I've been craving a tropical isle lately, and missing our favorite local Hawaiian place, which wasn't authentic plate lunch, but did do a delicious Kalua Pork and the fried rice with over-easy eggs that I crave periodically. We used to walk there every few months, enjoy a heavy breakfast and the walk home. MZ practically grew through infancy there and the waitresses were kind in a coffee shop sort of way.
So when I got a cabbage in my CSA box and saw some cryovac'd Niman pork shoulder at TJ's, I started thinking of Kalua Pork. I perused a dozen recipes via Google, and realized I was not going to go out in search of ti leaves, nor did I want to roast it in the oven. I wanted a braised pork and cabbage dish, the kind served at any plate lunch place on the Big Island.
So here is my interpretation. It is not authentic, but it is a fair bit healthier than its kin, and so easy it practically cooks itself. It was very nice with some organic half-polished brown rice I found at Nijiya. No mac salad, so the transformation to vaguely reminiscent, mostly healthy Cali-Hawaiian comfort food is complete.
2 lbs Niman pork should, cut into boneless country ribs, or slices approximately 2"x2"x6"
2 T Penzey's Trinidad Lemon Garlic Marinade
1 banana leaf
1 cup water
1 t Wright's Hickory Liquid Smoke combined with 3 t. water
1 medium head green cabbage, cut into papardelle-size slices
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Rub the pork pieces with the marinade and allow to sit for one hour or while preparing remaining ingredients. Cut banana leaf to fit over a heavy saucepan suitable for braising (many Asian markets sell packages of round trimmed banana leaves in the freezer section. I keep them on hand for making amok, and this was the perfect size for my small Le Creuset-style saucepan).
Place the seasoned pork in the saucepan. Pour liquid smoke mixture and water over all. Bring to a simmer, skim top, stir to put raw meat under water. Cover pan with the trimmed banana leaf and pot lid. Place in oven to braise for 1.5 hours.
Remove from oven, stir and place cabbage over all. Return to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Stir, and cook for 15 minutes more. The pork should be falling-apart tender, continue to braise, covered, until the pieces fall apart when you stir the mixture.
Adjust seasonings and serve with Japanese short-grain rice, Sriracha sauce and a cold tropical beer.
Riff references: Kalua Pork (slow cooker), No-Imu Kalua Pig, Will Owen on Chowhound
Postscript: For more traditional kalua pig, rub two 4-lb. pork shoulders with Hawaiian salt and 2 T Liquid Smoke and let sit, unwrapped, in the fridge overnight. Place in a crockpot and set on high. After one hour, turn to low, cook for 8 hours. Remove pork, add coarsely shredded cabbage and cover. Shred pork and add back to crockpot. Allow to simmer together ~30 minutes on high, then serve.