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Sep 29, 2008 03:37 PM

Luau in Oahu?


My husband and I will be visiting Oahu this week and we have never been to Hawaii before. We are staying at a house in Kaneohe Bay and will have a car as well. We are wondering what are definite "must eat" while in Hawaii.

Of course the first thing that popped in my mind was going to Luau but not sure what makes a good luau. Any recommendations appreciated. Also, if there are other restaurants\food stands\ etc that are considered a must, please let us know.


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  1. There is a lot of really good food, and a fair amount of even great food in Hawaii, and Honolulu has it's fair share.

    There are three main places that do regular luaus on Oahu.

    1. Paradise Cove

    2. Germaines

    3. In addition the Polynesian Cultural Center does a luau as part of it's extended day package.

    All three have their fans and their detractors. After living here for about 35 years I have been to each on a few occasions. All of them have been quite decent one time, and pretty awful the next. One even ran out of food one time, but that was truly a fluke. Not much of the food is authentic Hawaiian or even Polynesian (pineapple coleslaw??), but that doesn't make it bad.

    you might want to check out this thread from several months ago about luau's.

    Here are a couple of general threads on food here:

    (oahu report)
    (best hole in the wall)
    (sunday dinner waikiki)
    (cheap eats Honolulu)
    (Oahu Cheap & Tasty)
    (Downtown Honolulu)
    (Best Fish)

    1. For visitors I understand the attraction of going to a commercial luau. They are kind of all inclusive packages of dining and entertainment for visitors looking for a Hawaiian experience..... kind of.

      What I recommend to friends is going to the Halekulani Hotel for sunset drinks, music and dancing on the lawn, or going to the Hilton Hawaiian Village to hear Olomana play. Then head over to someplace like Ono Hawaiian Food in Kapahulu. It's not far from Waikiki and is a popular hole in the wall serving lau lau, kalua pig, salt meat watercress, poi, etc. As a local I would much rather do something like that, although I do get the attraction of Germaine's or the PCC.

      1. thanks for the posts so far! Very helpful. Like I mentioned - I thought of Luau only because that's all I really know about Hawaii... I'm glad you have mentioned that it's not really authentic though (pineapple slaw) - we will definately try the recommendation of going to Ono Hawaiian Food in Kapahulu.

        Out of curiousity - what is lau lau? When I travel I tend to find that I eat food that I don't know what it is - I just point at something at a menu and sometimes it's really good and sometimes not - the only bummer is when something is really good, I don't know what I ordered so I know what to order again ;)

        thanks again for the replies and I will check out the original luau post from several months back.


        12 Replies
        1. re: schoenick

          A lau lau is usually made with pork (sometimes with chicken, or both), a piece of butterfish, wrapped in luau leaf which are the tops of the taro plant (the starchy corm is what poi is made from). The bundle is then wrapped in ti leaves for steaming. The luau leaf has a spinach like quality and the pork and fish becomes very moist from steaming, excellent with poi or rice. Lau lau is an island favorite although I must admit traditional Hawaiian food as a whole will probably never become one of the worlds great cuisines.

          1. re: curiousgeo

            Ono's lau lau, which I thought was particularly good (but I dig lau lau), and the rest of their combination plate (it's a lot of food).

            1. re: curiousgeo

              Well, my blackberry died in Hawaii so I had none of the awesome recommendations here from Chowhound... I even tried stopping at Kinko's to pull it up but after waiting seven minutes for a page to load, I gave up... Not sure if that is normal or just an island thing?

              Anyways, we ended up stopping at a local "plate" place in a little town between Koko Head and Kailua... don't remember the name but it's right off the road after you pass the Polo Place... Lua Lua was good - I don't know how it would compare to the original recommendation though but I thought it was good.

              oh and I tried the local plate special at a McDonald's - that was the first time I'd seen something like that at McDonalds - that and taro pie!!! Does anyone know where the portuguese sausage orginated from?

              We also tried shaved ice up somewhere in the North Shore area... I didn't see what all the fuss is about...

              We definately want to go back - there is so much to see and taste in Hawaii!!!

              1. re: schoenick

                Yeah regarding the Shaved Ice... I think if we ever got a good Mexican Raspado vendor on the island - with the typical syrups made from natural ingredients & full of interesting flavors that Hawaiians normally like such as Tamarind, Jamaica etc., hand shaved from a block of ice - it would absolutely take the place by storm.

                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  Even the UES Mayor knows its called Shave Ice-Not Shaved Ice-born and raised in da hood-Kalihi!

                  1. re: UES Mayor

                    As one of my friends would say... hey back off, I am an ESL.

                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                      Hey EN, please help me out here. What does "ESL" translate to? I know that I tend to use too many abbreviations for some, but this one has me scratching my head.

                      On a thread on the New Orleans board, I brought up the differences in the various "snowball" offerings around the globe, with a few details of their differences. Many others chimed in with some great details on how they all differed. I had mentioned "shave ice," in Hawai`i and a dozen people jumped in to try and correct me, that it was "shaved ice." I guess that's the way it goes.


                      PS you have not done any reports "from the field" lately. Don't let us down.

                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        it is definitely Shave Ice, absolutely no D under any circumstances. It is pidgin english. it is pronounced almost as a single word. shaveice

                        (btw, EN... Maunawili)

                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                          Maunawili, Nuuanu & Haiku/Ioleka'a valley homes are the 3 on this island that
                          need a special door for Sub-Zero fridges to dispel the condensation from the
                          humidity level. We have a huge avocado tree as does our neighbor. I recently
                          got a nice breadfruit from them and will use it this week. I love breadfruit!

                        2. re: Bill Hunt

                          Hey Bill,

                          ESL = English as a Second Language

                          And yes he would always say it in that grammatical structure... "You know I am an ESL"

                          No reports? I just talked about Bangkok Chef and Saimin! I also recently discovered Butter Mochi and will be sampling as many versions as I can. Took coworkers to Just Tacos today.... they were happy. Other than that... not eating out very much... as we just bought a house & are spending money on some light remodeling (but damn everything adds up!).

                          But on the bright side... I will have a grill soon, and I will be working with local woods... I will also be closer to the Mauna Wily hiking areas where I expect to forage for Hoja Santa & Taro Leaves... and close to Kalama Valley where I will forage for Nopales. Oh yeah... I was gifted an Avocado the size of a small bowling ball (not exaggerating)... its ripening.. supposed to be pretty good - "like California avocados"... I see a Michoacan style Avocado soup in the future with toasted Avocado Leaves, Crema or Orange Juice, a little bit of Cumin & maybe some Frenched Maui Onions.

                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                            Thanks EN. Since I am from Mississippi, English is MY "second language." I'll use "ESL" in some of my posts on the South Board. They'll understand completely.

                            Ese sopa sounds very interesting.


                  2. re: schoenick

                    I forgot to mention that I went for traditional BBQ in Waikiki at a little hole in the wall place where it was all locals (i figure i can't go wrong with that formula) - it was really good but lots of rice...

                    Absolute number 1 best place we found though - Buzz's in Kailua!!! It was AWESOME!!!! Loved it and didn't even realize that it's claim to fame was steak... we actually had fish.

                    Can't wait to come back to Hawaii!

              2. CGeo made some excellent points. If you are not able to get to Ono's, on fridays Zippy's usually has some kind of hawaiian food. It may not be as authentic, but at least you can say you tried some. Most often it is Kalua pork with cabbage (ok, its hapa-haole [half white]). Graces drive-in usually has a pretty good selection, often including lau lau on Fridays. also.

                If you are in the Ward Centers area (Auahi St), some of the shops on the Mauka (mountain/inland) side of the street have some good hawaiian food. Yama's in Moiliili (young st) is also good, but these are take out places.
                Laulau is not a very attractive thing to look at, sort of a wad of limp dark olive green. You have to remember to take off the outer leaves (ti, the ones they make "grass" skirts out of) and keep the inner leaves. Taro leaves are rather like cooked spinach in texture, and have a strong "green" flavor, not unlike asparagus or artichokes, but it can be off putting to some people, especially at first. Really good once you get used to it.

                I've learned to enjoy poi, not just tolerate it... but it took some time. It really does have an unusual consitency. Think oatmeal without the fiber.

                11 Replies
                1. re: KaimukiMan

                  KM do you know of a place I can purchase a high quality prepared poi so that I can experiment with developing a Mole sauce with it?

                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                    EN: most of the Hawaiians I know are pretty happy with what they get at the grocery store. In general Taro Brand products are pretty good. Other than that I would check the farmer's market at Ward, or give Ono's a call and ask where to get some.

                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                      We like Hanalei Poi, it was our dog's favorite as well. She left us 9/28/04 and the last
                      tub of it we bought for her said on the label "Best by 9/28/04" chicken skin if ever!

                  2. re: KaimukiMan

                    E N, you should enjoy poi! If you liked the chichas of the Andes, real poi is like a very thick version. I'm a bit dubious about mole + poi, however. And do try Kalua pork in a tortilla. And I'm sure you're considering making tamales with taro leaves - give you something between a South American tamale made with banana leaves and the Central American and Mexican types made with maize husks. And, remember that you're in Hawai'i and given your respect ofr different cultures, we expect a report on your first Spam enchilada or chile relleno. Abrazos, hermano - be good kine, bruddah!

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      Spam enchilada or relleno... i love it.
                      How about a spam quesadilla. Fry the spam first.

                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        Brudda... I don't know about Spam... apparently there is some Physician who is advocating a Native Hawaiian diet that predates Haole influences... as a way of improving Hawaiian health. I also get the sense that Queen Emma's work to establish a Healthcare system probably did not figure on the future popularity (necessity) of Spam... so for now its not entering my lexicon.

                        With regards to Luau leaves... I think they are a good substitute for Chaya leaves in Yucatecan style tamales. Also, I recently made Cochinita Pibil... but couldn't find Banana Leaves at either Foodland or Don Quijote... so I used some beautiful Collards ($2.50 for a huge bunch) to wrap the pork and they turned out so well... I think I have found a technique for Collard greens that rivals the Ethiopian version (I hate to say it... but Southerners are the worst at preparing Collards).

                        I have to catch up my latest Cooking Mexican in Hawaii "adventours" but I have been eyeing the beautiful Tai Snappers that are commonly availabe... for some Veracruzano.

                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                          One thng is that taro leaves are delicious and edible (must be eaten) if used as tamale or similar wraps. Siempre quieres que le respetemos en todo lo que sea Mexicano. Que nos extienda la misma cortesia y que hagas Spam rellenos o algo asi!

                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                            That would be Dr. Terry Shintani. He has a couple books out and often lectures and
                            lead seminars. Weight loss and alleviation of diabetes and hypertension have been
                            very successful though his sensible eating theories. I posted this a while ago but
                            somehow it got lost in the greater cyberspace.

                            1. re: manomin

                              Yes, Dr. Shintani's Waianae diet has worked wonders for a lot of people. Lets them enjoy the "local" foods they grew up with, but in more reasonable preparations and portions. For you trivia buffs Dr. Shintani is a Punahou graduate - just a "few" years before Barack Obama.

                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                "For you trivia buffs Dr. Shintani is a Punahou graduate - just a "few" years before Barack Obama."

                                Geez... who isn't? I have three co-workers who went to school with Barack, and my real estate agent was about 5 years ahead of him!

                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                  you are beginning to understand Hawaii