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The Imu

The Hawaiians used an underground oven called an imu when preparing food for a pa'ina or (feast). A hole 3 to 5 feet deep was dug and lined with sand or mats. A fire was started and smooth, dense rocks were added. When the rocks turned white with the heat, they were arranged to line the bottom of the imu. A few were removed and placed inside the body cavity of the pig (pua'a). Split lengths of banana stalks were then layered along with damp mats over the rocks then the pig was placed in the imu and covered with damp banana leaves. The mound is then covered with yet another damp mat and the whole thing sealed by several inches of sand. The steam from the rocks, mats, stalks and leaves would slow cook the meat in 9-11 hours. Upon unveiling, the imu yields the most mouthwatering morsels of cooked pork you can imagine. In modern times, other meat products have been used in an imu. Kalua (cooked underground) pork, turkey and chicken have become island favorites. Oftentimes today, especially during the holidays, communities will gather together and dig a large imu where everyone can add their own personal favorites.

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