A Hawaiian party, or luau, is an opportunity to showcase some of the state's traditional foods. The diverse cuisine of Hawaii reflects the influence of its earliest residents, who relied on fruits and vegetables grown on the islands, and the cooking methods and flavours used by the Asians and Europeans who moved to Hawaii.
Poi is a staple of the Hawaiian diet and served at most luaus. Poi is made from taro root, which resembles a potato. The taro is boiled, mashed and then allowed to ferment. Poi that is eaten the day it is made tastes somewhat sweet, but it becomes more sour when eaten a few days later. Poi is a thick paste that is typically served in a cup and scooped out with the fingers. Poi powder, which is rehydrated with water and then chilled, is available at some speciality Asian markets.
For many people, pineapple comes to mind when thinking of Hawaiian food because of the Dole pineapple plantation on the island of Oahu. Fresh pineapple, cut and served in chunks, is simple to prepare and adds a taste of Hawaii to any party menu.
Poke is a Hawaiian term for cutting or slicing crosswise, and there are many Hawaiian poke recipes. Ahi tuna is the heart of one the most common pokes. Ingredients can vary, but the tuna is typically mixed with soy sauce, sesame oil and spring onion. In Hawaii, the condiment inamona is added to give the poke a crunchy texture. It is made with kukui nuts, which are difficult to find outside the state. Macadamia nuts can be used instead. Ahi poke is typically served chilled.
Chicken adobo is often served at Hawaiian parties. The traditional method of making this spicy stew involves marinating chicken thighs in spiced vinegar and soy sauce, then frying them in hot oil. But many variations exist. Chicken adobo is often served with rice and sometimes with a fried egg. It also can be cut into small pieces and served as an appetizer.
Haupia is a traditional Hawaiian dessert made from coconut milk and Polynesian arrowroot, although cornstarch is often substituted for the arrowroot because of its limited availability. Haupia has a consistency similar to gelatin or firm pudding. It usually is cut into small blocks before serving. It also can be used as cake filling or frosting.