineapple upside down cake mold because it was on sale at Safeway for $6 and I didn’t have a 9″ round pan with 2″ high sides – but if you have one, you don’t need any special equipment. I was also happy to make this cake because I got to use my new mixer for the first time.
Note that I used fresh pineapple, cut some into slices to put at the bottom (I wanted the “look” of the pineapple slices) and some in chunks to cover the rest pan. You can cut the pineapple in whichever way you want and use canned, if you’d like.

  • 4 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 pineapple, sliced or cut into chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 F

Butter a 9″ by 2″ round cake pan

Stir together the brown sugar and the butter. Pour into the cake pan, making sure the whole bottom surface is covered. Cover with pineapple rings and/or chunks.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Mix well.

Cream the butter and the sugar together with an electric mixer until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at the time, mixing constantly. Add the flour and the milk, a little bit of each at the time, mixing continuously. Start and end with the flour.

Pour the batter into the pan and spread evenly.

Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out dry. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then unmold.

Mai Tai
Mai Tais may not be Hawaiian, but they are so associated with Hawaii that I’m sure that they are served at every luau. Indeed, when we went to Hawaii (with Aloha, I think), they even served complementary Mai Tais on the plane. I don’t like them myself, but Mike said these Mai Tais were very good, and people did drink them up. It’s an expensive drink to make (aren’t they all?) but I’d make them again.
BTW, orgeat is an almond syrup. Torani, the Italian soda company, makes it and it’s available at BevMo. I did use freshly squeezed lime juice, but I was not going to squeeze 1/2 gallon worth of oranges, so I used Odwalla OJ instead.

  • 2 cups white rum
  • 2 cups dark rum
  • 1 cup orange curacao
  • 1 cup orgeat
  • juice from 10 limes
  • 1/2 gallon orange juice

Combine all ingredients together and mix well.

Adapted from All Recipes.com

Luau Punch
I made this Luau punch based on the name alone and the fact that it sounded Hawaiian. It was OK but not great – people at the party overwhelmingly preferred the Mai Tais, but my kids liked it. I wouldn’t make it again, though.

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1 Comment

  1. Joseph Spinella

    Thanks for the recipe for the pineapple cake. I couldn’t find a mold of a pineapple so I made one myself with food safe silicone rubber using a real pineapple as the original model. It came out great! In addition I added yellow frosting for the main body of the pineapple and green frosting for the leaves at the top. Wish I took a photo of it now. Will have to make it again one day.
    Many thanks.

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