Pu pu platter
CourseHors d'oeuvre
Main ingredientsMeat and seafood
Pu pu platter
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese

A pu pu platter is a tray of American Chinese or Hawaiian food[1] consisting of an assortment of small meat and seafood appetizers. The Thrillist called the pu-pu platter "an amalgam of Americanized Chinese food, Hawaiian tradition and bar food."[2]

The pupu platter was probably first introduced to restaurants on the United States mainland by Donn Beach in 1934.[1] It has since become a standard at most Polynesian-themed restaurants such as Don's and Trader Vic's.[3][4] The earliest known print reference to a pupu platter served at a Chinese restaurant is from 1969.[5] Later, other types of restaurants used "pu pu platter" to describe an appetizer combination platter.[n 1]

However, pu pu platters are currently more closely associated with American Chinese restaurants.[6][7] A typical pu pu platter, as found in American Chinese cuisine, includes appetizers such as egg rolls, spare ribs, chicken wings, chicken fingers, beef teriyaki, skewered beef, fried wontons, fried shrimp, or crab rangoons.

Hawaiian origin and etymology

In the Hawaiian language, pū-pū denotes a relish, appetizer, canapé, or hors d'oeuvre; it originally meant "shell fish', but also referred to small bits of fish, chicken, or banana relish served with kava[8] and beans.

In Hawaiian cuisine

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See also: Cuisine of Hawaii

Since the introduction of commercial dining and drinking establishments in Hawaii, pūpū were, and remain, standard fare in island establishments.[n 2] An establishment that serves "heavy pupus" will often have a buffet table with warming trays or warming tables full of chicken, tempura vegetables, shrimp, poke (cubed and seasoned raw fish), small skewers of teriyaki meat or chicken, sushi, and other similar finger foods. An establishment that serves "light pupus" usually will offer only the cold foods such as poke, sushi, and vegetables. Some establishments will serve pūpū to the table.

At Hawaiian bars, restaurants, catered events such as political rallies, and private parties, establishments and hosts are known in "local" circles by the quality of their pupus. Event invitations often will state that "light pupus" or "heavy pupus" will be served so that attendees will know whether they should plan to have a full meal before the event or not.

In Polynesian cuisine on the mainland

See also: Tiki culture

At the height of the tiki bar craze during the late 1950s and early 1960s, the New York Herald Tribune published several articles concerning the opening and the ambiance of one of the first Hawaiian-themed restaurants in New York City, Luau 400, on East 57th Street. At the time of the restaurant's opening in 1957, pu pu platters were considered a part of the luau feast.[9] A typical platter at this establishment would have included baked clams, rumaki, Shrimp Vela (battered fried shrimp with coconut), chicken wings, egg rolls, spare ribs, or Javanese sate (satay) on skewers.[10] The appetizers were served on "a Lazy Susan made of monkey pod wood and equipped with a little stove fired with charcoal briquettes."[9] Recipes for some of the pu pu items were later published in the Herald Tribune in 1960.[11]

Always the showman, Trader Vic included a hibachi grill when presenting a pu pu platter at the table.[9] Others say that the idea could have come from Donn Beach.[12] No one can agree, but everyone else appeared to have copied the idea.

By the twenty-first century, the tiki bars and the flaming pu pu platter had become a dying art. Some tiki bar aficionados have created lists of tiki bars in the United States in which a flaming pu pu can still be found.[13][14]

At one 21st-century tiki bar, the pu pu platter includes "Samoan deviled eggs, Chinese sausage and stick[y] rice arancini, coconut shrimp and chilies stuffed with pork sausage."[15] As bar food, a pu pu platter at a 21st-century New York City brasserie could include French escargot, grilled cubed tropical fruits (such as pineapple), fried pierogies or American-style barbecued ribs and wings.[2]

In Italian restaurants

Italian restaurants in New England may offer "Italian pu pu platters". Depending on the establishment, the platters may contain only appetizers, such as mozzarella sticks, meatballs, sausages, lasagna sticks, and calamari;[16] or they may contain small portions of different pasta dishes, such as spaghetti, lasagna, manicotti, and ravioli.[17][18][19]

See also


  1. ^ In the 1970s, Boston-area Italian restaurants were marketing their appetizers combinations as "Italian pu pu platters"."Tough question served to court on platter". The Boston Globe. April 22, 1975. p. 8. ProQuest 652201056. Archived from the original on March 18, 2018. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  2. ^ Unlike in American Chinese cuisine or mainland Polynesian-themed restaurants (like Trader Vic), the Hawaiian dish is referred to simply as pūpū or pūpūs, without the word platter.


  1. ^ a b Hartz, Deborah S. (July 9, 2003). "Carrying a torch for pupu platters". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2016-02-28.
  2. ^ a b Mancall-Bitel, Nicholas (August 22, 2016). "The Anatomy of a Pu-Pu Platter, the World's Greatest Bar Snack". Thrillist. Archived from the original on March 19, 2022. Retrieved March 19, 2022.
  3. ^ Reichl, Ruth (September 30, 1994). "Restaurants: Seemingly designed for Eloise (and so convenient), the successor to Trader Vic's". The New York Times. p. C22. ProQuest 109323172. Archived from the original on July 8, 2017. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  4. ^ Krummert, Bob (November 2002). "Tiki not so tacky". Restaurant Hospitality. Vol. 86, no. 11. p. 15. ISSN 0147-9989. ProQuest 236842977.
  5. ^ "Ad for a Chinese restaurant on Long Island and their 'flaming pu pu platter'". The New York Times. July 18, 1969. p. 14. ProQuest 118613566. 35, Sun Ming, Huntington. Cantonese Cuisine. Flaming Pu Pu Platter. Our House Banquet Dinner. Op. 7 days for lunch, din. & cocktails. Private room parties. Free park. Amer. Exp., Din. Club. 2 miles W. of Rte. 110 Jericho Tpke. & Round Swamp Rd.
  6. ^ O'Leary, Joanna (March 10, 2014). "A Brief History of the Pu Pu Platter". Houston Press. Archived from the original on 2014-11-29.
  7. ^ Yeh, Cedric (September 23, 2010). "Pu pu platters versus birthday cakes". O Say Can You See?. National Museum of American History. Archived from the original on September 30, 2010. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
  8. ^ Mary Kawena Pukui; Samuel Hoyt Elbert (2003). "lookup of pūpū". in Hawaiian Dictionary. Ulukau, the Hawaiian Electronic Library, University of Hawaii Press. Retrieved November 15, 2010.
  9. ^ a b c Paddleford, Clementine (December 28, 1957). "Authentic Hawaii, East of First Ave". New York Herald Tribune. p. 9. ProQuest 1337906294.
  10. ^ "Display Ad for Luau 400 Restaurant". New York Times. November 7, 1957. p. 43. ProQuest 114303967.
  11. ^ McGovern, Isabel A. (April 3, 1960). "Luau dinner". New York Herald Tribune. p. F10. ProQuest 1324081035.
  12. ^ Glass, Jeremy. "Who Invented the Tiki Bar? A Brief (and Controversial) History". Men's Journal. Archived from the original on 2021-12-30. Retrieved 2022-03-19.
  13. ^ Trott, Michelle "Humuhumu" (September 16, 2016). "These Tiki Bars Are Keeping Flaming Pu Pus Alive". Critiki. Archived from the original on May 24, 2022. Retrieved May 24, 2022.
  14. ^ Trott, Michelle "Humuhumu" (September 15, 2016). "The Dying Art of the Flaming Pu-Pu Platter". Critiki. Archived from the original on June 27, 2022. Retrieved May 24, 2022.
  15. ^ Fabricant, Florence (September 8, 2010). "Fall Restaurant Preview; Is That Bali Hai Calling? The Tiki Bar Has Returned". New York Times. Archived from the original on February 8, 2024. Retrieved June 25, 2022.
  16. ^ Baskin, Kara (November 1, 2018). "Groton becomes a destination, and you don't have to leave the city to chill in the ski lodge". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on July 27, 2021. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  17. ^ Bonner, Michael (February 1, 2018). "Dine Out: Cafe Roma feels like 'home'". The Herald News.
  18. ^ "Phantom Gourmet: Mike's Restaurant In Fairhaven". WBZ-TV. January 10, 2017. Archived from the original on July 27, 2021. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  19. ^ Comey, Jonathan (November 21, 2013). "Jonathan Comey - Dine Out: Cafe Roma gets Italian food right". The Standard-Times (New Bedford). Archived from the original on July 27, 2021. Retrieved July 27, 2021.