I discovered kalua pork and cabbage, local Hawaiian grinds, shortly after I moved to Hawaii. That was 30-some years ago. I think it was at Duke’s restaurant overlooking the beach, at a noontime buffet. I never would have ordered it from a menu, but seeing it on a buffet, I decided to try it.
I fell in love with it. It had a mysterious taste, different from what I’d ever had. I ordered it a few other places and found that, like beef stew, every chef had a different version. So, here’s my recipe for Kalua Pork and Cabbage:
4 cups cabbage, coarsely shredded
½ cup pulled pork (kalua pork if available) The pork will already be cooked.
½ cup onion, chopped
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp olive oil or other vegetable cooking oil
Toss it all in a deep skillet. Turn heat on medium high. Stir. Cook until cabbage and onion are translucent, about 10 minutes. Enjoy! Serves 3 people, or 2 hungry ones. Proportions can be adjusted to suit individual tastes. Often, kids like smaller amounts of meat while football players will crave more.
You can also substitute some liquid smoke for the oyster sauce. That way is tasty, too.
Kalua Pork, also called kalua pig, is a native Hawaiian specialty served at luaus and on other occasions. The traditional way to cook it is to get a pig, whatever size will feed your party, gut it, and bake it in an imu. (ee-moo) To make an imu, dig a hole in your backyard or at the beach, line the bottom with stones, build a fire to heat the stones. Then, if you have it, lay on chicken wire so the cooked pig will be easy to lift out: if it’s really done, it will be falling apart. Layer ti leaves or banana leaves with the pig, cover with more leaves, then cover with dirt or a tarpaulin. The heated stones will cook the pig. After several hours or overnight, uncover the pig and lift it out.
Often, part of the entertainment at a commercial luau is to seat the audience around the fire pit, uncover the imu, and have four big hunky guys, bodies glistening with coconut oil, lift out the pig. Of course, I don’t do all that. I buy the pre-cooked, shredded pork, in a plastic tub at the grocery store.
If your grocer doesn’t stock kalua pig, ordinary shredded or pulled pork is a reasonable alternative. Don’t get the kind with Jamaican seasoning. You want just plain cooked pork. The oyster sauce comes in a bottle in the Asian foods section.
Kalua pork and cabbage? The best!