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Going Polynesian

I run a very small personal chef biz and was approached recently to cater a Polynesian/luau themed wedding party for 30-40. Now as much as I delve into different cuisines, this one is a little out of my range. Anyone have any specific cook books and/ or great recipes for this that would feed a crowd? I'd appreciate all the help I could get.

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  1. I have a recommendation for recipes, but know this - I've requested that the mods move the topic to General Chowhounding. I just don't want any post I make to you lost in the shuffle. I have a wonderful resource in the Time Life Foods Of The World Library on Polynesian food. If you make a new post to Gen CHing, or maybe Home Cooking, I'd be willing to give you a few recipes ( re-worded, of course).

    Sounds like a fun party. Happy to help if I can.

    2 Replies
    1. re: cayjohan

      I got moved here, didnt know this rule, so what have you got for me cayjohan?

      1. re: cayjohan

        If the mods didn't move it, I'm fine! Life has been crazy - on Sunday, I'll pull out my Foods of the World and re-interp. some recipes for you. Do you want mainly apps, or a mix of apps and entrees and desserts? Actually looking forward to it, as some warm weather food sounds good when the days are getting longer!

      2. You can derive a lot of your inspiration for a Polynesian from Hawaii. Think luau pig, poi, ahi poke, haupia. Fresh clean flavors dominate. If you want inspiration for an original take you might check out the recipes from last year's top chef semi-finals in Hawaii.

        1. You might want to check out Trader Vic's Tiki Party:


          I haven't seen it, but it has good reviews, and his original cookbook was fun. If you want to go kitschy, you could serve Polynesian restaurant dishes like rumaki, pressed duck with plum sauce, fried butterflied shrimp, glazed ribs, fried rice, and such. But the main attraction was always the drinks: Zombies, Missionary's Downfall, Navy Grog, and other great rum drinks.

          1. sam choys cookbook had some good recipes and ways to duplicate flavors without the exact cooking methods. How fancy is the party to be - I've catered two poly partys. One was very upscale - one was more on the plate lunch type foods.
            Jungman has some great foods listed that really must be part of anything poly but it depends on your customer - do they want kitchy or authentic. I'll post more ideas later
            Ps unless you've done pit cooking I would use the oven - its not a technique to master the first time out.

            1 Reply
            1. re: coastie

              I wouldnt say its going to be upscale, shes having the reception out of her home and they're dressing in grass skirts-so more of a luau Poly party. I know I was tempted to do a pig roast but didnt feel like burning her place down ya know ? :)

            2. i saw a recent episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, where he went to French Polynesia. Every stop he made along his tour, someone gave him a bowl of "poisson cru", which is like a polynesian ceviche. it looked wonderful: fresh raw fish (often tuna) tossed with raw vegetables (carrots and peppers, i think. maybe some white onion), lime juice and coconut milk. it looked absolutely fantastic; there's really nothing not to like there.

              here's a link to the episode, but i bet you can either wing it or google recipes for "poisson cru":


              2 Replies
              1. re: funkymonkey

                Going to depend on the crowd, but if you want "typical" Hawiian (read plate lunch crowd) you could dress up some clasics

                Chicken Katsu on skewers
                Manapua - with pork belly (interesting version in this months Gourmet)
                Mini Loco Mocos with quail eggs
                Kaluha Pork
                Short Ribs
                Shrimp truck shrimp
                Poke is a must


                1. re: funkymonkey

                  Thanks monkey, Bourdain is a god in my book...I was just guilty of watching him on YouTube haha

                2. I would not go too far-out. Ceviche, though I love it, is not always a crowd pleaser. Hawaiian mainstays are grilled white fish, teriyaki beef/chicken, char sui chicken and rice. You could do pupu platters, check web for ideas/recipes. Check the on-site menus for Roy Yamaguchi's Kauai or Maui restaurants. Also Alan Wong's restaurant in Honolulu.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Gail

                    AWESOME! you hounds rock my socks...I love this site! thank you so much!

                    1. re: Gail

                      In alot of respects I think you're right, but I think the OP would be wise to send out feelers to the couple - maybe ask if there's any ingredients that should or shouldn't be included on the menu. Looking at the OP's profile for the location which looks like Kansas, sushi-grade seafood might not be as readily available and probably commands a premium so it might be moot. Raw fish can be one of those love it/scared of it foods, but Funkymonkey's right - this type of dish is very common throughout most of the South Pacific. With the Pacific Ocean being the dominating feature in just about every aspect of Polynesia, I would think something of the sea that also includes other aspects of the tropics like this type of dish would be great.

                      Food is culture, and I can say with great confidence that the locals in "French" Polynesia have to bite their lips when someone utters the words, "poisson cru." There's still a great amount of disdain among the native Polynesians toward the French for hijacking their islands and culture and doing what they want with Polynesia like testing nuclear bombs and making most of the native population second-class citizens. Locals take great pride in their culture - E'ia Ota is the true name, and the Fijians have their own version called Kokoda. The French name may sound frou-frou but I personally prefer honoring the dish in its native tongue.

                      The Hawaiian food of today is great but this cuisine is somewhat of a subset of Polynesian food for the most part, resulting from various cultures outside of Polynesia influencing alot of it, like the Japanese, Chinese, Portugese, Filipinos, Koreans and the American military. I get a strong sense that this is supposed to be a fun gig - anthropolgical or cultural accuracy won't be an issue - but on the same token, it would seem appropriate for the OP to offer some foods at this celebration that would take these folks completely out of Kansas for their special evening.

                    2. ou must use shoyu - don't substitute regular soy sauce. Buying bannana leaves and roasting some pork butt slow and low in the oven will yield a decent and passable roast pulled pork ( don't over do flavors, lots of shoyu ) sticky rice is a must - mac salad - most of the other suggestions have been spot on