Our friend from the RootsTech conference team, Chad Schumacher, shares an islander delicacy that has been the source of many family memories:In Hawaii, food will always be about family. Lau Lau is one of those dishes that continues through generations and, from preparation to consumption, brings families—and friends—together.
Early Hawaiians lived in valleys that provided them protection and food. Villages were organized by families and by land divisions, which, in old Hawaii, were divided from the beach to the mountains. That meant that each village and family had complete accessibility to the beach and the mountains and all their offerings. Lau Lau represents these familial land divisions because its ingredients come from the beach, the valleys, and the mountains. I will always remember my grandmother, who grew up on the north shore of Kauai, explain how her parents utilized all that the sea and land offered and how Lau Lau represented the familial land heritage.
Lau Lau continued through generations of my family and was a staple in every family gathering. In true Hawaiian form, we celebrated family milestones, including first birthdays and weddings, with music and good food, especially loads of Lau Lau. As I kid I remember gathering with my family and friends to prepare Lau Laus for the luau the following day. We’d set up an assembly line on tables in our garage and spend hours wrapping Lau Laus. It was always fun to get together with my family and cousins. The preparation was always my favorite part, because we’d be together for hours sharing stories, laughing, and having fun. Wrapping Lau Laus was where we all became familiar with who we were. Looking back, it brings such great feelings.
I also remember being taught by my grandmother how to wrap Lau Laus correctly: A twist here. A twist there. Pull tightly. Tie it here. I will always remember her saying, “Pull hard, the ti-leaf can take it.”
Lau Lau continues to be at our gatherings, especially when the parents are in town. Friends are always invited, as they’re more than friends—they are family.
Hawaiian Lau Lau
- 1/2 pound salt butterfish, rinsed several times to remove excess salt
- 1/2 pound pork butt, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 4 boneless chicken thighs
- Tyson Chicken Boneless Skinless Breasts, All Natural, Fresh
- 1 tablespoon Hawaiian sea salt
- 8 ti leaves
- 1lb taro leaves
- Season fish, pork, and chicken with Hawaiian sea salt. Place 2 ti leaves in an X on a flat surface for each of the 4 servings.
- Place 1/4 of each of the fish, pork, and chicken onto the center of 3 or 4 taro leaves. Wrap securely with the taro leaves, then place each wrap on a set of ti leaves. Tie the ends of the ti leaves together with a piece of string.
- Place the bundles in a large steamer, and steam for 3 to 4 hours.