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Kau Kau Kitchen
by Leilehua Yuen

     Kau kau, pronounced "cow cow," means "food," or "meal" in Hawaiian pidgin. It is also used to mean "to eat," as in "let's go kau kau" - "let's go eat."  You'll seldom find "Pacific Rim Cuisine" here - mostly just good home-cookin', island style.

Lu`au & Lau `Uala
(Young Taro Tops and Sweet Pototo Tops)

Leilehua preparing to bake kalo during a class on Hawaiian food.

     Lu`au, young taro tops, is a mainstay of the traditional pa`ina, or Hawaiian feast. They are especially `ono (delicious) boiled or baked with coconut cream and octopus or chicken. It is also a kind of slang term for a pa`ina or `aha`aina, because of the amount of lu`au served at them.
     Lau `uala, sweet potato tops, are also delicious. Young sweet potato tops may be used in any recipe that uses lu`au. The difference is that you do not need to worry about any calcium oxelate in the lau `uala. They require only a little cooking to be tender and tasty.

     According to Dr. Alvan Huang, of the Dept. of Food Science and Human Nutrition, College of Tropical Agriculture, University of Hawai`i, cooked taro leaves have the following nutritional analysis - 

A 5 ounce serving of lu`au (taro leaves)contains:

Calories 20
Calories from fat 5

% Daily Value (based on a 2,000 calorie diet):

Total fat 0.5 g not a significant source
saturated fat 0 g 0%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 5 g not a significant source
sugars 1 g
dietary fiber 4 g 16%
Protein 3 g

Vitamin A 10%
Vitamin C 30%
Calcium 6%
Iron 2%

Cooking Lu`au

     Most varieties of taro have a lot of calcium oxelate. This compound forms into little spine-shaped crystals that puncture mucus membranes, causing varying degrees of itching, burning, and pain. To remove these crystals, all parts of most taro plants must be thoroughly cooked. 
     You may boil or steam the leaves. When cooking lu`au, after about 45 minutes, take a TINY bit of leaf and put it on the tip of your tongue. No problems? Chew it. Still ok? Then the lu`au is safe to serve. At this point, the lu`au may be prepared a number of different simple and delicious ways.

     Simply mix coconut milk to taste with your cooked lu`au. Bake or simmer until the flavors meld - about 15 minutes I use Mendonca's frozen coconut milk because it is pure - no additives.

He`e Lu`au (Octopus Lu`au) - You may also substitute chicken or squid
     Drain the cooked lu`au. Mix with an equal amount of coconut milk. Add cooked he`e which has been cut into 1/2 inch cubes. stir together and and place in a covered baking dish. Bake at 300 degrees F for an hour. You may simmer this on the stove instead, but be very careful not to burn it!

Plain Lu`au
     This is the most simple recipe. Just take the boiled lu`au and treat as if it were any other cooked green, such as spinach or chard. A little butter, pepper, and salt, and it is excellent served as a side dish. You may also cook sweet potoato tops this way.

Lau Lau
     One of Hawai`i's favorite local dishes, you can find Leilehua's laulau recipe at Oceanic Cable's Around Town.


Have questions about Hawaiian foods? Ask them here:
Kau Kau Kitchen Forum 

More on Kalo (Taro)

Background information on taro, and a mo`olelo

Nice blog with a lot of information on kalo cultivation

Cultivating Kalo

Wikipedia on Kalo


How to build an Imu
Click for Maui Community College's illustrated step-by-step guide to using an imu for your kalua pig.