No matter which way you look at it, a Hawaiian luau (pronounced ‘lou-oww’) is not even remotely vegan. Basically, it’s a feast centered around a whole pig in a BBQ pit. What could possibly be vegan about that? Ugh – no thanks!
It is pretty impossible to create an exact replica of luau that is vegan, especially in the middle of a freezing Melbourne winter. I was obviously not prepared to BBQ a pig, and the taro root needed to make an Hawaiian Poi is incredibly difficult to find in Australia.
But it’s amazing what you can do with a little imagination. It’s possible to create the same feel and atmosphere of a traditional luau without using animals at all, and even one that completely outdoes the non-vegan alternative on the food front.
My little Malia’s 1st birthday luau
To say I love Hawaii is an understatement. I have travelled there extensively – so much so it feels like home and I miss it every day. While I have no Hawaiian heritage myself, one thing I decided to do was take on the Hawaiian tradition of having a luau for my children’s first birthday parties.
My first daughter, Leilani, had her vegan luau two years ago and it was Malia’s turn at the weekend. (I cannot believe my baby is already a whole year old!) She had a wonderful day and the vegan luau theme was much enjoyed by all of the guests. Here’s how it’s done the vegan way (in winter!):
Get some leis at the ready
Firstly, I moved it indoors to escape the non-Hawaiian like frost outside. Then it was time to decorate the room with Hawaiian-themed balloons and give everyone leis to wear. On the day, I dressed my daughters in pretty little fairy costumes with lots of hibiscus flowers on them. Using costumes and props like leis and hibiscus-shaped plates really added to the atmosphere!
Add some Hawaiian party food
The food was mostly snacks, and all snacks shared the same Hawaiian or tropical theme. I served a lot of the food on special hibiscus-shaped platters.
There was a fruit platter that comprised of a range of tropical fruits, such as pineapple, passionfruit, and kiwi. (I would have loved to have had mango in there but it is not available at the moment so I used orange instead.) As avocado is also a tropical fruit, I made an avocado dip and served it with crackers and raw veggies.
Other Hawaiian favourites include salted macadamia nuts, coconut and passionfruit cupcakes, date and coconut rolls, potato chips, and pineapple and mango fruit bites. To match the colour of the hibiscus flowers, I made fairy bread using Nuttelex margarine and yellow sprinkles. I also got some vegan party pies from La Panella bakery for a little bit of substance.
The main thing to remember is to improvise. Choose foods that have some Hawaiian flavours or association to complement regular Western party foods like party pies and potato chips. Be creative, and everyone will enjoy getting into the party spirit!
And, of course, make a cake!
For Malia’s birthday cake, I made a volcano cake. This was literally a three-tiered chocolate cake iced in chocolate icing and decorated with palm trees. I also dyed some vegan white chocolate to an orange colour to use for lava. It was super easy because it didn’t need to be perfect – in fact, rough around the edges makes for a more volcanic effect!
Your vegan luau made simple
Themed parties can be such fun, and it’s great to celebrate in traditional ways. The good thing is that you don’t have to miss out just because you’re vegan! All it takes to veganise anything – even something traditionally non-vegan – is a little creativity and a clear vision.
So start planning your party now because a successful cruelty-free luau is possible indeed. Aloha!