Easy “Squid” Lū‘au
Ken W. Ordenstein
1 package cooked and frozen lū‘au leaf
1 to 2 cans coconut milk
¼ cup reserved liquid from the cooked octopus
Clean and simmer two octopus until tender (about 1½ hours). Be sure to remove the beak from the octopus. Do not add water or salt to the pot. When done, remove octopus from the pot and set aside to cool. Reserve ¼ cup of liquid from the pot.
Thaw then drain up to a ½ cup water from a package of commercially cooked and frozen lū‘au leaf. Slowly heat the cooked lū‘au leaf according to package directions, substituting a can of coconut milk for the liquid (usually chicken stock) called for in the directions.
When the octopus is cool enough to handle, chop them into bite-sized pieces and add them to the lū‘au along with the reserved liquid. Adjust the seasoning; salt, sugar, coconut milk, to taste. I like to add about a tablespoon of brown sugar and a teaspoon of salt.
Thicken if you like with a cornstarch slurry.
Of course you can clean, rinse, and cook your own lū‘au leaf if you know how. Otherwise use the frozen lū‘au in your grocer's freezer case. If I’m feeling particularly ambitious I’ll reduce by at least ½ to ⅓ two cans of coconut milk and use it in place of an unreduced can and the brown sugar. Yummy.
He‘e is the Hawaiian word for octopus. Traditionally, there were several types of he‘e identified in Hawai‘i, including he‘e mākoko, a variety of large red octopus that was bitter to the taste but sometimes used for medicine. He‘e pūloa was a long-headed, long-tentacled variety that took much pounding before it was tender enough to eat. The word he‘e has many definitions, including to slide, surf, slip, or flee (Pukui, Hawaiian Dictionary, 63). It is this meaning of he‘e that we see in the word wahahe‘e, or liar—literally one who has a “slippery mouth.”
“My neighbor Mel and I have a symbiotic relationship when it comes to lū‘au he‘e. He catches, I cook, we eat. Enjoy!”