Since my son’s favorite food is pork (okay, pork RIBS, on the bone), and my mother-in-law is visiting Hawaii, I thought I’d see if I could make a local-kine favorite, kalua pork, using the lu’au instructions in A Taste of Aloha. I grabbed a pork butt roast and tried the Oven Kalua Pork, on page 325 of A Taste of Aloha, in the Lu’au section, and it came out great!
Kālua is a traditional Hawaiian cooking method that utilizes an imu, a type of underground oven. The Hawaiian word kālua means “to cook in an underground oven”. Kālua pig is commonly served at luau feasts. The term “kalua pork” has been used by famous Hawaiian chef Sam Choy to describe pork butt roast which is rubbed with sea salt, wrapped in ti leaves, and slowly cooked in oven using liquid mesquite smoke rather than an imu. And that’s what you get in this recipe – a quick, easy, do-it-at-home method for that beloved Hawaiian dish and plate lunch, kalua pork.
You’ll be surprised at the authentic flavor achieved in this oven recipe – it’s a great version of a classic, and so easy to do. I used spinach, since I had it on hand, and it took on great flavor and returned the same to the pork. I also used regular coarse sea salt, and it was a bit salty – I might use less next time (or try the real but pricey Hawaiian rock salt), though my son and my mother-in-law said it was perfect. My son ate it for dinner every night this week (at first with rice, and then he discovered it goes great with the Parmesan-Zucchini Pasta). I had small bits of the fatty delicious pork and the fatty delicious pasta on top of a big bed of arugula, and the spicy greens cut through the fat quite nicely. We’ll be sad when it finally runs out! Make it this weekend, and don’t you dare serve it without rice!
Freshly unwrapped – just like from the imu! (Okay, not just like…but close!)
Shredded and ready to serve – salty, smoky, meaty, fatty, and delicious!
Mixed in fresh spinach (no, that is not traditional, but a girl has to pretend it’s healthy!)
Oven Kalua Pork
- 8 pounds pork butt
- 4 tablespoons Hawaiian rock salt
- 5-6 tablespoons liquid smoke
- 6-8 ti leaves
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Rub rock salt and liquid smoke over pork. Wrap pork in leaves and then in heavy foil. Bake in covered pan for 1/2 hour. Reduce temperature to 325 degrees and cook for 3 1/2 hours. Shred into pieces and serve with a little of its own juice. Note: Banana leaves, taro leaves or spinach leaves may be substituted for a slightly different flavor.
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