Monday, September 22, 2008

A Memorable Foody Event--An `Aha`aina for Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 with Swedish Kalua Pork Cabbage Rolls (Kaldomar)

Food Blogging these past almost 6 months has brought a lot to my life the most meaningful thing being great new friends and experiences. One of the most memorable experiences has to be the event I attended this Saturday. An `aha`aina, or "great feast", hosted by the incredibly wonderful and talented Michelle at The Accidental Scientist as part of the Foodbuzz 24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Blogs Event. When Michelle first told me what she was proposing to Foodbuzz for this event, I was sure she had a winner and would be chosen. The `aha`aina was the precursor to the more modern-day luau when King Kamehameha II brought the masses and all social classes--rich, poor, royalty and commoners, to share food and fellowship as one group or ohana (family). This opened up Hawaii to all sorts of new foods as people brought and shared the foods from their regions, countries and cultures.

That is exactly what happened on Saturday! About 30 of us, headed to a private, secret little island location of Oahu (I'd tell you where we were but then I would have to kill you!). I will say this--could anything start a gathering off better than arriving to it on a small motor boat shuttle? In this perfect spot for a party we gathered, pans, plates and dishes in hand.
Michelle and her fun and fantastic husband Mike (referred to as LB on her blog), tasked us with either creating a new version of a traditional Hawaiian dish, using ingredients that are prominent staples of our country or ethnic background or making a traditional dish from our country or our ethnic background using locally available Hawaiian ingredients. I was amazed at how seriously and with what great spirit people took the assignment--so much amazing food and wonderful interpretations of so many dishes--over 16 different nationalities and cultures were so wonderfully represented. I tried at least a bite of every dish and was blown away with the creativity and the incredible flavors--I only wish I could have eaten more! Even though most of the people there didn't know each other well, there was such a sense of sharing and community, which is the beauty of people coming together over good food, cooked lovingly.
Here are a few pictures of only some of the incredible dishes from respectively: Hawaii, England, Spain, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, Fiji, & Japan. You can check out Michelle's post with more details of the event and many more fabulous pictures here. Recipes for the dishes will be posted soon on her site too.

I struggled a bit with what to make as I don't have a strong cultural identity. I am made up of 1/4 each of Swedish, Danish and German, with 1/4 of a miscellaneous mix. Outside of the occasional Swedish pancakes or meatballs, the rare Danish ebelskiver or some German sausage and sauerkraut, we didn't eat a lot of food from the cultures that make up me. I finally decided on Swedish Cabbage Rolls (Kaldomar) only "Hawaiianized" with Kalua Pork.

Cabbage Rolls or Kaldomar are a classic Swedish dish where the cabbage is normally stuffed with ground beef or pork, onion and either rice or bread crumbs. It is believed to have originated when the Swedish King Karl XIII was campaigning in Turkey in the 1700s and brought back the idea of making a “dolmades” or stuffed grape leaves. Since there are not a lot of grape leaves in Sweden, cabbage was used.
In searching the Internet there were many recipes for this dish—some baked, some fried, some using a sweet syrup, some using a creamy sauce, some with breadcrumbs, others with rice so I took inspiration from all of them and came up with what sounded best to me. To add the Hawaiian touches to the dish, I substituted Kalua Pork (smoked, shredded pork butt) for the ground meat. Here in Hawaii you can buy containers of Kalua Pork at the store but it is simple and much cheaper to make your own—all it takes is liquid smoke, some time and a slow cooker. Since allspice was featured in a lot of the recipes, I decided to add Chinese Five Spice, since this seasoning is used frequently in cooking here and I felt it would compliment the smoky flavor of the Kalua pork. In Sweden, this dish is traditionally served with small boiled potatoes and Lingonberry preserves, I dressed my potatoes with butter, parsley and red Hawaiian Alaea Sea Salt and served it with Poha Jam (poha is a sweet/tart berry grown in Hawaii).

Kalua Pork Cabbage Rolls “Kaldomar” from Sweden
Serves 6 as a meal (even more as a pupu!)

1 large head Savoy cabbage or 2 smaller heads green cabbage
Water to boil cabbage in
1 tsp salt

1 small yellow onion, diced
1 Tbsp butter
1 ½ cups cooked white long grain rice
½ cup milk
2 cups cooked Kalua Pork, shredded (see recipe below)
1 tsp Chinese Five Spice Powder
Salt and pepper to taste
½ stick of butter (to top cabbage rolls when baking)

1/3 cup liquid/drippings from cooking Kalua Pork (cooled and fat skimmed off)
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp Cornstarch
1 ½ tsp Chinese Five Spice Powder
3/4 cup milk
½ cup cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp parsley, finely chopped for garnish

Core cabbage and cook in salted boiling water until leaves are slightly soft and easy to remove (about 10 minutes). Remove cabbage from water, peel off leaves one by one and place on a towel to drain.

While cabbage is cooking, saute onion in butter until soft and translucent. In a pan, place cooked rice and mix in milk, cooked onion, Kalua pork and five spice powder; add salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

To assemble rolls: Take a cabbage leaf, trim any thick edges and trim the coarse center vane (Its easiest to make a small “v” cut into the leaf). Put a 1 ½ Tbsp of the filling on the cabbage leaf, fold up the bottom of the leaf, tuck in the sides and roll up to the top (thin end) of the cabbage leaf, as tightly as you can. Place the cabbage roll, seam side down in a large oven proof pan or casserole. Repeat and fill casserole, packing rolls tightly together to keep them intact. Once pan is filled (about 24-26 small rolls), place several pats of butter on top of leaves and place in oven to cook about 20-25 minutes until rolls are slightly brown on top.
While cabbage rolls are cooking, make sauce. Place liquid/dripping from Kalua Pork in pan with Tbsp butter. Once butter is melted, add 2 Tbsp cornstarch and five spice powder and blend. Gradually add milk and cream, stirring constantly until sauce is smooth and heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Remove cabbage rolls from the oven, top with sauce and serve with the boiled potatoes and preserves.

Easy Slow Cooker Kalua Pork:

4-5 pounds Pork Butt Roast
1 Tbsp Hawaiian Alaea Sea Salt (or substitute regular sea salt)
2 Tbsp liquid smoke flavoring

Trim any excess fat from pork butt. Using a fork, pierce the pork butt all over. Rub pork butt with liquid smoke and sprinkle with salt. Cook on low for 12-16 hours depending on size of roast (Two 2.5 lb roasts took about 12 hours, one 4.5 pound roast took about 16). Turn roast once during cooking time. Remove pork from slow cooker, reserving the cooking liquid. Shred pork, adding some of the drippings/cooking liquid if needed to add moisture to the meat. Allow the surplus dripping/ cooking liquid to cool; skim fat from the top and use if needed for sauce or gravy.

Results: Surprisingly (to me anyway) the recipe worked well. The sauce with the smokey drippings from the Kalua Pork and the Chinese Five Spice was incredible--I could have just eaten that on my potatoes. The cabbage rolls were a bit tricky to master the tight wrapping necessary--packing them into the casserole helped. I had 26 rolls in the dish and all but one were eaten so considering I thought I might be known as the weird one who brought cabbage to a potluck, I guess people liked them!

The Kalua Pork makes enough for leftovers and since some potatoes were left, I had an excellent Sunday morning breakfast. (If only I had leftover sauce!)

Many thanks to Michelle and Mike for an incredible, unforgettable event and of course to Foodbuzz for coming up with such a great idea for a mass blogging event! With 24 Bloggers hosting 24 meals in 24 hours, I am sure there were many unique and wonderful events out there this weekend. Maybe I am biased but I think few could have possibly had the heart, spirit and sense of friendship that our `aha`aina had. There is a saying (and a bumper sticker) that says "Lucky we live Hawaii" and I know that those of us that were fortunate enough to attend this gathering truly know how lucky we are!


  1. Oh my goodness. That looks and sounds like one of those "pinch me, is this real?" kinda days. Beautiful!

  2. Wow! How incredible all that food looks! I wish I lived in Hawaii-actually I'd be happy just to see Hawaii in person. Thanks though for the glimpse.

  3. Oh wow! What's the orange cakey thing with the frangipani on it? I want some! And I love cabbage rolls. I must have some Viking ancestry...

    Reading about these 24,24,24 events is amazing. So much wonderful food collected in one place! And lucky you to get to do it with such a beautiful backdrop.

  4. Cat--it was totally one of those kind of days from start to finish.

    Veronica--It was so good--all of it! I know you'll make it here someday!

    Foodycat--That was a wonderful Dobos Torte and she made it with Lilikoi (Passionfruit) curd and topped it with mangos and chopped mac nuts. It was one of my favorite dishes there! I feel lucky to have been able to take part in one of the events!

  5. All that food, so artistic! And the background - pure Eden.
    You live in paradise my dear, pure paradise.
    How great is it to go on a foodie mission to a secret island!

  6. Debbie, what a great post and what a spectacular time you must have had!! So excited for you! Keep up the great work, the greatest work :-)

  7. Passionfruit Dobos torte? That is genius!

    By the way, you are one of the blogroll's random 5 blogs today, so hopefully you'll get loads of quality traffic.

  8. What a wonderful event in a beautiful place with yummy food! Wish I had been there!

  9. Sigh. You truly live in paradise. And it sounds like this was one perfect day in paradise. The food spread looks utterly amazing. I enjoyed every word (and picture!) of this post!

  10. Deb, What a great post! And what a fun and yummy event! Your Swedish cabbage rolls look veyr yummy. I've never heard of the Swedish version of them, but I just made holupki, which is a Slavic recipe that is similar. Now I want to experiment with your recipe.

  11. Oh, and by the way, yum! I love the cabbage rolls, they are perfect looking. Using the slow cooker for the pork was a great idea. I just put mine out and am wanting to take advantage of it more this year.

  12. Natashya--I know! Heading across in the boat I felt like Bond, Deb Bond! (I just needed a martini!)

    Isla--Thanks! ;-)

    Kat--it really was a great event!

    Foodycat--it was genius! Thanks for letting me know I am random today! ;-)

    Meg--wish you could have been here too!

    Cathy--thanks! I feel very lucky!

    Laurie--thanks! I hope you like them. I am curious to see your Slavic ones too.

    Natashya--thanks! The slowcooker beat digging an imu (pit) in my yard! ;-)

  13. Wow, that all looks fantastic! And yes, you're definitely lucky to live in paradise!

  14. McKenzie--thanks! It was all so good and I am very lucky to have been able to attend.


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