Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say
on this bright Hawaiian Christmas Day
I have a special place in my heart for Hawaii. My family went on vacation to Maui when I was ten and I was forever changed by the food and culture. I went from a fairly picky eater to a girl ordering calamari that wasn’t even fried at Longhi’s in Lahaina watching the best sunset of my life and The Rose Table was born right then and there. My childhood bathroom was (and still is; my parents still live in that house) Hawaiian themed.
I was going to go to Hawaii this winter for my birthday but 2020 had other plans so instead I decided to add to my Vacation at Home series and host a little Mele Kalikimaka Dinner for me and my mom. It seems only fair to cook a Hawaiian feast for her since she took me to Hawaii and kicked off my island obsession!
I have a special place in my heart for the phrase Mele Kalikimaka (Merry Christmas). My whole family calls me Mel but my Grandpa Keith called me Melly. He often came to visit us in Texas at Christmastime and would call me Melly Kalikimaka. We lost him when I was seventeen years old and I’ve been to known to choke up on more than one occasion in public when the charming Bing Crosby song comes on. So I would like to dedicate this article to my beloved Grandpa Keith, whom I miss so much. GK, this is for you!
Christmas in Hawaii means a lot of poinsettias, pineapples, and Christmas trees. I set my Hawaiian Christmas table with raffia placemats (seen first at Disney Dinners: Moana if you want more Hawaiian recipes!) and Christmas red napkins tied with tropical flower napkin rings. I arranged faux banana leaves as a sort of runner down the center of the table with two small poinsettias (one speckled red and one a light green) and a pineapple as the centerpiece. I hung a lei on my chalkboard and wrote Mele Kalikimaka on it. I also had a small tabletop Christmas tree in the corner decorated with lights and candy canes to add some Christmas cheer to the dining room.
I told my mom to dress as she would for Christmas dinner on vacation in Hawaii. She wore a beautiful red dress, her Hawaiian pearls, and maile leaf necklace that her dad (my Grandpa Keith) got for her in Hawaii. I wore a blue sundress made in Hawaii, cream espadrilles, and a red flower hairpiece from ThaisFlowers. (I’m obsessed with these hand-painted hair flowers.) I had leis for each of us to really make the evening feel festive.
Now get ready for the fun part, because this is one of the easiest make-ahead menus I’ve ever featured in a party article on The Rose Table! I did a ton of research on Hawaiian Christmas food and it’s all ridiculously easy to make.
Who doesn’t love a good crockpot recipe? This recipe is just three ingredients: pork, liquid smoke, and Hawaiian sea salt. I also tossed a banana in the crockpot after reading several recommendations from Hawaiians to recreate the banana leaf flavor. I served the pork on one plate with fluffy rice, juicy pineapple wedges, and lomi lomi salmon. Get the recipe here.
Lomi Lomi Salmon
This is fun to make, fun to eat, and fun to say! This four-ingredient side dish is a real show stopper. Mom and I had seconds and thirds! (Hey, it’s Christmas!) This is a Hawaiian version of gravlax: cured salmon that you “lomi” or massage with tomatoes, sweet onion, and green onion. It’s so simple and SO tasty. Plus, it’s another make-ahead dish! Get the recipe here.
Hi, hello, #1 haupia fan here. This dish had me positively swooning. This four-ingredient coconut pudding is the perfect amount of sweet and creamy. One square just isn’t enough. I could eat the whole pan by myself to be perfectly honest. Learn how to make my new dessert obsession here.
In case you didn’t notice: all of these recipes are make-ahead. I literally shredded pork and cooked rice when my mom came over. I absolutely love easy entertaining and it really doesn’t get easier than this. I can see why Hawaiians make these recipes on Christmas!
I was going to make poke as an appetizer, because I make poke all the time and it’s apparently served on Christmas in Hawaii, but I decided that this was plenty of food for two people. If you want to make poke you can get my Ahi Tuna Poke recipe here and my Salmon Pineapple Poke recipe here.
To drink, I drilled holes in coconuts (if you follow me on Instagram, you know I drink coconuts all summer long), and used festive Christmas straws. If you want a themed cocktail, my Hawaiian Mai Tai recipe is perfect for this!
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