In Hawaii, we would call this kalua pig – a main course in Hawaiian food. Traditionally, this would be a whole pig cooked in an underground pit or imu. Basically, smooth beach rocks would be heated in a pit fire. The rocks would line the pit and be inserted into the pig cavity. Banana tree stalks would be placed around and on top. Burlap would go over with dirt covering the entire mound. It would take all day to cook. The meat would just fall off the bone and be infused with a smoky aroma. As you can imagine, this is quite a production so here is an easier way to do it with a crock pot. Although if you ever get a chance to eat authentic kalua pig done in an imu, you’ll be in for a treat indeed!
You can use a pork butt or shoulder roast around 4-6 lbs. Don’t trim the fat since after cooking, most of it liquifies – can be separated and when served can be quite lean. You can use banana leaves which can be found in the frozen food section of asian markets. I have a ti leaf plant growing in the backyard that works great. This plant came from a small stalk from the kind that you find in the tourist shops in Hawaii. It comes in handy for this recipe by separating from the pot bottom and adds to the flavor. You will also need rock salt and liquid smoke.
I use Alàea rock salt from Hawaii. Traditionally, the sea water is put into red dirt impressions. The iron and other minerals in the dirt infuses with the salt as it dries. So this salt has a lot of minerals and being sea salt has a milder flavor than regular salt. Rub a handfull of the salt all over the roast and place it into the crock pot over a banana leaf or couple of ti leaves. Add a tablespoon or two of water to the bottom of the pot.
Take one tablespoon of liquid smoke and drip over the roast. Place another leaf or two on top and close the pot. Put on low heat for 8-10 hours.
After cooking, the meat will be quite tender. Take out and cool until you can handle the meat. I like to have the kalua lean so will separate any fat away. Some people will leave more in and will also put some of the drippings back into the pulled meat to keep it moist. This is up to you…
I take a chunk of meat and squeeze it between my fingers as I pull it apart into strips. This is similar to Southern pulled pork and also carnitas. As kalua pork, you can serve as is. You can also sprinkle a little more rock salt if desired.
Other serving options is to make kalua pork sliders by taking King’s Hawaiian Bread rolls and cutting in half. Stack the roll with the pork and coleslaw (a pineapple slaw works great) or cilantro (as I like it) with some barbecue sauce on top. I have also used this as carnitas for soft tacos. Popular in Hawaii is to take the leftovers and saute with onions and cabbage and to serve over rice. So next time you’re in Hawaii, go to a luau – but also ask ahead of time if you can watch the preparation and unloading of the imu – you may get to sample some right out of the pit!