Luau - appetizer ideas needed

Aloha! This year for our ranch party we are roasting a pig in a caja china. For the theme we’ve decided to bring Hawaii to central Washington and have a luau. We’ll be hosting 40 to 60 people for the event here on our ranch/farm. I am having trouble coming up with good ideas for the appetizers. I’ve thought about coconut shrimp, but I don’t want to spend a lot of time frying them (instead of being with our guests). Anybody have a good recipe for doing a grilled coconut shrimp?? We have a 6 burner gas grill that I could use to grill a lot of shrimp at once, and the grill is located in such a place that I could visit with people while grilling.

We like to offer about 3 different appetizers/finger foods before the main event. For the main event it is the roasted pig, fried rice, ginger carrots and grilled pineapple. For dessert we are doing a mango & papaya fruit tray, macadamia & white chocolate cookies and an assortment of my homemade chocolates. For drinks we’ll be offering an assortment… water, beer, sodas, wines, and a spin on a pina colada, made with sparkling wine. I’ll also need to come up with a tropical drink for the kids in the crowd.

Ideas? Thoughts? Suggestions?


A couple of my favorites are Poke and Lau Lau. You can make the both ahead of time and cook the Lau Lau right before you need it.

Well, anything on a stick is good for appetizers, particularly if you want to stay outside and socialize. Teriyaki Beef skewers would be easy enough and probably well received. Simply marinated strips of beef for a few hours, skewer and grill. I think the coconut shrimp on the grill idea has merit. I would play with a marinade of coconut milk, pineapple juice and then maybe something with a little heat. Skewer them on pieces of sugarcane and grill away. One other thought is to just use an extension cord to run a couple fryers on the deck. Shrimp cook quickly enough, so even with smaller fryers you could probably do a good bit quickly.

Poke might be a good choice, or you could play with this a bit and introduce some tropical flavors like pineapple or mango to a ceviche of sorts.

With this sort of thing , the pig is the star, so I would focus first on making sure you have the timing right (First time I cooked a whole pig everyone waited an extra 3 hours until it was done- good thing it was delicious!) and then worry about the rest. Thinking about this is making me jealous- it may be time to come up with a reason to cook a pig. Good Luck!

I actually cooked a pig in the caja china about 4 weeks ago. That part we’ve got nailed down fairly well. I had posted a thread on the “now-closed-board” about the experience, with photos of the whole thing. If you are on facebook, I can share the photos with you.

We’re trying to have the appetizers be fun, somewhat Hawaiian and appeal to a group that may not be the most adventurous on average. It’s always fun to cook for a large crowd of diverse tastes.

Kenneth has a good idea here. Coconut milk plus an acid (thinking more lime than pineapple, but your call) plus spice (Sriracha, cayenne, Tabasco, etc.) plus chopped chives, ginger or scallions. Either sugarcane or rosemary sprigs as skewers. Should be awesome.

Hmm, 3 to 5 hours cook time? I’m used to the old way, pit in the ground, two day affair. Now they’ve gone and made it easy.

Both the shrimp and teriyaki or marinated beef are good choices for appetizers. You can also do some skewers with cubed chicken breast in teriyaki or another type of marinage. That will cover all the basic meats.

For the kids its a no-brainer: Hawaiian Punch. You can float some fruit in a bowl full of it or just get 12 ounce cans.

Becca, do you have any access to or plan on a Hawaiian Dance troop? We have several schools of Hawaiian Dance in our area and they have always put on a stellar show.

Jorge is probably right that lime or lemon/lime would work well here, maybe a combination with pineapple, but something acidic or tart to balance. Teriyaki is definitely part of the culture, hence the suggestion. Also, cracked crab claws would be easy enough and they normally go over very well. Maybe make an aioli with a tropical twist to serve with.

I don’t do Facebook, but if you want to upload and attach a picture, I would love to see it. Somehow I missed your thread on the “other” board.

Hawaiian Punch is also a really good suggestion, but I would make it myself and add a bit of rum and curacao for the adults. Pineapple, orange, and lime juice with a bit of grenadine will be much better than stuff from a can. Cut it with a bit of seltzer if too sweet.

A taste of Maui…
(This is the secret teryiaki beef recipe only known by a few)

5 pounds beef short ribs
3/4 cup shoyu (soy sauce)
1/3 cup dark sesame oil
1/4 cup white sugar
3 green onions, chopped (Maui onions, of course)
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh ginger root

Soak ribs in sealed vessel for 3 days (2 days if short on time)

Crank up the BBQ and grill until how you like em I like em medium so not too long

Combine this with one of the best deserts ever.

Carmalized pineapple topped with Coconut sorbet

4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 whole maui gold pineapple
Coconut Sorbet or ice cream

  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sugar and cook, stirring, for 1 minute (the butter and sugar will remain separated).
  2. Add the pineapple and cook, swirling the pan, until the pineapple is tender and the sauce is smooth, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Serve the pineapple with the sorbet and drizzle with the sauce.

Thanks, Tracy, for the recipes. I did look up some coconut ice cream recipes yesterday. The beef dish sounds really good too.

I also found a recipe for grilled coconut shrimp. The marinade is coconut milk, lime juice, soy sauce, ginger, and brown sugar. I think I’ll do a test drive of this recipe to see how the flavor infuses the shrimp.

I need to find a vegetable driven appetizer for balance. More research for me!

Going to the Old Lahaina Luau tonite as part of my son’s wedding week festivities,I will take notes.Big brush fire going on right now that may throw a monkey wrench into some of the activities though.

You won’t regret the Azeka style shortribs that Tracy has recommended. This was the mainstay at the old Azeka market in Kehei for a long time. Do they still retail them out of the old walkup window?

Unfortunately they closed the Azeka Market about 3 years ago. But I know the Azeka family… : ) so the ribs live on…