How Hawaiian Plate Spots Get Kalua Pig Without an Imu
Walking around Hawaiian food restaurants, I couldn’t find a single imu, so I wondered: Where does the kalua pig come from? Some of the restaurants spoke almost reverentially of Alvin Tam, a commercial imu kalua pig wholesaler (the businesses you learn about!) in Aiea, who retired about five years ago. He cooked whole pigs and pork shoulder in concrete-lined underground imus, but, since he’s retired, no one has taken his place. At least officially—the Department of Health says it’s not aware of any commercial imu kalua pig wholesalers. Helena’s, Haili and Ono all say they have a new source, but they won’t say who, citing the source’s publicity shyness. Some restaurants now make their own. When Tam’s business closed, Young’s Fish Market tried to recreate the imu whole pig flavor as much as possible: It cooks pork shoulder, picnic and belly overnight in a smoker oven. Young’s kalua pig is the best I’ve had outside of a real, imu whole pig.