The Mother of all invention is need!
Having moved away from Hawaii to the Desert South West, Hawaiian Food is not plentiful. When we first started coming here many years ago, there wasn’t much of anything, period. Then we moved here permanently. We found a couple of restaurants that served, kinda-sorta’ Hawaii style food, but, MEH… Next, we found a market that carried some of the ingredients to make the dishes from back home.
A little less than two years ago, an Asian Super Market from the Phoenix area opened in Tucson. That may not sound fantastic, but they carry many items that I had been looking for. I keep a list of different staples that we get each time that I make the trek in to Tucson.
Not long ago, my dear husband and I happened to be in the neighborhood and decided to stop in to get a few of our staple Hawaii grocery items. But, alas, they had very few. So, I set out on my culinary quest to make on my own.
The featured dish at any style Luau is the Kalua (kă-loo-ă) Pig.
In Kaneohe, where I’m from, our neighbor two doors down had an Imu (e-moo) or underground pit oven, permanently dug into their back yard, no really! Drove us all wild! The smells coming from their house about four to five times a year were phenomenal. The family was nice enough to let a few of us Kalua our Thanksgiving and Christmas Turkeys and Hams. Oh my gosh, my drooling right now.
I should probably describe Kalua Pig or what some folks here on the “mainland” call Kalua Pork. Think of an uber moist, tender, juicy, smoky pulled Pork. YUM! I had tried the oven-method once before when we still lived in Kaneohe and could easily find all of the ingredients. Here in the Desert South West, it’s been a struggle. So maybe, I should give you a basic recipe at this point so you have a point of reference.
Ti Leaves (the all green ones only), enough to wrap the meat up like a burrito *
For each pound of Pork use: ½ Tablespoon of salt; ¾ Tablespoon Liquid smoke
Pre-heat the oven to 500⁰
Rub the Liquid Smoke all over the meat and then sprinkle evenly with the Salt.
Wrap the meat in your leaves and then in heavy duty foil
Place in a baking pan/dish; into the oven for 30 minutes, reduce the heat to 325⁰
Bake for an additional 3 ½ hours
Allow to cool, unwrap and discard the foil and leaves (save any juices)
Shred the meat how you like, either by hand or using two forks
*You can substitute with Banana, Taro, or Spinach leaves, but it’ll taste a bit different
I found Banana leaves here in the Desert.