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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