What makes a Maui Thanksgiving? Well, for most people, not much is different from any other Thanksgiving feast in the country. I know I’ll be waking up early tomorrow to roast my turkey and get the green bean casserole in the oven, before settling down to watch the Macy’s Parade—on a tape delay, of course! Since my Thanksgiving traditions are based on what my family on the mainland does (including sauerkraut with the turkey!), I asked the Temptation Tours reservations staff what the traditions were for their families, who’ve been on Maui for many, many generations.
When I asked what was on their tables this year, both Clarice and Carmela reported that their Thanksgiving dinners are pretty much the same as mine, except swap out my sauerkraut with their white rice! However, when it comes to the turkey, both of them have some very Maui-esque plans for the big bird: an imu!
No, not an emu–an imu, a traditional fire pit where meat is slow-cooked with hot stones, and smoked to absolute fall-apart perfection. If you’ve been to a luau, you may have seen a pig being unearthed from an imu, before devouring the salty, smoky, juicy goodness along with all the other traditional Hawaiian delights.
Turkey cooked in an imu is just as good as pork, and is a local tradition. The night before Thanksgiving, the whole family (or even more than one family) will gather with their turkeys (or hams), and put them in the imu for a long, slow cook. Prized kiawe wood gives the turkey a unique, smoky flavor, and fresh taro or banana leaves bring some moisture to the party, giving it a good steaming in addition to the smoke. The whole thing is then covered with wet burlap, and then buried in the ground again. After burying the turkeys, most families have a pre-Thanksgiving party, and enjoy drinks, pupus, and games, before turning in for the night. The next morning, the imu is uncovered, and the turkeys are ready to shred, kalua-style, and gobble up!
While I will be roasting my bird tomorrow, I will have to ask my coworkers nicely for some leftovers of their imu-cooked turkeys this year. I know we’re all thankful that Temptation Tours has been a part of so many guests’ vacations this year, and that our whole company is taking the day off to spend with our families. We can’t wait to start the busy holiday season, and share more of the best of Maui with your family soon!