Pig Roasting Around the World
~Chef Perry Perkins~
Of course, no “pigs of the world” list would be complete without talking about Hawaii.
The Hawaiian method of cooking whole hogs in a pit hearkens back to their Polynesian culture.
The centerpiece of any Hawaiian celebration is the Kālua Pua'a (whole roast pig), typically served with, rice, fresh fruit, sweet potatoes, poi (pounded taro root) and any number of local seafood dishes like lau lau, lomi salmon, and squid luau.
Historically, a large pit is dug in the ground, and lava rocks are heated over an open flame until they are very, very hot. The rocks go in the pit, which is then lined with banana leaves or ti leaves (to insulate, aid in steaming, and add flavor).
The word kālua literally means "to cook in an underground oven", which of course, makes it a perfect recipe for your La Caja China. A pig (or other meat, roasted on a spit, is called “Huli Huli” (turn turn). This is where we get the name for another famous Island dish, Huli Huli Chicken.
Done right, the Pua'a meat falls off the bone, and is typically very tender and moist, with a slightly salty, smoky flavor that is incomparable with any other style of pig.
40-45lb pig, cleaned and butterflied
2lb coarse sea salt
Banana leaves, soaked in water*
Line the bottom roasting box with a double layer of banana leaves, then set the pig down on top of the rack, skin side up. Coat the pig half of the salt, flip (just the pig) and coat the belly side with the remaining salt.
Pig roaster's tip: An empty whiskey bottle makes a great salt shaker, and a great excuse to empty a whiskey bottle…
Cover the pig with another layer of banana leaves, and secure the rack.
Fill and light your A-Maze- N smoker, and place it on the center of the top rack (remember to remove the end rails of your box, to allow for air.)
Alternatively, if you don’t have a smoke unit, you can brush the skin side of pig with the thin coat of “Stubbs’s” brand liquid smoke. It won’t be quite as good as the real thing, but it’s better than nothing to get a little of that traditional smokiness int your Kālua Pua'a
Once you’ve flipped the pig, (moving the foil, and all of the banana leaved, scored the skin, and continue with the basic instructions. Plan to double the roasting time, to achieve the fall-apart texture of real Kālua Pua'a.
*Banana leaves can often be found in the frozen produce section or grocery stores, or check out any local Polynesian or Asian stores. If you can’t find them anywhere local, you can order them online. Soak the banana leave in hot water for at
least an hour, to make them pliable, and keep them from scorching too much, while roasting.
Noho me ka hau’oli,
As a third-generation chef, Perry P. Perkins focuses his love of cooking on barbeque, traditional southern fare, and fresh Northwest cuisine.
Perry runs the non-profit organization, MY KITCHEN Outreach Program, which teaches nutrition, shopping, and hands on cooking classes for at risk youth.
His cookbooks include La Caja China Cooking, La Caja China World, La Caja China Party, and the NEW “La Caja China Grill.”
You can follow the rest of Chef Perry’s cooking adventures at ChefPerryPerkins.com