Who doesn’t love Hawaii? There are few better spots in the world for sun, sand, beautiful waters and a wonderful, relaxing vacation. One of the things that doesn’t get publicized as much about the Aloha State, though, is it’s great food. There are many exceptional delicacies to be found on the islands and, today, I’m showing you how to make one of its more popular dishes in your own kitchen. Better yet, I’m making it into a dish that I think could one day be found at, perhaps, the Hawaii Booth at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. Or, maybe, inside Disney’s Polynesian Resort & Spa at either Captain Cook’s or Trader Sam’s. It’s my recipe for Kalua-Style Pulled Pork Tots with Polynesian BBQ Sauce and Mango Salsa!
The components for our Kalua-Style Pulled Pork Tots with Polynesian BBQ Sauce & Mango Salsa are pretty straightforward. Heck, the name of the dish pretty much tells you many of the ingredients you’re going to need; Pork, Mango & BBQ Sauce!
The BBQ Sauce
What you do need to know about the ingredients depends on how much of this you decide to create yourself. I love this recipe for Polynesian BBQ Sauce but you may just want to use your favorite store bought brand. That would be fine. I do think the flavors this sauce brings out in the Pork are exceptional, though So, please think about making it. If you do, you will need to find a couple things that may not be in your pantry, normally. Those are Chinese Five Spice and Molasses. They should be fairly easy to track down within your local grocery store, however.
For the Pork portion of the dish, I usually use a Pork Shoulder or Butt roast. They are both very flavorful and handle the process well. Since we are cooking this in the oven and not digging an “imu” pit in our back yard, we’ll need a couple other components to simulate the “Kalua-Style” smoky flavor. That will come from the Liquid Smoke. Which is, essentially, smoked water, for lack of a better term. We’ll also use a coarse Salt to provide that brininess you get from traditional Kalua Pork. Oh, and Banana Peels. That’s right. I’ll get to that in a bit.
For the Mango Salsa for this dish, you will want to find Mangoes that give just a little bit when you give them a light squeeze. If they’re really hard, they’re not ripe enough, yet. If they’re too soft, they may be too ripe to provide the structure you want for your Salsa. You may also notice, in the picture above, I’m using Red Jalapeños. This is simply because I like the pop of color they provide in the dish. If you can only find the green version of the peppers, they will work fine. If you want to add the nice pop of red color in your Salsa, you can add a minced Red Bell Pepper.
Finally, one component of this dish that is not in the title is Pickled Red Onion. I use it mostly as a garnish but it also and a wonderful tartness to the dish. It’s also simple to make so I would suggest giving it a shot. Mostly, you’ll just need more Rice Wine Vinegar, Sugar and Soy Sauce for the pickling liquid.
Let’s get our Aloha on!
The Kalua-Style Pork
Just like if you were actually digging an ‘imu” and roasting the pig in the ground, our oven roasted Kalua-Style Pork is a slow-cooking process. So, you’ll want to get that started well ahead of service time.
Begin by preheating your oven to 300ºF. (That’s right, we’re going low & slow)
Trim most of the excess fat off of the outside of the Pork Shoulder or Butt roast and place in a large bowl. Add the coarse Kosher or Sea Salt and Liquid Smoke and work, by hand, to make sure as much of the meat is coated.
Here’s where it gets a little weird
Traditional Kalua Pork is usually wrapped with Banana Leaves before it goes into the “imu”. Well, when I was developing this recipe, I didn’t have those leaves. So, I did what I thought was the next best thing. I peeled a couple of Bananas and place the Peels inside of the roasting wrap we’re about to create. While it didn’t accomplish everything the leaves do, it did provide some of what I was looking to obtain from them. It added a little extra moisture to the roasting process and a small hint of underlying sweetness. So, I’ve continued to do it for this recipe ever since.
Start by laying out a sheet of Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil. Place 1 to 1½ Banana Peels in the center. Then place the seasoned Pork Roast directly on the peel. Place the other 1 to 1½ Banana Peels directly on top of the Roast, like in the picture below.
Next, fold up the edges of the Foil around the Port Roast until it’s almost enclosed. Pour the Chicken Stock into center with the Roast and Peels. Then seal the edges of the Foil. Wrap the Roast with 2 or 3 more layers of Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil, trying to seal the edges as much as possible each time. Place the wrapped Pork Roast in a large Baking Dish.
Place in a preheated 300ºF oven and roast for 4 – 6 hours.
The Polynesian BBQ Sauce
While the Pork Roast is doing its thing, it’s time to get to work on the other parts of our Kalua-Style Pulled Pork Tots with Polynesian BBQ Sauce & Mango Salsa. We’ll start with the sauce.
Place a medium-sized sauce pan on the stove over medium heat. Add a little oil and the Diced Yellow Onion. Sweat the Onions until just translucent then add the Crushed Pineapple, Low-Sodium Soy Sauce, Molasses, Brown Sugar, Ketchup, Chinese Five Spice, Salt & Pepper. Stir until well combined. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, taste and adjust seasonings as desired with Salt & Pepper.
- Note: This sauce can be a little on the sweeter side of BBQ sauces. If you like a little more zip and heat in your sauce, you can balance it out with a pinch of Cayenne Pepper or, better yet, a touch of Sriracha.
The Pickled Red Onions
As I already mentioned, I love adding the Pickled Red Onions as a sweet yet tart garnish for our Kalua-Style Pulled Pork Tots with Polynesian BBQ Sauce & Mango Salsa. They’re pretty simple to make and they add this burst of contrasting flavors.
To make them, add the Rice Wine Vinegar, Low-Sodium Soy Sauce and Sugar to a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer.
Remove the pot from the heat and add the Sliced Red Onion. Give it a quick stir and let it rest. That’s it! The liquid will pickle the Red Onions as it cools.
Once the Pickling Liquid and Red Onions cool completely, strain them from the liquid and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Note: This is a great “Sweet Pickling” recipe for a lot of different vegetables. I’ll often use it with a combination of julienned or shredded Carrots, Celery, Red Bell Pepper and Onions. It also works if for Jalapeños. It makes a wonderful sweet/tart garnish for a lot of different dishes. Don’t believe me? Make these Sweet Pickled Veggies and slap them on a simple Hot Dog. You’ll thank me!
The Mango Salsa
Time for the Tropical Fruit component that brings the entire dish together. To make our Salsa, add the Diced Mango, Diced Red Onion, Minced Jalapeño, Chopped Cilantro, Fresh Lime Juice and Salt to a medium-sized bowl. Stir until well combined.Taste and adjust the seasonings, as necessary with Salt. (If the Salsa is a little on the tart side, you can also add a touch of Sugar to balance it) Place in an air-tight container and reserve in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Note: I suggest being careful with the Jalapeño in this Salsa. They can often vary on the amount of heat they provide so I suggest starting with a half of one pepper and tasting to see where the heat level is. Remember, just like with Salt, you can always add more but you can’t take the peppers out if the salsa ends up too spicy.
This is easy. Just like with our Loaded Buffalo Chicken Tots from The Friar’s Nook, we’re not making homemade Tots. So, once our Kalua Style Pork has roasted for its 4 – 6 hours, remove it and cook the Tater Tots according to the package directions.
Pulling our Kalua Style Pork
Once the Pork Roast is done cooking for 4 to 6 hours, you’ve removed it from the oven and started cooking the Tots, it’s time to get this Pork Pulled.
Cut open the top of the foil wrapping being careful not to burn yourself from the steam that will be released. Remove the top Banana Peel then turn the rest of the contents into the Baking Dish you used to roast the Pork. (There may be a little liquid in the pan that leaked out from the Roast. That’s okay. It will just help add moisture and flavor to the pork while it’s being pulled)
Remove the other Banana Peel(s). Using a pair of forks begin shredding or “pulling” the Pork until you get it to your desired consistency.
Once your Pork has been “pulled” to your contentment, give it a taste and correct seasoning, as necessary, with a little more Salt. Keep warm until ready for service.
Serving our Kalua-Style Pulled Pork Tots with Polynesian BBQ Sauce & Mango Salsa
Once the Tots have finished cooking and you’re ready to serve, you can approach this in two different ways; both with the same basic process. You can send them out on individual plates for each guest or family-style on a large shareable platter.
To plate, place the Tater Tots in a pile at the base. Top with your desired amount of the Kalua-Style Pulled Pork and drizzle with the Polynesian BBQ Sauce. Follow with a spoonful of the Mango Salsa and a couple of Pickled Red Onions. Sprinkle with a little Chopped Cilantro and serve immediately.
This recipe for Kalua-Style Pulled Pork Tots with Polynesian BBQ Sauce & Mango Salsa whisks us right to the islands (or at least The Poly). The Tots provide a perfect crispy yet rich base for the slightly smokey and salty Pork. The Polynesian BBQ Sauce brings a wonderful sweetness and a pop of acid while the Mango Salsa brings a fruity brightness and small burst of heat. Then you grab a bite with the Pickled Red Onion which add a wonderful sweet yet sour component that makes the dish sing.
It’s a wonderfully balanced dish that you and your Ohana will absolutely love!
Make this Disney(ish) Dish for your family this weekend and bring a little of the Aloha State to your kitchen table.
Kalua-Style Pulled Pork Tots with Polynesian BBQ Sauce & Mango Salsa
Makes approximately 6 – 8 servings
For the Kalua-Style Pork
- 2½ – 3 lb – Pork Shoulder or Butt Roast – Trimmed of Excess Fat
- 2 tbls – Liquid Smoke
- ¼ cup – Kosher or Sea Salt
- ½ cup – Chicken Broth or Stock
- 2 – 3 – Fresh Banana Peels
For the Polynesian BBQ Sauce
- ½ – Yellow Onion – Diced
- 2 cups – Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
- 8 oz – Crushed Pineapple
- ¼ cup – Molasses
- ½ cup – Ketchup
- ¼ cup – Brown Sugar – Packed
- ½ tbls – Chinese 5 Spice
- 1 tsp – Salt
- ½ tsp – Pepper
For the Pickled Red Onion
- ½ – Red Onion – Sliced
- 1 cup – Rice Wine Vinegar
- 1 cup – Granulated Sugar
- ¼ cup – Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
For the Mango Salsa
- 2 – Whole Mangoes – Diced
- ½ – Red Onion – Diced
- 1 – Red Jalapeño Pepper – Minced
- 2 oz – Fresh Lime Juice
- 1 tbls – Fresh Cilantro – Chopped
- Salt – To Taste
- 1 pkg – Frozen Tater Tots – Cooked according to package instructions
- Chopped Cilantro – For Garnish
For the Kalua-Style Pulled Pork
- Preheat the oven to 300ºF
- Place the Pork Roast, Liquid Smoke and Salt in a large bowl. Mix by hand until the meat is thoroughly coated
- Lay out a large sheet of Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil and place 1 to 1½ Banana Peels flat on in the center. Put the seasoned Pork Roast directly on the top of the Banana Peel.
- Fold the edges of the Foil up around the Pork Roast and pour the Chicken Stock in with the meat.
- Place another Banana Peel directly on top of the Roast and seal the edges of the foil around it.
- Wrap in 2 to 3 more layers around the Pork Roast and place in a large baking dish
- Roast in a 300ºF oven for 4 to 6 hours
- Once done roasting, remove from the oven and cut into the top of the foil wrapped Roast, being careful of the steam that is released
- Remove the Banana Peel that is on top and turn the meat into the baking dish. Remove the remaining Banana Peel
- Using 2 forks, “pull” the roasted Pork until it’s shredded to your desired consistency
- Keep warm until ready to serve
For the Polynesian BBQ Sauce
- Place a medium-sized sauce pan over medium heat. Add a little oil and the Diced Yellow Onions and sweat until just translucent
- Add the Low-Sodium Soy Sauce, Crushed Pineapple, Molasses, Ketchup, Brown Sugar, Chinese Five Spice, Salt and Pepper and stir until well combined
- Bring to a simmer and cook for 4 – 5 minutes
- Remove from heat and cool completely
- Reserve in an air tight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve
For the Pickled Red Onion
- Add the Rice Wine Vinegar, Granulated Sugar and Low-Sodium Soy Sauce to a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer until the Sugar has dissolved
- Remove from heat, add the Sliced Red Onion and give it a quick stir
- Allow to cool completely and strain the Pickled Red Onions from the liquid
- Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve
For the Mango Salsa
- Place the Diced Mango, Diced Red Onion, Minced Jalapeño, Chopped Cilantro, Fresh Lime Juice and Salt to a medium-sized bowl and stir until well combined
- Taste and adjust seasoning, as necessary, with Salt
- Place in an air-tight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve
- Cook the Frozen Tater Tots according to the package directions
- Place the cooked Tater Tots in a pile on individual plates or platter for family-style service
- Add desired amount of Kalua-Style Pulled Pork directly on top of the Tots
- Drizzle the Pork with Polynesian BBQ Sauce
- Top with a spoonful of Mango Salsa
- Garnish with Pickled Red Onion and a sprinkle of Chopped Cilantro
- Serve immediately