I've been missing Hawaii something fierce these days. If it wasnt for this pandemic, I would have had my Hawaiian fix the first 2 weeks of January 2022. But alas, plans got cancelled and I stayed home, in the snow and all I could do was a virtual vacation by surfing on the internet and watching Youtube videos of paradise. And of course, I started surfing for food recipes. 2 of my favourite dishes from Hawaii are Kalua Pork and Pork Luau.
For those who dont know, Kalua Pork is the dish that is typically cooked in an umu, the pit that the pig is placed in and covered in rocks, leaves, etc. Pork Luau is a taro leaf dish that is very similar to the Filipino Laing dish. There are many ways you can prepare Luau but I made it with pork since I was already making Kalua Pork.
It is a very simple recipe and method, all you need are a few ingredients and a slow cooker.
4-6 pounds of pork butt/shoulder with a healthy amount of fat on it still
1 package of dried taro leaves (dahon ng gabi)
Sea Salt (any type of sea salt will work but better to use rock salt as opposed to fine ground table salt)
6-8 drops of Liquid Smoke
1 chopped small onion (optional)
2 cloves of minced garlic (optional)
Prep time: 20-30 mins
Cook time: around 12-16 hours on low
Pork Luau feeds 4 people
Kalua Pork feeds about 6
1. Soak the dried taro leaves in some water for about 10 mins to rehydrate. It doesnt have to be completely rehydrated but keep in mind that if you dont rehydrate it completely, you will need to use more water in the slow cooker.
2. Rub the pork with liquid smoke & salt it as a whole piece. I find for a 4-6 pound piece of pork, I use about 7-8 drops of liquid smoke. I dont like to use too much because at some point, the liquid smoke will start tasting too artificial. Plus, the dried taro leaves usually add a bit of smokiness to the dish as well.
Also, I dont trim the fat off or cut it into chunks as the fat will drip into the meat to keep it moist and flavour the taro leaves. If the pieces are too small, they will dry out too fast and you'll end up with jerky instead. The fat will be removed at the end before shredding the meat.
3. Place the rehydrated taro leaves in the bottom of the slow cooker. (Some recipes call for the taro leaves to be placed on top of the pork but I like to keep it underneath so it soaks up the juices.) Pour in the water to almost cover the taro leaves (probably no more than 2 cups.) Make a bit of a well to place the pork butt/shoulder on top of the taro leaves fat side down and cover. <Optional: you can add chopped onions and garlic to the taro leaves to give it a bit of extra flavour>
4. Cook on low heat setting for 12 to 16 hours. I know this is a huge range but it all depends on how big your meat is and your slow cooker. Sometime around hour 7 flip the meat so the fat is on the top. This allows the fat to drip into the meat while cooking to keep it moist and dries out the fat a bit.
I recently experimented and shortened the cooking time a bit. The first part of the cook I did it on high for 3 hours, then flipped the meat. I then turned down the heat to low and cooked for an additional 6 hours. I had a smaller piece of pork, about 3-4 pounds so if you have a bigger (and thicker) piece, I would increase the cooking time on the high setting for another hour.
5. Once the cooking is complete, remove the pork and place into a large dish. Remove the fat layer and place into a separate bowl. Using 2 forks, gently shred the pork into bite sized strips. Take about a cup to a cup and a half of the meat and mix it in with the taro leaves. A lot of the salt would have already dripped into the taro leaves so it should be salty enough but adjust as necessary.
6. Because the taro leaves have soaked up all the cooking juices, take some of the fat pieces with the oil and incorporate back into the Kalua pork. Adjust salt levels to taste.
7. Serve with some plain white rice and mac salad of course!
That's it! Hope you all enjoy.
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