Home > meat, sides > 4 Years Without Mom: Hawaiian Food (Kalua Pork & Mac Salad)

4 Years Without Mom: Hawaiian Food (Kalua Pork & Mac Salad)


1979: Me & mom at the San Diego Zoo

May 14, 2013 marked four years since my mom’s passing. Every year since, my extended family gathers in her memory.  In Vietnamese, we call it a gio. I asked my dad how long we are traditionally obligated to have a gio and he said you can continue to do this as long as you want to honor and remember the person. So I guess this is happening every year. Really, we just say a few prayers, eat and laugh.

Growing up, family gatherings happened every Sunday. As we’ve gotten older, started our own families and, honestly, lost key family members that were our glue, big family gatherings with all of my aunts, uncles and cousins happen significantly less often. I see my cousins that live nearby weekly; I hope that my nieces and nephews remember these gatherings as fondly as I look back on the family meals of my youth. These days, opportunity for the families of all seven of my grandma’s kids to gather is so rare.


Mom and her 5 sisters

I can’t remember whether it was my mom’s 70th or 71st (her last birthday) but she sent me out to pick up tacos because she secretly confessed that she was tired of having Vietnamese food at every gathering. That was a revelation to me!!! We only ordered Vietnamese food because we thought that’s what she preferred! In honor of her request, my cousin, brother and I have hosted a different themed meal every year. The first year I think we ordered a roast pig because I still lived in Chicago and could only fly home for the weekend. The second year, we made Mexican. Last year, I roasted a ridiculous 32 pounds of Korean pork (bo ssam). This year, we did Hawaiian food. I made a more reasonable 9 pounds of kalua pork and cabbage and 3 pounds of macaroni salad. My cousin made cole slaw. We ordered spam musubi, egg rolls, grilled chicken and pork katsu from Phil’s Kitchen in Menlo Park. (Note to self for next year ~3 small trays of meat is good enough. Don’t panic order!)

Kahlua Pork & Cabbage, preshredding

I didn’t shred the pork until right before serving so the meat would retain most of the heat

Mac Salad

This is an incredibly easy meal to feed a crowd. The kalua pork uses only a handful of ingredients and then its hands off in the crock pot. For the mac salad, if you can boil pasta, you can pull this together in 15-20 minutes the day before.

Crockpot Kalua Pork & Cabbage (from Allrecipes)

This recipe is scaled to fit 2 crockpots and ultimately fill a half tin chafing pan.

  • 9 lbs pork butt/shoulder
  • 3 Tbsp Hawaiian sea salt (kosher salt is fine)
  • 1.5 Tbsp liquid smoke (find it near the BBQ sauce)
  • 1 head of cabbage, shredded
  1. Stab pork with a knife or carving fork. Rub salt and liquid smoke evenly over the meat.
  2. Place into slow cooker(s).Cover and cook on low for 16-20 hours. Turn the meat over once during cook time.
  3. 30 minutes before the meat is done, add shredded cabbage.
  4. Remove meat & cabbage from slow cooker. Shred meat and add drippings as needed to moisten.
  5. I set aside the extra meat juice for people to pour over their rice too.
  6. Serve with rice & mac salad
Hawaiian Mac Salad (adapted from food.com)
This recipe is also scaled to fill a half tin chafing pan. I like mine super simple and not sweet. You’ll find variations of this simple mac salad with everything from potatoes to condensed milk.
  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 1-2 carrots, shredded
  • 2 stalked celery, diced
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Boil the macaroni until tender (not al dente!)
  2. Mix in carrots, celery, mayonnaise and milk.
  3. Add salt & pepper (or any other seasonings) to taste.
  4. Add more mayonnaise if you need it.
  5. Chill in fridge.
  6. When you’re ready to use, give it a stir and add more mayo if you need it. Don’t be afraid of the mayo in this case 🙂

I really miss her. She’s holding my cousin, not my brother.

Categories: meat, sides Tags: , ,
  1. Yen
    May 27, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    Very sweet!

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