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 (which is basically the same thing as Pad Thai rice noodles), some dish of sweet potatoes (purple), and Poi, or even Spam Musubi. 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
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.
3 cups cooked Sushi rice
4 sheets Spring Roll Wrappers (this is a MrsH modification: I’m not a fan of Nori)
1 12-oz can Spam
6 Tbsp Soy Sauce
6 Tbsp Hawaiian BBQ sauce
I cut the end off of my Spam can with sissors to use to make my Musubi, and I used a wooden meat mallet to press the rice down. After making my musubi I have decided Nori is just too healthy tasting for my taste, so after making it with Nori, I peeled the Nori off to eat it, and next time I’m going to try making it with rice paper (Spring Roll Wrappers) instead. I also didn’t care for the Furikake (rice seasoning) because of the seaweed that was in it. The one I used was Wasabi Fumi Furikake. It had a good flavor that really does need to be there, but just warning you not to go hog wild with it if you aren’t a seaweed fan. I do like wasabi and sesame. And I added chopped green onion. Maybe there is a variety of Furikake without seaweed???
Prepare the Rice as per package instructions. Allow to cool. Meanwhile, cut the Spam into eight equal slices. Fry the Spam in a frying pan until very crispy on both sides. Mix soy sauce with BBQ sauce and pour over Spam. Stir around and flip until sauce is carmelized onto the Spam. Remove from heat.
This is the process for making the musubi: (shown using Nori seaweed)
Cut each sheet of Nori in half. Lay half a sheet down on a clean paper towel. Place Musubi press (Spam can) in the center. Add about a heaping tablespoon of rice and press down. Add a sprinkle of Furikake. Place a slice of Spam on top. Sprinkle with more Furikake and add another heaping tablespoon of rice. Press it all down firmly and hold down while lifting can off. Wrap Nori around. Cut each finished roll on the diagonal and serve. *Below is what Musubi looks like without the seaweed wrapper. I wrapped my musubi up in plastic and refrigerated them overnight. The next day I removed from fridge, peeled off the Nori, and cut them into bite-size slices. Much better!
HAWAIIAN SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE
5 medium Sweet Potatoes, baked in 350*F oven for 1 hour, until soft
2 green bananas, diced
1 cup diced and crushed fresh pineapple
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp salt
Juice of 1 lime (also the zest)
2 Tbsp Cocunut syrup (may substitute honey)
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup crushed macadamia nuts
After potatoes have cooled, peel the skins off and discard skins. Slice the potatoes into inch thick slices and lay in a single layer in a buttered oblong baking dish. Sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and drizzle with melted butter. Add a layer of pineapple and bananas. Press down with a spatula to mash the potatoes slightly. Mix lime juice with coconut syrup and pour over potatoes evenly. Sprinkle with coconut and macadamia nuts in an even layer. Cover and bake in a 300*F oven for about 30 minutes. Uncover and bake another 15 mintues until toasted on top. You can also broil the dish for a few minutes to toast the top if you wish.
HAWAIIAN LONG RICE (MrsH’s super easy version)
Cook a box of Pad Thai rice noodles as directed on package. Drain off most of the water, but leave the noodles a little soupy. Add a can of Campbells Creamy Chicken soup to the noodles and stir to mix. Serve with chopped green onion for garnish.
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 Tiki face masks (look for ideas on Pinterest and this easy one from Crayola)
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