Follow Your Nose to Brisket and Baked Beans in Kunia
Yes, there’s barbecue in Kunia—at This Lil Piggy behind Kō Hana Distillers.
What do you get when you put together a DJ and a sushi chef? In the case of Toma Turner and Erwin Carnate, you end up with This Lil Piggy, a fusion barbecue joint in Kunia. Lil Piggy goes back to a time in Las Vegas when Turner did music while Carnate made sushi at restaurants including Morimoto and Blue Ribbon. Local guys living outside the islands tend to party together, which is how Turner and Carnate met. They started cooking and selling local food and when their Hawaiian smoked meat proved popular, bought a commercial smoker. Back home in Hawai‘i, they started catering and six months ago, opened a barbecue counter in the back of Kō Hana Distillers.
When you get to Kō Hana, find This Lil Piggy by following your nose to the aroma of smoked barbecue. You’ll be greeted by a covered patio with picnic tables and a scenic view of the surrounding farmlands and mountains. The order window is on the side of the building.
The menu consists of brisket, kalua sliders, Hawaiian smoked meat, baked beans and sausage, with more items to come in the future. Sauces come in spicy or sweet options. Not listed are the plate lunch specials: two choices for $15 and three choices for $20, plus another $7 for brisket. We go with the plate lunches so we can sample everything.
The brisket calls me. It turns out to be my favorite of everything we try. Generous portions of fat cling to the beef, offering unctuousness with a hint of smokiness and salt. The meat has a slight barbecue tang and, except for a few drier bites, is almost tender enough to part with your tongue. The spicy sauce is recommended with this. If you can grind a piece of brisket with fat, you won’t need the sauce.
Smoked pork, Big Island style, is sautéed with guava jelly and onions. It’s a succulent dish with a gentle sweetness. Glistening morsels are permeated with a restrained smoky taste. You can get it with rice, but I like it without.
The kalua pork slider is deconstructed on the plate. The shredded strands have a wood-fire flavor. Either sauce works well with this, but be sparing or you’ll overpower the subtle flavors of the pulled pork.
Baked beans are an unexpected surprise that turn out to be my wife’s favorite. They’re also This Lil Piggy’s best seller. I’m not a big fan of beans, but this dish could make me one. The varied textures of tender brisket, beans and sauce play nicely with each other. It’s a succulent experience with a flavor that makes me think of smoked nectar.
The sausage is a juicy take on your standard sausage. Some pieces have a soft hint of spice. Others are subtly smoky and sweet.
It’s a bit of a drive from town, but This Lil Piggy’s worth checking out if you have a craving for smoked barbecue. My pro tip: Make a day of it and enjoy the rum tasting at Kō Hana afterwards.