I love theme dinners! And Polynesian is one of those themes that has tons to offer… tons of great foods… lots of great music… and a motherlode of great activities. That’s probably why luau parties are so popular. They are great for a crowd (family reunions, company picnics, neighborhood get-togethers, graduation parties, youth group events, and so on).
That’s all well and good, but I had in mind something a little more intimate. In my younger life, I had the idea to have monthly theme dinners just for family – just to make memories for my kids. January’s theme was Chinese New Year, where we dressed up, ate Chinese foods, listened to Asian music, played some sort of Chinese games after dinner, and totally immersed ourselves in Asian culture for a night. February was Cajun foods, music, and culture. March was Irish. April was Polish or Italian. May was Mexican or Caribbean. June was Polynesian or African. July was American (which encompasses everything from BBQ to Burgers, to Hot Dogs in every variety). August was South American or Australian. September was Russian or French. October was German. November was American Indian. And December was Indian or Mediterranean. That was my plan. It was so much my plan that I wrote a whole book about it, but then I kind of lost my focus. <Sheepish shrug> Well, thankfully God has given me grandchildren, and a whole renewed interest in introducing them to the cultures and foods, and sounds, and pastimes of the world. And the great thing is … SUMMER IS COMING!!!! Which makes it a great time to introduce the kids to something fun and interesting and chase away those summer doldrums, not to mention it’s all kind of educational as well.
JUNE – Polynesian
Knickknacks, tanning mats, give a dog a fish bone. The dollar store is a great place to look for decorations. You can keep it simple (lay a bamboo tanning mat down on the table, set a tropical plant as a centerpiece, and lay out luau plates, cups, and silverware from the party store), or go hog-wild (outdoor party with mumus and sarongs, tiki lanterns, grass skirts, a limbo stick, kalua pig roasting on a spit, cold drinks in pineapples or coconuts, and a nice array of Makahiki games, Hawaiian crafts, and games). Gotta have some Island music too (may I suggest Don Ho?), and maybe even get the kids ukuleles, and teach them to play an easy song.
After dinner, you can break out the limbo stick and challenge the kids to a contest, or try some hula hooping. Then set the TV outside and gather the lawn chairs around for an outdoor movie night. How about a marathon of old Gilligan’s Island reruns? Or, for a real submersion into Hawaiian culture, make leis, learn to hula, set your back yard up with some of the Makahiki Games listed below, and watch a mesmerizing “Ha: Breath of Life” show on DVD.
Traditionally, a Hawaiian party would have deep pit roasted Kalua Pig, long rice, some dish of sweet potatoes, and Poi, or even Spam Musubi. Mine features a slightly different spread. I encourage you, however, that if it is your goal to introduce your family to Hawaiian culture, go with tradition. I found some wonderful recipes HERE that I plan to try.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine
– – – –
1 lb large tail-on shrimp, peeled and deveined, and patted dry on paper towels
1 7-oz pkg shredded coconut
Instructions: Place peanut oil in deep fryer and set temperature to 375 degrees. Mix flour with wine until smooth. When oil has reached temperature, dip about 5 of the shrimp, one at a time in batter and then roll in coconut. Drop into deep fryer and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes or until golden and curled. Drain on paper towels. Continue until all shrimp are cooked.
Melted jalapeno jelly makes a wonderful dipping sauce (remove lid from jar, warm in microwave about 1 min., stir and divide into little sauce cups). Or see the sauce recipe later down on this page. Serves 4
POLYNESIAN GLAZED SALMON
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/4 teaspoons prepared horseradish
½ teaspoon salt
4 salmon fillets (about 1-1/2 inches thick)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 sprigs fresh dill
1/4 teaspoon salt
For glaze: Combine syrup, water, ginger, 4 cloves garlic, horseradish and ½ teaspoon salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer. Cook until reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Glaze will keep refrigerated for several days.
To prepare salmon: Place salmon in shallow pan. Add water to cover, plus 2 cloves garlic, dill and ¼ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand in covered pan 8 minutes.
Heat broiler. Remove salmon from cooking liquid and place, skin side down, on to broiler pan. Baste with glaze. Broil, basting often with glaze, just until golden and well-glazed, about 2 minutes.
POLYNESIAN SAUSAGE SUPPER
1 pound fully cooked smoked sausage, cut into 1/2-inch slices (or chicken)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 (20 ounce) can unsweetened pineapple chunks
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Hot cooked rice
- In a large skillet, cook the sausage, onion and green pepper until the meat is no longer pink; drain. Add the tomatoes, broth, brown sugar, garlic powder and pepper. Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Stir pineapple into sausage mixture. Bring to a boil; cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
- Combine cornstarch and reserved pineapple juice until smooth; gradually add to sausage mixture. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve over rice.
SPICY POLYNESIAN WRAPS
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into 1 inch strips
1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
1 cup uncooked long grain white rice
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 Tablespoons curry powder (hot or mild as you wish)
1 tablespoon garlic salt
3/4 cup vegetable oil
10 (10-inch, thin) colored flour tortillas wraps
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 Serrano chilies, (seeds discarded) minced (optional)
- Place the chicken and coconut milk in a bowl, and marinate in the refrigerator 1 hour.
- In a pot, bring the rice and water to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes.
- In a small bowl, mix the flour, curry powder, and garlic salt. Drain the chicken, and discard marinade. Dredge chicken in the flour mixture to coat.
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat, and cook the coated chicken strips 5 minutes per side, or until golden brown and juices run clear. Squeeze lime juice over chicken, and discard limes.
- On each tortilla, place equal amounts of rice, chicken, coconut, and green onions, and sprinkle desired amount of Serrano chilies. Wrap burrito style.
POLYNESIAN DIPPING SAUCE (for shrimp, or wraps)
13 ounces coconut milk
2 teaspoons green curry paste
1 tablespoon grated gingerroot
1 tablespoon grated lime rind
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons lime juice
Place coconut milk in a skillet and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes until reduced by a quarter – it should be the consistency of heavy cream. Stir in the green curry paste, ginger, lime rind, and sugar. Cook another 5 to 6 minutes or until sauce is thickened and fragrant. Stir in mint, cilantro, and lime juice. Cool and refrigerate until ready to serve.
1 (10 ounce) package frozen peas, uncooked
1 ½ cups cooked rice
1 (4 ½ ounce) can tiny or small shrimp
1 ½ cups chopped celery
½ cup fresh green onions, chopped
1/3 of a 12-oz package of chow mein noodles
½ cups roasted cashew nuts
½ cup salad oil
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons vinegar
½ teaspoon sugar
- In a large bowl, mix peas, rice, shrimp, celery and green onion.
- Mix all the dressing ingredients together and mix well.
- When ready to serve pour over salad and add chow mein noodles and toss lightly.
Both can be prepared day before.
MRS H’S TROPICAL FRUIT AMBROSIA SALAD
An assortment of tropical fruits:
1 star fruit
6 strawberries (for color)
¼ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup fresh orange juice
2 Tablespoons honey
1 to 2 inches of ginger root grated
½ cup Greek style plain yogurt
¼ cup shredded coconut
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro or fresh mint.
Cut pineapple in half lengthwise. Use a knife to cut insides away from outer part, and then use a spoon to scoop pineapple out. Slice off and discard hard center core. Cut pineapple into bite size chunks. Peel papaya and mango, discard seeds, and cut into bite size chunks. Peel kiwi, cut into slices. Cut strawberries into slices. Toss banana slices in lime juice and add to salad just before serving. The salad may be prepared a few hours ahead, covered with plastic and kept in fridge.
Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
For a pretty presentation, place fruit salad in halved, hallowed out pineapples and drizzle with sauce. Garnish with shredded coconut and a sprig of mint if desired.
ISLANDER’S COCONUT CREAM PIE
1 prepared pie crust, baked as directed for cream pies
1 package of vanilla pudding, the kind that cooks, not instant
1 package coconut flakes
1 container of Cool Whip with 1 tsp. rum mixed in
Broken, slivered almonds
Cook pudding as package directs using 1/2 cup less liquid. Add 1 cup of the flaked coconut to the pudding and stir to mix. Pour into prepared crust and spread to fill evenly. Chill until set. Spread Cool Whip over pudding in piecrust. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of flaked coconut and then almonds over the top. Chill to set.
HAWAIIAN PINEAPPLE UPSIDE DOWN CAKE
1 8-oz can Dole pineapple slices, drained (reserve juice for serving)
1 stick butter
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
6 maraschino cherries, halved
In an large oblong cake pan melt butter and stir in brown sugar. Arrange pineapple slices next to each other in three rows of four. Place a half of a cherry in the center of each pineapple.
2 ½ cups All-Purpose flour
3 tsp. Baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 stick butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 tsp Vanilla
1 ½ cups milk (or substitute Coconut Milk)
Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Beat softened butter with sugar and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time beating after each. Stir in dry ingredients and milk. Beat with a mixer until thick and creamy. Pour over pineapple slices in large baking pan. Bake at 375 degrees F for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool 5 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate. Serve warm. If you desire your cake a little more moist, drizzle with reserved pineapple juice.
1 pkg Thai Black Tea bags (available at World Market)
Sweetener (sugar, agave nectar, honey, Stevia, as you prefer)
Half & Half
Place 8 teabags and 8 cups of water in a saucepot and bring just to the steaming point on high heat on the stovetop, and then remove from heat. Cover and let steep for 15 minutes. The tea will become dark orange colored. Add whatever choice of sweetener to taste, I like this tea a little on the sweet side. When the tea has cooled, pour it into a pitcher and chill in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
To serve: Pour tea over ice in a tall glass. Gently add Half & Half by the Tablespoonfuls until the top 1/4 of the glass is filled. Add a straw and serve. Let guests stir the cream into the tea before drinking.
1/2 ripe mango (peeled and seeded)
1/2 ripe papaya (peeled and seeded)
1 ripe banana
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup Cream of Coconut
1/4 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
1 tsp. honey
2 cups ice
In a blender, mix mango, papaya, banana, orange juice, coconut cream, yogurt, honey, and ice. Blend until velvety. Serve in martini glasses and garnish with mini skewers of pineapple chunks.
Other Adult Beverage options:
Fire Rock Pale Ale (beer) or Spearhead Pale Ale
FROZEN MAI TAI
1 cup of ice
1 oz. light rum
1/2 oz. dark rum
1/2 oz. Apricot Brandy
1/2 cup fresh or canned pineapple
Splash of sour mix & Splash of orange juice
Blend all ingredients in a blender for 4 seconds on low speed. Garnish with lime and orange slices, and a little paper umbrella. I f you want to make it non-alcoholic just use 1/2 tsp of brandy flavoring and 1 1/2 tsp of rum flavoring in a half a cup of soda water with the other ingredients.
CAPTAIN MORGAN’S Piña COLADA
1/2 cup ice
2 oz. light rum
2 Tablespoons Cream of Coconut
1/2 fresh or canned pineapple
1 Tablespoon vanilla ice cream
Pineapple chunks, cherries, umbrellas for garnish
In blender blend until smooth. If too thick add fruit or juice. If too thin add ice or ice cream. Garnish with Pineapple and Cherry, and a little paper umbrella. You can use a mix to make these if you would rather… and you can make them non-alcoholic by substituting rum flavoring and soda water.
Traditional Island games
Walk on Hot Coals
Dig a shallow pit about three feet wide by six feet long and fill it with charcoals. Add starter fluid to get the charcoals burning. Cover them completely with medium-sized smooth rocks and let the rocks get hot. Any guests who are brave or foolish enough may hop across the rocks with their bare feet.
‘O‘O Ihe (Spear Throwing)
Spear throwing contests were held to display strength and skill for fighting and food gathering. A target, sometimes the stalk of a banana plant, is set up and contestants stand some 15 feet away and attempt to stick a lightweight wooden spear in it. Watch the video below, which features spear throwing and other traditional games.
A great alternative for the littler ones would be the inflatable Fish Spearing Game at Party America.com or Party City.com, if they still carry it as of the time of this writing. If not, this is what it looks like and you can make your own version out of a an old toilet seat (padded and decorated) and a bamboo stick. Hang it in a tree in the corner of the yard.
‘Ulu Maika’ (Rolling Stones)
Based on ancient Hawaiian Makahiki games, this game is played similar to horseshoes. Stones somewhat resembling modern hockey pucks were rolled between stakes on specially prepared courses to test a player’s skills, or rolled down long courses to show strength. One of the best of the remaining ‘ulu maika courses, approximately 500 feet long, is located on the island of Moloka’i.
Moa Pahe‘e (Dart Sliding)
Using a wooden dart, which resembles a very small bat without the little grip stop on the end (maybe 8” long) with the skinny end and the fat end, you grasp the skinny end and toss the dart like a bowling ball between two stakes.
Blowing a conch shell takes skill: you have to know how to purse your lips, where to place them for the best sound, and how hard to blow. (The sounds made by a novice are hilarious!)
Ancient Hawaiians used to hold foot races to see which warrior was the fastest. You can hold single person races, three legged races, and backwards running races. Watch the first video above, under spear throwing, for an example.
Type of Hawaiian Luau fighting. The contestants do not use their hands, and can only stand on one foot, and try to knock their opponent out of the ring.
Tug O’ War
To play this game you will need a 20’ length of rope, a 6’ length of rope, and a bandana.
Divide your guests into two equal teams. Choose a large grassy or sandy area to play. Place the 6’ rope on the ground in the middle of the chosen area. This marks the centerline. Have teams line up in single file on either side of the centerline, arms length apart. Tie the bandana in the center of the 20’ rope and place over the centerline. Each player grabs the tugging rope and at the signal tries to pull the first member of the other team over the centerline.
This is a card game played with special Hana Fuda cards. I was introduced to it by a friend whose mother was Japanese. She gave me a set of these cards many, many years ago. I’ve even forgotten how to play it has been so long. So I went online to see if I could find the rules. How thrilling to find that this game is played by native Hawaiians under a different name. The cards do not have numbers on them, only beautiful pictures, but they have point values. Along with the rules I found some vendors who sell the cards.
- Rules to Higo Bana were found at these web sites:
Compare them for a better understanding of the game.
- Purchase Hanafuda cards at Amazon.com
Make leis (wikihow)
Make grass skirts (wikihow)
Make palm leaf place mats
Translate Your Family’s Names into Hawaiian
There are only 13 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet: A, E, H, I K, L, M, N, O, P, U and W. The consonants H, K, L, M, N, P, and W are pronounced exactly as in English. If a name ends in a consonant, add a vowel. Always place a vowel between consonants. The following conversion table can be helpful in translating names:
Pronunciation of Vowels
A – ah
E – ay
I – ee
O – oh
U – oo
= Hawaiian Consonant
|B, F, P||P|
|C, D, G, J, K, S, T, X, Z||K|
Name Translation Examples:
Colleen = Kaliline Gracee = Kalakee Patty = Pakaki
Matthew = Makahewe Carrie = Kalalie
Danielle = Kanielele Michael = Mikala
General Hawaiian Customs
Add some true Island spice to your dinner with genuine Island customs:
Placing a lei over someone’s head is the customary way to welcome or congratulate them. If the person is close in relationship to you, you would give them a honihoni (kiss) also. Leis are usually made of flowers, but can also be made of candies or other decorative items. And when your lei starts to fade and die, don’t toss it in the trash. It is bad luck to throw a lei away. A lei is love and you would never throw love away. Rather cut the string and cast the flowers into the sea or hang the lei outside until it is gone.
I love that it is the custom in Hawaii for young ones to refer to older people as “auntie” or “uncle” when they are old family friends or neighbors of the parents. That is how we raised our kids to do. In Hawaii it is appropriate even to address a stranger as “auntie” or “uncle.” It is friendly yet respectful.
You would never walk into someone’s home in the islands with shoes on. And it is good manners to bring a small gift with you, possibly a dessert, when visiting someone’s home. There is a pidgin phrase, “Make Plate” or “Take Plate” that also shows good guest manners. When you have been invited to share a meal at someone’s home it is customary that you make a plate of food of the leftovers to take home, even if you don’t intend to eat it. By doing this you are being a good guest and not leaving the mess for the host to clean up and put away. Many times all the leftovers are packaged up and taken to the homeless.
Unless you are at a sporting event, it is considered rude to talk loudly, or to act like you are entitled to special treatment. Politeness and reserve are considered a show of good breeding.
Dress is casual, aloha shirts and slacks are worn in place of suits and ties in business, and it is considered rude to stare or look someone in the eye for too long in public places. And when you go away on a trip it is considered thoughtful to bring back gifts “makana” from your journey. Most prized are special foods that are unavailable at home.
I’m so happy you stopped by, and I pray your family supper night is such a huge hit that it becomes a favorite monthly tradition. God bless!
“Let love be without hypocrisy…be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another…distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13