Have you ever seen Kalua Pork on a Kauai menu? Sometimes it’s listed as Kalua Pig or even Kalua Puaʻa. It’s a favorite of locals and visitors alike, and a central part of a good luau menu.

When I first saw Kalua Pork on a menu, I thought Kalua was a place, so I thought the pigs were raised in a Hawaiian town named Kalua. Oops.

Kalua actually means, “to bake in an underground pit or oven.” The Hawaiian word for these underground ovens is “imu.” And the Hawaiian word for pig is puaʻa. So when you see Kalua Pork, Kalua Pig, or Kalua Puaʻa on a menu, it’s simply pork that was cooked underground in an imu.

This photo is the kalua pig being pulled out of the imu at the Smith's Family Luau, the most popular luau on Kauai.

This photo is the kalua pig being pulled out of the imu at the Smith’s Family Luau, the most popular luau on Kauai.