Tomorrow: Mango salsa.
Dinner was a local leftover bonanza the other night: laulau that our neighbor made, take-home from a dim sum lunch earlier in the day, the mac-and-potato salad I made too much of last weekend. Whew!
On the Fourth of July, we were sitting in the living room when a strong and tantalizing wave of food scents drifted up from the apartment that’s tucked below our house. I sniffed. Sniffed some more. “Laulau,” I whispered to my husband. “Eddie’s making laulau.” The next day, I asked my neighbor if my suspicion was correct and he immediately offered to bring us some. “I wasn’t hinting,” I said. (But, of course, I didn’t say no.)
These were the best laulau I’ve had in years, fat and pregnant with lu’au leaf balled around fist-size nuggets of fat-streaked beef, thick slices of Okinawan sweet potato, the mandatory nugget of salt pork. (Sorry, I was so busy eating them, I never took a picture!)
The quality of laulau has eroded in recent years: too little meat, oddball ingredients that don’t quite work, spinach instead of luau leaf, and not much of that. This dish transported me back to the wedding lu’au of my childhood. (My great-uncle Manuel raised pigs and had a ton of daughters; for a while there, there was a wedding lu’au every summer.)
Four laulau took my husband and I days to eat, even though we shared with our visiting daughter one night. When there was just one laulau left, my husband begged for poi to have with the last laulau and I complied.
That night, besides the poi and hot fresh rice, we had baked bao, turnip cake, garlic fried chicken and black bean spare rib from Mei Sum Dim Sum. Lucky we live Hawai’i or what?
And, guess what, we STILL had leftovers. Feels like a loaves and fishes situation. And I’m happy to be in it.
Tomorrow: Mango salsa.
Eh Wanda, interesting subject. I LOVE Hawaiian food, especially laulau. Is it possible for you to rate the laulau (and other things – pipikaula, etc.?) you’ve had at the restaurants here on O’ahu? I’ve eaten at most of the Hawaiian places here in Honolulu – Helena’s (awesome chicken lu’au!), Haili’s (only place I know to get ake), etc. I thought the laulau was OK at these places, but am always on the lookout for something that will knock my socks off! Mahalo.
I wish I could respond wisely to this but it’s been years since I did a comprehensive side-by-side tasting of Hawaiian restaurants and I don’t even recall everything I ate. I do know that I LOVE the nontraditional stove-smoked pipikaula at Helena’s, the dry aku and poke bowls at Haili’s. I was enamored of the now-gone Leong’s, especially their smoke meat with watercress. I drove by their site at the tail end of King a couple of days ago and the building still stands empty and makes me sad (they closed in part because the lease was going up, lotta good that did the landlord). To be honest, I don’t recall anyone’s laulau blowing me away. Make a proper, fat (and fatty) laulau is costly and time-consuming. In most restaurants, the laulau seem rather anemic, scarce of beef and fat or salt pork, sometimes too fishy for me, using spinach in place of lu’au leaf. If I am able to get around to the various spots — including the two fish shops that sell Hawaiian food — I’ll write something up for you.
OK, fair enough. Thanks. By the way, concerning pipikaula: I often eat at People’s Cafe and swear I’ll try something other than the Laulau Plate, but then I remember how ono that pipikaula that comes with it is, so moist and tender, that my intention to be different just flies out the door! LOL