Last week, we were at a local restaurant that served lau lau pork (leaf leaf pork). Miriam bought a side dish of this and it was amazing. In reading about it, it appears that it is usually made with both fish and pork, but the restaurant and many of the recipes I found on-line replace the salted fish with soy sauce.
Note On Spelling: While Wikipedia runs the words lau lau together (laulau) most of the rest of the Internet seems to split them apart.
I was planning to make a single serving of this pork for daughter Miriam—who is off chilies, onions, and garlic at the moment—while the rest of us had tacos al pastor. They eventually canceled for this week, so I had to decide which dishes to finish up for the three of us. I decide to freeze and save the al pastor for later and use the ingredients I had bought for the lau lau pork, which would not keep.
A key ingredient for this dish is taro leaves (in Hawaiian: kalo lau). I thought this might be a difficult thing to find, but it is actually more commonly used than I thought. Any good Asian store should have it in their fresh vegetable bins.
In Hawaii, the pork is wrapped in taro leaves which are delicate and edible. This bundle is further wrapped in ti leaves or banana leaves which are much sturdier, but which are not edible. You may substitute aluminum foil for the outer wrapping in a pinch—actually it is much more convenient, but you may loose some subtle flavors.
Karl’s Hawaiian Lau Lau Pork
1½ lbs. shoulder pork
¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
2 tsp. Hawaiian red sea salt
½ cup fresh pineapple
~1 lb. taro leaves
Aluminum foil or ti leaves or banana leaves
1. Cut the pork into one inch chunks.
Tip: Depending on your diet you may remove any large bits of fat. You want to keep some of the fat for the flavor, but your dish would be very greasy if you do not remove the larger pieces—there is nowhere for the grease to drain away when it is wrapped in foil.
Note: While this dish takes only a few minutes to prepare, there are long marinating and cooking times.
2. Sprinkle the soy sauce and salt over the meat and toss to coat.
3. Chop your pineapple small bits and add it to the pork—with any resulting juice
4. Mix the pineapple into the pork well, cover, and marinate for at least one hour in the refrigerator.
5. Rinse the taro leaves well and trim off the tough stems.
Tip: The package I bought has several small leaves—10-12 inches across—and several large leaves—20-24 inches.
6. I put a bit of pork into the small leaves and I split the larger leaves as an outer wrapping.
Tip: Be gentle, even the larger leaves are fairly brittle.
Note: Each bundle should be a serving, so about a quarter pound plus goes into each bundle.
7. Wrap the bundles in aluminum foil—or ti or banana leaves.
8. Fill the steamer pot with water up to the wire rack.
Tip: You want your bundles up out of the water, but you want a steamer pot that holds plenty of water.
Note: Keep an eye on your pot, with the hours of steaming you may need to replenish the water in the bottom of the pot several times.
9. Place the bundles loosely in the pot.
Tip: You want there to be plenty of space for the steam to reach each bundle.
10. Bring the pot to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer.
11. Steam the bundles for 2½ – 4 hours.
Note: While some recipes called for steaming the pork for four hours, I found the pork falling apart tender after only three hours.
12. Serve the bundle of taro leaves and pork over steamed rice.
Tip: Using aluminum foil it is easy to open the bundles and tip it out over the rice. If you are using ti pr banana leaves this will be more difficult, as the internal bundle will fall to bits if roughly handled.