Kālua Pua’a

(Hawaiian Pulled Pork)

October: National Pork Month

Let’s luau, everyone! Whenever we have get-togethers with ‘ohana (family) and friends and need to feed the crowd, we make kālua pua’a (Hawaiian-style pulled pork). Pigs represent a “bounty of blessings” at a buffet because the animal is big and can feed plenty of people, so they are served at many huge celebrations around the world.

In Hawaii, traditionally (and touristically), kālua pig is prepared in an imu, a type of underground oven. A pit is dug in the earth and heated with rocks from fire using sandalwood/mesquite. Meat simply seasoned with sea salt is wrapped in taro or banana leaves and placed in the pit. Then it is buried in a layer of sand or soil and left to cook-steam for several hours until the meat is tender, smoky and juicy. Mmmmm…’ono!

Obviously, it is impractical for us to build an imu without ample space, fire-safe facilities and permission from the strict homeowners’ association to do it in our backyard. A crockpot has become a handy and convenient substitute to cook kālua pig at home for a smaller group. We take a piece of pork shoulder/butt, rub Hawaiian sea salt all over it, place it in a crockpot with liquid smoke flavoring and leave it to cook slowly for several hours. It is so easy to “fix it and forget it”—and the result is tender, smoky pulled pork that tastes almost like the ones served at luaus.

Cook kālua pua’a in a crockpot for a little luau and celebrate National Pork Month. Aloha!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 5-7 lbs. pork butt or shoulder (boneless)
  • 1-2 tablespoons Hawaiian sea salt (or coarse salt)
  • 2-4 tablespoons liquid smoke (depending on taste)

Directions

Line crockpot with slow cooker bags for easy cleanup (see Notes). Rinse the pork in water and pat dry. Cut slits in the pork (or pierce with the tines of a fork) then rub the sea salt and liquid smoke all over.

Place in a slow cooker/crockpot. Cover and cook on low setting for 8-10 hours or until meat is tender all the way to the center. Shred with fork. Drain off some of the fat and liquid and serve over rice or between slices of Hawaiian bread.

Notes

  • Lining the bottom of the crockpot with clean banana leaves will impart a nice tropical flavor, too.
  • Adding more liquid smoke to the recipe depends on one’s preference for a smokier flavor.
  • Instead of kālua pig at parties, we sometimes serve a whole roast pig.
  • Our Texas friends like to add barbecue sauce on our Hawaiian pulled pork for a Southern-style sandwich (served on Hawaiian sweet bread/buns).
  • Saute some sliced onions and chopped cabbage with leftover kālua pig and serve with steamed white rice for a filling meal.
  • Search our Theme Menus for more Hawaiian and local recipes.

 

Sweet and Sour Pork

Sweet and Sour Pork

October: National Pork Month

Chinese take-out is a fast and easy meal option when life gets too busy and hectic for us to cook at home. Sometimes, we are disappointed in the sweet and sour pork we usually order because 1) there seems to be more coating covering less meat, 2) the sauce is a super-saturated and unnaturally fluorescent red color and 3) the vegetables tend to have lost their crispness and fresh flavors. Homemade sweet and sour pork is tastier yet a tad time-consuming. But it is worth the effort when “going gourmet instead of take-away.” Try cooking this classic Chinese recipe when time allows and when observing National Pork Month.

Recipe

(Adapted from “Taste of Hawaii” by The Honolulu Advertiser)

For the marinade

  • ½ pound pork shoulder or butt, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sherry
  • 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 egg
  • dash pepper

Directions

Cut the pork into 1-inch cubes. Make the marinade by combining in a large bowl the sugar, sesame oil, salt, sherry, oyster sauce, soy sauce, egg and pepper. Soak the pork for at least an hour. Reserve the marinade to mix with the batter.

Sweet and Sour Pork

For the batter

  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon water

Directions

Remove the pork from the marinade. In the marinade bowl, add the egg, cornstarch and water. Mix well and return the pork to the marinade. Deep fry in hot oil until the pork pieces are cooked through and the batter becomes golden brown. Drain on paper towels and keep warm.

Sweet and Sour Pork

For the sweet and sour sauce

(Adapted from Chinese Cooking by Drake Publishers Inc.)

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup vinegar (we use cane sugar vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons constarch
  • ½ cup water or pineapple juice, drained from the can
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 1 large tomato, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 (8 ounce) can of pineapple chunks, drained (reserved)

Directions

Prepare the vegetables. Set aside with the drained pineapple chunks. Bring to a boil over the stove top the sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, sherry and ketchup. Reduce the heat to simmer. In a cup, mix the cornstarch with the water or pineapple juice to make a smooth paste. Stir into the sauce until thickened. Remove from heat.

Sweet and Sour Pork

In a separate skillet, heat the oil. Saute the garlic, then gently mix in the bell peppers onions, tomatoes and pineapple for 3-4 minutes. Do not overcook to retain the freshness of the vegetables. Discard the garlic. Add the vegetable and pineapples to the sauce until everything is well coated. Arrange the fried pork pieces on a platter. Pour the sauce mixture over them. Serve hot with steamed white rice or noodles.

Sweet and Sour Pork

Notes

  • Thanks to Sister Durie K. for giving us her “antique” cookbooks, “Taste of Hawaii” (1985), compiled by Mary Cooke, former food editor at The Honolulu Advertiser, and “Chinese Cooking” (1973), published by Drake Publishers Inc.
  • Plan ahead for each step in this recipe. Marinate the pork early in the cooking process. The sauce can be made beforehand and reheated before adding the fresh vegetables and pineapples to save time.

 

Pork Adobo

Pork Adobo

October: National Pork Month

Islander’s maternal grandmother used to raise pigs in her homestead. Sometimes she would sell the whole hog at the marketplace or keep some of the swine to feed her family. Islander’s Mommy, the second of five children, learned how to prepare a simple pork dish, adobong baboy, a type of Filipino stew, from her mother and eventually passed on the easy recipe to her own daughter. Islander prefers the saucy-style over the dried-then-fried version so our blog recipe post features more liquid in our pork adobo. Cook it to commemorate National Pork Month or to feed Filipino friends and family!

Recipe

(Inspired by Grandmother and Mommy)

  • 1 pound pork (loin, belly, butt, stew meat or spare ribs)
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup vinegar (we used cane sugar vinegar)
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorn
  • 1 large bay leaf

Directions

Cut the pork into bite-sized pieces. In a large saucepan, heat the oil and saute the garlic for a few minutes, being careful not to burn the cloves or the dish will become bitter. Add the pork pieces and cook until brown. Pour in the water, vinegar and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer. Add the peppercorns and bay leaf. Cover the saucepan and cook for 30 minutes or until the pork is tender. Discard the garlic, peppercorns and bay leaf. Serve the pork adobo with hot, steamed white rice.

Pork Adobo

Notes

  • Some of our Filipino friends have different versions of pork adobo. Islander’s aunts would just add all the ingredients in the sauce pan, then transfer the cooked pork pieces to a skillet and fry them for a little crispness. Another friend, Girlie B., substitutes a can of coconut milk for the water for a more fragrant stew. And our kumare Cherlyn B. combines chicken with the pork in her adobo.
  • Beware that the vinegar aroma does permeate throughout the house while cooking this dish!