Cooking in an imu is a Hawaiian food tradition where the food is steamed in an underground pit. This kalua method is most often associated with pork, in which a whole pig is prepared in the imu. Learn more about this traditional cooking style in the guide below.
How Kalua Pig Is Cooked
First, the imu must be dug: it should range from three and five feet deep depending on the location and the size of the pig. Next, you’ll need to build a fire at the bottom of the pit with wood and lava rocks. While the pit is heating up to the perfect temperature, begin cutting the banana stalks. Stalks must be split and cut into pieces no longer than four inches.
You’ll know the rocks are hot enough when they turn white, at which point remaining wood pieces should be removed. Before the pig can be lowered on a chicken wire base, place the prepared banana stalks on the rocks. Hot rocks are also placed within the pig to ensure an even roast.
Once the pig is situated in the pit, cover it with more wet banana stalks, and finally place a tarp over the pig before filling in the pit with sand. It normally takes about nine hours for the pig to fully cook, although it depends on the size of the animal.
How Kalua Pig Tastes
Kalua pig is unbelievably tender—the meat falls right off the bone. Additionally, the wet banana leaves create an intensely smoky flavor distinct to Hawaiian food. All parts of the animal can be enjoyed. Because of the amazing taste and pageantry of creating the imu and preparing the meat, kalua pig is often the main dish of luaus.
Not everyone has the time or resources to undertake a traditional kalua pig roast, in which case you can head to Laverne's in Waipahu, HI, to satisfy your craving. The family-owned and -operated establishment has more than two decades of experience preparing Hawaiian foods. Lunch and dinner items include smoked meat, squid luau, lau lau, and lomi salmon. They also offer catering for special events, and their Waikele food truck is available from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. every day. Visit the website to see the full menu, or call (808) 551-8214 to inquire about daily specials.