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Hawaiian Kalua Pork with Coconut Rice and Cabbage

I associate kalua pork with a very funny and fond memory from my childhood. Just the smell of it brings me back to a distinct fourth grade memory that still makes me and my family chuckle. When I was 10, we traveled to Hawaii for a family vacation. We stayed in a really special place with private cottages sprinkled along the oceanfront. These cottages were on the property of a large resort and there were luaus hosted each night outside of our little home away from home.

My sister and I watched the beautiful Hawaiian ladies greet guests each night at the luau and we wanted to be just like them. Our parents had already bought us some cool Hawaiian dresses at the ABC store and had these amazing flower crowns made for us, so we came up with an idea. We were positive that if we dressed up exactly like the ladies hosting the luau, that the guests would believe that we were also pretty Hawaiian girls who worked at the resort. 

So one night, we got dressed up in our Hawaiian garb and walked downstairs to the luau line. We confidently stood next to the line of people joining the luau, and welcomed them with a friendly “Aloha!” The guests played along and thanked us, and the people working at the luau didn’t mind that we were hosting. In fact, they thanked us for helping out and so kindly let us live out our fantasy. My sister and I stood there welcoming guests for what seemed like hours while my parents took pictures of us and giggled. We were sure we had everyone fooled and that they all believed we were definitely Hawaiian and that we were definitely old enough to work at the luau. 

I don’t think I realized for years that literally nobody believed we worked there, but I smile to think that every person there so kindly played along to make a couple of little girls from Wyoming happy. 

It’s memories like these that make food so much fun. Every time I eat this meal, I think of that 10-year-old girl who was so immersed in the experience of Hawaii and its cuisine. I love making this simple meal at home and while it’s not quite the same as eating it on the beach as a wide-eyed fourth grader, it’s still pretty tasty!

Ingredients: 

Kalua pork:

1 Tbsp. mesquite liquid smoke

3 lb. pork shoulder

Himalayan pink salt, to taste

Coconut rice:

2 c jasmine rice

1 can coconut milk

1 c. chicken broth

1 clove garlic, minced 

¼ inch piece of fresh ginger, minced

2 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp salt

Cabbage:

1 head of cabbage, chopped into bite-sized pieces

2 Tbsp. butter

Salt and pepper, to taste

Trim the pork and place into the slow cooker. Pour liquid smoke all over the top of the pork and season with sea salt. Turn slow cooker on low and cook for 10-12 hours. Shred with a fork.

Make sure you rinse the rice thoroughly before cooking. Then, combine all ingredients into a saucepan and stir. Cook on medium heat until the mixture boils. Cover the pan, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. Stir and serve.

For the cabbage, heat the butter over medium high heat. Add cabbage and cook for about 5 minutes or until cabbage is soft and slightly brown. Season with salt and pepper.

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