HIGH ON THE HOG
Local family roasts pig Hawaiian style.
WRITTEN BY GERALDA MILLER
PHOTOS BY JACI GOODMAN AND KAY ANDRADE
When Kay and Gary Andrade decided to marry in 2009, the Reno couple wanted the day to be filled with Hawaiian traditions.
Fragrant orchid leis draped women’s shoulders, while the male guests wore necklaces made of kukui nuts, from the state tree of Hawaii.
The bride wore a haku lei, the traditional floral headdress, and the groom, who grew up on the island of Oahu, wore a ti leaf lei.
“[Gary’s] culture is such a beautiful culture,” Kay says. “We had Hawaiian music playing. It was just wonderful.”
They enjoyed their Hawaiian-themed wedding so much that the couple decided to invite everyone back on their first anniversary for a traditional Hawaiian pig roast feast. Now, every summer, the Andrades have their own hot August night.
“I came home one day, and Gary had these men in our backyard, digging a hole,” she says. “I said, ‘What is this?’ And he said, ‘We’re going to have our own imu.’”
An imu, an underground oven, is used in the traditional Hawaiian cooking method, called kālua. While the imu typically is a large dirt pit, Gary’s version is a rectangular pit that has been finished with concrete.
Upholding the Hawaiian custom, the Andrades roast a pig in the imu.
That first year, the party of about 40 people feasted on a 70-pound frozen sow, and guests were delighted – that is until last year when they tasted a succulent, freshly harvested pig from GirlFarm, which is about 30 minutes north of Reno. Last year, the Andrades’ 100 guests enjoyed a Berkshire pig that weighed about 125 pounds — close to 95 pounds butchered. The partygoers said they definitely could taste the difference between the frozen pigs they had been enjoying previously and a freshly harvested one.
“Everybody said it was the best pork we’ve had,” Kay says. “There’s a different taste.”
This year’s pig, their seventh, will come from GirlFarm again and will be about 200 pounds.
Perfecting the pork
The preparation of the pig has become an integral part of the cultural celebration, with several male friends and family members participating in the endeavor.
It takes about six hours to prepare the pit to the desired temperature, gradually burning about 80 pieces of wood.
A couple of men give the slaughtered pig a thorough cleaning on the outside deck. Using a recipe from Gary’s Aunt Pat, the skin is scored and generously dressed with a special seasoned salt concocted from Hawaiian salt and seaweed. Foregoing tradition, which calls for the use of rocks, friends stuff the cavity with a chicken wrapped in bacon and then spend a good half-hour stitching it up. To keep the cavity from collapsing, they place an aluminum ball in the pig’s mouth, then they wrap aluminum around the ears and tail. Next, they wrap the entire pig in frozen banana leaves, accessible from any local Asian market, along with wet burlap and chicken wire. The banana leaves and burlap help preserve the pig’s natural moisture, thereby, along with the heat, producing steam.
Using fashioned rebar hooks, the dressed pig is lowered onto a grate and covered with a steel lid. Sand is poured on top of the lid to seal it. The pig then cooks for 14 to 16 hours.
After most of the guests have arrived and the party is in full swing, the aromatic and succulent pork is lifted from the pit.
“When it comes out, it’s not salty, but very tasty,” Gary says. “You’ll be able to cut the meat with a fork.”
The annual pig roast is the Andrades’ way of saying “aloha,” the endearing Hawaiian greeting of love, peace, and compassion, to family and friends.
“We wanted to have a festive party, and that’s exactly what we do,” Gary says. “It doesn’t get better than that.”
Freelance writer Geralda Miller has lived and worked internationally and loves global cuisine. As a child living in Guam, she remembers going to a festive pig roast and wearing a Hawaiian grass skirt.
Don’t want to throw your own pig roast?
Two Asian-Pacific festivals come to Reno this August. The inaugural Reno Aloha Festival, sponsored by Kekoa of Aloha (Warriors of Aloha), comes to Wingfield Park in downtown Reno 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Aug. 27. The event will include music, dancing, merchandise and food vendors, and workshops. Admission is free. For details, visit Renoalohafestival.com. In addition, the Pacifica Festival takes place Aug. 20 – 21 at the Sands Regency Casino and Hotel in Reno to celebrate Asian-Pacific cultures through dance, musical performances, demonstrations, interactive activities for families, and lots of food. For details, visit www.Pacificafestivalreno.org.
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
(courtesy of Kawai Garrido, culinary instructor, McQueen High School Career & Technical Education program in Reno. Serves 6 to 8)
1 pound macaroni
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 carrots, shredded
¼ cup onion, shredded (optional)
2½ cups Best Foods mayonnaise (no substitutes!)
¼ cup milk
2 teaspoons sugar
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain well and place in large bowl.
While macaroni is still hot, sprinkle vinegar and add carrot and onion. Toss together until well combined. Allow to cool about 10 to 15 minutes.
In separate, smaller bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, milk, and sugar. Fold mayo mixture into macaroni until all noodles are evenly coated. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours (best if overnight). Gently stir before serving. Add a little more milk if needed (no more than 1 to 2 tablespoons).
Chocolate Haupia Pie Squares
(courtesy of Kawai Garrido, culinary instructor, McQueen High School Career & Technical Education program in Reno. Makes 16, 2-inch squares)
1 cup flour
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup macadamia nuts, chopped
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 package or can (12 ounces) coconut milk
1 cup water
½ cup cornstarch
7 ounces semisweet baking chocolate squares
1 8-ounce container Cool Whip
Shaved chocolate and shredded coconut, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 8-by-8-inch baking pan.
For the crust, mix together flour, sugar, and nuts. Add butter and cream together. Mix wet to dry ingredients. Press dough into bottom of pan. Bake 8 to 10 minutes. Cool.
For the filling, in saucepan, put sugar, milk, and coconut milk. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking continuously. Bring almost to boil. Remove and set aside. Lower heat. Whisk together cornstarch and water. Add to second saucepan and cook on medium heat until mixture thickens, whisking continuously.
Break chocolate squares and add to cornstarch/water mixture. Melt on medium-low heat, stirring until completely melted. Remove from heat.
Add half haupia mixture to chocolate mixture and stir. Pour over crust. Pour remaining haupia over chocolate mixture. Set in refrigerator for about 2 hours.
Top with Cool Whip. Garnish with chocolate shavings and shredded coconut, if desired.