Kalua Pork and Lomi Lomi Salmon


Hawaii is a favorite vacation destination for our family. Little guy loves the water and during this trip he has proclaimed himself a world class swimmer. On the first day of vacation, he declared that he was going to swim 100 miles.  When he ‘swam’ the width of said pool twice, he calculated that he swam 120 miles, thus exceeding his original goal.  “Tomorrow, I will swim 1 million miles.”

I think this would be a good time to mention that his swimming prowess was aided by a pair of arm floaties and the pool was at most 3 feet deep. I hope he never loses that unbridled confidence.


jhulagirlJJ: Can I kiss your belly?
Hula girl: No, but we can take a picture together.
JJ: But I’m shy.


Because of our penchant for the islands and all island foods, we’ve made kalua pork many, many times.  Since Pru and I have neither the patience nor the yard space to dig up an imu, the traditional underground pit oven in which Hawaiians bake a whole pig, we settled for perfecting our recipe in the crockpot.


*pork butt or pork shoulder, 3-5 pounds
3-4T Ono Hawaiian seasoning (can be found at Whole Foods, Cost Plus or my favorite Takahashi Market)
2T liquid smoke


Pierce pork butt all over with the tines of a fork. This is to ensure that the spice and liquid smoke are absorbed throughout the meat. Spoon liquid smoke first and then Hawaiian seasoning all over meat and rub throughout. Cook in crock pot for 8 hours on low setting. About 7 hours into cooking, check on meat which should be tender and falling apart. Take 2 forks and shred, leaving for another hour to cook in its own juices. Serve with white rice and lomi lomi salmon.

*Do not try to low fat this recipe like I once did by using a lean cut like pork loin. The healthy version unfortunately tasted like a dry, salty dishrag. A fatty cut like pork butt or shoulder is the only way to go. The long cooking time means it will render its own fat and juices which makes it moist and delicious and extremely unhealthy. But like my son who thinks he is the next Michael Phelps, I believe that all the fat released from the long cooking time means it won’t be as unhealthy or fatty.

Lomi Lomi Salmon

I’ve found that eating kalua pork without lomi lomi salmon is less than an authentic luau experience. It’s like having a hula girl dance in heels and denim cutoffs. If you’re gonna try and recreate that island experience you might as well go big, right?

2 tomatoes, diced
1 white onion, diced
1 stalk green onion, diced
salmon fillet, 8 oz

To get the salty briny flavor of lomi lomi salmon, you need to cure it. Layer a bed of salt on a glass Pyrex baking dish; set the salmon on top of this bed of salt. Sprinkle enough salt to cover entire salmon filet. Cover the whole dish with Saran Wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Once salted, rinse excess salt off the salmon filet. Cut into small cubes and combine with diced tomatoes, onions and green onion. Serve alongside white rice and kalua pork.

And another cautionary tale: don’t do a short cut by using diced smoked salmon filets. Lomi lomi salmon is supposed to taste like the ocean, not bagels and lox.

kalua pork


Baked Macaroni with Tomato Cream Sauce


Baked macaroni is one of those dishes that originates from my Pinay roots, specifically my aunt and grandmas who were all about carbs and cheese and rich, savory sauces.  Their versions have cut up hot dogs mixed throughout, sweetened with sugar and topped with grated Kraft cheese that came in a blue can.  By the way, when I was a kid I thought it was ‘crap’ cheese–the Filipinos, we don’t have the letter ‘f’ in our alphabet.  I’m not entirely sure of the reason for my people’s fascination with sweet spaghetti sauce and canned cheese but the baked macaroni was a staple in every family party I’d ever gone to.

So imagine my delight when I made it for a family party this weekend and was asked for the recipe from my cousin Melisa whom I love and will happily make baked macaroni for anytime, minus the crap cheese.


1 onion, diced
2 bell peppers–green or red–grilled or roasted for 15 minutes, diced
1 head of garlic, minced
1 jar Alfredo sauce, TJ’s is my fave
1 can San Marzano tomatoes, 28 oz
1 lb ground beef
1 lb shrimp
Spices to taste: Italian seasoning, salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Saute onions, bell peppers and garlic in 2T of olive oil until all vegetables are tender and onions translucent about fifteen minutes. Brown ground beef with the vegetable mixture and add salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Add whole can of San Marzano tomatoes to sauteed vegetables and browned ground beef in large dutch oven and cover for another 30 minutes. Cook over low heat. This allows all the flavors to come together and the whole tomatoes to break apart. Add jar of Alfredo sauce and combine so both red and white sauces are thoroughly combined and cook covered for another 15 minutes over low heat. Add shrimp to tomato cream sauce mixture and cook for a final 15-20 minutes. Take care in not overcooking the shrimp, just cook long enough so that it’s heated through and no longer pink. Season to your desire. I even added a teaspoon (ok, two) of sugar in homage to my aforementioned Lola Chedeng, Lola Emilia and Tita Baby.

In a large baking dish, spread pasta along the bottom of the baking dish, top with tomato cream sauce and sprinkle with your favorite grated cheese. My favorite is sharp cheddar. Repeat with each layer. Bake for 20 minutes until cheese is melted. Enjoy! And it makes great leftovers for lunch the next day.

baked Mac