Monday, March 10, 2014

Aha'aina: A Royal Hawaiian Luau Celebration

Waikiki’s colourful history includes tales of island royalty, decadent feasts, and inspiring settings. Every Monday evening at The Royal Hawaiian — 'the Pink Palace of the Pacific' — the hotel pays homage to Helumoa, the legendary playground of Hawaiian royalty where the Royal Hawaiian Hotel now stands, with a modern interpretation of the traditional Hawaiian feast called Aha 'Aina: A Royal Celebration. Waikiki’s only oceanfront dinner show is a culinary and sensory celebration, commemorating Hawaiian culture and transforming the traditional island experience in grand occasion in true Royal Hawaiian style.

The Royal Hawaiian -'The Pink Lady of the Pacific' - from Kuhio Beach

A beautiful vase of fresh orchids sits beside the entrance to the Aha'aina luau

Sunset is the perfect time for a traditional Hawaiian luau on the shores of Oahu. Held on The Royal Hawaiian’s Ocean Lawn with a breathtaking backdrop of Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach, the luau begins with the presentation of leis, drinks and pupu — hors d'oeuvres — then moves to hula dancing and the extravagant dinner itself. As guests arrive, they're introduced to the spirit of traditional Hawaii with time-honoured activities such as kapa-making, which is cloth made of pounded bark, poi-pounding, and na lawai’a, tending of fishing tools. The night continues with the sound of a pu, or conch, calling guests to feast, where a storyteller shares the significance of lei giving, the ocean and taro, as guests dine on exquisite pupu. After dinner, the Helumoa story unfolds, a dramatic performance including hula and song which commemorates the ancient islanders’ rich history and culture with Hawaiian music and dance.

Kukui nut leis, worn by men and women as a symbol of love and respect for ancient hawaiian traditions, are handed out to guests as they arrive at the luau

As guests arrive, they're introduced to the spirit of traditional Hawaii with time-honoured activities such as kapa-making, which is cloth made of pounded bark

The scraped bark is soaked for a few days then pounded flat with an i’e kuku, or kappa beater. 
As the cloth is felted together, it widens and thins out

Natural dyes for the kappa cloth are made frommany plants and their many parts including leaves, flowers, sap, roots and bark, including Koa nuts and turmeric

Intricately carved wooden blocks are then used to stamp the cloth with colourful patterns

Charming and engaging, it was a treat to be able to chat with them on stage as they performed the traditional tasks of Hawaiian women — by the way, men used to do all the cooking! 

Fishermen traditionally used traps woven like baskets to catch smaller fish and shrimp

Poi, which is the Hawaiian starch made from taro root, is pounded into a paste 
with a conical poi pounder carved from grey lava

The night continues with the sound of a pu, or conch, calling guests to feast

The Aha‘aina menu starts with Poi with Lomi Lomi Salmon & Kalua Pig cooked in an imu, an earth oven and served with Island Cabbage followed by a Portuguese Bean Soup and Big Island Greens and Poke Salad, with Ahi, Tako and Shrimp, Edamame Beans, Ho Farm’s Colored Tomatoes and Wasabi Vinaigrette. The main Course features Sake Braised Short Ribs with Hamakua Oyster Mushrooms and Kona Lobster Tail with Twin Bridge Farm Scallion Potato Mash and Braised Sugarfarm Bok Choy. The finale, a Royal Hawaiian Signature Pink Haupia Cake with Toasted Coconut, Mango Guava and Liliko‘i Purée.

A Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai

The Blue Hawaiian

Poi with Lomi Lomi Salmon & Kalua Pork with Island Cabbage

Portuguese Bean Soup

Big Island Greens and Poke Salad with Ahi, Tako and Shrimp, Edamame, 
Ho Farm’s Tomatoes and Wasabi Vinaigrette

Sake Braised Short Ribs with Hamakua Oyster Mushrooms and Kona Lobster Tail with Twin Bridge Farm Scallion Potato Mash and Braised Sugarfarm Bok Choy

Pink Haupia Cake with Toasted Coconut, Mango Guava and Liliko‘i Purée

Tiki lights were lit around the ocean lawn of the Royal Hawaiian luau

Under starlit skies, Hula dancers with floral leis sway to Hawaiian music, 
making the evening an enchanting luau experience

A hula dancer with i’is, a traditional Hawaiian pompom

The ancient art of fire dancing began hundreds of years ago by the people of Polynesia

The oldest practice of fire dancing comes from Samoa and is rooted in the ancient Samoan ritual called “ailao,” and is a demonstration of a Samoan warrior’s battle prowess by twirling, throwing, catching and dancing with a war club while on fire


The Royal Hawaiian Pink Mai Tai
Serves 4

The Royal Hawaiian’s recipe emphasizes use of fresh-squeezed juices, top-shelf liqueurs and rum. It’s also colored pink from a maraschino cherry and vanilla puree—a nod to the hotel that serves it. 

4 oz silver rum
2 oz dark rum
2 oz Amaretto Di Sarronno
2 oz Cointreau
2 tsp Maraschino cherry and vanilla purée
4 oz fresh-squeezed orange juice
8 oz fresh-squeezed pineapple juice

1 lime, quartered
4 cocktail umbrellas
4 pineapple wedges
4 maraschino cherries
4 sprigs of fresh mint

Place all the ingredients except the dark rum in a 14 oz  rocks glass, filled with ice. Roll by pouring the contents back and forth into a martini shaker and then into the rocks glass until the cocktail is an even pink color. When done, add the dark rum in a circular motion, so that it floats on top of the ice. Garnish the cocktail with fresh lime, and a cocktail parasol skewered with a pineapple wedge, Maraschino cherry and sprig of fresh mint.

Maraschino Cherry & Vanilla Purée
Makes about 1 1/2 cups 

1 10 oz jar stemless maraschino cherries, juice included
1 tsp vanilla extract

Empty the jar of stemless Maraschino cherries and juice included plus a teaspoon of natural vanilla extract into a blender and process until smooth. Store in refrigerator.