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Luau Stew

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Luau Stew is a traditional Hawaiian dish made by cooking fresh luau leaves (which come from the taro plant). Eat it with rice or poi! You can find luau stew plain/vegetarian, with squid, chicken, beef, or pork.

What Is Luau Stew?

Luau stew falls into the category of traditional Hawaiian foods (this category also includes kalua pork, lomi lomi salmon, lau lau, haupia, kulolo and much more).

It's a flavorful, saucy stew that you eat with rice and poi. Luau stew is made by cooking luau leaves (which come from the taro plant) with water and a bit of salt. 

Luau stew served over rice, with kalua pig (aka kalua pork), ogo (seaweed), sweet potato, and ulu (breadfruit). Kulolo on the side for dessert. Iced mamaki to drink.

Some places add coconut milk and brown sugar to the stew (gives it so much flavor). Others add onions, ginger, and garlic. You can also add squid, chicken or beef to make a meaty luau stew. We often make luau stew with pork at home...I have the full step-by-step photo recipe at the bottom of this post.

He'e (octopus) over stewed luau leaves at Mud Hen Water (Oahu)

Making luau stew is simple because it doesn't require many ingredients or special equipment. But it's also complicated because it requires time and patience...and luau leaves are not easy to find outside of Hawaii.

Luau stew isn't a very pretty dish (some might say it's "ugly-delicious"). But this deep green dish is one of my favorite Hawaiian dishes! It actually looks a lot like a Vietnamese eggplant dish we make at home (we steam, peel, and mash up the eggplant). 

Endless fields of taro/kalo at Haraguchi Farm in Kauai

What Are Luau Leaves?

We've talked a bit about luau leaves in the lau lau and kalua pork posts. Luau leaves come from the taro plant (the Hawaiian word for taro is kalo). This leaves are big and heart-shaped. They are so green and beautiful, and super delicious. Here's a full post explaining luau leaves in detail.

We can grow the taro plant throughout Hawaii, but everyone knows that Kauai island grows the best taro.

Luau leaves cannot be eaten raw (they will make your throat super itchy). You must clean them very well before cooking. And also cook them throughly!

Squid luau at Young's Fish Market (Oahu)

How To Pronounce Luau Stew

Luau is a Hawaiian word. You need pronounce each syllable for Hawaiian words. There are two syllables in luau:

  1. lou (like the "lou" in “louis”)
  2. ow (like "ow, I bumped my arm!")

Stew is just English 🙂 So, lou-ow stew!

Luau versus Lu'au

You'll see both spellings on menus in Hawaii. Traditional Hawaiian restaurants likely spell it lu'au (which is the Hawaiian spelling). Other places spell it luau (which is the local/English version). They both refer to the same dish. 

Squid luau at Helena's Hawaiian Food (Oahu)

Squid Luau, Chicken Luau, and Beef Luau

Basic luau stew has no meat, but you often find luau stew with squid, chicken, or beef!

The protein is first browned (usually with onions, salt and pepper), braised, and then shredded or chopped into smaller pieces. It's then mixed in with the luau leaves (mix it in when the luau leaves are almost done cooking). Adding the protein gives the stew more heft and flavor.

You should try "plain" luau stew first, and then branch out to the other ones. Pork luau stew is my favorite of the meat options.

How To Eat Luau Stew

Eat luau stew with rice and poi! You only need one or the other, but heaven is when you can eat luau stew with rice and poi at the same time. Luau stew is savory and saucy, some places make it thicker and other more thin. It's like spooning gravy over a bowl of rice/poi. Make sure to splash some chili pepper water on top.

Luau stew often serves as a one bowl meal for me, but you typically eat it with other Hawaiian dishes like kalua pig (aka kalua pork), lomi lomi salmon, and lau lau. And of course, you must finish the meal with haupia or kulolo ^_^

Squid luau at Poi By The Pound (Maui)

Where To Eat Luau Stew

  • Helena's Hawaiian Food (Oahu) - my favorite Hawaiian food spot! Dine-in or takeout.
  • Yama's Fish Market (Oahu) - my other favorite Hawaiian food spot! Takeout only.
  • Mud Hen Water (Oahu) - grilled he'e (octopus) served atop stewed luau leaves with inamona dukkah. (Fun fact: Inamona is a key ingredient in making poke.) Dish is pictured in the second photo from top of this post.
  • Young's Fish Market (Oahu) - Takeout spot
  • Highway Inn (Oahu) - Dine-in or takeout.
  • Poi By The Pound (Maui) - Squid luau and beef luau on the menu. Big bowl of luau stew hits the spot.

Luau Stew Recipe

Want to make luau stew at home? You're in luck. This is a super easy dish to make...I make it almost weekly in Hawaii. 

These are the ingredients you'll need:

  • 1-pound luau leaves (Note: luau leaves are often sold in 1-pound bunches at supermarkets in Hawaii like Foodland and Safeway. If you're not in Hawaii, you may be able to find frozen luau leaves at certain Asian markets.)
  • 1 sweet Maui onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 pound pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1-2 teaspoons Hawaiian sea salt (or kosher salt)

Now we start cooking!

First you need to prepare the luau leaves. Chop off and discard the stems from the leaves. Wash the leaves very thoroughly.

Chop the leaves into 1" ribbons. Set aside.

In a large pot, add oil, and turn to medium-high heat. Add the pork in a single layer and brown evenly on all sides. Remove the pork and set aside on a plate. Pour out any excess oil from the pot. 

Add sliced onions and minced ginger to the pot.

Turn heat down to medium and cook until the onions are translucent.

Put all the luau leaves over the onions and ginger.

Put the browned pork over the luau leaves. Add a half-cup of water to the pot. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to low and cook for 1 hour (more or less time depending on how tender your luau leaves are).

Check on the stew every 15 minutes, give it a stir. The pork will begin to break down - you can shred it into smaller pieces with chopsticks (that's how we like to eat it), or leave them as larger chunks.

Season to taste with salt. Some people also like to add shoyu, but that is up to you. Serve hot with rice and all the other good Hawaiian dishes. Don't forget the chili pepper water!

Yield: Serves 2 as a main dish

Luau Stew With Pork

Luau Stew With Pork

Luau Stew is a classic Hawaiian dish. You can make it vegetarian, or with chicken, beef, pork and even squid. We love to make this luau stew with pork. It's easy, hearty, and delicious! Best served with rice.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1-pound luau leaves 
  • 1 sweet Maui onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 2-inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 1 pound pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1-2 teaspoons kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Prepare the luau leaves. Wash the leaves very thoroughly. Chop off and discard the stems. Chop the leaves into 1" ribbons. Set aside. 
  2. Toss the cubes of pork shoulder with a teaspoon of salt. Set aside. 
  3. In a large pot, add oil, and turn to medium-high heat. Add the pork in a single layer and brown evenly on all sides. Remove the pork and set aside on a plate. Pour out any excess oil from the pot. 
  4. Add the sliced onions and minced ginger to the pot. Turn heat down to medium and cook until the onions are translucent. 
  5. Put all the luau leaves over the onions and ginger. Put the browned pork over the luau leaves. Add a half-cup of water to the pot. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to low and cook for 1 hour (more or less time depending on how tender your luau leaves are).
  6. Check on the stew every 15 minutes, give it a stir. The pork will begin to break down - you can shred it into smaller pieces with chopsticks (that's how we like to eat it), or leave them as larger chunks.
  7. Season to taste with salt. Some people also like to add shoyu, but that is up to you. Serve hot with rice and all the other good Hawaiian dishes. Don't forget the chili pepper water!
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Mahalo for Reading!

David

Saturday 20th of February 2021

The Samoan version of lupulu is called palusami. The ingredients and cooking method are exactly the same.

Kathy

Saturday 20th of February 2021

Aloha David! Oh wow, that's super cool. I'm not familiar with palusami but there's so much overlap between Hawaiian and Samoan food so that makes a lot of sense! Thank you for sharing ^_^ - Kathy

Patti K

Saturday 23rd of May 2020

I live in Michigan. Taro leaves....forget about that. Saw dried taro leaves on Amazon. Is this a possibility?

Kathy Chan

Sunday 24th of May 2020

Hi Patti! Dried luau leaves should work, though I would make sure you can trust the source/vendor they are coming from :) - Kathy

Shorty

Friday 10th of April 2020

I’m in Kentucky and Luau is very hard to find (impossible) can I replace it with another leafy vegetable?

Kealoha

Saturday 24th of October 2020

Spinach is a close 2nd for luau leaves

Kathy Chan

Friday 10th of April 2020

Collard greens and swiss chard are possible substitutes. The dish won't be quite the same, but works in a pinch for those local luau stew cravings :)

Shorty

Friday 10th of April 2020

Can I use Coconut milk in place of water?

Kathy Chan

Friday 10th of April 2020

Yes! You can definitely use coconut milk in place of water. It will change the flavor completely, but many people love super coconut-y luau stew.

Alan

Wednesday 29th of January 2020

I never liked luau stew or squid luau for that matter. It was probably the look of the dish that turned me off. But I just love lau-lau!! Go figure? Did you know that a similar dish to lau-lau is called lupulu? It is a Tongan dish. There is a large Tongan population here where I live and sometimes I get invited to Tongan parties where they serve lupulu as one of their dishes. Traditionally lupulu is corned beef, coconut milk, and luau leaves cooked exactly like how you would cook lau-laus (in aluminum foil). I have often had it with chicken or beef chunks too. The reason why this dish traditionally was made with corned beef is because in the olden days, there was a large corned beef processing plant in Tongan that the Australians would use to make corned beef from their cattle that they shipped to Tonga. Corned beef in Tonga in those times was very cheap. I think that this is an interesting factoid.

Kathy Chan

Friday 31st of January 2020

Hi Alan! I've never heard of lupulu before...so neat! It sounds delicious, right up my alley. Love learning much from your comments :) Thank you! - Kathy