My mind is thousands of miles away as I write this post. I’m thinking of picture perfect beaches, volcanoes, and coral reefs. I’m thinking of the place where even just twenty years ago, ingredients for continental cuisine and chefs were flown in to cater to tourists.
I’m in Hawaii.
In Hawaii, local food or lu’au food grew out of the ingredients and recipes that immigrants brought with them. While continental food was considered gourmet food in Hawaii, today, Hawaiian regional cuisine has made its mark. In the 1980’s, a group of chefs and restaurant owners got together and decided that Hawaiian food needed a makeover. They created dishes that incorporated Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, and other ingredients and styles, high quality local produce, and gourmet flair. They called it Hawaiian Regional Cuisine.
But back to Hawaiian local food.
My Hawaiian friend Annie Katrina Lee of Social Potato Chips, helped me plan a lu’au lunch a few days ago. She picked three lu’au favorites: lomi lomi salmon, chicken long rice and kalua pork. I was tasked with preparing the kalua pork while she brought the lomi salmon and all the ingredients for the chicken long rice dish. The food tasted outstanding and we could not stop stuffing ourselves. Check out Annie’s post here.
The kalua pork is traditionally made in a specially prepared underground pit. The process of cooking the pork this way is called imu. It takes hours to prepare the pit just right and the meat cooks in it for 8-12 hours. Once a big enough hole is dug, a layer of coconut husks goes in followed by hard wood. This is topped by a layer of porous rocks. The rocks are heated by burning the wood. Once the rocks are hot, the wood is removed, the meat placed on the rocks and covered by layers of ti leaves, coconut fronds, and heavy mats. The final step is to seal this with the dirt that was dug out to form the hole. Check out this YouTube video to see how it is done!
Sadly I don’t have a backyard that I can dig a hole in. So I followed this recipe. There is also a recipe that uses a slow cooker. The kalua pork was surprisingly easy to make, juicy tender and utterly flavorful. Best of all, you need just three ingredients.
The recipe calls for pork butt roast. This is the same as a shoulder roast. Look for a fatty cut – you need that fat for slow cooking. I used roughly 2 lbs for 4 people and we had plenty leftover.
Hawaiian sea salt is saltier than regular sea salt. You can buy this salt online or in specialty food stores like Williams Sonoma. I used less salt than the recipe called for and it was perfect. I rubbed in 1.5 teaspoons at the beginning and less than 1/2 teaspoon after shredding.
I found liquid smoke at a regular grocery store. I highly prefer using natural ingredients to artificial flavoring and so I was hesitant to use liquid smoke flavoring at first. This first time around, I decided to stick to the recipe. I used 1 teaspoon as per the recipe. I plan to smoke the meat with wood chips on the grill or even using my big wok the next time around.
My roast was done cooking in 4.5 hours vs. the suggested 5 hours. So start checking after 4 hours.
Lastly, shred the meat with a fork while holding a part of it down with another fork. Cover up the meat immediately so it doesn’t dry before serving.
The lomi lomi salmon and chicken long rice that Annie made: