Kalua Pig, or Kalua Pua'a in Hawaiian, is the central main dish and featured element at almost every Hawaiian luau. At a traditional Hawaiian luau, cooking the pig is no easy task.
Early in the morning Polynesian men traditionally dig a round pit, called a lua, about 2 to 4 feet deep with sloping sides. Kindling material is placed at the bottom of the pit and then stones are placed on top of the wood. The kindling is lit and the stones are allowed to heat. Usually within 2 to 3 hours the stones are ready for cooking.
As described by Dino Labiste in her excellent feature called Imu - Hawaiian Underground Oven, "When the heated stones are ready, it is time to layer the imu with green vegetation, food, covering material, and dirt."
The completed underground oven is called an imu. If you attend a luau in Hawaii today, chances are you'll have the opportunity to see an imu, where your evening's kalua pig is being cooked. Most luaus have what is called an "imu ceremony" where they open the imu and remove the cooked pig. For most, it's one of the highlights of the evening.
The roasted pig is then taken and shredded for serving to those attending the luau.
The good news is that even if you don't have an imu, you can still make Hawaiian kalua pig at home from pork butt purchased at your local supermarket.
- 4 to 5 pound pork butt
- 2 1/2 tablespoons Hawaiian salt (You can substitute kosher salt, but Hawaiian sea salt is readily available online.)
- 2 tablespoons liquid smoke
- 1 banana leaf (substitute 4 to 5 whole, unpeeled bananas)
Trim any excess fat from the roast.
Make several shallow long cuts along the roast or pierce liberally with a fork. (This allows the salt and liquid smoke to penetrate the meat.)
Rub with salt and liquid smoke. Wrap the roast with banana leaf or in the absence of same, place whole bananas on top of meat .
Cut the ribs from the ti leaves and wrap over the banana leaf. Substitute aluminum foil, if ti leaves are not available. (Ti leaves, however, can often be obtained from your local florist especially on the West Coast).
Tie the leaves securely with twine.
Roast in a 325 to 350 F oven for about 45 minutes per pound. When the meat is done, remove the ti leaves, the banana leaf (or bananas) and shred the pork.