International Cuisine: Kalua Pig

– Heather Ah San & Maiko Ando

Alright, alright, so Hawaii isn’t technically “international.”

Though I have a great love and devotion to international food, I haven’t actually traveled that much in my 20 long years of living.

But I shouldn’t complain. One place I have traveled to all my life is Hawaii, probably one of the few places near and dear to my heart.

My dad’s side of the family grew up Hawaii and my mom’s in Minnesota, and I grew up on the mainland under the impression that as a “hapa haole” kid (mixed in mainland terms) I was somehow “international” because of where my dad was from.

Moving out to the mainland, my dad brought three things with him: his shorts, his slippers (otherwise known as flip-flops here) and his food. Without fail, my dad will wear his shorts and slippers in the rain, turn his pidgin English on and off just to bug my mom (“I eat all da kalua pig.” Or “dat no good. Da fat on da pig no good.”) and lastly will bring up Hawaiian food at any opportunity he can.

Thanks to my dad, I’ve grown to develop a deep passion (and stomach) for food, as well as grown to know that rice goes with everything (in my brother’s case, with ketchup) and that eating a giant pig butt is totally normal.

That’s why this week Maiko and I made kalua pig. The same way many people grew up on their mom’s meatloaf, I grew up on kalua pig.

Kalua pig is a lot like pulled pork, except I prefer it to pulled pork because it’s moister, fattier and overall tastier. Kalua pig is often times served with plate lunches but, in my opinion, a lot of times Hawaiian chain restaurants serve really dry, flavorless kalua pig.

Making kalua pig is very easy, though it can take anywhere from a couple hours to eight hours to cook. If you have time to cook it in a crock pot during the day, that’s probably optimal.

Instead, Maiko and I used a recipe that only required us to cook the meat 45 minutes per pound of pork.

The recipe calls for pork butt, ti leaves and banana leaves, all of which are hard to find in Eugene. Instead we substituted pork shoulder for butt, aluminum foil for ti leaves, and whole bananas for banana leaves.

We used two pounds of pork instead of the four the recipe called for. This served about 3 of us (though to be honest, I ate most of it) and the total of the ingredients was around $12, so $4 per person.

The result: a super delicious, moist meaty taste of home.


  • 2 pounds of pork shoulder or butt
  • 1 to 1 ½ tbsp Hawaiian salt, kosher salt, or sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons liquid smoke (can be found with barbeque items in any supermarket)
  • 2 whole bananas or 1 banana leaf
  • Aluminum foil or 2-4 ti leaves


Trim any excess fat from the roast.

Make several long, shallow cuts along the roast.

Rub the roast on all sides with the salt and liquid smoke.

Place the whole bananas on top of the meat.

Wrap the roast in aluminum foil. Make sure it’s completely covered.

Roast in a 350 degree oven, for 45 minutes per pound. In our case, an hour an a half.

When meat is done, shred pork.

Eat with white rice. It is also common to add cooked cabbage or spinach with the kalua pig, but in our case we used spinach and tomato as a garnish. Enjoy!

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