What’s a PuPu?
Welcome to the PuPu, the Hawaiian word for a hot or cold appetizer assortment. That mainstay of Polynesian restaurants. That perfect partner for the rum drink.
In their modern incarnation, pupus are usually served on a lighted mini-hibachi in the center of a Lazy Susan of dipping sauces. If you don't have a hibachi at home, just serve the warm appetizers as is or improvise using a lighted Sterno can as the flame to keep them warm.
The first pupu platter was probably served in 1934 in California, according to Jennifer Trainer Thompson, writing in "The Great Tiki Drink Book." That's when Ernest Beaumont-Gantt, a former bootlegger, opened his Hawaiian-inspired place in Hollywood that he called Don the Beachcomber. He put pupu platters on the menu, and his Zombie creation (a rum drink for which Thompson says Gantt never gave away the recipe) was served at the 1939 New York World's Fair.
As Americans returned from World War II, they brought tales of the South Pacific and memories of grass skirts. Polynesian style flourished in the 1950s through the early 1970s in everything from books to movies to music. Who can forget "South Pacific" and its Polynesian-inspired melodies, Elvis Presley in "Blue Hawaii" or television shows such as "Gilligan's Island"?
Today many Chinese restaurants serve pupu, though they're simply billed as "combination appetizer platters."
What goes on a PuPu Platter? Think outside the box--or think out of the freezer. For a simple platter, use some frozen convenience foods to fill your plate without fuss. More traditional items include frozen spring rolls, frozen dim sum dumplings, barbecued wings, pot stickers and egg rolls. Just heat and serve on the hibachi. For something different, try frozen and heated samosas, mozzarella sticks, pizza rolls, potato pancakes, mini taquitos, vegetable- or chicken-filled phyllo hors d'oeuvres or chicken nuggets. Add a variety of Asian dipping sauces available in the ethnic aisle of your supermarket. Or think salad dressings, flavored mayonnaise, seafood sauces and flavored mustards.