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Hawaiian Food Authentic wai‘i Ha i u sine C Enjoying distinctive Hawaiian dishes is an integral part of experiencing the traditions and cultures of The Aloha State ~ By Tiffany Hill David Galeai starts each workday at 6 a.m. at the Polynesian Cultural Center, a living museum in Lāʻie in northeast Oʻahu. For the past 16 years, he has been cooking kālua pig in a traditional imu, or underground earth oven, for each of the PCC’s lūʻau events. The term imu also refers to the food cooked in this style. “I have cooked imu my whole life,” Galeai says. “I like the peace and quiet in the mornings here. It makes me feel like I’m living a traditional life.” It’s a windy Friday morning, and Galeai, a muscu- lar man, originally from American Samoa, has already gathered ironwood and stacked softball-size river rocks in a tidy pyramid inside the 6-foot-by-4- foot imu. He stokes the fire with a piece of card- board; it takes roughly two hours to heat the rocks. When they’re white hot, Galeai hikes up his black lavalava—the traditional cloth he wears around his waist—and deftly removes the charcoaled wood. Using tongs he has made from a banana stalk, he levels the rocks, and then layers banana leaves, chopped banana stalks, and—lastly—a metal grate, Kālua pork, prepared according to tradition in an underground oven, is a mainstay of lūʻau events at the Polynesian Cultural Center, on O‘ahu. Hawai‘i boasts this and many other specialty dishes, served in lūʻau spreads (inset) and in casual meals. one of the only modern components, in the imu. “The leaves create the steam,” he says. “It’s like making a bed for the pig.” Galeai then ducks into the kitchen and returns with 100 pounds of pork, seasoned simply with sea salt. He swiftly puts the pig on the grate and covers it with banana leaves and burlap sacks. Then he lets it cook—for six hours. When Polynesians first navigated to Hawaiʻi, they brought with them pua‘a (pig), kalo (the starchy plant 152 Alaska beyond Magazine May 2016 AAM 05.16 Hawaii Food.indd 152 4/19/16 11:01 AM