While Hawai'i is well-known as a melting pot comprised of a multitude of cultures, the origins of Polynesian cuisine will always take precedence, especially within the Kila Ohana. While traditional dishes have made their way throughout the islands, each family brings a slightly different spin to their Lau Lau and pipikaula, and Papa Laulauz delivers all the flavors we love to experience.
The Lau Lau originated in Polynesia and is comprised of a taro leaf, ti leaf, or both that surround such ingredients as pork, butterfish, and sometimes even beef or chicken. The leaf is folded and wrapped tightly and customarily placed in an underground oven known as an imu, with hot rocks allocated on top and cooked for several hours until tender. In current times, most Lau Lau prepared on island are steamed in large pots for hours and served with a side of poi, rice, and/or macaroni or potato salad.
While everyone seasons their ingredients to their preference, we found Papa Laulauz to be a balanced combination of savory and salty. The stand-out item of their Lau Lau is by far the tender pork inside. Shreddable, yet firm in texture and potent in flavor is not easily achievable, yet Papa Laulauz was able to finesse their cooking techniques to bring you the complete package. The freshness of the Lau Lau stood out to us, so when I inquired as to the preparation, the Kila Ohana explained that each Lau Lau is prepped, wrapped, cooked for 8 hours, and served that day. The way in which the rendered fat of the pork seasoned the taro leaf brought an inhalable essence the second we unwrapped the Lau Lau. Within seconds of cutting open the Lau Lau, it is evident that each bite is packed full of meat, so much so, that we were able to split one plate lunch and even share some of their tasty pipikaula.
While pipikaula is thought to have emerged from the paniolos(Hawaiian cowboys) of the 1800s, its fusion of both Japanese and Chinese seasonings has made way for a tasty, meaty treat here in the islands of Hawai'i. The beef, which can be a variety of flank steak or bone-in short ribs, is marinated at least overnight, in a sauce which can be formulated with flavors such as shoyu and soy. It is traditionally baked in the sun for hours in order to achieve a dried, chewy texture, and then heated before serving. Some pipikaula is pan-fried, while others prefer to broil or deep-fry their marinated steak.
Papa Laulauz's version of pipikaula was placed inside their plate lunch with their Lau Lau and added another dimension of flavor to this local meal. While they also follow the traditional overnight marinade, they ensure their sunkissed meat spends 8-10 hours drying to perfection. The meat was given a quick fry, which allows all of the sauces, oils, and fats to combine in a way that makes the outside crispy, slightly sweet, yet hearty, chewy, and full of flavor throughout the entire bite. Their side of potato salad with bits of black olive adds an outstanding mayonnaise-based side dish that only enhances the sweet, salty, creamy, and chewy textures of their plate lunch.
Papa Laulauz is a true family operation in every sense of the word. They originally started selling their Lau Lau to help fund their son's college on the mainland. Word of mouth regarding their ono products spread quickly and they were in high demand throughout the island. They employed the entire family to assist with their operation. While the father, Stephen Kila Jr, uses his kitchen skills to not only feed the masses, his deeper inspiration came in assisting with his recovery and providing for his family's future. Heide spreads so much aloha in her daily updates on Instagram while their two sons Darius and Kory, and their daughter Jordyn, and nephew Austin Mahiai all assist with preparations. Even Heide's mother Leslie is helping out with the family business. Maybe it's the love inside of each bite, not to mention the attention to detail and fresh ingredients, but this family embodies the perfect combination of aloha, family, and food.
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