When you have the opportunity to visit Hawaii, make time to try the cuisine. As home to the Native Hawaiians, the islands have many unique, flavorful dishes like kalua pig to introduce to you. Learn more about this Hawaiian food’s distinct preparation and taste in the guide below.
How Kalua Pig Is Made
Brought to the islands by the first Polynesian settlers, pigs were often the main courses at luau. “Kalua” refers to the cooking method of baking in an underground oven, which is called an imu.
After digging a sizable pit in which to place an entire pig, wood—preferably koa or kiawe—and kindling are layered at the bottom. Once the fire is set, dry rocks are added; they will bake the pig. When the rocks are white with heat, wet banana leaves are placed on top, then the pig. The body should also contain hot rocks to cook the inside. Then another layer of wet banana leaves blankets the pig, with soil or sand covering it all to seal in the heat. As the leaves warm up, their steam will also cook the pork.
The imu bakes for half a day, depending on the size of the pig, and the resulting meat falls off the bone. The tender, savory pork is usually served shredded and resembles the product of a slow cooker, although it’s much tastier, having cooked in its own juices and absorbed the woodsmoke’s flavor.
Where to Get the Hawaiian Food Today
Unless you attend an authentic luau, you’re unlikely to find kalua pork made in an imu. Most people don’t have the time or yard space to go the traditional route. Fortunately, you can order kalua pig at Hawaiian restaurants along with other customary luau dishes like ahi poke and laulau. Kalua pork is also a popular ingredient in local fusion dishes like sandwiches or pizza.
Try Hawaiian foods like kalua pig at Kawailoa Tavern. The restaurant and bar on the North Shore of Oahu offers a variety of local favorites like smoked meat, kalua sliders, and poke. Check out photos of their Hawaiian foods on their website or Facebook page, and call (808) 744-3754 to order takeout.