Ahoha, e como mai!
Translation hello, welcome, come on in. Our incredible Hawaiian vacation was coming to a close but I still had one destination to take my family to. On the far East side of the island of Oahu is a small town that back in the 1940’s became the focus of a famous song but it all started with tragedy…
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1881 built a beautiful church and social hall. The church was nestled among the coconut trees and taro fields in the small little town of Laie. One day in 1940 that beloved church was engulfed in flames that could be seen for miles, the town of Laie was so small there wasn’t a fire station or a fire truck, just a volunteer fire department. They raced into action along with the other town member, the bucket brigade from the ocean could not save the beloved church. The only structure that survived was the social hall which was not big enough for the congregation to meet. After the flames were put out, the damage was assessed a decision had to be made, rebuild or not.
The decision was simple, rebuilding the church was not only wanted it was necessary for the community. However, the town needed a way to raising money for the construction. The idea of having a Hukilau was meticulously thought out, tickets would be sold to fund all the construction costs. Fishermen threw nets into Laie Bay and pulled pounds and pounds of fish in for the men tending the fires to cook. It was a food feast, little grandmas made two finger poi and poi buns, fresh vegetables, coconut desserts, you could eat for days! The shock was not only did they sell every ticket, they had another thousand guests show up from all over the island! Here is the musical recount and tribute to that community food share.
The Hukilau written and sung by Jack Owens in 1948
What a beautiful day for fishing,
The old Hawaiian way
And the hukilau nets were swishing
Down at old Laie Bay.
Oh, we’re going to a hukilau.
The huki, huki, huki, huki, hukilau.
Everybody loves the hukilau.
Where the laulau is the kaukau
At the big luau.
We throw our nets
Out into the sea
And all the ‘ama’ama
Come swimming to me.
Oh, we’re going, to a hukilau.
A huki, huki, huki
Huki, huki, huki, hukilau.
Right there in Laie, across from the bay where that famous event took place sits the Polynesian Cultural Center. A favorite stop of ours and it should be on your must visit list, here’s an insider tip, your tickets allow you to come in a total of three visits. My children loved going from village to village learning all about the culture, playing traditional games, learning how to use musical instruments and then sampling the cuisine. I watched the time honored tradition of prepping the Imu for kalua pork. Layers of hot volcano rocks, banana leaves, ti leaves and wet burlap sacks were strategically placed in and around the pig for its slow 12 hour underground cook. I might have gone back into an area that said employees only, but they were amazing and said I could stay and watch. Score one for me! For a special treat when you visit PCC make sure to visit the village of Samoa and go find Kap Te’O Tafiti, trust me he will surprise you!!!
Of all the lessons I have learned when I have traveled to the Hawaiian Islands I’ve learned this, food is the staple of the Hawaiian community. Truly, the amount of sharing between families, neighbors and friends always surprises me. The passed down recipes and stories that go with each dish melts my heart, I’m sharing a recipe that’s from the Polynesian Cultural Center. The night we ate at their luau and my daughter about jumped out of her seat with excitement when the basket of bright purple rolls appeared. Purple is her favorite color so how could she not eat it, what she didn’t know was that the rolls were taro rolls. Yes, there is a sneaky way to add that ingredient to bread and honestly I could eat it all day long. Enjoy this recipe from the Polynesian Cultural Center and explore the other websites I have listed for you. In no way am I receiving compensation for providing the websites below. I hope you travel to Hawaii soon to explore the culture, food and magic that is Aloha.
Polynesian Cultural Center Taro Rolls
1 ⅓ cup warm water (90 degrees)
1 cup poi*
½ cup softened butter
1 tsp purple food coloring**
1 cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
2 1/2tsp dry yeast
4 cups flour, added gradually
*Possible substitutions if you do not have access to poi include well cooked and mashed taro root, new potato, parsnips, sweet potatoes or yams
** You can omit the food color if you choose
Using a table mixer, combine all wet ingredients; then gradually add the dry ingredients.
Adjust the amount of flour depending on the stiffness of the dough. The texture should be smooth. (If your mixer does not have a dough hook, then remove the dough from the mixer before it becomes too stiff and add the remaining flour by kneading on a floured table top.)
Once the dough is smooth, then kneed on a floured surface.
Break off pieces of dough to knead and form into small balls.
Place in a greased 9 x 11 pan. Cover with cloth, place in a warm, dry area and allow to rise until doubled in size. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.
Buy your poi here