Years ago, some friends opened a restaurant called “The Teriyaki Hut”. My friends were from Hawaii. Naturally their menu included some island favorites such as Kahlua Pig. I loved the stuff – it was about as close as you can get to the pit-roasted pig without roasted an entire pig beneath a bed of banana leaves and hot coals. I first fell in love with Kahlua Pig at a luau in Maui and then again in Moorea. Traditionally, a pig is roasted for as much as twelve hours in an underground oven called a imu. A fire made from mesquite wood is build in the pit. Rocks are placed in the pit to retain the heat long after the flames of wood has burned down. Once the rocks are heated, the pit is lined in banana leaves, just as the meat is wrapped in the same leaves. Wet burlap buries everything in the ground, allowing the smoke to circulate while the leaves help keep everything moist. While this dish is a tourist favorite at luaus throughout Hawaii and the South Pacific, it is no less delicious and well worth a taste.
Needless to say, I had to have their recipe. (And just as a side note, their venture into the restaurant business failed miserably. While the brothers were skilled in the kitchen, turning out authentic Hawaiian dishes that were fabulous, they lacked any sort of business sense. To succeed in any business, one must have at least some business sense or money enough to surround oneself with people who do.) Anyway, my friends were more than willing to share their recipe for Kahlua Pig. It was unbelievably easy – the pork is slow roasted in the oven with chicken broth, liquid smoke and Alaea Hawaiian Clay Salt. Since the pork is cooked in a 300 degree oven for 4-6 hours, it wasn’t something I made in the summer, as the kitchen got far too warm. The only change I made to their recipe is the use of banana peels. While we don’t have access to banana leaves where I live, I find the use of banana peels aids in the slow roasting process, imparting a sweet tropical flavor while aiding in the whole smokey steam thing. Don’t worry that the banana peel will eventually turn black. During the final cooking, simply toss the peel as it won’t be a part of the final presentation.
One day while surfing the net, I came across a recipe for Slow Cooker Kahlua Pork at ihearteating.com. Her recipe was similar to mine. The biggest differences were that she used a pork butt cooked in a crock pot and the recipe did not include chicken broth. Mine was a pork tenderloin, slow roasted in the oven with chicken broth to keep the meat moist right from the start. We both use liquid smoke and Alaea Hawaiian Clay Salt.
She poked holes in the meat, rubbed it with salt, then the liquid smoke. The pork butt was then placed in a crock pot set on low and cooked for 10-12 hours, turning mid-way through and basted with the juices in the pot. My tenderloin was scored, rubbed with salt, then sprinkled with liquid smoke. It was then placed in a clay roasting pan with enough chicken broth to come half way up the roast. After about 2 hours, mine was broken up, spread out and continued to cook, pulling out every 30 minutes or so to break up the meat and spread out until it was fully shredded.
The more I thought about it, the more I was sure that I could make my Kahlua Pig in the crock pot, skipping the turning mid-way, skipping the basting, and totally foregoing the periodic shredding. It was an experiment that turned out to be a huge success. There are subtle differences in flavors. I do find the flavor of the slow roasted pork to be closer to the real deal buried in a pit, but the slow-cooker method is a very close second. I’ve decided to share both recipes and let you decide.
I cannot stress this enough – DO NOT reach into your spices and pull out table salt, regular sea salt or kosher salt. You cannot substitute the Alaea Hawaiian Clay Salt with anything else. While sea salt is normally a silver-white crystal, Alaea Hawaiian Clay Salt is a glorious reddish-brown. Alaea Hawaiian Clay Salt is naturally processed by hand, and mixed with the traditional volcanic rich clay of Hawaii. The clay is a big part of the salt, making it rich in iron and about 80 other minerals the human body needs to function properly. It comes from the salt farms of Molokai, the tiniest and least developed of the Hawaiian islands. Both the ocean where the unrefined sea salt is collected and the alaea clay are pure, devoid of industrial pollutants. Imagine, a salt that is good for you! You can buy the salt in small bags at World Market, or order it on-line. Personally, I think Alaea Clay Salt plays a huge role in the flavor of the pork. Be it the oven method or the crock pot method, this salt is a must.
Method One: Crock Pot
Kahlua Pig in a Crock Pot
1 (4 lb) Pork Tenderloin
2-3 Tablespoons Alaea Hawaiian Clay Salt
3-4 Tablespoons liquid smoke flavoring
1 Can Chicken Broth
Sticky Rice for serving
1 Head Green Leaf Lettuce, for serving (optional)
Score pork with a sharp knife in a diamond pattern.
Rub salt over and into the pork.
Wash your hands well. Place your index finger over the opening of the liquid smoke bottle. Lightly sprinkle the pork with the liquid smoke. Rub over and into the meat. Turn pork over, score, then repeat with the salt and smoke.
Place roast in a slow cooker.
Pour in enough chicken broth to come about half way up roast.
Cover, and cook on low for 10 to 12 hours.
Shred meat using a large carving fork. As it shreds, the pork will absorb most of the liquid, making it both flavorful and moist. If all the juices are absorbed, add a little more chicken broth. You’ll want some liquid when serving. Allow pork to continue to simmer in the wonderful juices while the rice is cooking.
Method Two: Clay Pot Roasting
Slow Roasted Kahlua Pig in Clay Roaster
2 lbs Pork Loin
2 Can Chicken Broth
Liquid Smoke to taste (about 1-2 tablespoons)
1 Tablespoon Alaea Salt or to taste
4 Banana Leaves or 1 Banana Peel (optional)
Sticky Rice for serving
1 Head Green Leaf Lettuce, for serving (optional)
Preheat oven to 325-degrees.
Score pork on both sides. Rub about a handful of Alaea Salt over entire pork loin. Take care not to over-salt, seasoning can always be adjusted during final cooking process. Sprinkle pork with liquid smoke – simply place your finger over the bottle opening and gently shake over entire pork loin.
Place seasoned pork in a clay pot with a lid. Drape banana leaves or banana peel over top of pork. Add chicken broth to pot, cover and place in the oven to “roast”.
Cook undisturbed for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Discard banana leaves/peel and break pork apart using a fork.
Reduce oven to 300-degrees. Continue to cook covered, checking periodically and flaking meat with a fork.
Add additional chicken broth if necessary to keep pork moist. Cook until meat falls apart easily, about 1 ½ to 2 hours longer. When the pork is nearly finished, taste and adjust seasonings (adding small amounts of salt and/or liquid smoke as needed). Be gentle when adding more salt or smoke – you can always add more, but you can’t take back too much.
Remove from oven, pull apart using large fork. Cover and let rest in pot to soak up remaining liquid, about 10 minutes. Serve with rice.
A nice presentation would be to line a serving platter or individual plates with lettuce leaves. Top leaves with sticky rice, and serve pig over rice. Drizzle with a little juice and garnish with a pretty tropical flower. If you are unsure of the flower, use an artificial one. Just be sure to wash well first.