Where’s the pork?

A plate lunch may seem like a strange choice for a semi-vegetarian foodie, but…well, there’s no but.

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As a Temple student, I am well versed in the art of ordering lunch from a truck – after all that is where the best food on campus comes from.  You can get Chinese food, a gyro, a hoagie, a slice of pizza and most recently warm cookies right from the back of a truck.  Everything served to you in (environmentally-unfriendly Styrofoam) take away containers.

So the idea of eating a plate lunch from a truck on the side of the road in Hanalei (my new favorite place thanks mostly to the picturesque nature of the little beach town and the over-abundance of cute surfers to look at) was comforting.

IMG_2379A plate lunch is a quintessential Hawaiian dish.  Typically it includes some type of meat, two scoops of rice and macaroni salad (or “mac salad” as it is better know here).  The meat can be chicken or beef, but more popularly pork.  Apparently, it used to consist of white dog as well.  Not black dog, not brown dog.  Only white dogs.  Don’t worry Lassie, that tradition is long gone.

TJ, my willing local surf instructor/tour guide and constant source of entertainment, took me to sample the mixed plate lunch, which consists of the above and then some.  At the Hanalei Taro Juice Co. that means a $9.00 Styrofoam container of all the best foods served at a luau.

“Gone all out Hawaiian now girl.”  TJ says with a satisfied smile.  “This is all-guns-blazing Hawaiian style right here.”

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IMG_2382We order at the truck, wait until the steaming-hot, fat-laden plates are passed through the window to our hands and sit down at the picnic table to indulge.   TJ gives me a tour of the cuisine as I not-so-delicately shove it into my mouth.

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Let’s start with the vegetarian friendly pieces of this schmorgasboard.  A scoop of sticky white rice is accompanied by the traditional mac salad, but the Hanalei Juice Co. is kind enough to grate some taro into the mayonnaise-y mix.  Next is a container of poi – a slimy purple paste the color and consistency of pureed black beans, but tasting more like a starch in its purest form.  Poi is mashed taro and water and is scooped out with two or three fingers rather than utilizing something silly like a spoon.  Despite its bland flavor, it’s an acquired taste.  Hence the $0.50 poi sample option for the skeptical.  The vegetarian portion of the meal is rounded out with a bite-sized piece of taro mochi – very similar to the Japanese desert, but with…surprise…more taro.

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IMG_2641A culinary bridge between the plants and the pigs is a small plastic cup of rosy-red lomi-lomi salmon.  It has the consistency of salsa, but no spicy jolt joining the diced tomatoes, onions and tiny bites salted salmon.

As I dig into the two heaping piles of steaming hot fatty pork sitting in front of me I hear someone order a Polynesian Papaya smoothie.  I wonder if I will remember how to eat healthy again after I finish devouring Wilbur and his brother.  The pork laulau is pig wrapped first in a taro leaves and then a ti leaf and finally steamed.  The meat takes on the flavor of the tropical leaves and is left juicy and tender.  The kalua pig, on the other hand…or maybe it’s the very same hand…comes from the traditional underground smoked pig.  You know the one that is a dead giveaway of a luau.  Essentially it’s Hawaiian pulled pork, but without all the fancy sauce dragging the pork flavor down.

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My fingers scoop some lavender paste from the bowl of poi on my left as I dig past the taro leaves to get into the succulent pork laulau.  Damn, I guess vegetarianism will have to wait another day.

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1 Comment

  1. January 27, 2010 at 6:42 am

    […] craving this evening was animal parts (feeling a little low on iron lately are we?) so slurping down dozens of buck-a-shuck happy hour […]


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