Hawaiian-Style Banana-Leaf-Wrapped Roasted Pork Recipe

Try this traditional method to turn even the wildest of pigs into prime table fare.

By author of Timber 2 Table Wild Game Recipes Print Recipe
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Wild pig hunting is popular on the Hawaiian Islands. The porcine invaders thrive in the tropical paradise, and hunting them is both a fun pastime and the best way to keep their population in check — so is eating them. The pig roast, known as a Kālua, is a traditional Hawaiian cooking method that utilizes an imu, a type of underground oven. The word kālua, literally means "to cook in an underground oven". Whole hogs are wrapped in banana leaves and lowered into a pit in which large stones have been heated by fire. The stones retain enough heat to slowly cook the pig into a tender and delicious meal. 

With plantains, pineapple slices, and coconut milk, this pork recipe has a touch of the tropics.

While most of us don't have the time and space necessary to cook an entire pig in this manner, we can still enjoy the flavor on a smaller scale. All you need are some banana leaves and a smoker. We used our Traeger Grill. You can find banana leaves in Asian markets, or order them, either fresh or frozen, from several online sources. Or, do what we did, and sneak over to the neighbor's pool and snip a few off the large banana plant on their patio. 

Pork, pineapples, sweet onion and coconut milk give the recipe an island feel.



4 pounds of pork shoulder, wild or domestic, cut into large chunks 

1 can of pineapple slices, in 100% juice

1 sweet onion, sliced

1 plantain, peeled and sliced

1 cup coconut milk

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup barbecue rub

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon minced ginger

3 cloves of garlic, minced

salt and pepper

3-4 banana leaves, stems removed

4 pieces of butcher's twine, cut into 3 foot lengths

Cooking Instructions

Start by stripping the stems from the banana leaves. In a half-size aluminum pan (approximately 10 inches x13 inches) lay out butcher's twine in a double-cross pattern. Line the pan with banana-leaf sections, overlapping the edges.

Use butcher's twine to tie the leaves into a tight bundle.

Place the pork into the pan and liberally season with salt, pepper and barbecue rub. Pour the pineapple juice and coconut milk evenly over the pork. Add the garlic and ginger, then spread the sliced onions, pineapple and plantain evenly over the top of the pork. Sprinkle on the brown sugar. 

A bit of brown sugar gives the dish a touch of sweetness.

Fold the banana leaves over the pork, completely covering the meat. Use the string to tie the leaves into a tight bundle, sealing the pork inside. Slow cook the pork on your smoker or grill at about 275 degrees for 3 to 4 hours. 

The leaves help to hold in the juice and give the recipe a unique flavor.

Snip the strings with a sharp knife and carefully fold back the leaves. The pork should be tender enough to almost fall apart. Plate a piece or two of pork, top with onions, pineapple and plantain slices, then spoon over some of the juice from the pan. 

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