Traditionally, kalua pork is prepared by wrapping the pig in banana leaves and cooking it in a large underground oven. The meat is typically seasoned with Alaea salt, a classic Hawaiian salt that displays a beautiful red color from the volcanic clay, but kosher salt will also work. You can replicate this on a smaller scale in your home by slow-cooking a fatty cut of pork butt wrapped in banana leaves in a Dutch oven for a couple of hours in your oven. The pork will cook in its own juices and become tender enough to fall apart after four hours. Serve the shredded meat on top of a bowl of warm rice with a couple of grilled slices of fresh pineapples and red onions.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Immerse the banana leaves in hot water for 4 to 5 seconds so they become pliable. Place the banana leaves on a clean surface. Place the pork butt in the center of the leaves and season it with salt and pepper and liquid smoke. Then wrap the banana leaves tightly to cover the pork and tie it with cooking twine to secure. Line a medium Dutch oven with a sheet of aluminum foil. Add ½ cup of water and place the wrapped pork butt in the center. Cover the Dutch oven with two to three sheets of aluminum foil to create a tight seal. Place the lid and transfer to the preheated oven and cook for 4 hours.
- After 4 hours, carefully open the lid and remove the aluminum seal. Cut the string around the banana leaves to reveal the pork. The pork will be very tender and should fall apart when picked with a fork. Carefully transfer the pork to large plate or bowl using a large spoon and shred the meat. Taste and season if necessary.
- Brush a grill pan with a little oil and heat on medium-high. Then brush the pineapple slices and red onions with a little olive oil on each side and grill for about 2 minutes on each side until they acquire dark grill marks on each side. Season with a little salt and pepper.
- To serve, divide the rice equally between four bowls. Add ½ cup of the shredded pork, 2 slices of the grilled pineapple, 2 slices of the onion, 2 lime wedges, and a couple of slices of the serrano. Serve warm.
Nik Sharma is an award-winning freelance food writer and photographer. He also writes a recipe-based food column for the San Francisco Chronicle called A Brown Kitchen and is also the author of the blog A Brown Table. His first cookbook, Season (Chronicle Books), was published in October 2018. He lives in Oakland, California.