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Squid Lu’au May 28, 2016

Posted by marksun in Uncategorized.


I’ve now tried many ways of preparing and cooking lu’au including using a pressure cooker.  Even a pressure cooker with the luau chopped first and with two hours of cooking does not  produce the finely blended luau that an open top method and continuous stirring does.  The best way I’ve tried is to cook the lu’au a a large  open pot and stir and chop the luau with a LARGE spatuala more or less continually.  Very labor intensive but it works when you have massive amounts of kalo leaf to cook!

Actually it’s  he’e (octopus) and not a “squid” we use in this traditional lu’au dish.  Most squid lu’au recipes call for cooked he’e.  Some boil the he’e.  I’m sure you could just pulehu (roast over open fire) he’e as well for a tough customer.   In this recipe we’ll braise the he’e first, then let it simmer until tender.  I’ve also put in raw he’e and it comes out fine to me, but then I like tough nearly raw he’e.

I would think that everyone has different tastes when it comes to squid lu’au.  I’m just a beginner and experiment more or less every time.

I tried this out the other day which takes bits from several recipes and the results are good enough to write down.

Ingredients and proportions.

  • One pound of lu’au.   20 med to large leaves  yields 16 fluid oz (2 C ) more or less of cooked lu’au.
  • Squid to lu’au:   1/2 to 1 lb raw squid per pound raw lu’au.  Frozen whole raw tako is about $6 a pound on average.
  • Coconut milk:   1C or 16 oz per pound of lu’au.  Most of us will use frozen coconut milk.   Hawaiian Sun brand is very good and and may be your most expensive ingredient at $7 to $9 a pound.
  • Salt – 1 or 2 tsp – or to taste
  • 1/2 t baking soda. Optional. Added to lu’au water during cooking for color.  The result is retention of a bright green color in the lu’au which may or may not be what you like – up to you.

Initial Preparation.

  • Wash the leaves.
  • Defrost the frozen he’e (may take a while)
  • Get out a big pot to make cooking easier with enough depth for lu’au, and a separate big pot for braising the he’e.

Leaf preparation for 1 lb of leaf:
Wash the leaves thoroughly, then remove stems and large veins.  You can use them too but they may affect texture.  They won’t add much to the dish.  20160527_132952

Place in the bottom of a large pot with one to two cups of water with a tsp or less salt, and if you want to an intense green color, 1/2 to 1 tsp of baking soda.  Bring to a boil and poke and stir constantly to first get the leaves to wilt. Monitor the water level and add water to prevent drying out.  Some recipes pour out water every hour with the idea that it helps gets rid of the oxalic acid bite of taro leaves that are not completely cooked and subjected to enough heat.


After about a half hour the leaf will start to soften considerably and break apart with the stirring.  This is what you want.  Stir and heat.  There will be steam.

20160527_133749.jpgAfter an hour the luau will start to look like a green mash and you are on target.   Some recipes say an hour is enough, but to be rid of ALL that oxalic acid, go for another hour and keep things hot, stirring, until at the end you have a thick green puree of lu’au.  If you cook this way, there will likely be no problem with oxalic acid but the taste and swallow test should be performed to eliminate any doubt!

The main thing is to have continuous heat and a bit of bubbling while at the same time avoiding burning!

IMPORTANT:  cook the luau down until it is very thick and almost dry!  Adding coconut milk will put a LOT of moisture back in.


Preparing and cooking the defrosted (or fresh) he’e


Defrosted he’e from the supermarket.  Fresh ,of course, would be better.

Wash him very thoroughly.  Get rid of any slime, etc.  I hear stories of folks with special washing machine like tubs, or special cement mixers to do the job of tenderizing the tough he’e.  The alternative with fresh he’e at the shoreline after catching is to get a firm hold of the head, and using your whole body,  swing the he’e around over the shoulder to strike a big smooth preferably wet boulder on the shore.  Repeat multiple times until your arm muscles give out or the he’e is tender, whichever comes first.  Look out for puhi while you do this.  You get the idea. Unfortunately I have no photo of this method.

If the he’e is frozen, defrost and wash thoroughly in the sink.  Ice crystals have likely done the work  of tenderizing for you.

With a sharp knife, remove the head and discard if you don’t want to cook and eat it (he has eyes).  Remove the beak!  The very experienced may skin the he’e.  I wouldn’t bother.

Heat a large pot up to medium to high temperature for brazing.  Add a little bit oil to your pot, say a 1T the he’e.  The he’e will not stick to a well seasoned pot.  Very soon the water in the he’e will be released with the heat.  Braze like this for about 8 minutes or so, and turn the he’e over halfway.  The idea is to render the water from the he,e.  Once this is done, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover.  Check in every few minutes.  When things are looking a little dry in the pot due to steam action, add a little water, white wine, sake, or beer to add a little something flavorwise.  Once the he’e is simmering in juices, keep covered and continue to simmer on a low/medium heat on my stove anyway, for up to two hours or so.  Cooking time will depend on how tender you want this he’e and this method will make the he’e quite tender.  Stop when the degree of tenderness is reached.


Once the he’e and taro are cooked  at least two hours after firing up the stove, you’ll have your ingredients like this.20160527_163118.jpg

Put it all together.  20160527_195010

Slice up the he’e into 1/2″ slices.  Kind of up to you.  This was a small he’e in the picture above and his arms were not real big.

Coconut Milk. Take out the frozen coconut milk an break up if you like to assist defrosting. Defrost or heat gently – very gently- in the bottom of the big pot until melted.  Hawaiian Sun coconut milk will be quite thick.20160527_194457.jpg

Add the lu’au and he’e and heat to serving temperature.  Avoid boiling!






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