Once I had the roast, all I needed was a recipe, so I did some internet browsing and decided I liked Sam Choy's recipe. Most of the recipes for imuless kalua pig are pretty straightforward, involving 'alaea salt, liquid smoke, and a long cooking time at a low temperature. Many would have you rub the liquid smoke straight on the meat, though, and I didn't like the sound of that, especially since I'd never used liquid smoke before and had read that a little goes a very long way. Sam Choy has you mix a little of the liquid smoke with water and pour that over the meat after you've taken it out of the oven and pulled it apart. That sounded much more controllable and even so I went with that one.
It was a fortunate thing that I had picked up a little tin of 'alaea salt (sea salt mixed with a mineral-rich red volcanic clay) at the Kapiolani Community College farmers market when I went home last July for my 30th high school reunion. There's a good chance they would've had this at Dean & DeLuca, the fancy grocery across the street from my office, but it was nice to not have to go hunting for it.
'Alaea salt. Isn't it pretty?
The other semi-exotic ingredient that Chef Choy's recipe called for was a banana leaf. Fortunately I was over at TQ's when I was looking at the recipe, and he was pretty sure he'd seen banana leaves at the R&R butcher shop on Courtelyou Road. He was right, and this totally cracked me up - they come frozen in a 13" x 11" flat package, and never having cooked with banana leaves, I was thinking that there would be a stack of cut-up leaves in the package, sort of like the way nori for sushi comes in squares - well, it turns out that there's an entire folded-up banana leaf in there! It was taller than I am!
Ti Grows in Brooklyn was also kind enough to donate a few leaves to the cause, just for authenticity. Ti leaves are the food-wrapping leaves of choice in Hawaii, and a ti plant's bottom leaves are shed as new leaves pop up as a spike in the center - I just picked the bottom leaves that were starting to turn brown at the tips a little sooner than I usually would. Hi Ti! (Ti says hi).
Here's my roast, all salted up
All wrapped up like a giant lau lau! I actually had made a stop at my favorite local West Indian greengrocer to see if they had taro leaves, which I found out from a friend not too long ago are sold under the name "dasheen bush" at the Caribbean greengrocers. My local one does have it from time to time but not today - I was thinking of making squid luau, which is taro leaves simmered in coconut milk with squid, very delicious and a nice contrast to all the salty pork I'm feeding my friends on Tuesday - no luck there, though.
Six hours later -
The unveiling. Oh boy, looks great!
This was a good sign - the roast started falling apart entirely of its own accord as I started unwrapping it from the leaves.
Finished the job with a pair of forks.
Liquid smoke diluted in water added; cabbage ready to go (OK, actually the Sam Choy recipe didn't add this step but kalua pig is frequently served with cabbage mixed in).
Kalua pig and cabbage - too much to fit in the pan in the end so I had to dish some up for myself for dinner! Shucky darn.
I was a little bit worried about serving something to my friends at Sebago when I'd never tried the recipe before, but this worked great. Mahalo, Chef Choy!
I also couldn't resist making spam musubi, as people at the club have occasionally expressed interest in my making this for a potluck. I decided to make mini-musubis; I also tried to figure out a faster way to make the rice cakes than cutting out the bottom of the Spam can and using that as a mold - you can buy a musubi press in the proper dimensions but I always think of that as I'm actually making the musubi. Using a 9x9 cake pan actually worked OK - the musubi are a little ragged-looking but it did speed things up a bit. I made a LOT - hope people like 'em or I'll be eating spam musubi for lunch for the rest of the week.