The Hawaiian word “luau” (LOO-ow) is a traditional Hawaiian feast that often includes Hawaiian music, singing, and dancing. Most people probably think of a luau as a huge commercial production party at a resort hotel, complete with a roasted pig in the ground, fire dancing, live Hawaiian music, and more. But a luau can simply be a party in your backyard (or even in your home). What’s important is that you create a happy, festive, and relaxed tropical atmosphere. We’ll provide you all you need to know to throw your very own Hawaiian luau for your family and friends, anytime, anywhere!
Hosting a good tropical theme party essentially comes down to three simple things: attire, atmosphere, and food. The easiest way to add visual pizzazz to your party is to have the guys wear a Hawaiian shirt and the ladies to wear an Aloha shirt or blouse. Your party will be a visual explosion of tropical colors! You can enhance the tropical feel by adding a few decorations such as grass table skirts, colorful napkins, props, and wall décor. But ultimately the main attraction of a luau is the food. If you do even a decent job of hitting all three of these points, your luau will have a great time and you’ll be itching to throw another one and take it to the next level!
Nothing livens up a luau visually more than seeing all your guests in colorful Hawaiian shirts. Encourage your guests to wear the favorite shirt to the party. The louder and more colorful the better! If you have fresh flowers, have your guests wear them in their hair behind their ear. Traditionally, if you are single, you should wear the flower behind your right ear. If you are taken, then you should wear it behind your left ear.
Adding tropical flare to a table can be as simple as placing a combination of pineapples, figurines, flowers (real for fake), ti leaves, and bamboo or coconut candles. You can also use Hawaiian design table covers or use grass skirts to go around the table.
Tiki torches are a great way to give your luau party a very tropical look, especially in the evening if the torches are lit. You can even use the tiki torches to burn citronella to keep mosquitos away at night. Tiki torches are usually available at Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and other major stores. Add other decorations and props such as inflatable palm trees, wooden signs, pictures of Hawaii, etc.
Rather than using plain paper plates, cups and napkins, try using tropical designs. Use colorful plastic or paper cups for drinks. Put macadamia nuts, candies, chips, or other snacks in wooden bowls for your guests to enjoy.
Tropical flowers add a nice touch to any Hawaiian party. Orchids are good because they are non-fragrant and less susceptible to heat than fragrant flowers. You can mix orchids and fragrant blooms to create a visually stunning area complete with the floral aroma of a real luau.
Enhance your Hawaiian atmosphere by playing a Hawaiian music CD or streaming it from your favorite service. If you are hardcore and have the budget, you can even hire a live Hawaiian band if there are any in your area.
Kalua Pig - If you make only one dish for your luau, this is it. At a traditional luau, the entire pig is cooked in an underground stone oven for hours. But modern kalua pig could be made with pork but, liquid smoke, and salt right in the comforts of your own kitchen.
Poi - You have undoubtedly heard of a dish served at a luau called poi. Poi is made from cooked taro root pounded and thinned with water into a sticky paste. By itself, poi is quite bland, like rice or potato (although it tastes like neither). Poi can be sweetened with sugar or mashed bananas, or it can be made tangy by aging and fermenting it. People often eat it with other dishes such as kalua pig or lomi lomi salmon. Poi may sold ready-made in some niche supermarkets and is also available in powdered form over the internet that just requires water. The powdered poi feels and tastes a little different from fresh poi, but for many people outside Hawaii, it is their best option.Poke - The Hawaiians ate raw fish, seasoned with salt, seaweed, and kukui nuts. Modern poke (poh-keh) is typically made of raw cubes of raw ahi (tuna) seasoned with combinations of salt, seaweed, soy sauce, sesame oil, kukui nut, onions, and more. Poke can also be made with other sea creatures such as salmon, swordfish, octopus, crab and more. Besides luaus, poke is a staple for parties of all kinds in Hawaii, from tailgate parties to Super Bowl parties. Poke has soared in popularity outside Hawaii recently and it certainly a dish worth getting or learing how to make.
Lomi Lomi Salmon - “Lomi” literally means to mash. Lomi lomi salmon consists of salted salmon, raw tomatos, green onions all mashed together by hand. You don’t have to use your hands if you don’t want to. Be sure to give it at least 24 hours to sit in the fridge to let the flavor from the salmon to come out and mix with the rest of the ingredients. If it tastes too salty when you first make it, it will be way too salty 12-24 hours later.
Lau Lau - This is one of the most popular and intricate of luau foods. A combination of beef, pork, fish, and taro chunks are wrapped in ti leaves and banana leaves, then steamed until the ti leaves become super soft.
Haupia - This is a coconut pudding that is made with coconut milk, sugar, and starch. Its consistency can vary, but usually is made to the firmness of tofu. There are powdered haupia mix available that requires just water.
Mahi Mahi or Other Fish - One would expect some sort of fish dish at a luau since Hawaii is in the middle of the ocean. Try baking or frying breaded mahi mahi filets and serving it with lemon an tartar sauce. Or bake tuna filets covered with a thin layer of mayonnaise and furikake (a seaweed seasoning usually used on rice). Previously frozen fish filets are particularly inexpensive.
Tropical Drinks - Making tropical drinks is easy. All you need is a little pre-made mai tai mix from your local supermarket, small ice, rum, and a blender. Mix in a dash of fruit punch or punch syrup for tropical color. For extra flare, add slices of pineapple and a little drink umbrella.
ADDITIONAL PARTY TIPS
Hawaiian Name Tags - Use name tags with your guests’ Hawaiian names to add a nice island touch to your party. It's fun to see what common names are in Hawaiian.
Take Pictures - Help you guests relive the fun moments of you party by taking pictures throughout the party and sharing them afterwards. You’ll be amazed at how tropical your party will look in photos after the fact.
Hawaiian Invitations - Create Hawaiian themed invitations to invite your guests to your luau using your home computer and printer.
It is completely up to you how much you want to go for it in throwing your party. To ease into it, you could simply have a pizza party with everyone wearing Hawaiian attire. On the other end of the scale, if you really want to all out, you could implement everything in this guide and throw in some hula performances, live music, and anything you can imagine. This planner is merely a guide to give you ideas to get started. The ultimate success of the party is really all about having fun and creating memories.