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Well I’ll be a son-of-a-laulau, I just tasted THE BEST SQUID LUAU EVER, and you know what? It’s NOT Squid Luau nor is it Hawaiian. Nope. It’s Filipino! Seriously, I’m not lying, this is THE BEST, where speaking of puns, it so happens to be called Laing, pronounced “Lah-ing”, which is essentially the Filipino version of Hawaiian Squid Luau. Ever heard of Laing before? You have? Ah, you bull liar, no lie!

Well I’ve certainly never heard of Laing until now, nor did I know Filipinos used Taro leaves in their cooking. However I’m not surprised, being they are a part of the South Pacific group of islands.

Diner C walked into the office the other morning announcing, “hey guys, I brought Laing for lunch.” “La – la…. what?”, I immediately asked. To which she went on to explain how it’s made, that turned out being quite intriguing, as its rather unorthodox in comparison to the Hawaiian method.

Most notable of all being how the oxalic acid which causes that itch in your mouth from the taro leaves is removed with the “Filipino method”. Whereas the Hawaiian method is to remove all the veins from the back of the leaves and/or boiling it for a long period of time, she says the way they did in in the Philippines is by simply setting the leaves out to dry in the sun for about 5 hours, where they end up looking like this…

Luau Leaves, sun-dried for 5 hours

She also prepared some of the leaves in the oven by “sweating” them on low heat, about 220 degrees F for about 30 minutes, which she says “sweats” out the oxalic acid that makes your mouth itch. And you know what? Apparently it works, as my mouth did not itch not one bit. Amazing!

Not only is the method to prepare the taro leaves unorthodox, but so are the extended list of ingredients in Laing, compared to Hawaiian Squid Luau, which really is Tako Luau, however we’ll save that argument for another day. Those extended ingredients include Bagoong (Filipino Fermented Fish Paste), pork belly (for added flavor, although not necessary if you don’t eat pork), ginger, garlic and chili peppers. The tako of course came from Da’ Makule Kalihi Tako Hunter, Diner E.

While we’re making comparisons, it also must be pointed out that Laing shouldn’t be too mushy or soupy like Squid Luau, but the leaves should still have “body” and chew to it. She did this by tearing the Luau leaves in half down the center; no smaller than that, and also limiting the cooking time, doing it on a higher heat and leaving the pot uncovered so that the coconut milk reduces and thickens.

Laing recipe next!


Laing (the Filipino version of Squid Luau)
by Diner C
Serving Size: family

• 1 five pound bag fresh luau leaves (Tamura’s and Tamashiro Market on Oahu stay get ’em), stalks cut off
• Tako, 1 or 2 (depending on size, and how “tako’ee” you want your Laing) fresh or frozen, thawed, cleaned, deslimed and rinsed thoroughly (don’t cut it up until later)
• 1 tray pork belly (about 3/4 lbs), cut into bite-size pieces.
• Bagoong (Filipino fermented shrimp paste; the PINK one; Kamayan brand is recommended), 1 heaping tablespoon
• 1/2 cup sake
•  Water, enough to cover pork belly in pot
• 1 can Mae Ploy Coconut Milk
• 3 cans Hawaiian Sun Coconut Milk
• Ginger, 1 large finger, peeled and cut into thin strips
• Garlic, 3 large cloves, peeled and chopped
• Hawaiian Chili Pepper, more or less, up to you how spicy hot you want it, split in half

1. Prepare the Luau (Taro) leaves by cutting the stalks off and tearing the leaves in half by hand (no smaller than half-leaf sizes). Peel the skin off the taro leaf stalks with a paring knife or peeler and cut into bite size sections. Set the Taro leaves and stalks on a sheet pan out in the sun for about 5 hours, or until they look sweated out and semi-dry, but not brittle. You can also do it the faster way in your oven at 200 degrees F for about 30 minutes. Set Taro leaves aside.
2. In a covered stew pot over medium to medium-high heat, cook the whole Tako in the sake and water that gets naturally released from the Tako meat until it’s fully cooked and tender (remove and bite-check a piece). Approximately 45 minutes. Remove from pot, cut into bite-size pieces and set aside.
3. Clean stew pot, then put back on fire, add the pork belly and enough water to cover, bring to boil and cook until tender and all the water evaporates, then brown it, remove, cut into bite-size pieces and set aside.
4. Add the ginger, garlic and sautee until the ginger and garlic’s aromatics are released, then add bagoong and sautee with ginger and garlic until just heated through. If necessary, add a small amount of cooking oil at this stage so it doesn’t stick.
5. Add Mae Ploy Coconut Milk and Hawaiian Sun Coconut Milk to stew pot with the ginger, garlic and bagoong and bring to boil, then bring down to medium. Then add the prepared luau leaves  and simmer in pot uncovered until Luau leaves are soft and tender, but not broken down too much, and the coconut milk has reduced and thickened. Approximately 45 minutes. Halfway through the cooking time, add the Chili Peppers.
6. Add cooked Tako towards the end of the cooking time, about 10 minutes prior to final doneness. Stir thoroughly to combine and serve.


Laing (second helpings!)

And? INCREDIBLY DELICIOUS! I could not believe how good this thing called Laing is. It truly is Squid Luau, epitomized. And it’s not trying to be, it just IS.

First of all, as noted earlier, what sets this apart from Hawaiian Squid Luau is the addition of bagoong, pork belly, ginger, garlic and chili peppers thrown into the mix. “Traditional” Hawaiian Squid Luau is totally “plain jane” compared to that.

While the way the Luau leaves are prepared the Filipino way, where it retains most of its natural “Polynesian” flavor, along with the type of coconut milk used that gives it a thick, rich and creamy “coconutty”, wonderfully exotic feel and taste on the palate. Then you have the generous pieces of tako meat, complimented by smaller bits of pork butt, the contrast of that “surf ‘n turf” combination almost made the Tako taste like clams, which I LOVE! The sum of all those parts really kicks this Laing up notches unknown to Imelda Marcos’ incredible shoe collection. Dahil Sa Iyo in a bowl, baby!

Seriously folks, I grew up eating at a lot of family luaus serving incredible Hawaiian food, yet this just blows any Squid Luau I’ve ever tasted. I really was skeptical at first when Diner C told me what was in it. Yet once that first spoonful hit my mouth, I was like “WHOAAHHHH, WOW!!! OMG!!!! I seriously could have whacked the entire batch she brought, it was THAT masarap-sarap!

Remember Diner C pointed out that Laing should have body to it, not be all soupy and mushy like how most Squid Luau are. Here’s what I mean by that…

That’s exactly how the finished consistency of the Laing should look. Notice how the leaves have lots of body and integrity, while it also had pretty good “chew” to it, being I would say semi-mushy in a GREAT way.

Summing it up, if you’re a Squid Luau fan, you will be BLOWN AWAY when you taste this Laing. By all means make this recipe and try it yourself. Way, WAY better than Squid Luau, I’m not Lying! Masarap-sarap, supah ono, broke da’ mout’ winnahz!

The Tasty Island related links:
Time for Tako Poke
Smoked Tako 4 + 3 Ways
Hawaiian Eats: People’s Cafe
Return to Marujyu Market


10 thoughts on “Laing

  • April 10, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    Pomai, that so interesting to know how to remove the certain chemical found in the leaves. Wonder if it will work with taro leaves from Taiwan since they grow alot of taro plants?

    • April 11, 2013 at 4:43 am


      I know, right? I was REALLY surprised how after having dry roasted the Taro leaves in an oven for only 30 minutes on low temperature, along with that sun drying method had removed the oxalic acid “itch” out of them. I didn’t have any problem with mouth itch from the Laing she made. None whatsoever, so it works! And so easy! I just feel bad for all them tutus who slaved for hours tediously cutting the veins out from the backs of the leaves, only to have been done in vane, no pun intended. Also for those who have boiled the hell out of the leaves, losing lots of its flavor in the process. I mean this Laing, you could really TASTE the Luau leaves! Which is partially why I claim this to THE BEST take on Squid Luau I’ve ever had. I not lying! :-))

  • April 11, 2013 at 9:31 am

    What’s the difference between Mae Ploy coconut milk and Hawaiian Sun coconut milk?

    • April 11, 2013 at 3:47 pm


      According to Diner C, the Mae Ploy brand Coconut Milk can is larger and more expensive than Hawaiian Sun, however it’s better quality, being more condensed, creamier and more intensely fresh coconut flavored. The Hawaiian Sun brand isn’t quite as good as Mae Ploy, but good enough to use to make up the bulk of the coconut milk “broth”. She combined the two types just to make it more economical. There’s a few “junk” imported brands I’ve tried in the past that tasted like the metal can it was in. Also make sure the coconut milk NOT sweetened.

      • April 11, 2013 at 4:11 pm

        I can understand the difference. I used to use Taste of Thai brand (canned), but I wasn’t fond of the consistency and the separation. For the past year, I’ve been using a shelf-stable box by So Delicious. Sometimes I use their refrigerated version, too. It’s probably not as thick as the brands you mentioned though.

        • April 11, 2013 at 4:15 pm

          Have you tried the organic Coconut Oil they now sell at Costco (or Sam’s, or whatever big box you shop)? The sample lady was handing out those Keebler mildly sweet butter crackers topped the organic Coconut Oil as a “spread”, and OMG, it was YUM!

          Stuff’s pretty pricey.. something like $18 for a quart, however I’m sure it goes a long way, plus of course it’s organic.

          • April 11, 2013 at 4:30 pm

            No, I haven’t. I have been thinking about buying some for a while, and whenever I pass it at Whole Foods, I always forget. I can’t imagine the oil topping a cracker as a spread, that doesn’t sound very healthy, but it does sound tasty. I really want to believe all the hype about coconut oil and all its health properties, but it goes against everything I thought I knew about coconut oil when, just 10 years ago, it was talked about like it was made by satan himself.

  • April 11, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Here on the East Coast, you can buy the taro leaves pre-dried (looks almost like seaweed) in a big bag, at most Asian groceries. Just rinse and rehydrate. Also, there’s a couple of good canned laing’s, with and without seafood, imported from Manila. Just open into a bowl and nuke. Not as good as made from scratch, but pretty decent for a canned convenience product.

    • April 11, 2013 at 3:58 pm


      I’ll have to check Pacific Market next time I’m out Waipahu side for this canned Laing you’re talking about. Sounds interesting!

      Have you ever tried making Squid Luau with those dried Taro Leaves? I’ll put that on my Pacific Market shopping list as well. Thanks for the tip!

      Still waiting for someone like Zippy’s to produce frozen Hawaiian Luau Plate “TV dinners” in various combinations for retail sales. “Local style” Oxtail Soup would be neat to see as a retail food product as well! :lamp:

      • April 11, 2013 at 5:40 pm

        Tell the truth I usually make it just with left over lechon (Filipino style roast pork). My wife isn’t a big squid fan. Same recipe as above more or less although I am very bad at measuring anything, minus the squid. Just kind of eyeball it. Just skip right to step four and start there. Probably better to start with homemade pork, from scratch but its a great way to use left overs fora a second meal.


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