If you’ve ever been to Hawaii (I have been lucky enough to have gone several times) you know that they love pork. You will find pork just about everywhere. One of the most famous Hawaiian pork recipes that are widely known all over the world is Kalua Pork.
For those that don’t know, Kalua Pork is cooked in an underground oven called an Imu. An Imu is a big pit dug and filled with wood and rock, most often lava rock or basalt. A fire is built that It takes a few hours for the wood to turn to coals and the stones to get red hot. Now that the rocks are hot, it’s time to cook the pig, tropical leaves are placed on top to steam cook the pork.
Hawaiians would traditionally use anything from coconut palm fronds to grasses to banana leaves.
The prepared whole pig is then laid on top of the bed of greenery, covered with more leaves or greens then the dirt that was dug out of the pit is used to cover it back up to keep the heat in. It cooked for at least 8 hours, depending on the size of the pig. Once it’s done, it’s pulled out of the ground and pulled apart. The long cooking time and steaming by the leaves create pull apart pork with a subtle smoke flavor.
It takes a similar amount of time it takes to cook a 4-6lb pork shoulder in a crockpot, but without having to dig a hole in your hard and find banana leaves. Or climb your neighbor’s palm tree to harvest leaves.
Either way, it’s a fantastic way to cook pork if you can ever taste it cooked the traditional way, it will blow your socks off.
Back to Trader Joe’s Kalua Pork rolls. One of the other interesting things about Hawaii is the melting pot of Asian cultures. Japanese and Filipinos represent the largest ethnic minorities represented in Hawaii and they brought their food cultures to Hawaii. Spring rolls are ubiquitous throughout Asia and what is a better combination than smoked pork and a crunchy spring roll?
Trader Joe’s loves to do these mashups of different cultures like Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Mochi Balls which actually taste good.
These Trader Joe’s Kalua Pork Rolls are pretty simple and if you look at the ingredients they are very similar to regular spring rolls, except the smoked pork shoulder. There is cabbage and carrots and onions in these spring rolls.
I would put these in a regular oven or air fryer to get that extra crispy skin. Microwaving them will give you a mushy roll. It won’t taste much different but sure won’t have the crunchy exterior that we all want.
After I baked these the required amount of time, I could start to smell the smoked pork coming from my toaster oven.
Putting them on a real plate, I could tell that the wrappers got nice and crispy, maybe not as nice as if they were deep fried but close enough for me.
When I cut one open I could see lots of meat and cabbage and onions and carrots and definitely hit with a nice aroma of smoked pork.
Once, they cooled off, make sure you do that because they are like lava (trust me on this) when they first come out of the oven. I took a big bite and they loved the smoked pork and vegetables in a spring rolls form. I would definitely get these again. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a good BBQ sauce that I thought would pair well with these, but definitely get a Hawaiian type of BBQ sauce to dip these in.
I think Trader Joe’s really knocked it out of the park on these and I will rate them a solid 8 Bells!
pork picnic shoulder, spring roll pastry (wheat flour, water, coconut oil, salt, sodium caseinate [milk], wheat starch, maltodextrin, ascorbic acid), green cabbage, yellow onion, carrot, Asian glass noodles (potato starch, pea starch, mung bean flour, water), green onion, soy sauce (water, soybeans, wheat, salt), garlic, wheat flour, natural hickory smoke flavor, black pepper, salt, white pepper, sugar. fried in soybean oil.