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Challenge 2 - Luau Theme Cocktail Party
Posted by Lori Ross - Viewed 21187 times

Dear Lori,

Please suggest a menu for a luau themed cocktail party on board.

Best regards,

Gale and Evelyn Alls

Springfield, VA


Luau Themed Cocktail Party

Dear Gale and Evelyn Alls,

One of the first fancy restaurants I ever went to with my parents was Trader Vic’s in New York City.  It was my first taste of Polynesian food – rumaki, sweet and sour shrimp and teriyaki chicken. Since then, I’ve been hooked on luau and tiki food! I’ve made some of these dishes at home with great success and want to share an easy menu of recipes for a Hawaiian Luau cocktail party! 

First, you may want to pick out signature drinks…Mai Tais are classic or make a fruity punch with papaya, mango or pineapple juice (or all three!).  If you are really ambitious, go to party store and find some leis, hula skirts, cocktail umbrellas and fancy skewers and toothpicks in addition to funky drink glasses and cocktail plates and napkins!  Also look for some appropriate Hawaiian music to load on your boat music player…slack-key guitar or Polynesian chanting or some easy listening style Hawaiian fusion from Don Ho are fun choices.

While we have a microwave, stove top, oven and grill on our boat, we know that not everyone has all those tools, so I offer several ways to cook each dish so that anyone can make these.  I have also chosen to offer three cold and two hot dishes so that you don’t spend all your time cooking.  Each dish should make 20 or so hors d’oeuvres servings. Estimate about 4-5 items per person for a cocktail party. They are:


1) Poke (cubed raw fish salad)

2) Trader Vic’s Chicken Salad in Lettuce Cups or Tostitos Scoops Tortilla Chips

3) Teriyaki Beef or Pork Skewers

4) Rumaki

5) Tropical Fruit Boat or Skewers with Spicy Sugar, Salt and Lime Dip



Poke (cubed raw fish salad)

A popular Hawaiian dish, poke is a cubed raw fish salad.  Serve and eat the day you make it.

1 -2 pounds fresh sushi grade tuna or salmon, chopped into ½ inch cubes
1 medium tomato, chopped
1⁄2 cup sweet onion, finely chopped
1 tsp sesame oil
1⁄2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 tbsp soy sauce

Place in a large bowl and gently toss with tomatoes, onions, oil, and red pepper. Add soy sauce. Chill until serving and spoon onto endive spears or invite guests to scoop poke with taco chips or taro chips if you can find them. If you don’t like raw fish, use smoked salmon to make the salad and reduce the soy sauce to taste (smoked salmon can be salty).

Trader Vic’s Chicken Salad in Lettuce Cups or Tostitos Scoops Tortilla Chips

Inspired by the classic Polynesian-American restaurant this salad is easy to make and always refreshing. The salad is mild with a sweet curry flavor and needs a piece of crunchy lettuce, endive spear and the Chinese noodles to make it sing.  Alternatively, you may simply spoon it into Tostitos scoops without the Chinese noodles for an easy presentation.  If you like more spice, add wasabi paste or hot sauce to taste or buy Hot Mango Chutney instead of regular or sweet.

1 ½ cup canned pineapple tidbits
4 to 5 cups diced cooked chicken
1 cup diced water chestnuts
1 cup diced celery
1/3 to ½ cup chopped red onion or scallions
½ cup slivered almonds or other nuts (macadamia nuts or walnuts are nice)
About 1 to 1 ½ cups Chinese noodles
Iceberg lettuce leaves or Tostitos Scoops for serving


¾ cup sour cream
¾ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup Major Grey's or other chutney
1 tsp curry powder
About ¾ to 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper

Drain pineapple and reserve a couple tablespoons juice. Combine pineapple with chicken, water chestnuts, celery, green onions and almonds.

Stir together sour cream, mayonnaise, chutney, curry powder and salt. You may add a little pineapple juice to thin dressing if too thick). Stir dressing into salad at least 1 hour before serving and refrigerate to blend flavors.

When ready to serve, place a tablespoon of this lovely chicken salad on lettuce cups and sprinkle additional green onions and Chinese noodles over salad or spoon into Tostitos scoops. Place on a platter and serve.

Teriyaki Beef or Pork Skewers

Classic luau fare, teriyaki beef or pork is always popular with guests. if you'd rather have shrimp or chicken, reduce marinating time to 2-3 hours and cook shrimp for 2-3 minutes maximum.  Chicken may be cooked the full 7-8 minutes.

2 pounds of beef or pork tenderloin cut into 3/4 inch cubes
3/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 rice wine vinegar or (other mild vinegar such as apple cider vinegar or white vinegar diluted with some water so it is less acidic)
1/2 cup oil
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 pineapple or 3 mangoes cut into 3/4 inch cubes

Mix sauces, vinegar, oil and ginger and add cubed beef or pork marinade overnight in refrigerator.  When you are ready to cook, alternate  2 pieces of meat and 1-2 pieces of fruit on skewers.  Grill or broil on high for 7-8 minutes, turning once. Serve immediately and invite guests to eat right off the stick.

If you do not have a grill or broiler, cook sates at home on your grill and simply reheat several sates at a time in the microwave for 1 minute or so.



Classic rumaki is made with chicken livers and water chestnut, but if you don’t like liver or water chestnuts, then feel free to use shrimp, scallops or pitted dates…or a mixture of all three!  All are equally delicious wrapped in bacon!

12 slices raw bacon, cut in half crosswise
24 canned water chestnuts, drained
12 chicken livers, pitted dates or large shrimp cut in half lengthwise
Soy sauce
4 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
4 tbsp brown sugar

Place 1 water chestnut in the middle of each piece of bacon, then top chestnut with half a chicken liver. Place a drop of soy sauce, a pinch of ginger, and a sprinkle of brown sugar on top of each liver. Wrap bacon around water chestnuts and livers and secure with a plain toothpick. Place under broiler or on grill for 4-5 minutes or until bacon is crispy.  Alternatively, you may cook these at home and reheat in microwave until warm.

Tropical Fruit Boat or Skewers with Spicy Sugar, Salt and Lime Dip

Find as many exotic fruits as possible for this dish in lots of pretty colors and offer with this exotic salty-spicy-sweet dip!

1 whole pineapple
Spicy Sugar, Salt and Lime Dip
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sugar in the raw or light brown sugar
1 tsp lime zest
1 tbsp salt
1/2 fresh hot chile pepper minced

Prepare pineapple boat by cutting pineapple in half, lengthwise, leaving the crown attached.  Cut close to the shell with a curved knife or thin, sharp knife.  Remove the fruit. Cut out the center core. Cut the pineapple and other fruit into bite-size pieces that can be speared with a toothpick.  Mix all the ingredients together and serve in the shell. 

For Dip: Mix ingredients together and store in airtight container for a day or so (if you make it in advance).  Place in small serving bowl with a spoon. Use decorated toothpicks to spear fruit and encourage guests to dip fruit in the sweet/salty dip.

If you don’t feel like making a pineapple boat, simply alternate 4 pieces of fruit on a skewer. Invite guests to dip the fruit into a little lime salt mixture they place on their plate.  If you don't like the salt mixture, serve fruit plain or with a little canned coconut cream (e.g. Goya brand).

To enhance the variety of items at your party, consider some of these “instant” luau hors d’oeuvres:

  •   Macadamia nuts and chunks of fresh coconut in a pretty bowl
  •  Mini skewers of cubed Spam (or ham), cubed pineapple and maraschino cherries
  •   Bake frozen eggrolls or spring rolls and serve with duck sauce
  •  Reheat cooked breaded chicken tenders and or cooked chicken wings (not buffalo wings) serve with dip of plum sauce or Thai chili sauce
  • Grill already cooked baby back ribs and season with soy sauce and lime juice.
  • Heat already cooked cocktail meatballs in a jar of Chinese sweet and sour sauce in a microwave. Serve in a covered pot to keep warm and ask guests to spear meatballs with small skewers or toothpicks.
  •  Make Hawaiian pizza with prepared Boboli or flatbread topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, ham and pineapple chunks, green or jalapeno peppers. Pop into the oven or on the grill for 5-8 minutes and cut into cocktail sized pieces. 


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