National Nachos Day

I love nachos of all sorts. A marvelous Mexican chef and restauranteur taught me to make them with a single layer of chips, individually adorned with cheese, sauce, and any other finely diced toppings you need. That is still my favorite preparation.

Naturally, traveling in Hawaii means trying Hawaiian nachos, which are made with Hawaiian pulled pork. Polynesians were not the only people to settle in the Hawaiian Islands. They were joined by numerous Europeans, along with ranchers from South and Central America.

Pork in any form is by far the most popular protein in Hawaii. It was first brought to the islands by ancient Polynesians.  True Hawaiian Kalua Pork is smoky, tender, flavorful, and juicy (never dry). Traditionally, it is served with cabbage, Hawaiian macaroni salad, and rice.

As your friendly, traveling foodies were walking down Waikiki Beach, we stopped at a beach bar. Go figure! Sir Ronald had the Hawaiian Pork Tacos, filled with their traditional smoky pulled pork, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, sriracha cream, and some fresh pineapple on the side. I chose Hawaiian Pork Nachos… with nacho cheese, the same seasoned juicy pulled pork, fresh pineapple-pepper salsa, sriracha cream, and sliced jalapeño peppers on the side.  Yummy!!!

Then we spent time at the pool. Needed to rest… I mean, work those calories off. Hah!

So, you’d like to make Hawaiian pulled pork at home. It’s easy, freezes well, and makes a yummy variation to our traditional mainland or southern pulled pork.

Smoky Hawaiian Pulled Pork

Hawaiian pulled pork is smoky, sweet, and tangy. Try it on rice or nachos, in tacos, sandwiches, or lettuce cups. We can dig a backyard hole to make this in a traditional underground Hawaiian oven… an imu, making this Kalua Pig. The smoky flavor is aided by the pig being seasoned with Hawaiian red sea salt and wrapped in ti or banana leaves and cooked over wood. Having no imu nor such leaves, we can Super Simplify it with liquid smoke or smoky paprika.

3 – 3½ lbs pork butt or boneless pork shoulder, sliced 2-3″ thick

1 T Hawaiian red sea salt

3 T olive oil, or as needed

1 lg sweet onion, chopped

1½ c chicken or turkey stock

1 c pineapple juice

½ c tamari or soy sauce

3 T sweet Thai chili sauce

2 T each: minced ginger and brown sugar (or golden monk fruit)

1 T each: minced garlic and smoked paprika (not sweet or hot) (or 2 tsp liquid smoke)

2 T cornstarch whisked with 1 T cold water (optional)

Rub all sides of the pork with Hawaiian sea salt and quickly sear in batches in olive oil in a skillet over med-high heat just till lightly browned. Transfer meat to slow cooker on high heat setting. Combine onion, stock, pineapple juice, tamari, chili sauce, ginger, brown sugar, garlic, and smoked paprika. Stir into the pork. Cover and reduce heat to low. Let cook for 8 hours. Then remove meat to heavy flat baking dish with sides (to catch liquid). Shred using 2 forks. Stir in as much of the cooking liquid as desired (after stirring in the cornstarch slurry, if you prefer the liquid thicker).

KISS Tips: This reheats beautifully, and the flavors improve. If using sweet or Hungarian paprika, add 1 tsp liquid smoke for the traditional smoky flavor. Keep some fat on the pork butt for flavor and moisture. Make this in an Instant Pot-type cooker to reduce cooking time to 30 min. To truly make this more traditionally in the slow cooker, simply cover the seasoned meat with water in which you have added 1 T liquid smoke, rather than adding all the other seasonings.

About Cathy Burnham Martin

Author of 20+ books, and counting! A professional voice-over artist, dedicated foodie, and lifelong corporate communications geek, Cathy Burnham Martin has enjoyed a highly eclectic career, ranging from the arts and journalism to finance, telecommunications, and publishing. Along with her husband, Ron Martin, she has passions for entertaining, gardening, volunteering, active and visual arts, GREAT food, and traveling. Cathy often says, "I believe that we all should live with as much contagious enthusiasm as possible... Whether we're with friends or family, taking people along for the ride is more than half the fun."
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