Let’s head to Hawaii, the most enchanting archipelago of the Pacific Ocean, for a delicious dessert called haupia, a dessert typical of the Hawaiian culinary tradition, prepared mainly with coconut milk and therefore vegan, gluten-free and lactose-free.
Hawaii is an archipelago located in the Pacific Ocean, and it is one of the most isolated islands in the world. It is a US territory, which is separated by about 2500 miles of salt water, and which brings together 137 beautiful islands. Geographically within the Oceania continent, these tropical islands are nicknamed “the state of Aloha”. The word Aloha, in Hawaiian, means much more than just hello: it contains the concepts of peace, love, sharing and joy.
What is haupia?
Haupia is a traditional Hawaiian dessert made from coconut milk.
It has been popular since the early 1940s as a white topping for many cakes, especially wedding cakes. Although haupia is technically considered a pudding, its consistency is very similar to jelly and is more commonly served in blocks like jelly.
How to make haupia
The original Hawaiian recipe for haupia required that the heated coconut milk be mixed with ground pia, a Polynesian root producing food starch (tacca leontopetaloides) also called Tahiti arrowroot, until the mixture thickened. Because of the rarity of this root and its cost, cornstarch was substituted for it. Moreover, in Polynesia, the culture of the pia was quickly replaced by that of cassava. This root is also grown in Malaysia.
In the typical modern recipe, coconut milk, sugar and salt are mixed with cornstarch and heated to thicken and obtain a smooth pudding consistency. The mixture is poured into a rectangular dish and refrigerated. Haupia is traditionally cut into small blocks and served on ti leaves, or failing that, banana leaves or coconut husks. The haupia is sometimes served in small cups.
What are ti leaves?
The ti leaf, native to Asia and Oceania, is culturally important in Hawaii. Also called ki, ti-plant, or auti, it has protective powers in local beliefs.
In Hawaii, it is also known as Hawaiian spinach and cordyline on the island of Reunion. While in Guadeloupe and Martinique, it is called roseau des Indes or foulard. It is a plant that is exclusively decorative.
The haupia also serves as a topping and to decorate many cakes such as the delicious haupia chocolate pie: the haupia is placed on the chocolate then whipped cream is added on top.
Tradition and history of luau
Haupia is the quintessential tradition of the luau festival (lū’au in Hawaiian), a traditional Hawaiian feast. Anyone who decides to visit Hawaii will have the chance to participate in this typical Hawaiian celebration.
A luau is a very characteristic festival, punctuated by entertaining shows and abundant portions of traditional dishes.
Colors, joy, Polynesian folklore, hospitality, engagement and sumptuous banquets are what a luau is all about.
Hula dancers in their colorful costumes, music, drinks and traditional dishes such as kalua pie, pork cooked in the sand. The mix of these elements creates a perfect union that reflects the spirit of Hawaii.
In ancient Hawaii, religious motives prevented women from eating with men. In addition, some rare dishes, or dishes served on special occasions, were forbidden.
In 1819, King Kamehameha II put an end to these religious prohibitions, and started to eat with women at a feast. It is precisely at this time that luau was born. During this feast, everyone ate on the floor on mats and the food was placed on long taro leaves.
The most popular dish, made from taro and roasted chicken with coconut milk was called luau and it is this name that was given to this feast.
A luau is organized for all special occasions. Today in Hawaii, the concepts of luau and party have merged. There is, for example, the birthday luau, the wedding luau, and there is even the graduation luau. All occasions are good for partying!
The typical dishes of a luau include:
– Poi: a taro plant root that is ground to form a starch that can be eaten with any food.
– Kalua pig: pork prepared in an imu, an oven buried in the sand.
– Chicken long rice: a Chinese dish that is a kind of transparent noodle soup (long rice, also called cellophane noodle) with chicken and ginger.
– Lomi-lomi salmon: a dish that consists of salmon, tomatoes, onions and crushed ice.
– Huli huli chicken: chicken cooked on the grill and seasoned with sweet huli-huli sauce made with soy sauce, cane sugar, ginger and fruits.
– Poké: the term literally means “cut diagonally”. Often, the dish consists of raw fish served with a variety of condiments, such as soy sauce, green onion, kukui nut (walnuts) and limu (seaweed). However, the dish is not exclusively fish-based, and there are other variants.
– And there will never be a luau without haupia and without firi-firi.
Plus, as we know, Hawaiian cuisine is varied and rich. It is a kind of hybrid that is the result of the encounter between dishes from different countries. Over the centuries the Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, Koreans and Polynesians have arrived on the Hawaiian Islands. All these immigrants brought their respective culinary traditions, to which were later added the influences of the Western world.
By participating in a Luau, you can also enjoy dishes such as sushi, chicken teriyaki, bulalo, chicken adobo, or hot and sour soup.
The luaus are organized in all major Hawaiian islands and they often take place on the beach at sunset.
The haupia is a delicious dessert. So let’s fly to Hawaii?
- 2 cups thick coconut milk
- ½ cup cornstarch
- 1 pinch salt
- 5 tablespoons caster sugar
- ¾ cup water
- Square pan (8 inches / 20 cm)
- Pour the coconut milk into a saucepan and heat on medium heat.
- Meanwhile, mix the sugar and cornstarch in a bowl and add the water. Whisk until everything is smooth and homogenous.
- When the coconut milk starts to simmer, add the mixture from the bowl.
- On low-medium heat, continue to whisk until the mixture thickens and begins to appear slightly translucent. It should take about 10 minutes.
Pour the mixture into an 8-inch (20 cm) square pan.
- Allow to cool before refrigerating for at least 4 hours, or until obtaining a semi-solid consistency.
Cut the haupia into squares of about 2 inches (5 cm) and serve.